Most of the blog posts that I tend to write are as a result of reading other people’s work or watching an interesting video – This one follows the same trend.

I’ve just finished watching John Stevenson’s (@steveo1967) excellent Whiteboard Testing (@WhiteboardTest) YouTube video explaining the Cornell Method of taking notes – I’ve heard of this method in the past and watched a few similar YouTube videos on the subject but have never really applied it to my day to day testing activities. The truth is, I have never really formally been taught how to take good notes – It sounds strange that I would want that but for me it would have given me the foundations earlier on in my life so that I could then change, adapt and develop my own style into something that worked for me.

My past experiences…

Most of my previous working life I was made to carry with me, at all times, a Notebook and Pen – I was asked to show this to the Corporal, Serjeant, Etc. every day on the first Parade of the morning until it became just a normal pattern of life to have these items on you. When I was promoted, I would be asking the same question and punishing (restriction of privileges) the soldiers that did not produce these.

Looking back, I couldn’t see the reasons and importance of having a Notebook and Pen with you – This was vital for daily life in barracks during the various classroom-based lessons and also on Operations and Pre-Deployment Exercises, taking down important information that could prove life-saving in certain situations. I know that now but back then when I was a boy soldier of 17/18 years old, I just didn’t get it, and was going through the motions.


Selection of Notebooks that I’ve kept from my time in the Army

I’ve kept many of my old Notebooks from that time of my life – I like to look through them to see, not only the types of notes that I was taking but how my style developed as I gained more military experience while progressing through my career.

Some of these notebooks included:

  • Helpful mnemonics and abbreviations
  • Instructions on Specific Infantry Radio Systems and Frequency ranges
  • Packing Lists for Exercises or Operations
  • Patrol Orders including the Mission, Commanders Intent, RV Grid References, Etc.
  • Ammo States of the Sections taken during Platoon and Section Attacks
  • Quick Sketch Drawings for a Range Card and Arcs of Fire for the Sentry position

Doing a very small amount of research while thinking about this blog post I came across a perfect article which displayed the pieces of equipment carried by Soldiers throughout the years – I’ve chosen a few examples and as you can see, a Notebook was a very important part of military life over many conflicts.

1815 Private Soldier, Battle of Waterloo (bottom left) 49 – 1807 British Army drill regulations and leather covered notebook

1916 Private Soldier, Battle of the Somme (bottom right) 8 – Notebook and Service Warrant Card

1982 Royal Marine Commando, Falklands War (bottom centre) 18 – British army notebook and pens, compass and protractor, which were used for marking maps, for example, plotting minefields.

2014 Close-Support Sapper, Royal Engineers, Helmand Province (top centre) 5 – Notebook


How good are the notes that I take now?

Note taking is a skill and like any other skill you need to practice it – If you’re not prepared to put the effort in, then the notes that you take during your exploratory sessions are meaningless and don’t tell the story of your testing. Rob Lambert (@Rob_Lambert) mentions in one of his posts about making your notes 60 Days proof – This means that you can pick up that notebook or open that file and still be able to recall exactly what you meant when you first made that entry. I’m not amazing at doing this but i’m working towards getting there and looking at ways to improve all the time. Internal Company presentations and also short TED Talks are great ways, that i have found to practice note taking skills.

I continue to fight with myself over what works well for me and my own style has changed and morphed over the last couple of years, I’ve used different bullet points, checklists, mind-maps and also created templates in order to keep things consistent but i haven’t found the one thing that fits me….yet. That’s what I love about learning and experimenting – you tend to do it for every aspect of your testing, i don’t think i will ever stop trying to improve on what i’m currently doing.

I would love to hear from people and hear the way they take and capture their testing notes. Are there certain applications that you find useful (Rapid Reporter, Evernote, One Note, etc.). Do you consider who the audience is when writing notes? How did you find your style or if they are like me, are still trying to get there?

Please feel free to get in touch!

A few great resources about taking notes and techniques to improve your note taking:

Michael Bolton –

Rob Lambert –

Alan Richardson –

Shmuel Gershon –