# Cornell Notes - A lyx or latex solution needed

I teach academic writing to computing students and one of the tasks they have to carry out is to compile a set of research notes which can then be developed into an essay. I find that the Cornell format is the most useful for the students to use as it relates chunks of researched information to cues and cue questions.

The Cornell format divides each page into two columns. The cue column which contains questions and cues takes about a third of the page width on the left hand side and the notes column takes the remaining two thirds of the column on the right hand side.

The student makes notes by recording a cue or a question in the left hand column and then makes a note in the right hand column by recording a chunk of research information in the right hand column.

The picture below shows the typical layout of a page.

In the past the students have prepared these notes using pen and paper but I would like to use Lyx/LaTeX to prepare their notes as Lyx is also used for typesetting their essay, the result of the research process.

I know enough about LaTeX to know that a package like parallel would take me some of the way to implementing this but my students would have difficulty with raw LaTeX and would be better with a Lyx template.

So, I would like to know of any approach or packages that could be used to create a Lyx template that provides the Cornell Notes functionality described above.

Thank you.

-
Nice educational tool, indeed. – Count Zero Sep 7 '12 at 13:11
It really works well with the students because it makes them think about the structure of their research process. I get then to think firstly about a sequence of questions about their chosen topic, research the answers to those questions, record using the Cornell method, and then generate another sequence of questions and repeat the process again. I also emphasise the idea of sequencing the questions so that they form a line of inquiry into the topic - this helps with focus. – redRobbo Sep 7 '12 at 13:18
Do you want them to 'take notes' in Lyx, or to 'type up' their (handwritten) notes for submission? If they are using computers to take notes, this does not seem like a good method: note-taking should be easy and quick to do. A better method might be to use some kind of lightweight markup language (e.g., markdown or org-mode; there are many others), and provide a template for the conversion into a *tex-based .pdf – jon Sep 7 '12 at 18:18
I too hope that someone writes a package, perhaps called "cornell", that makes it easier to write and archive notes with the Cornell note-taking method. Thank you for bringing it up. – WobblyWindows Sep 8 '12 at 13:53
Did you manage to find a solution to this as I think it would be very useful for keeping notes in a nice format for my PhD – Gnemsid Nov 18 '13 at 19:31

Here's something that adapts Fran's answer to be a bit more in the spirit of standard Cornell Notes.

\documentclass[a4paper]{article}
\usepackage{tcolorbox}
\tcbuselibrary{skins}

\title{
\vspace{-3em}
\begin{tcolorbox}[colframe=white,opacityback=0]
\begin{tcolorbox}
\Huge\sffamily Cornell Notes on Something
\end{tcolorbox}
\end{tcolorbox}
\vspace{-3em}
}

\date{}

\usepackage{background}
\SetBgScale{1}
\SetBgAngle{0}
\SetBgColor{red}
\SetBgContents{\rule[0em]{4pt}{\textheight}}
\SetBgHshift{-2.3cm}
\SetBgVshift{0cm}

\usepackage{lipsum}% just to generate filler text for the example
\usepackage[margin=2cm]{geometry}

\usepackage{tikz}
\usepackage{tikzpagenodes}

\parindent=0pt

\usepackage{xparse}
\DeclareDocumentCommand\topic{ m m g g g g g}
{
\begin{tcolorbox}[sidebyside,sidebyside align=top,opacityframe=0,opacityback=0,opacitybacktitle=0, opacitytext=1,lefthand width=.3\textwidth]
\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=red!05,colframe=red!25,sidebyside align=top,width=\textwidth,before skip=0pt]
#1.\end{tcolorbox}%
\tcblower
\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=blue!05,colframe=blue!10,width=\textwidth,before skip=0pt]
#2
\end{tcolorbox}
\IfNoValueF {#3}{
\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=blue!05,colframe=blue!10,width=\textwidth]
#3
\end{tcolorbox}
}
\IfNoValueF {#4}{
\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=blue!05,colframe=blue!10,width=\textwidth]
#4
\end{tcolorbox}
}
\IfNoValueF {#5}{
\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=blue!05,colframe=blue!10,width=\textwidth]
#5
\end{tcolorbox}
}
\IfNoValueF {#6}{
\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=blue!05,colframe=blue!10,width=\textwidth]
#6
\end{tcolorbox}
}
\IfNoValueF {#7}{
\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=blue!05,colframe=blue!10,width=\textwidth]
#7
\end{tcolorbox}
}
\end{tcolorbox}
}

