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How to Organize a Study Notebook

Updated on February 20, 2013

Getting The Job Of Studying Done Right!

People in all professions need a variety of tools to get their job done right.

  • They need to have them organized and available when needed.
  • A carpenter must have his basic tools with him on the job and organized so he/she is not hunting for the right tool and holding up completion of the project.

Successful people tend to be organized and eager to get things done correctly the first time.

Successful students require similar attributes. Some students come by these skills naturally. They have excellent problem-solving abilities. Independently, they develop organizational strategies and study habits that create for them a successful school experience. They are able to do the following on their own:

  • create their own organizational systems,
  • create their own processing and comprehension strategies for material read or heard in class,
  • create strategies for planning and completing homework and long-term assignments,
  • create test-studying and test-taking strategies

Many students, however, require assistance with the development of the above techniques. Those with learning disabilities, especially, have issues with organizing time and paperwork. They have difficulty with short or long term memory and often require more specialized attention towards their test studying and test taking strategies.

With or without learning disabilities, many students require assistance with basic organization skills in order to boost their overall school success. A model for organization of a study notebook is provided which will work for any student, particularly at the high school or post-secondary level.

Three Tools For The Study Notebook

Any student's study notebook should include three components:

  1. Daily notebook;
  2. Accordion file or files for finished units, tests and assignments;
  3. Reference notebook or section.

The Daily Notebook

This book is the one taken to school each day. It holds all hand-outs and notes required for the current unit of study.

  • My son with learning disabilities himself has found that for note taking, a notebook with bound pages has worked the best for him.
  • The three ring binder format works best for handouts and returned evaluated material but he found notes would often rip from the rings due to use when studying and it created more of a mess and headache for him.

However, for many, the three ring binder format would be an excellent choice for use as the daily notebook. Regardless, this binder should contain the following:

  • a three-ring punch that can be attached to the binder rings
  • a zippered plastic pouch designed to attach to the binder rings for use as pencil case; it should contain highlighters pencils, erasers, pens, clips, sticky notes and other small supplies
  • a monthly calendar often available at the local dollar store or printed via computer program
  • a ruler
  • a calculator
  • section dividers with the following labels: notes, handouts, evaluated items

Depending on grade level, one binder may be sufficient but at the high school and post-secondary level it is highly recommended that each subject have its own daily notebook. If each notebook is

  • color-coded by subject
  • and well-labelled

then the correct book will be taken to class.

The following system should be used on a daily basis for each daily lesson:

  • the daily note should be dated
  • any notes or returned evaluation should be hole punched and placed in the appropriate section of the binder
  • homework and assignment due dates should be noted on the appropriate place in the included calendar

My son uses a similar filing cabinet to organize notes, tests and assignments from completed course units.
My son uses a similar filing cabinet to organize notes, tests and assignments from completed course units. | Source

The Accordion File or Files For Completed Units Of Study

After the final unit test is written for each unit of study notes, returned tests and other items evaluated should be placed in an accordion file or file folders which are then placed in a filing cabinet or desk-top filing system. Each section from your daily notebook should have a similar label in your filing system. The accordion file serves three main functions:

  1. It provides one place to store and organize finished work.
  2. It reduces the bulk of materials that need to be taken to class each day reducing the wear and tear on note pages and reducing the likelihood that material will rip out and be damaged or lost.
  3. It provides a tool to quickly access the material at the end of the term or semester to study for midterm and final examinations.

The Reference Notebook Or Section

For most students, a section in their daily notebook would be adequate and highly advised to contain reference materials for each subject. For others, it might be advisable to contain these materials in a separate binder. Many of these materials will be utilized most frequently at home when completing assignments, papers, lab work etc. However, if much of your child's work must be completed in class or if the materials are often required at school, then keeping this section within the daily notebook would be advisable. The reference notebook could contain all or many of the following items:

  • math facts and frequently used formulas
  • charts or graphs provided in class (timelines, periodic tables)
  • instructional guides (basic format for an essay, lab report format)
  • maps
  • a list of web resources particular to each subject area

Success In School Using These Organizational Tips

There is no guarantee of an A in each subject by following the above guidelines. However, organization is key to success in all avenues of life. When materials are neat and organized and they are easy to find, studying and completing evaluation material including tests and assignments becomes much easier to accomplish. Students are most likely to achieve their particular potential grades by organizing a study notebook.


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    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Glad you found it useful rmcleve. Appreciate the feedback!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      These are really great tips. As a procrastinator and lazy person, I struggled finding the right way to organize my notebooks in school. In the end, I did come up with a useful plan for myself, but this is a much better, more universal approach.

      Thanks for sharing!


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