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How to Create a Useful Outline for Studying

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An outline is a great study tool that can help you review a subject.  You can refresh yourself on a subject as you write the outline, so you could look at drafting an outline as a way of studying in and of itself. Here are some tips to drafting a useful outline.

Read your reference material thoroughly

Before you even begin to write that outline, make sure that you’re familiar with the material. Familiarizing yourself with the reading will give you a better idea about how to structure your outline. If you outline readings as you’re reading them for the first time, you may waste time on ideas that aren’t central to the subject.  A good rule of thumb is read the material once very slowly and deliberately, and then once more at a more brisk pace to affirm what you’d just read.

Build around Key Terms and Ideas

Once you’re familiar with the material, start building your outline around key terms and ideas mentioned in your reading.  Usually key terms and ideas are mentioned in bold or italicized font and then clearly defined to the reader.  These key terms are often repeated throughout a reading as part of a subject’s main theme, so you want to be sure to track these terms so you can better understand the bigger picture.  Say if you’re studying a lesson focusing on mitosis, or cell division, you may want to outline the key terms that explain each step in the process of mitosis. 

Note information that you don’t understand

Don’t worry if you come across terms or ideas that you can’t quite grasp.  The important thing is that you note these terms on your outline so you remember to ask a classmate or an instructor to explain it to you. It may be the case that you may understand a term much better if you heard it from a different source. Always remember that there’s nothing wrong with asking questions!

Keep it short and to the point

Your outline should be a brief but information-packed list of essential facts, terms, and ideas about your reading.  It needs to be short so you can refresh yourself on main points about the reading that you’ve already gone through at least twice.  As such, keep your sentences small and meaty. Don’t write huge paragraphs about the material—that’s what reading the material is for. Try to make bullet points out of the key terms so you can quickly reference them in a pinch. If the outline gets too long, don’t be afraid to edit out information.

Good luck and happy outlining!


This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for best online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 



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