How To Do 3- Column Note- Taking

It can be really difficult when you are reading your textbook for a class. The language is often so dry, that it is hard to pay attention to what you are reading. It might even be hard to stay awake while you are reading! Some students like to highlight while they read, but this can be tricky if you aren’t an expert in picking out the important information. Likewise, highlighting in your textbook isn’t the most effective study strategy because you must remember to look back in the book and hunt through the chapter to find what you highlighted. Below is a note- taking strategy to use as you are reading through your text book. It’s called 3- Column Note-Taking, and it is a great way to learn as you read your class material, and it results in a great study tool.

What you need:

  • a lined notebook

  • 3 different colored pens

  • a ruler (or something to make straight -ish lines)

Step 1: At the top of your notebook page, write the name of the chapter and the date your are reading as well as the page numbers (for reference). Example:

Chapter 4: Social Psychology, Oct. 14th, pgs. 44-60

Step 2: Divide your notebook page into 3 columns. Make the middle column the widest and the left and the right column more narrow. Example:

Step 3: As you are reading your text book, you might come across a bolded/ italicized vocabulary term, or a subtitled section in your chapter. Designate a color of your 3 colors of pens to write that subtitle or that bolded/ italicized vocabulary word in the left column (include pg. #). Example:

conformity pg.45

Step 4: IN YOUR OWN WORDS write the definition or summary in the middle column. Designate a second colored pen to this step. It is extremely important to write it in your own words because then you can process the information your read instead of mindlessly copying it down. A good way to think of it if you are having trouble is, “How would I explain this to someone else?” Example:



Changing what you do/ think to be the same as those around you

Step 5: In the right-hand column, use your final color to draw a picture, symbol, or write a couple words that remind you of the word/ concept you wrote in the left-hand column. This is a quick way to create an association if you are more of a visual learner, and just to process the information again.



Changing what you do/ think to be the same as those around you

Caddy Huron ( the movie Mean Girls)

And that’s it! Continue steps 3-5 as you read. If you read the blog on how to make flashcards, you will see how easy it is to make flashcards from these notes. Also, these notes are great to study from on their own. Don’t stress too much if you didn’t study from your notes as much as you would have liked. By the very nature of making 3-Column notes you are studying!