\def\summary#1{
\begin{tikzpicture}[overlay,remember picture,inner sep=0pt, outer sep=0pt]
\node[anchor=south,yshift=-1ex] at (current page text area.south) {%
\begin{minipage}{\textwidth}%%%%
\begin{tcolorbox}[colframe=white,opacityback=0]
\begin{tcolorbox}[enhanced,colframe=black,fonttitle=\large\bfseries\sffamily,sidebyside=true, nobeforeafter,before=\vfil,after=\vfil,colupper=black,sidebyside align=top, lefthand width=.95\textwidth,opacitybacktitle=1, opacitytext=1,
segmentation style={black!55,solid,opacity=0,line width=3pt},
title=Summary
]
#1
\end{tcolorbox}
\end{tcolorbox}
\end{minipage}
};
\end{tikzpicture}
}

\begin{document}
\maketitle

\topic{This is a question}%
{The first piece of evidence is mandatory}%
{Now add up to five\ldots}%
{\ldots additional pieces of evidence.}

\topic{Here's another question.}{\lipsum[1]}%
{\lipsum[2]}%

\summary{This is a longer box that floats to the bottom of the page.}

\topic{Here's another question to begin the new page.}{\lipsum[3]}%
{\lipsum[4]}%
{\lipsum[5]}%

\summary{And another summary that will float to the bottom of the next page.}

\end{document}

-

A first approach for an easy to fill LaTeX template (may be even for LyX using ERT boxes).

\documentclass[a4paper]{article}
\usepackage{tcolorbox}
\tcbuselibrary{skins}

\title{
\vspace{-3em}
\begin{tcolorbox}
\Huge\sffamily Cornell Notes on Something
\end{tcolorbox}
\vspace{-3em}
}

\date{}

\usepackage{background}
\SetBgScale{1}
\SetBgAngle{0}
\SetBgColor{red}
\SetBgContents{\rule[0em]{4pt}{\textheight}}
\SetBgHshift{-2.3cm}
\SetBgVshift{0cm}
\usepackage{lipsum}% just to generate filler text for the example
\usepackage[margin=2cm]{geometry}
\usepackage{lipsum}% just to generate dummy text for the example

%\url{http://tex.stackexchange.com/a/314/86}

\makeatletter
\def\cornell{\@ifnextchar[{\@with}{\@without}}
\def\@with[#1]#2#3{
\begin{tcolorbox}[enhanced,colback=gray,colframe=black,fonttitle=\large\bfseries\sffamily,sidebyside=true, nobeforeafter,before=\vfil,after=\vfil,colupper=blue,sidebyside align=top, lefthand width=.3\textwidth,
opacityframe=0,opacityback=.3,opacitybacktitle=1, opacitytext=1,
segmentation style={black!55,solid,opacity=0,line width=3pt},
title=#1
]
\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=red!05,colframe=red!25,sidebyside align=top,
width=\textwidth,nobeforeafter]#2\end{tcolorbox}%
\tcblower
\sffamily
\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=blue!05,colframe=blue!10,width=\textwidth,nobeforeafter]
#3
\end{tcolorbox}
\end{tcolorbox}
}
\def\@without#1#2{
\begin{tcolorbox}[enhanced,colback=white!15,colframe=white,fonttitle=\bfseries,sidebyside=true, nobeforeafter,before=\vfil,after=\vfil,colupper=blue,sidebyside align=top, lefthand width=.3\textwidth,
opacityframe=0,opacityback=0,opacitybacktitle=0, opacitytext=1,
segmentation style={black!55,solid,opacity=0,line width=3pt}
]

\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=red!05,colframe=red!25,sidebyside align=top,
width=\textwidth,nobeforeafter]#1\end{tcolorbox}%
\tcblower
\sffamily
\begin{tcolorbox}[colback=blue!05,colframe=blue!10,width=\textwidth,nobeforeafter]
#2
\end{tcolorbox}
\end{tcolorbox}
}
\makeatother

\parindent=0pt

%\newcommand{\cornell}[2]{%
%}

%\hspace{.3\textwidth}\vrule width 3pt depth .4\textheight
%\vspace{-\textheight}}

\providecommand{\LyX}{L\kern-.1667em\lower.25em\hbox{Y}\kern-.125emX\@}

\begin{document}
\maketitle
\SetBgContents{\rule[0em]{4pt}{\textheight}}

\cornell{Research question}{\lipsum*[2]}
\cornell{Another research question}{\lipsum*[5]}
\cornell[A fancy very important question]{Thi is easy to write?}{Even without \LyX{}, is not too hard fill this template, but you must compile twice.}
\cornell{Another research question very long for one line.}{\lipsum*[1]}
\cornell{Do you want fill much more than a page}{No problem. \lipsum*[3]}
\cornell{More?}{No problem. \lipsum*[3-4]}

