Academic Resource Center

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Organizing Information

There are many methods available for organizing information. Sometimes only one method is necessary, at other times multiple organizational methods may be useful. Find those that suit your needs and use them.

Outlining
Many students use outlines as they read and after taking class notes. This method is useful in showing the sequence of events, in demonstrating connections between events, and in indicating important details. The disadvantage is that it can become quite lengthy and involved if material is not adequately condensed.

Summarizing
A summary consists of main ideas and major supporting details. It is written in paragraph form and should always be shorter than the material being summarized. The first sentence should state the main point of the thesis and the subsequent sentences should incorporate the significant details.

Idea charting
Separating main concepts into columns on a page and then listing the supporting facts can help to organize the parts and show connections among concepts. This is done by writing the major concept at the top of the column, writing headings for supporting points at intervals down the column, and then filling in the details. This can show comparisons between columns, can be used for cause-effect relationships, for sequencing, and for interrelationships among ideas.

Mapping
Mapping is a visual system of condensing material to show relationships and importance. A map is a diagram of the major points that support a central topic, with significant subpoints. Mapping can improve memory by grouping material in a highly visual way and it is a quick reference for overviewing an article or a chapter.

Fact cards
For learning vocabulary, formulas, dates, people, or events, fact cards will allow you to learn each term or concept and to put the pieces together and take them apart. This method is helpful for objective, fact-oriented tests. They are an excellent method of self-testing.