About CliffsNotes

A Brief History

CliffsNotes is the original (and most widely imitated) study guide. CliffsNotes study guides are written by real teachers and professors, so no matter what you're studying, CliffsNotes can ease your homework headaches and help you score high on exams.

A Brief History

Clifton Keith Hillegass, the founder of CliffsNotes, was born in Rising City, Nebraska, on April 18, 1918. After graduating from college, he worked as a college bookstore representative for Long's College Bookstore (now the Nebraska Book Company).

One of the contacts Cliff developed while at Long's was Jack Cole, owner of Coles, The Book People. Cole's business produced study guides called Cole's Notes, published in Canada. Cole suggested to Cliff that American students would welcome a U.S. version of the notes. With that idea, Cliff launched CliffsNotes in August 1958, with a line of 16 Shakespeare study guides. Working out of Lincoln, Nebraska, Cliff built the company that produced study guides destined to become a multi-generational icon. On May 5, 2001, Mr. Hillegass passed away at the age of 83.

In 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) acquired CliffsNotes, Inc. In 2021, Course Hero bought CliffsNotes from HMH, and the company continues the CliffsNotes legacy of helping learners learn around the world.

How to Cite CliffsNotes

How to Use CliffNotes

Use CliffsNotes literature guides as a study aid — a tool to help you understand literature. Most people use CliffsNotes by reading a chapter of the book or an act of the play, and then reading the corresponding section in the CliffsNotes. Alternatively, read the entire book or play, and then review with CliffsNotes.

Some people think using CliffsNotes guides is cheating, but it's not . . . unless you plagiarize (that is, copy information from CliffsNotes without giving us credit). Avoid plagiarism by knowing how to cite CliffsNotes, whether it's a print or online source of information.

As you use CliffsNotes, consider the advice that Cliff Hillegass gave to students:

"Opinions expressed in the CliffsNotes aren't rigid dogma meant to discourage your intellectual exploration. You should use them as starting points to open yourself to new methods of encountering, understanding, and appreciating literature. . . .

A thorough appreciation of literature allows no short cuts. By using CliffsNotes responsibly, reviewing past criticism of a literary work, and examining fresh points of view, you can establish a unique connection with a work of literature and can take a more active part in a key goal of education: redefining and applying classic wisdom to current and future problems."

Our Products

Need help on the SAT or AP? How about math, science, or writing? CliffsNotes can help you through all sorts of tricky classes and intimidating exams with free articles — and books and tools to buy.

- CliffsNotes books and downloads: Literature and test prep -- it's all easier with our helpful study guides. Have a look at the CliffsNotes product line!
- CliffsNotes Mobile: Download a free audio CramCast to get a three- to four-minute overview of a classic work of literature along with author background, a summary, and the top three things you should know about the work. Or, buy a CliffsNotes App for your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to get summaries, quizzes, Cram Plans (timeline-based study plans), and CramCasts. If you're always on the go, then follow us on Twitter or become a Facebook fan.
- Free online articles: CliffsNotes has more than just free literature study guides; check out all the free articles on college, writing and grammar, foreign languages, math, sciences, accounting, government, and history, test prep, and more!

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