Thursday, October 9, 2014

Do What Works Best for You: Outline As You Go

A final way that I've used to take notes is essentially to outline as you go. This works really great, but only if it works. What I mean is that this will only work for certain classes, but when it does it makes things a lot easier at the end of the semester.

I have found this style of note taking works best for a class that you have a lot of little rules, rather than big over reaching ideas. For example, I used this method for Tax because each chapter and to a degree each subsection of those chapters contained a new rule. Now obviously with almost all subjects there are still "big picture" things that you need to get a grasp on, but if the majority of the rules are independent of each other, this method can be very effective.

The best way that I've found to begin this style of note taking is to simply go to the Topic Index/Chapter Index, whatever your book calls it, at the beginning of the book. From there, just prepare a typed version in a new document and you can insert the more substantial information as you go.

Most of our books included the cases within each section and I think it is important to go ahead and include those on the "pre-outline" as well as the topics. this gives you a place to go ahead and put the information that you draw from the case, such as the rule and potentially exceptions. If your professor says they don't care about case on the exam, thats fine, you can always go back and edit later. This is not intended to be your final outline, but rather a more efficient starting point.

As I said, either during your readings and/or in class, you can then fill in your outline with the more important and substantive information.  I am always of the idea that in the beginning, and with time permitting, you should include as much as you can. It is always easier to go back and take things out than to try and remember what you should have included in the first place.

The only real downside to this is if your class/professor doesn't teach in a way that it is easy to insert the information where it needs to go. The last thing that you want to do is to spend time searching for the "topic" that your professor is talking about, especially in a class with a lot of big picture ideas that might fit into more than one place. This would not be ideal for a class like Contracts where you spend weeks just learning what "Consideration" means.


  • makes end of semester outline much easier
  • all of your notes for the class are in one place
  • seriously, EASIER OUTLINING (this is the secret!)
  • doesn't work for every class
  • if you are generally nice and will share notes with someone who misses class, this makes it more difficult

I know I said I preferred Notebookt, but I think this really is my favorite, unfortunately it just doesn't always work for the class. I hope this has been helpful, as always please leave comments about what works best for you! 

Have a great day, y'all!

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