# 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.

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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. –  WobbyWindows 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 –  cjm Nov 18 '13 at 19:31

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}

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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:

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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