Skip to main content
Microsoft 365
March 31, 2023

How to use the Cornell note-taking method in OneNote

Taking quality notes as a university student can make or break your GPA. While the best method for taking notes is still hotly contested, one popular method has lasted throughout the past few decades: the Cornell note-taking method. This system is well known, not only for making note-taking convenient, but for helping students process and remember their lecture material—try the Cornell method the next time you take notes.

A picture of an organizational chart

What is the Cornell note-taking method?

The Cornell note-taking method was invented by a professor at Cornell University in the 1940s to help students take, organize, and summarize their notes in a logical, readable way. This method involves writing down the most important points of a lecture instead of trying to note everything the professor says. After that, you reflect on your notes and write a quick summary. This helps you absorb information better and frees you up for class participation. Using the Cornell method is a way to practice better study habits and can even increase exam performance.

All your ideas in one place Banner
Microsoft 365 Logo

All your ideas in one place

Keep your thoughts, content, and lists handy with OneNote

Learn More

How to use the Cornell note-taking method

Follow these steps during your next lecture:

1. Set up your page

The Cornell note-taking method follows a specific page layout. Divide your page into four sections: two columns on the right and left, a space at the bottom of the page, and a smaller space at the top of the page. The right column should take up roughly 70% of the page’s width, and the left column the remaining 30%.

2. Fill out your header

The space you left at the top of the page is your header. This is where you’ll add the course, date, title of the lesson, and any other pertinent information you’ll need to identify the lecture when you’re scanning your notes afterward.

3. Start taking notes

“The Cornell note-taking method was invented by a professor at Cornell University in the 1940s to help students take, organize, and summarize their notes in a logical, readable way.”

During your lecture, take notes in the right column on your paper—this is your main note-taking column. Record the lecture using shorthand, abbreviations, lists, bullet points, etc. Leave spaces between each section to keep things legible.

The left side of the column can record keywords, prompts, questions, diagrams, connections between points, and any other hints or cues that will help you study the material. You can use the left column as you’re writing or keep it blank until the end of the lecture. At that point, review your notes and consolidate them into concise statements and remarks.

4. Summarize

Using the final section at the bottom of your notes, re-read everything that you wrote and leave a summary of the main ideas and takeaways. Highlight the information that you think will appear on a test or quiz in the future.

How to use the Cornell method with OneNote

In OneNote, you can type or record notes anywhere on the page. To apply the Cornell method, simply follow the Cornell page layout while you’re taking notes. For example, take the bulk of your notes on the right side, and add a column on the left side for questions and reflections. To finish, summarize your notes at the bottom of the page.

If you want your notes to mimic the look of an actual notebook, add ruled lines to the page under the “view” section. If you prefer to divide up your page with visible lines, one option is to add them manually using OneNote’s drawing capabilities. Want a template? Choose one you like online and add it to OneNote or make your own template using our guide.

If it feels more intuitive, change up the page layout to make the Cornell system fit your needs. Feel free to take the bulk of your notes on the left side and add your shorter section on the right. You can even leave the summary at the top of the page if it works for you.

Get started with Microsoft 365

It’s the Office you know, plus the tools to help you work better together, so you can get more done—anytime, anywhere.

Buy Now

Topics in this article

Microsoft 365 Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneDrive, and Family Safety Apps
Microsoft 365 Logo

Everything you need to achieve more in less time

Get powerful productivity and security apps with Microsoft 365

Buy Now

Explore Other Categories