Taking Notes in Medical School using OneNote

Medical school can be very content heavy. It often takes a while to figure out what method of learning and note taking works for you. Here are some tips on how to note take using my favourite resource OneNote.


Why am I writing this blog?

Medical school requires you to learn and understand information on a variety of topics, all delivered in different methods, whether that be a lecture, a workshop, a dissection session or being on clinical placement. Throughout my first year of medical school, I tried out many different methods of note taking to help me efficiently process the information given to me, and finally found an app that works for me; OneNote.


Microsoft OneNote is a digital note taking app that many of you as medical students may already have access to, as it is a part of Microsoft Office 365 which many universities offer to their students.

With the large amount of information that we are taught in a relatively short amount of time, I found myself filling in notebook after notebook, many times having to sort through this pile of notebooks, just to find a certain note I had written for a lecture. Not only was this time consuming, but it didn’t seem practical to keep collecting so many handwritten notes over the years.

OneNote gave me a simple solution as I was able to digitise my notes and use the different features to organise them in a method that made it easy to write notes and refer to them later as well, while also being considerably much lighter to carry around!

Why OneNote? 

OneNote lets you create different notebooks with sections which is very useful when you’re learning so many different topics in medical school. You could create a notebook for every body system or every module you learn, and then create sections for every week of teaching or the different types of teaching (lectures, clinical skills, workshops etc).

Within each section, you can create these multidimensional pages, in which you can type out notes or write them using a stylus, and even annotate any PowerPoints, PDFs or diagrams that you are given. It’s an endless page in which you can keep scrolling which means you never run out of space in case you have to add in another point later.

My favourite part is how it syncs automatically between the different devices you’re using and even if you’re working offline, it backs up your notes as soon as you’re online, that way you don’t have to worry about losing any notes at any time!

 Key features and how to use them: 

  • The first feature that I found very useful is the ability to insert a PowerPoint or any document that you receive as a “printout” on OneNote, which you can then easily annotate. This means you can easily insert a very large document, without it taking up too much storage on your device.
  • You can move your typed notes around by dragging and dropping them, and if you are writing your notes using a stylus, the same thing can be done using the “lasso effect”. This is very useful when you have quickly written notes during a workshop or on placement and are organising them later on. The “lasso effect” also allows you to select written text and change its colour and size which is great for students who like to colour code their notes.
  • The OneNote web clipper is very useful in adding information you have found online in an article or research paper, and this way you can have all the information in one place.

Using OneNote on a laptop vs an iPad or tablet 

Some people use OneNote just on their laptop or tablet while others use it on both. What’s the difference? It depends completely on whether you prefer to write or type out your notes. Some people prefer to write out their notes as the act of physically writing out information helps them process and understand it better, while other students think the same of typing. Either way, the features are the same on OneNote, with the one difference that OneNote lets you text search typed notes, but the same can’t be done for written notes. So, depending on your preference, you could use a laptop for typed notes or a tablet for typed or written notes, whichever works better for you.

University of Nottingham 

About The Author

Aashlesha is a medical student at the University of Nottingham. She has a keen interest in surgery and in her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing the piano and volunteering!

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