What is a File Note?

A file note is a comprehensive documentation tool used by employees, individuals, and professionals to deal with their files and organize documents such as concept notes, and other items in their personal or professional work. Taking notes is an efficient time-saving method that can be done electronically nowadays using word processing tools and digital notebooks than taking notes using traditional notepads and sticky notes. Still, there are some people who prefer to use handwritten notes in their work. They usually scan their handwritten notes for electronic storage so that they can easily search for the note in their electronic note system.

According to a 2014 research study conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer, it stated that 14.6% of the laptop notes were verbatim, while the longhand or traditional handwritten notes only had 8.8% verbatim overlap. Other reports published in 2011 and 2017 revealed that an average adult can write around 13 words per minute, while the average typing speed is approximately 40 words per minute. Thus, these statistical reports have shown that digital note-takers record more words from the lecture than traditional note-takers. On the other hand, handwritten notetaking is a beneficial method if you need to carefully process and retain information and answer conceptual questions.

Examples of File Notes

If you need to record essential information, there are many file notes that you may use for the proper documentation of your personal project or office work. Here are some common examples of file notes used by legal professionals, medical experts, researchers, and academic professionals in various fields.

Legal File Notes: These are records of what has been accomplished or said at a specific time. Attorneys, lawyers, and other legal professionals write legal file notes to record the work they completed, the core elements of advice stated during conferences, or map out a thought process concerning a certain problem. Legal file notes are important documents aside from non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality agreements, letters of instruction, trust documents, and many others. Medical Case File Notes: Doctors, physicians, and other healthcare professionals use medical case notes to document a patient’s healthcare visit and contains some information on the patient’s electronic health record chart. Filing medical case notes and doctor’s notes for patients is a crucial method to allow the designated healthcare treatment team to closely monitor the medical history of a patient and to search for issues and patterns that may significantly affect the future medical care and recovery of the patient. Also known as a comprehensive medical record, it also includes the patient’s identification information, medical examination findings, and billing details. Medical notes are fundamental as their accuracy and clarity enable effective communication between healthcare experts and patients. HR File Notes: These notes are also referred to as “File Notes for Improvement” or “File Notes to Document Conduct or Performance Issues”, which are used by HR managers and project managers to help their employees improve their work performance and productivity. Also, they are used to help overall communication and improve standards of conduct and performance without the need to have to enter into the formal disciplinary process. When taking HR file notes, describe the behavior or situation and its impact and emphasize what you would like to see occur in the future. Then, remember to include any specific questions you want to ask as you begin with open questions. Make sure that you clarify anything you are uncertain of and record any timeline for improvement that was explained. Research File Notes: All kinds of researchers such as biological researchers, scientific researchers, and market researchers usually take research file notes of their literature to recapitulate what they have reviewed on their research studies. If you are a new researcher who wants to take a research note efficiently, concentrate on the major issues addressed and the main arguments placed forward. Avoid focusing too much on what the authors are trying to say rather focus on what you want to get out of a source. Research notes are essential documentation tools that establish the basis for the construction of a literature review framework and offer the best method to maximize the extraction of information in the initial reading phase, ensuring that unnecessary information is not added to the review. Student Academic File Notes: Also known as education records or school notes, these student file notes include academic grades, class lists, health records, student course schedules, student discipline files, transcripts, and many other educational documents. An educational institution usually maintains these file notes that are recorded in various ways such as computer media, handwriting, audiotape, film, email, and print.

Best Note-taking Apps for File Notes

Do you want to go paperless while you record your business document, journal report, and meeting notes efficiently? Here is a list of the top-rated note-taking apps that you can use for your personal tasks or office work.

Evernote: It is one of the best note-taking apps mainly used by students, teachers, and other professionals to easily capture all the data they need and save it for later. Take notes with this app on your mobile phone, your tablet, on the desktop application, or on the Web. This app allows you to centralize all the fundamental details in the same place and access your content with just one click despite having numerous digital notebooks. Use its “Notebooks” and “Tags” features to easily find information as you can categorize your notes by subject with the “Notebooks” feature and add keywords to your notes to find them easily through “Tags”. If you are using Evernote on the Web, utilize the Web Clipper features to capture all the information you need such as articles, images, PDF files, and other documents on a webpage, and save them in your preferred notebook. Microsoft OneNote: It is a digital note-taking app that gives you an all-in-one place to keep all of your notes, plans, research notes, and information to keep in mind and manage in your life at home, at school, or at work. Some of the wonderful features of OneNote are it allows you to have an actual notebook-like interface design, open multiple windows of the same or different notes as you categorize your notes in different windows, add tags to your notes for easy and quick note search, incorporate links to other notes and sections in your OneNote notes, and add password protection to those particular sections. Plus, it enables you to type and solve math equations, convert images to text, paste text without formatting, sync your notes with your cloud account to make them available across all your supported devices, and customize the print area of your notebook. Goodnotes: If you are an iPhone, iPad, and Mac user, this app is a note-taking application designed for taking handwritten notes and annotating PDF documents on iOS devices. With this app, you can easily search any handwritten or typed term of your notes in your library because of its powerful handwriting recognition feature. Easily annotate your PDFs and PPTs, especially when you annotate articles, sign documents, and write on your lecture slides. Organize your notes in your preferred way and personalize your notebooks using a wide array of covers and paper templates. Use the Elements tool to save and insert frequently used objects such as stickers, images, and diagrams.

