What is the Cornell method and can you put it into practice?

What is the Cornell method and can you put it into practice?

Claudia Roca

Mar 31, 2023

Mar 31, 2023

Mar 31, 2023

What is the Cornell method and can you put it into practice?
What is the Cornell method and can you put it into practice?
What is the Cornell method and can you put it into practice?

Would you like to find a model to help you manage all the responsibilities you currently have? It's time for you to discover the Cornell method

It’s an alternative that allows you to organize each of your activities according to the order of importance and priority they have in your agenda. 

Surely at some point, it has happened to you that you haven’t arrived at the office yet and you are already overwhelmed by everything you have to do. 

Forget about this situation with the Cornell method. Take out paper and pencil to see how you can clear your mind and be much more productive

What is the Cornell Method?

It’s a method that gives you the ability to take multiple notes that you will use in your work or personal life. It was created at Cornell University in the 1940s, but it has had a great boom in recent years due to all the benefits it presents.

It was Dr. Walter Pauk, a professor at Cornell University who came up with this peculiar system. He did it through all the techniques used by his students to review the formulas they put into practice to take notes, something that helped him to create the book: "How to study in college"

From here on the professor developed his own system for creating notes, making it much easier to organize them so that they would be more useful in the future. 

In this sense, the methodology divides the sheet into four zones: 

  • Title

  • Key ideas

  • Notes

  • Summary

Read on to find out how to apply it. 

How does the Cornell method work?

In the previous section, we saw the general definition of the method and how the sheet is divided. Now, it’s very important to know what goes in each part of the sheet and that will be detailed below: 

Top horizontal margin

We start with the top horizontal margin. This space is used to write down the title, subject, class topic, date, and page number, something key to maintain the order of the system. 

Left margin

In the left margin, we’ll write all the key questions connected to the subject in general, important concepts, and any sentence that works as an example or explanation of what is being studied. 

So, if you are studying the inverted pyramid of journalism, you can add analogies and reasons for using it in the left margin, so that when you go into practice you will be much more oriented. 

Main space

The main space is the widest column of the entire sheet. Here you will place all the information that is considered most relevant to the class, whether it’s outlines, important phrases, formulas or development of concepts. 

It differs from the previous space because in the left margin, there are only tips or secondary data that will help you to better understand the topic. 

Lower horizontal margin

Last but not least, in the lower part we’ll find a summary of the topic in order to point out the most relevant points of the class.

Cornell method

Advantages of the Cornell Method

There’s no doubt that the Cornell method is one of the most interesting ones when it comes to taking notes and getting the most out of those classes we participate in every day. 

Still don't believe it? Find out what advantages this strategy offers you: 

1. You retain information better

Yes, there are studies that explain that handwriting can help you retain information better, the opposite of writing on a computer, where the brain loses attention because it works less. 

And it makes sense, if you think about it, when writing by hand you draw irregular lines, you must be aware of spelling mistakes and not go beyond the margins, something that doesn’t happen on the computer. 

Also, writing with a ballpoint pen requires us to write more slowly, which is why we pay more attention. Apply it and you will see how you retain information better. 

2. It involves active listening

To have your notes in order, it’s not only necessary to take notes, but also to be an active listener at all times. Gone are those moments when you were in automatic mode and did not intervene in class, because now you must be attentive so that no detail escapes. 

3. You organize and structure the content

If you want to learn a subject perfectly, there’s nothing better than organizing it under the Cornell method. This is a fairly closed method that gives you the necessary context to understand and remember every detail of the topic in question. 

We love this strategy because it gives you the possibility to organize and synthesize ideas, that is, it brings together what is important and simply discards what isn’t important, something fundamental to understand any subject. 

Moreover, it doesn't only work for academia, because you can apply it in the working world.

Imagine you have a job that involves many meetings. Well, with this strategy you will organize the most important things of each one so that nothing is overlooked. 

Disadvantages of the Cornell method

No, nothing is perfect and the Cornell method is no exception. Although this methodology has many benefits and is definitely a great solution to optimize our studies, it also generates some difficulties. This is relevant to assess before starting to use it. 

Let's see some of its disadvantages below: 

1. It’s not easy to maintain concentration

The truth is that it’s not always easy to maintain concentration during a whole class or meeting and this method requires you to be 100% attentive to make the most of it. 

