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Karen Chance on the Cornell Note Taking System

I am Karen Chance and I learned the Cornell Note Taking System (CNTS) in a ‘how to succeed’ in college course my freshman year. I found it useful throughout college and have used a modified version of it since then as well when taking interview notes. I was surprised when I mentioned it to friends and found out that they hadn’t heard of it.

Hot Tip: The CNTS consists of dividing your page into three sections. You take your notes in the largest section, add cues or questions related to those notes in the left column, and add a reflective summary at the bottom. Here is a one page pdf showing the organization of the page and what you are putting in each section.

Hot Tip: When using the CNTS for classes, I found it useful to study (as they suggest) using the cues (keywords or questions) on the left with the actual notes covered. When I was confident that I knew something, I’d add a small check to the upper left hand of the cue so that I could focus in on content I was less solid on during the next review.

Hot Tip: I started using the CNTS for interviews only because I had gotten so used to organizing my note-taking in this way. Although I didn’t have to go back and review for a test, I found that I could still put the keywords in the left column and use these to more readily find commonalities for qualitative analysis. I kept up the practice of adding a summary at the bottom after I  had completed an interview (although I will admit that I did not add a summary to every page), so that I could restate and highlight what I had heard, and in particular so that I could note any connections to other interviews for later cross-reference.

Rad Resource: On this page you can create your own notepaper that is pre-formatted for CNTS use.

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  • MeerkatMac · September 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Cornell Notes is now available on the iPad – (look for it on the iTunes App Store under “Cornell Notes”). If you were looking for a reason why you should have an iPad for school, well this is it. Hundreds of thousands of ’A’ students can attest to the success of using this note taking methodology. Now it’s conveniently available in an easy-to-use iPad app that’s much more efficient than paper and pencil.


  • Claire dela Cruz · October 17, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Thanks for sharing! I think I will try this out on my next interview and notetaking opportunity!


  • Christina · August 30, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I learned something related to this called the Harvard note taking method. It was great for notes and designed for aiding learning and studying and therefore may be less helpful for interviewing…but you can be the judge.
    You divide your page into three equal columns (no bottom section). On the far left go the notes taken during class. In the middle are the “cleaned notes” that you make within 24 hours from the rough notes. On the right are the high level summary notes you make when studying for the tests. It really boosted learning since you had re-read, summarize, and had the change to categorize or make schemas from the material.


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