A Comprehensive Guide to The Boxing Method of Note-Taking

by Sunelle | Last Updated: 21/01/2023

There are many note-taking systems, such as the charting method, mind mapping, sentence, Cornell and outline methods. A lesser-known note-taking system is the boxing method of note-taking. It is essential for all learners to develop their note-taking skills and to be aware of the different note-taking methods. Each learner must find the best note-taking method to help them learn and retain information faster and for longer. In this article, you can learn about the boxing method of note-taking, when to use it, its advantages and disadvantages and how to use it.

What Is the Boxing Method of Note-Taking?

With the boxing note-taking method, college students or learners use boxes to visually separate information about a specific topic. Your note may have one main idea with different supporting concepts or thoughts. Each of these items can become a box to form a topical cluster of information about the main idea. As learners read more about the main idea, they can finish a topical cluster by drawing a box around it. This box now contains all the information on the topic in bullet points. The learner can then develop new clusters or boxes based on every thought, concept or idea.

This note-taking method is popular for digital note-taking, where a student uses an iPad or another electronic device. It works well for visual learners as it presents information in a structured and neat manner.

Boxing method of note-taking

When to Use the Boxing Note-Taking Strategy

It will be challenging to use the boxing method for note-taking while listening to a lecture, as the structure and layout of your notes require some planning and structuring. It is best to use this note-taking strategy after attending a lecture when you have more time to focus on note-making and categorising information.

Advantages and Disadvantages of The Boxing Note-Taking Method

The boxing method is reasonably easy to use, but, as with the other note-taking systems, it has advantages and disadvantages you have to consider when deciding if it is the most effective note-taking strategy for you.

Advantages of The Boxing Method of Note-Taking

The advantages of the boxing method are:

Many methods of note-taking
Photo by David Cain on Unsplash

Disadvantages of The Boxing Method of Note-Taking

The boxing method of note-taking has the following disadvantages:

How to Use the Boxing Method of Note-Taking

Here are the steps you can follow to use the boxing method for note-taking

Step 1: Identify your main ideas and the separate topics supporting the main idea

To use the boxing method effectively requires some planning or an understanding of your learning materials. You need to create a structure for the information you want to summarise by identifying the particular topic and the subtopics the material covers.

Google Keep may work well for the boxing method of note-taking. Learn more about using Google Keep on the iPad and the best ways to use Google Keep effectively.

Step 2: Divide your page into columns

Your first step is to divide the page into columns for the topics you’ll be learning about. Add headings to mark the topic of each column. The headings will be based on the subtopics or categories of information you’ve identified. Using a horizontal or portrait page, use two columns next to each other. Using a vertical or landscape page, you can have between three and four columns next to each other. To make it easy to stay in a column, you can draw vertical lines to mark the columns’ width.

Step 3: Write your notes into the columns

As you work through your learning material, write down your ideas, thoughts or concepts in the relevant column. Only write the information down using the language used in the reading material. It is always best to focus on the important points and to use your own words when summarising information to learn from later. When you write down your notes, stay within the column width, as the boxing method works best if the boxes are separated. To keep your summaries short, consider using telegraphic sentences, bullet points, abbreviations and symbols to avoid putting down too much information. The boxing method works best when the notes in the boxes are succinct.

Step 4: Edit, move and format your notes

This step is optional as it only applies when you use the boxing method on a digital device.

After you’ve made your notes by writing down the main points, you can edit, format and move your boxes around. Most note-taking apps have a lasso tool to make it easy to move your boxes or information around. You can even resize your notes or boxes with the lasso tool.

If you have, for example, realised that your notes don’t fit within a column, you can quickly move them to another column with the lasso tool without rewriting your notes or changing your box’s design.

The Boxing Method of Note-taking
The Boxing Method of Note-taking

Step 5: Draw boxes around your categorised notes

Since you have already separated your notes under the different headings, you can draw boxes around each topic. You may need to resize or format your boxes, but this can quickly be done with the lasso tool. This often happens when your boxes have different sizes. You may break a larger box into multiple smaller boxes once you see what your boxes look like. One of the benefits of the boxing note-taking method is that it allows you to visually separate a main idea into different topics and separate your notes on each topic.

Step 6: Review your boxed notes

The best way to retain the information you’ve summarised in your notes is by reviewing it! Do your first review within a day of completing your notes to enhance retention. Once you’ve completed your notes using the boxing method, you can review your notes. The boxing method allows you to review your notes per topic or box. Read through a box and try to remember what you’ve just read. Repeat the process with all the boxes.

Digital vs analogue use of the boxing method of note-taking

You can use the boxing note-taking method on digital devices and in a notebook. Analogue note-taking is more effective as it helps you retain information for longer. Using it for analogue note-taking requires more planning as you cannot quickly move your boxes of information around once you’ve written it down.

Tips for using the boxing method of note-taking

Although the boxing note-taking method is easy to use, there are some tips you can follow to optimise your note-taking when using this note-taking method.

FAQs About the Boxing Method of Note-Taking

Here are a few FAQs, with answers, to help you make the most of the boxing method of note-taking:

Can You Use the Boxing Method of Note-Taking for All Types of Lectures and Learning Materials?

No, the boxing note-taking method is limited to topics with little or no sub-categories of information. It works well for language learning, where learners can group words by categorising all verbs, adverbs and adjectives from a passage in separate boxes.

Can You Use the Boxing Method of Note-Taking Longhand, i.e. in An Analogue Format?

Yes, you can use the boxing note-taking method on paper. It is more complicated than doing it digitally, as you cannot correct mistakes. For example, if you have closed a box and then found additional points to add, you cannot easily change the box size or erase the bottom lines of the box. When you use the boxing method digitally, you can use the app’s lasso tool to move your boxes around, or you can delete the bottom lines of the box to add additional bullet points to the specific category of information.

How Does the Boxing Method of Note-Taking Compare to Other Note-Taking Methods

Let’s see how the boxing note-taking method compares to other note-taking strategies. We consider various methods of note-taking, such as the Cornell method, the mapping method of note-taking and the outline method.

The Cornell Method

The Cornell Method is one of the more traditional methods for taking notes. It works well for analogue and digital note-taking. With the Cornell method, you also summarise your learning materials to short sentences using abbreviations and symbols. You make your notes in the column on the right side of the page and keep short cue questions in the left column. You end at the bottom of the page with a summary of two to three sentences summarising the page’s content.

The Cornell method does not group your summarised information into separate categories, making it more challenging to link related concepts. It is also less visually appealing than the boxing method of note-taking.

The Mapping Method of Note-Taking

Mind maps are excellent for diving deep into a topic and its sub-topics. The boxing method works better for smaller clusters of information where there are few sub-categories, ideas or thoughts about the main idea.

The Outline Method

The Boxing Method of Note-taking

The outlining method is easy to use while listening to a lecture or reviewing learning materials. It follows an outline format whereby the learner writes down important information in point format. The main points will be listed on the left side of the page. Items relating to the main points will be indented under the main point. Learners can use indentation only or use numbering to differentiate between the different levels of indentations.

The outlining method helps a learner organise related concepts together, similar to the boxing method. These note-taking strategies are a great way for learners to link concepts together, facilitating retention.

Best Apps for Using the Boxing Note-Taking Strategy

The best apps for the boxing note-taking method are OneNote and Nebo. Both apps have an infinite canvas, allowing you to have as many boxes on a page as you like with no restrictions on page size.

If you prefer having a fixed page size for printing purposes, Goodnotes is a good app for boxing note-taking.