What causes this? You may start off very well at the beginning, but once the topic progresses it’s very likely that your attention will be lost and the quality of your notes will decrease significantly. 

Fatigue is normal for human beings and must be managed very well for the Cornell method to work in our favor. 

2. It requires more time and work

Yes, it’s true that when applying this method you must dedicate more time to the preparation of notes and be attentive to each of the words to verify that they are legible and match what is being said in the meeting. 

This can lead to fatigue and exhaustion, something we discussed in the previous section. However, if you work on it properly, we assure you that your time will be very well invested. 

3. Need for many sheets of paper in some cases

Last but not least, we have the problem that depending on the subject in question, you may need to use many sheets of paper to apply the method on some occasions. 

If you can use recycling sheets, so much the better, but we know that this can be a bit uncomfortable because there will be more documents that you will have to carry in your luggage.

However, if the notes were taken according to the specifications we gave you, there’s no doubt that it will be worth it.

How can I take notes with the Cornell method?

What we like most about the Cornell method is that we only need a sheet of paper to apply it, so it’s less complicated than many people think. 

The first thing you have to do is to draw the lines of the margins as specified in the previous paragraphs. Then you can follow these tips to make the most of it: 

1. Title

In the title you can add a description of the meeting or the topic you are going to study that day. Believe us that even though it sounds obvious, it will help you to identify the objective of the topic quickly. 

Also, if you add the date it will help you understand what was worked on that day and you will be able to organize it in a much more efficient way. Oh, and don't forget to write the title before the start of the meeting, it will help you a lot. 

2. Notes 

Now it's time to add the notes you want on the right side of the sheet, the most important part of all. 

Each word, phrase or example that you hear in the class or meeting should be written down with its proper context so that when you review it you can understand each of the details. 

In other words, it’s like creating a mental map that will help you to make your own diagrams later on. 

On the other hand, the Cornell method recommends writing down ideas that represent the topic, so if the professor is talking about differential equations, you already know what name to give to the headings and sentences. 

3. Key ideas

Now it’s the turn of the key ideas, which are ideal to fill in when you see that the class is about to end. 

Here you should add phrases or examples that will help you remember the most important points of the meeting, points that will help you shape the report and any tips that relate to the project. 

In fact, you can add any doubts you may have so that you can clarify them with your classmates at the next meeting. You'll see how much clearer the picture will be for what's ahead. 

4. Make your summary

Finally we have the summary, which tries to synthesize as much as possible the points you studied to make notes that will help you for the next meeting or exam. 

Experts say that two notes should be enough to summarize all the writing on the subject. Give it a try and let us know how it goes. 

4 Tips for applying the Cornell method in an online project manager

Do you want to apply the Cornell model in your online project manager? The truth is that this is a great idea, as more and more people use these kinds of tools to manage their daily workload. 

Nothing better than having everything you need in the palm of your hand and below you will see how you can optimize this to the maximum: 

1. Share notes with the whole team

First of all, you should share the notes with the whole team so that they know what they are working on and what are the objectives they are pursuing at any given moment. 

Also, sharing it with others will help you to know about other points of view on the topic in question. You will even appreciate different points of view that will help you grow personally and professionally. 

With this feedback you will be ready to face the next challenges ahead.

2. Let others comment on what they need

The Cornell method is very useful to know the needs of the other members of the team, and by visualizing their notes you will understand where they are and what they need to move forward in the process. 

When managing a team, success will depend on how well all the members are doing, not just you. So, you just have to know the situation of each one and with this methodology you will achieve it in a very short time.  

3. Turn your notes into tasks

As you’ve seen, each note you write on the sheet has a specific objective, nothing is placed at random. Therefore, an annotation is synonymous with a task that you will have to accomplish either at work or in your field of study. 

This is very useful when you have doubts about something that was explained in class and you did not manage to understand it, so that it reminds you to answer this doubt in view of the next classes that are approaching.

4. Specific templates for different types of assignments

One of the reasons why we love online managers is because they offer us different types of templates that help us organize very specific tasks. No matter what it is, here you can break it down, which allows you to be more efficient when taking notes and reviewing. 

Tips Cornell method

We hope that with this information you will be able to take full advantage of all the benefits of the Cornell method and have the possibility to optimize your meetings and studies. 

What are you waiting for to organize your notes and make the leap you've been waiting for? With the Cornell Method you will achieve it, so don't think about it any longer.