Outline Method of Note Taking

Outline Method of Note Taking - ToolsHero

This article explains the Outline Method of Note Taking in a practical way. After reading, you’ll understand how you can effectively take notes and get to work with this powerful effectiveness and note-taking tool.

What is the Outline Method of Note Taking?

The Outline Method of Note Taking is a frequently used tool for effective note taking. Students use the method, sometimes unconsciously, when taking notes during a lecture, but professionals also use the method during meetings or training seminars. Despite the fact that this method does not get much attention in schools and universities, it is a valuable tool that benefits many people. As you might expect from the name, the Outline Method of Note Taking is about making an outline of the attended lecture or meeting.

How does it work?

Organisation is what goes wrong most often when taking notes. Random elements are written down without structure and the notes are often forgotten or no longer understood because the context is missing. The Outline Method of Note Taking provides more structure, making it possible to still be able to correctly interpret the main issues at a later date.

People often use bullet points, numbers or arrows to indicate a new subject or when a new thought is introduced. Every new subject of the lecture or meeting is set as far to left of the page as possible. All additional matters that belong to this subject are then tiered to the right beneath this subject. A new subject is written straight beneath the first subject. An example is given below.

Outline Method of Note Taking example - ToolsHero

Pros and cons of the Outline Method

The use of the outline method has several advantages. The method ensures that – in addition to the content being written down in a structured way – the relationship between different subjects is also clearly visible in the notes.

Another benefit of the outline method is the focus that remains to keep following the lecture or meeting. The method does not require fast writing skills, because only the main and side issues are noted down. This ensures that all main issues can be noted down and no valuable information is lost.

By using the outline method, there is also less time needed to edit the notes later, as all important information has already been written down. Students can change the main issues into questions in order to study the material more in-depth.

The use of the outline method is less suitable for lectures with a mathematical content. In this case, the correct use of formulas is more important than the relationship between main issues. The Cornell system is more suitable for that.

Now it is your turn

What do you think? Are you familiar with the outline note taking method? Are your notes also structured and effective and do you perhaps achieve this in a different way?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Pauk, W. & Owens, R. J. Q. (1962). How to Study in College. Cengage Learning.
  2. Wong, L. (2014). Studyguide for Essential Study Skills. Cengage Learning.
  3. Burns, T. & Sinfield, S. (2003). Essential study skills. London: SAGE Publications.

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