Your Full Guide to Note Taking Methods & Tools

The Importance of Taking Good Notes

Good notes ensure you are engaged in active listening

Good note-taking requires you to think about what you are writing

Taking effective notes leads to less stress and anxiety due to inadequate preparation

Better notes saves time during the review process

Note taking engages multisensory learning

Note-taking helps you make connections between topics

Serves as a quality reference after class, a presentation, and more

The Best Note Taking Methods

The Cornell Method

  • Combines note-taking and organization for a one-step process requiring fewer revisions.
  • Summarizes all the info in a logical, systematic manner to fill in gaps of a presentation
  • Facilitates absorbing information in a shorter time span.
  • Helps you to extract main ideas and pose relevant questions
  • Pages need to be set up and prepared before a lecture — if notes exceed the length, this method can be cumbersome.
  • Key concepts can require time set aside for reviewing — particularly if a lecture/presentation doesn’t follow a linear format.

The Mapping Method

  • A visually-appealing note-taking method
  • Used for jotting down detailed information in a concise form
  • Works well to notate content of a presentation that you may not be aware of beforehand
  • Enables easy editing of the notes
  • If the information spans more than a single page, this method may actually be a hindrance
  • May require editing after taking notes if the information is wrongly placed.
  • Can get overwhelming for complex subjects and unorthodox presentation styles

The Outline Method

  • Creates a logical flow of key points of the lecture
  • Easy to use and efficient
  • Significantly reduces the process of reviewing and editing notes at a later time
  • Provides a proper and clean structure to your notes
  • Not a suitable note-taking method for subjects such as chemistry and math, which are often comprised of formulas, charts, and examples
  • Not well suited to lectures or presentations that don’t follow a rigid structure

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Note-Taking

  • Produces live transcriptions that you and other participants can annotate and highlight in real-time
  • Provides meeting analytics and summary keywords
  • Instantly creates shareable notes (audio, text, and images) for collaboration
  • Usable on smartphones and web browser
  • Record conversations using Otter on your phone or web browser.
  • Import or sync recordings from other services.
  • Full integration with Zoom for eLearning and work-from-home (WFH) adaptability.
  • May present difficulties for those who aren’t computer literate
  • Automated note-taking may require review to ensure that all relevant points are familiar
  • Automated note-taking may not engage active listening
  • Some jurisdictions require you to have written consent before you record an interview or presentation.

The Charting Method

  • Facts and statistical information are easy to review
  • Helps highlight key topics and the main pieces of information
  • Factual and/or statistical information;
  • Subtopics that are directly comparable to each other;
  • Great for notes that can be centralized in one document to connect topics
  • Information is much easier to compartmentalize
  • Aids in creating material for future presentations, handouts, and more
  • Of all the methods in this blog, this is perhaps the most time-consuming method
  • Users may be required to go back and revise their notes for clarity
  • Can be difficult to apply this method in a lecture/class where the content isn’t clear beforehand
  • Is not a method for information that cannot be easily categorized
  • Not suitable for live lectures or without video/audio reference for later comparison
  • Can be difficult for math- and information-dense presentations (ie. coding, mathematics, physics)

The Sentence Method

  • Due to the brevity of this method, you can focus on visual elements to actively listen to what is being presented (ie. slides, graphs, demonstrations)
  • Perfect for taking notes where the subject matter and structure of the presentation isn’t known beforehand
  • Users of this note taking method are able to cover a lot of details and information efficiently
  • Jotting main points aids in determining which information is important (and which is not)
  • Notes are vastly simplified for later review
  • Important details may be lost
  • May not be useful for topics that require visual representations
  • Requires revision to organize notes into a consolidated form for easier studying and review
  • Unless your handwriting and short-hand is legible, critical ideas can be obscured by legibility

Developing Your Note Taking Style(s)

  • Experiment with different note-taking styles — Not all methods of note-taking lend themselves to each situation
  • You may need to use backups — If not the primary method of your choice, using AI-assisted note-taking can serve as a backup that fills in the gaps for information that you may have missed.
  • Include sources for deeper learning — Notes are meant to be a distillation of a presentation or lecture. Therefore, include any references to other materials (ie. previous lectures, study guides, books) for a more comprehensive studying experience.
  • Always take more notes than you think you need — When taking notes, it’s more difficult to remember key points and information rather than edit out irrelevant and extraneous information.
  • Use abbreviations when applicable — If you’re able to use short-hand methods that are understandable, you can save time on manually copying every word or phrase.
  • Have the right tools available and ready — Before taking notes, make sure your pages are set up, you have working pens and/or fully-charged devices, and/or you’ve activated an AI-assistant to record/transcribe.

Note Taking for Individuals

  • Being able to understand your notes after you’ve written them down
  • Keeping them organized in a centralized location (ie. laptop, notebook, the cloud)
  • Fits your personal style and needs

Note Taking for Businesses

  • Being able to share legible and coherent notes after you’ve written them down
  • Organizing notes and having them available to others is key when working in groups/teams.
  • Creating a reference to share information for those not in attendance

Note Taking for Education

  • Being able to understand your notes after you’ve written them down
  • Keeping them organized
  • Fits your personal style and

The Best Note Taking Tools

  • Otter saves you time by transcribing audio instantly (from live events and Zoom calls) to convert shareable and searchable content — even in real-time for unlimited collaboration potential.
  • Because Otter is powered by Ambient Voice Intelligence, it’s always learning. Otter is able to recognize voices, learn special terminology, and help you work and collaborate smarter.
  • Otter Assistant automatically joins your Zoom meetings, takes notes, and shares them with meeting participants to improve team collaboration in real-time.
  • Otter supports your workflow by integrating seamlessly with your favorite calendar and video meetings applications.
  • Otter can be easily activated in any environment via the mobile app or browser.
  • And much more!

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Otter is a note-taking and collaboration app that empowers you to remember, search, and share your voice conversations. Visit https://otter.ai to sign up free.

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