Create a Cornell Note Template with Word

It amazes me how much school has changed since I graduated. One change is the Cornell Notes method. Despite being one of the most popular systems around, I’m told there isn’t an online paper supplier. Rather than pulling out a ruler or calling college bookstores, I thought this would be an opportunity to show you how to create a Word template for Cornell notes (Check Resources sections for Cornell Notes template for Microsoft Word.)

If you’re not familiar with Cornell Notes and the benefits, then take 5 minutes to watch this video presented by a teacher.

Word templates are a special type of file designed for reuse. Templates provide the structure and more items such as auto text entries and macros. They are the basis by which Word documents are created whether it’s a new document or a sales letter. In fact, Word starts by opening a blank page based on an auto start macro in the normal.dot template.

Microsoft comes with many pre-built templates and groups them by function. You may have other templates that add-in tools or programs have created. You see this tabbed interface when you select File | New and then select General Templates.

Microsoft Word templates dialog

You can find your templates folder by selecting Tools | Options | File Locations tab. Even if you highlight User Templates and press the Modify button, you still won’t see the whole path unless you keep navigating up one level. For many people, their template path is similar to the one below except the user account name is yours.

C:/Documents and Settings/[user account name]/Application Data/Microsoft/Templates

How to Create the Cornell Notes Template

If you’ve not seen the Cornell Note-taking system, it divides a 8.5″ x 11″ page into three sections: Cue Column (1), Note taking Column (2) and Summary (3).

Cornell notes page layout

Depending on your preferences, some people like to have the note taking area (2) lined like notepaper. For our template, we’ll add the lines.

Setting the Template Page dimensions

  1. Open a new Word document
  2. From the File menu, select Page Setup
  3. On the Page Setup dialog, enter 0 for Top, Bottom, Left and Right margins.
  4. Click OK. (If you get a message saying your margins are outside the printable area, click Fix and then OK.)
  5. Press your Enter key once.

Creating the Table

  1. From the Table menu, select Insert and then Table.
  2. On the Insert Table dialog, enter 2 for columns and 34 for rows.
  3. Click OK.
  4. From the Table menu, select Table Properties.
  5. Click the Column tab, and enter 2.4 for the Preferred width.
  6. Click the Next Column button >>.
  7. Enter 5.65 for Column 2 Preferred width.
  8. Click the Row tab
  9. Click the check box for Specify height and type 0.25.
  10. In the Row height is field, select Exactly.
  11. Click OK.

Applying Formatting to the Template

  1. Place your cursor in any cell in column 1
  2. From the Table menu, choose Select and then Column. The whole column should highlight.
  3. From the Format menu, select Borders and Shading
  4. Under Setting: click the icon for Box. Keep the Apply to value as Cell.
  5. Click OK.

If you go to Print Preview, you will see the cell lines in the Cue column do not display and you have a 2 summary area at the bottom. I intentionally added an extra paragraph break before the table as it makes it easier if you need to adjust the position or add a description.

I also opted not to merge the cells in the Cue column as some people may wish to show the lines or add place holders for punch holes.

Saving the Template

Technically, you can save this file anywhere. However, to have it appear as a template in the General tab, you need to save it in a specific location.

  1. From the File menu, select Save.
  2. In the Save As dialog, navigate to your Templates folder. This will vary based on your profile. As example, mine is:
  3. C:/Documents and Settings/Anne/Application Data/Microsoft/Templates

  4. At the bottom of the dialog, type Cornell Notes as your File name.
  5. Change the Save as type to Document Template (*.dot).
  6. Click Save.

Using the Cornell Note-taking Template

  1. From the File menu, select New.
  2. You should have an option to open General Templates. Depending on your version of Word, this may display in the Task Pane.
  3. Click the Cornell Note template.
  4. Click OK.

Your document will open and you can make further changes. For example, some people like to use the top line to type the class name and date. Other people put their name in case the notes are lost. Finally, print out how many copies you’ll need and head to class.

Additional Resources

word-icon-smallCornell Notes Template for Microsoft Word

PDF iconPDF Template