\cornell[Last question]{This is the end?}{Yes.}
\end{document}

-
This does not compile in TexShop for me. – Craig Jan 25 '15 at 14:43
@Craig Sorry, but I cannot guess your problem only with a "this does not work". Today the MWE still work fine with pdflatex and xelatex in a Debian testing with TeXlive 2014 or compiled in line in papeeria.com. Therefore the problem is your computer configuration. Compile it twice from the system prompt (pdflatex file.tex two times) and search the last error message in file.log if you do not obtain the file.pdf. This can tell you where is the problem. – Fran Jan 25 '15 at 18:51
Sorry, that was a bit rude of me to just say it didn't work. I am running it on Mac OSX with TexShop. The error is: "./test.tex:78: Package pgfkeys Error: I do not know the key '/tcb/enhanced' and I am going to ignore it. Perhaps you misspelled it." I ended up making my own, which isn't nearly as pretty as the one you provided, but is working for now. – Craig Jan 26 '15 at 4:57
@Craig May be this help tex.stackexchange.com/a/161658/11604 – Fran Jan 26 '15 at 7:34
Fran this outline of a cornel note in Latex is very nice. When i run them the left and right side boxes are not top aligned. Have anyone an idea how i can avoid this? – Ivo Looser Apr 24 '15 at 6:37

I think it works only well if the notes are written by hand and not by searching the right place for research questions in latex code. If a template sheet for handwriting cornell notes is ok for you:

\documentclass[a4paper]{scrartcl}
\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}
\usepackage[ngerman]{babel}
%\usepackage{calc}
\usepackage[a4paper]{geometry}
\usepackage{tikz, ragged2e}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
\draw[step=.7cm,gray!20,very thin] (4.9,4.9) grid (19,25.8);
\draw [line width=.2pt, gray!50] (0,4.9) -- (19,4.9);
\draw [line width=.2pt, gray!50] (0,25.8) -- (19,25.8);
\draw [line width=.2pt, gray!50] (4.9,4.9) -- (4.9,25.8);
\draw [line width=.2pt,gray!60] (0,-0.4) -- (0,25.8);
\node at (2,4.5){Zusammenfassung:};
\node at (13.5,26.6){\parbox[t][2cm][c]{4cm}{\RaggedLeft Fach:\smallskip

Datum:}};
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

-

Here is another possibility for handwritten notes. It is essentially the classic Cornell layout containing three sections: notes, cues and summary. The code is rather overwrought, I know, and improvements would be welcome. I'm working on a LaTeX approach to entering and formatting Cornell-style notes and will post it when it does not embarrass me too much.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{calc}
\usepackage[top=0.25in,bottom=0.75in,left=0.5in,right=0.5in]{geometry}
\usepackage{tikz}

\newlength{\wholeboxwd}
\setlength{\wholeboxwd}{0.99\textwidth}
\newlength{\wholeboxht}
\setlength{\wholeboxht}{0.95\textheight}
%
\newlength{\cuewd}
\setlength{\cuewd}{0.3\wholeboxwd}
\newlength{\summht}
\setlength{\summht}{0.2\wholeboxht}
\newlength{\cgridht}
\setlength{\cgridht}{\wholeboxht-\summht}
\newlength{\cgridwd}
\setlength{\cgridwd}{\wholeboxwd-\cuewd}
\newlength{\xorig}
\newlength{\yorig}
\setlength{\xorig}{0cm}
\setlength{\yorig}{0cm}

\begin{document}

\begin{center}
\begin{tikzpicture}
\draw[step=.5cm,gray!80,thin] (\cuewd,\summht) grid (\wholeboxwd,\wholeboxht);
%% Optional:
%\draw[step=.25cm,gray!30,thin] (\cuewd,\summht) grid (\wholeboxwd,\wholeboxht);
% Summary, top:
\draw [line width=.2pt] (\xorig,\summht) -- (\wholeboxwd,\summht);
% Grid, left:
\draw [line width=.2pt] (\cuewd,\summht) -- (\cuewd,\wholeboxht);
% Draw the big box:
\draw (\xorig,\yorig) rectangle (\wholeboxwd,\wholeboxht);
\node[anchor=west] at (0.25,\wholeboxht-1em) {\textbf{Cues:}};
\node[anchor=west] at (0.25,\summht-1em){\textbf{Summary:}};
\node[anchor=west,fill=white] at (\cuewd+1em,\wholeboxht-1em) {\textbf{\ Notes:\ }};
\node[anchor=west] at (0.25,\wholeboxht+2em){%
\parbox[t]{\cuewd}{Subject:\par\smallskip Date:}%
};
\end{tikzpicture}
\end{center}

\end{document}


Here is the output:

-
I do really like Seth Brown's custom notebooks, it shouldn't be hard to adapt that to Cornell layout drbunsen.org/custom-notebooks – michal.h21 Nov 19 '13 at 13:43