Study Tip: Making Study Outlines

By , October 5, 2010 8:43 am

[This study tip is provided by guest blogger Becca Oetting, a Junior in the Conservatory of Music and Dance studying Music Education.  Becca’s study tip helps keep her organized and focused on the material–for all her classes.]

When faced with a thick textbook and a looming test date, finding a system for processing what you read can be daunting.  While there are many effective strategies for organizing and taking notes of what you read, one strategy I have found particularly helpful is making outlines.  This forces me to slow down in my reading to think about the information, as well as gives me a great study tool when I am reviewing the material for an exam.

The idea of the outline is to give a main title to each chapter.  Under that, you can divide up the chapter by sections and sub-headings.  The smallest points are the paragraph ideas, and this is where most of the work comes in.  When you read a paragraph, think about what it was trying to tell you.  Write down the most important information from the paragraph.  What was its point?  What was it trying to get across?  What was the overall goal?  With some very long paragraphs, it seems that every sentence is a separate important idea.  When this happens, it is more difficult.  Think about how every piece of information is tied together.  What common thread is woven throughout the paragraph?  The answers you come up with for these questions are what you should put as your “paragraph points.”  An example of an outline I would make is:

I.                   Chapter Title

        A.                 Heading or Section Title

                1.                   Sub heading title (if applicable)

                        a.                      The point of each paragraph

While this is very time consuming, by the time you finish you will have understood and digested the information you read.  Before the test, you can read over your outlines to remind yourself of the information.  The details from each paragraph will give you the main points of your reading and allow you to re-cover the material without re-reading the entire book.

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