Question-evidence-conclusion note-taking strategy

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The Question-evidence-conclusion (QEC) note-taking strategy is a note-taking strategy recommended by Cal Newport in his book How to Be a Straight A Student for use in lectures that are not mathematically intensive and are not doing worked problems. The broad idea is to record notes in the following format:

  • Question
  • Evidence (in support of a conclusion, or to weigh different possible conclusions)
  • Conclusion (substantiated by evidence above)

Recording method

Instructors often do not format their lecture in the appropriate order. Newport suggests leaving enough space to fill in material as it becomes clearer. For instance:

  • In some cases, the instructor may begin by presenting a series of apparently disjointed facts -- the evidence (this might be an examples first style presentation). Neither the question nor the conclusion is clear at the time this happens. Simply leave space for the question and conclusion and note down the evidence. Sometimes, the question and conclusion need to be inferred indirectly as they are never explicitly stated.
  • In some cases, the question and conclusion may be stated first, and the evidence may then be provided in bits and pieces over time. Note down the question and conclusion, leaving ample space for evidence, and then fill in the evidence.