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I am trying to find an emacs mode for the Cronell Note taking system. It doesn't have to be exact, but allows for SQ3R(Skim, Question, Read, Recite, Review) or a similar variation. Something more creative like counting the lines and if a certain number is exceeded automatically a new heading is created with similar structure (a way to create pages) and hopefully this could be exported nicely into pdf.

The Cornell method provides a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes. The student divides the paper into two columns: the note-taking column (usually on the right) is twice the size of the questions/key word column (on the left). The student should leave five to seven lines, or about two in (5 cm), at the bottom of the page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornell_Notes

2 Answers 2

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Org mode is hierarchical while Cornell is a simple parallel structure. Yet Org's may help within an overall hierarchy for, say, courses -- lectures hierarchy of consolidated notes. In short, making Cornell system a subset of an hierarchically organized file.

Here's a simple workflow suggestion if you must use :

  • Record stage: take notes as usual in class in a flat file or blank org file. One line per note.

  • Questions stage: convert that into two columns using this keybinding in

    C-c |     (org-table-create-or-convert-from-region)
    

    Insert a blank first column for your questions. Keep the second column populated with your notes. The overall org file's hierarchy is as follows:

    * Course 1
    ** Lecture 1
    Insert notes table here for this lecture
    ** Lecture 2
    Insert notes table here for this lecture
    * Course 2
    ** Lecture 1
    Insert notes table here for this lecture
    ** Lecture 2 
    Insert notes table here for this lecture
    
  • Recite stage: Hide the notes column with <1> or something short for the notes column header as shown in the org manual. To export just that one table use with Export Scope of subtree with this:

    C-e C-s
    
  • Reflect stage: this is where org-mode can really shine: adding internal and external links to your current and previous notes, to other courses, to other resources outside your file system, say to the class syllabus, previous questions, bibliography, references, and an indexing system. Each of these is an entirely separate feature in org-mode that you can explore further.

  • Review stage: this is where you can tap into latex export for a nicely formatted PDF output with TOC, include files, source code blocks, etc. Depending on how you want to format the table, you may want to try several options. At a minimum you'd need the longtable environment for notes tables to flow nicely into next pages. It also relieves you of the burden of sizing tables on each page:

     #+ATTR_LATEX: :environment longtable   
    

In short all the parts are there in org-mode for you to pick and choose your workflow based on how deep you want to incorporate these features over your simple note taking. For example, you may even embed your schedules and time clocking. Perhaps you could even update this question with a template for your particular workflow.

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I can't think of an easy way to manage the two-column layout, and the idea of a 'page' with a bottom margin doesn't translate well to a text file.

That said, you could reorient this structure to use org-mode. Org files are fundamentally hierarchical,so perhaps using separate subheadings for your notes and question/key words would make sense. That would allow you to hide the notes when drilling on the questions. For example:

* Lecture one  
** Questions and Keywords
   - hierarchical structure
   - folding subtrees
   - tags
   - links
** Notes
   Org mode provides lots of features for taking notes such as this, 
   that and also the other things including blah blah blah
** Summary
   Here's a summary of the key points in the lesson.

During your 'recite' phase, you use org-modes folding feature to hide the Notes section, so you'd see this:

* Lecture one  
** Questions and Keywords
   - hierarchical structure
   - folding subtrees
   - tags
   - links
** Notes...
** Summary...
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  • I am hoping to find something more creative like counting the lines and if a certain number is exceeded automatically a new heading is created with similar structure (a way to create pages) and hopefully this could be exported nicely into pdf. (will update my question with this remark) Feb 15, 2017 at 15:17
  • 4
    I think you'll need to write your own mode for something that complex. Good luck!
    – Tyler
    Feb 15, 2017 at 15:21

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