Outline Method of Note Taking

Outline Method of Note Taking - Toolshero

Outline Method of Note Taking: this article explains the Outline Method of Note Taking in a practical way. Next to what it is, this article also the origin, why it is zso effective and, ext to pro’s and cons, there is also an Outline Method of Note Taking example of a set-up so you can start using it. Enjoy reading!

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, this Method is about making an outline of the attended lecture or meeting.

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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.

This 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 Note Taking example - Toolshero

Figure 1 – An Outline method Note Taking example set-up

Origin of the Outline Method of Note Taking

Between 1984 and 1995, educational psychologist Kenneth A. Kiewra of the University of Nebraska wrote more than 20 studies on note taking.

He is therefore regarded as an absolute authority in this area. In one of his latest studies, he wrote about the greatest benefits of taking notes. Whether you are good at taking lecture notes, or you can never truly follow the professor’s pace, it hardly matters when you have an urgent task to deal with.

Delegate complex assignments to professional custom writing services, get excellent papers in return, and spend free time on acquiring any skill you want — including taking outline notes and beyond.

Study Skills: #1 Learning Strategies, Memory & Note Taking   

Why is the Outline Method of Note Taking so effective?

The outline note taking method has a hierarchical structure. That helps to:

  • Identify all clustering points
  • To outline the main features of learning material
  • Reduce the amount of notes without losing content

Pros and cons of the Outline Method of Note Taking

The use of this 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. This makes it very easy to review matter at a later point.

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 Note Taking Method is more suitable for that.

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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? Do you use other methods, like the Cornell method or the Charting method?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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.
  4. Website Canvas Photo Prints. Retrieved 02/20/2024 from prints4sure.com

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2018). Outline Method of Note Taking. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero: https://www.toolshero.com/personal-development/outline-method-note-taking/

Original publication date: 03/03/2018 | Last update: 02/20/2024

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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