It is important to remember that there’s more than one way to take good notes. In fact, there are actually a number of different note taking strategies that may be able to help you improve your note taking. However, one of the note taking strategies that a number of note takers use is outlining. Outlining is a note taking strategy in which a note taker attempts to separate the main topics, subtopics, and major details that he or she needs to take notes on with indents, dashes, roman numerals, numbers, letters, and/or spaces. This strategy can be very helpful when your teacher or professor is trying to describe something very slowly or if you’re very good at distinguishing topics from subtopics and subtopics from details.
It is important to note, however, that there are several things that you should know about outlining before you use it.
- First, to make an outline, you have to be able to distinguish the major topics from the subtopics, major details, and minor details that support each major topic very quickly. This is important because an outline is, in effect, a list of all of the key points that are related to a topic, but the information in that list is separated by indents, letters, and numbers so that it is easier for you to see the relationship between each key point and determine how important each key point is. This means that you have to be able to listen to your instructor and determine whether a particular piece of information is related to the topics that he or she has already discussed, determine the relationship between each piece of information and the other topics, and make it clear how important each piece of information is. Outlining, as a result, can be difficult when you’re pressed for time.
- Secondly, if you’re trying to outline the key points of a lecture, it is usually a good idea to leave some extra space after each of the major topics and/or subtopics that your teacher or professor covers. This is important because your teacher or professor may present information about some of the topics that he or she has already covered after you have already begun taking notes on another topic. It is, as a result, important for you to make sure that you have enough room to add information later if you teacher or professor expands on some of the points that he or she has already covered.
- Third, you don’t have to use indents and dashes, roman numerals, numbers, letters, and/or spaces in every outline. However, it will make it easier for you to read your outline if you use indents and other identifiers as well.
Last Updated: 08/22/2012