How to Create File Notes

As one of the essential documentation tools, file notes can be written using digital and traditional pen and paper note-taking methods. Digital note-takers use audio recorders, note-taking applications, personal digital assistants, voice-to-text programs, and other wide-ranging technologies to simplify and quickly record file notes. Whether you are a digital or traditional note-taker, choose and follow the simple steps you preferred below so that you can easily create file notes.

Step 1: Condense and Organize Notes Using the Cornell Method

If you want an organized and systematic recording and reviewing notes, write Cornell notes using our sample Cornell note templates in PDF. Rule your paper or digital notebook with a two-inch margin on the left side and leave a six-inch area on the right part where you will write your notes. Skip a few lines in the six-inch area when the speaker moves to a new point. Complete the phrases and sentences as much as possible. The two-inch left column is your cue column where you review and reflect on your notes after the class or meeting. The six-inch right column is where you record the lecture or speech as fully and meaningfully as possible. Create a 2-inch section below the two columns for the summary of your notes in a sentence or two.

Step 2: Highlight the Main Points Using the Outlining Method

Use the dash or indented outlining method to record contents and show relationships in a well-structured system. It reduces editing and helps you to easily review the main points for review. While listening to the speaker, write the main points in a systematic pattern based on space indention. Add the main points farthest to the left and indent each more specific point to the right. Indicate the levels of importance as you distance away from the main point. This method is best if the lecture or talk is presented in an outline format.

Step 3: Connect Facts or Ideas Using the Mapping Method

Mapping is all about connecting each fact or idea to every fact or idea. It helps you to visually monitor your lecture or speech despite any conditions. As a graphic representation of the lecture or talk, it enables immediate knowledge, emphasizes critical thinking, and maximizes active participation. Add numbers, marks, and color coding as you restructure your thought processes to analyze your understanding.

Step 4: Draw Columns and Tables Using the Charting Method

For a chronological-based lecture or speech, draw columns and label proper headings in a table. Identify the categories to be covered as you set up the columns and tables in advance. Record information such as words, main ideas, and phrases into the proper category. Use this method if you want to reduce the amount of time you spend on editing and reviewing.

Step 5: Write in Sentences

If the lecture or speech is organized and quick but heavy with content, use the Sentence method as you write every new fact, idea, or topic on a separate line and use numbers to organize your notes. This is a beneficial method to help you track information despite hearing different points and having difficulties with how you will fit them together.


What are some examples of file notes?

Some examples of file notes are accounting file notes, client file notes, legal file notes, medical case file notes, meeting conference file notes, office file notes, project management file notes, research file notes, student academic file notes, and trainee file notes.

What do file notes mean at work?

File notes at work are called file notes for improvement which are forms used by project managers to their employees when they discuss any areas where improvement is necessary.

What is a file note in research?

A file note in research, known as a note to file, is used to explain and record deviations, issues, or events taking place in the midst of the research process that cannot be documented in a standard research case report. Some common types of research notes are causal, descriptive, and exploratory.

What are the common types of note-taking formats?

The common types of note-taking formats are the Cornell method, the Outlining method, the Mapping method, the Charting method, and the Sentence method.

How to take notes effectively?

When you take notes, listen attentively to the speaker, take complete notes, make sure that you include detailed notes, search for note-taking cues, revise your notes, replay lectures or talks, and use handwritten notes. 

Keeping clear, detailed, and organized file notes is a fundamental way that many individuals, employees, and practitioners use to set up and maintain an efficient and productive workspace.  It helps you to become organized and manage your projects properly so that you can accomplish them right on time. Remember the aforementioned importance and examples of file notes, the best note-taking apps you can use, and the basic steps or methods to create file notes. Easily download and use our sample file note templates and other PDF document samples for documentation and note-taking such as delivery notes, meeting minutes and meeting notes, and DAP notes.