This is going to be a bit of a difficult post to write since I don't have the appropriate graphics tools (and I'm missing a scanner), but bear with me.
I've been using the Cornell Notes system over the last couple of days to help me write longer and more interesting pages in my lab notebooks. The part of me that holds frugality dear wants to use the $1.59 8x10 cheap big quadrille lab books whenever possible in preference to the $10 3x5 Moleskine, especially when I'm writing somewhere that space is not at a premium. I'm following pretty much the same principles that I did on an earlier try on this, using columns and layout to sequester data and metadata into its own place, and to be consistent enough in what I'm doing that I can find stuff again while not being so consistent that I feel hemmed in.
The style is as follows:
Top right corner: date, time, location, meal and cost if I'm out writing, weather if it's notable, any other quick reminder of where I was at the time. Many of these in the Moleskine list a bus route; most of the lab books give a coffee shop or "home". (there's useful metadata)
Right column (10%): just enough of a margin to write marginal notes in of anything that's distracting me at the moment, but not enough to get involved in it. That goes down 85% of the page. In a coffee shop it's where you'd write down overheard gossip.
Top: title of the page, for the index.
Left column (25%): leave it blank for now.
Bottom (15%): leave it blank for now.
Middle (65% wide, 85% tall including top title): enough room to capture a whole thought, at least three or four paragraphs of it, and if I get sufficiently distracted by anything I note in the right margin and move on.
Once the whole middle is full to the edges, only then do I go back and review it, see if it makes any sense, and start composing the left column. The whole left column gets questions, only questions - any questions that can easily be answered by what I've written in the middle, plus questions that arise from reflecting on it, and all other on-topic queries that arise. Usually the question writing goes very very fast, especially if the topic is interesting - I'll often create enough questions in the course of writing that part of the page that there's an easy start to a next page or two.
Finally once the top 85% is full, I go to the bottom and fill in a summary of the page. Note that this may be very different from the title topic - that's one frustration of titled pages in this or any system, you might divert in the process of writing. I still think it's good to know the title and topic before you start, but that right margin is really key to make sure that you have enough space to catch fleeting ideas.
For the 3x5 Moleskine, this is way harder. You have a lot less space, and the page fills up a lot more quickly. My habit in lab notebooks is to use the right page only (leaving the left for sketches); for the Moleskine I tried using the full right page for the essay + very thin right margin for marginalia, and then the right quarter of the facing page for questions. That still leaves most of a facing page for art, or for more questions layered on top of the first pass.
I'm pretty sure this could all be rendered in some kind of CSS layout - the default Typepad setup doesn't come anywhere near, since it has per-weblog layout but not customizable per-page marginalia. I made a quick change to the private wiki I use for notes to self to allow for a linked editable left and right margin, which seems pretty neat but which I don't have enough experience with yet to know whether it's a just a great weird idea or actually something worth re-implementing the "right way".
I promise - I've been promising - that this will all show up scanned in at some point.