A Guide to The Sentence Method of Note-Taking

by Sunelle | Last Updated: 16/05/2023

Whether you’re a student or a lifelong learner, note-taking skills can help you learn faster and more effectively. We want to use the most effective note-taking system when we study or take notes. In this article, we consider what the sentence method of note-taking is, when to use it, who it is for, its advantages and disadvantages, and the steps you can follow to use the sentence method of note-taking. 

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What Is the Sentence Method of Note-Taking?

The sentence method is a basic note-taking strategy. With the sentence method of note-taking, you use a separate line for each thought, idea or concept. This note-taking method is easy to use and requires no preparation. However, having separate lines for each idea or thought may result in a very long summary for long, detailed topics. 

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When Is the Sentence Note-Taking Method Best to Use?

Sentence Method of Note-Taking

The sentence method is the best to use under the following circumstances: 

  • you didn’t prepare for a lecture and are not sure about its structure
  • the lecture may have some organisation, but it is a fast-paced lecture with detailed information 
  • the class doesn’t have a structured approach 
  • you are not sure how the different concepts fit together
  • you don’t need to review your summary to prepare for a future class or exam
  • you don’t need to review the information ahead of an exam or presentation

There are better methods for taking notes in technical or science classes than the sentence method. You can create better notes for these types of classes using one of the alternative note-taking formats.

Who Should Use the Sentence Method for Note-Taking?

Anyone can use the sentence method. In fact, most of us have used this method for note-taking. 

However, the sentence method is not the best note-taking process for visual learners who likes to have visual aids for learning. Visual learners can still use the sentence method if they don’t mind combining it with another note-taking method afterwards. In this case, they would use the sentence method to record information and create notes using the charting, mapping, or boxing methods

Advantages of The Sentence Method 

This note-taking method has a few advantages, including: 

Disadvantages of The Sentence Method

This note-taking method has several disadvantages and may not work for people with a preferred learning style. The disadvantages include: 

Sentence Method of Note-Taking
Photo by Luke Southern on Unsplash

How to Use the Sentence Method of Note-Taking

Using the sentence method for note-taking is easy. You can follow these steps: 

Decide on A Note-Taking Format

You can use the sentence method with paper notes and when taking notes on digital devices. For paper-based note-taking, all you need is a notebook and pen. You can use a highlighter to highlight important points.

You can use a laptop, word processing software, or Google Docs for digital note-taking. You can also take digital notes using a tablet and stylus like the Apple iPad and Apple Pencil. Digital note-taking lets you quickly summarise or review your notes using a different note-taking format afterwards.

Note Each Idea and Concept on A Separate Line 

This note-taking method resembles taking minutes of a meeting as you note everything the lecturer says. You must be able to write or type fast to keep up. To use this method, capture each new idea and concept on a separate line in complete sentences. Each line you write has to be a complete sentence, meaning your notes don’t summarise the key ideas from a lecture or book. Consider using abbreviations or a shorthand technique to take notes fast.

Number Each Line 

Once you have your ideas on paper, number each line. You can separate topics through numbering. The numbering helps you review your notes later. For example, your first note may be a sentence containing a key idea, which you number as 1. You can then number related topics below this point using 1.1, 1.2, etc.

Review Your Notes

Notes written in the sentence method may take longer to review because you will likely have lengthy lecture notes. Notes taken with the sentence method typically don’t summarise a lecture effectively. You may find it easier to summarise your notes using another note-taking method, such as the Cornell method of note-taking.

Tips for using the sentence method of note-taking

Here are a few tips to use the sentence method effectively:

Examples of Notes Using the Sentence Method

Although the sentence method of note-taking is typically used to take notes from a lecture or podcast, it can also be used on written study material. Let’s look at two examples to see different applications of the sentence method with the tips to make your notes more useful.

Example 1

Let’s take the following paragraph from Small Business Trends to illustrate the use of the sentence method for note-taking:

What is a Summary of a Book?

When we define a book summary, we mean someone has taken the time to read a book and create a new product called a summary. A summary is far shorter than the original book, covering key points made by the book author but in the words and sentences of the summariser. A book summary is not plagiarism nor a copycat trying to pretend it’s the original. Rather, the summary is its own new work — but shorter and crediting the original writer for his or her big ideas.

If we take notes on the above paragraph using the sentence method, your notes may be as follows when you use numbers for each item:

​Heading: What is a book summary?

1. Someone read a book to create a book summary product.

1.1 A book summary is shorter than the original book.

1.2 A book summary covers the author’s key points in the book in the words of the summariser.

1.3 It is not plagiarised or copycat content.

1.4 Book summaries are new, shorter works giving credit to the original book’s author for their ideas.

Example 2

Here is another paragraph from Small Business Trends:

What Makes the Best Book Summaries?

Great book summaries have straight-forward organisation. They are easy to scan, with bullet points and limited amounts of text.

For non-fiction books, the book summary gives an interpretation of the big ideas and main topics, without the reader having to do all the hard work. Book summaries can be helpful for marketing books or for millionaire books, and much more.

The notes in the sentence method’s format may be as follows:

Heading: What makes the best book summaries?

1. Good book summaries are short and organised to scan easily.

Alternatives Note-Taking Methods 

The sentence note-taking method may be easy and quick to use, but there are better note-taking strategies than this one. It adds to your steps when studying as it doesn’t produce a summary of a lecture or chapter. If you are happy to have your notes taken in this method as an additional step before you summarise them further using a different note-taking method, it may work well for you. Popular note-taking strategies, such as the Cornell method of note-taking or the split-page method, may work better for most learners who don’t want to take notes to summarise the notes further at a later stage. 

Sentence Method of Note-Taking