Tired of seeing your in-class notes as an unorganized and unclear pile on your desk or binder? Chances are, you’ll grow frustrated whenever you have to study for a test, and yet you have a large cluster of scribbled-down notes to wrestle with. 

But the truth is, organizing physical copies of your notes is one thing, but it’s how you organize them when writing them down where things can get hectic. Yes, how your notes are structured can be the major cause of how and why your notes look like a chaotic disaster on paper. 

But don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with these 5 notetaking techniques to try today!

Why Effective Notetaking Matters

Better notetaking allows you to do the following: 

  • Remember concepts
  • Develop useful learning skills, AND
  • Better understand a topic

 While taking notes, if you listen carefully, you’ll engage more as your mind is actively involved with whatever you are hearing.

So, as we get into the 5 techniques to try in notetaking, you’ll notice how each has its own uniqueness, and that some – or even all of them – can be used together. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into the 5 techniques!


“Charting allows you to use columns to organize the notes that you’re taking,” says Jessica Thompson, a tutor at Assignment help and Gum Essays. “This method is especially useful if you’re studying a subject that leads into a wide variety of topics. With this approach, you’re able to organize facts, review them at a later time, and highlight any key pieces of information from the topics that you jot down.”

Essentially, chart notetaking is dividing the paper (i.e. notebook page) into columns, which you’ll label by category. Afterward, the details of each category can be filled out in the rows below. Once you start a new topic, you can move down one row and begin again.


Webbing (or mapping), which uses a variety of graphic tools to connect similar points, is ideal for those who prefer pen and paper/freehand note-taking.

Webbing, also known as concept mapping or brain mapping, is another method of notetaking. While this method may not look or feel organized at first, once you get the hang of it, your mapping of concepts (i.e. topics with subtopics) will become clearer. Essentially, you’re drawing maps that help you connect multiple ideas to a topic. Thus, this method is more graphic in detail than an outline (which is linear). 

The Cornell Method

The Cornell method helps you organize class notes into easy summaries that highlight the following:

  • Main points
  • Details
  • Study cues, AND
  • Other forms of summary

Usually divided into two columns, notes are written systematically with a 2.5” margin to the left. Meanwhile, your two sections will be the summary section and the in-class note section. 

The in-class note section can be used to write down cues, vocabulary words, and any study questions. Once you have notes written down in the in-class note section, then you can write a summary after class of what you’ve learned, to help you get a better understanding of the topic.


Sometimes, your teachers will allow you to take notes by recording the lecture. Whether you use a tape recorder or use a laptop, recording can be a good notetaking technique to consider. 

Now, when using a laptop to take notes, the best method here is to use Google Docs, so that in case your computer crashes, you won’t lose your notes, since all you can do is log into your Google account to access them.


“Outlining is, by far, the most common notetaking method to date,” says Martha Wrigley, an eLearning blogger at Draft Beyond and Research Papers UK. “When you outline, you’re essentially jotting down the main points and topics in your lecture by making them into titles and headings in your notes. Meanwhile, you’ll be writing the main key points into a list form above each heading. You can even use bullet points to list the main key points in each title and heading, so that said titles and headings become groups and categories in your notes.”


As you can see, these 5 notetaking methods are easy to do and easy to implement. So, if you’re looking to impress teachers, and get some much-needed high scores on future exams, then try any – or all – of these methods in notetaking, and see which one(s) work for you!