Outlining and Mapping

Learning Objectives

  • Use outlining as a reading strategy

When summarizing a reading, it is often a good idea to make an outline. This can be especially helpful for summarizing the important details from a textbook, as the general organization is already laid out for you. Outlining and mapping can help you break down a text into the most important ideas and concepts, but it also useful for organizing your own thoughts before you begin to write. An outline will:

  • Present information in an organized and logical manner
  • Focus on main ideas and key details
  • Show how information is related
  • Cover a lot of material in a small space

Watch It

This video explains how to create an outline, and covers these main rules:

  1. Parallelism: Headings of the same level are of the same kind (a noun, a verb, etc.)
  2. Coordination: Headings of the same level are of the same rank
  3. Subordination: Information moves from general to specific by indenting from left to right
  4. Division: Each heading must have at least two subheadings in order to be divided

You can view the transcript for “How to Make an Outline” here (opens in new window).

Just as outlining is helpful for understanding the organization of a piece of text, mapping can help you visualize the important components of a passage. Mapping is similar to outlining in that the goal is to write out the main ideas and key supporting details of a text or map out ideas for something you want to write.

To create a concept map:

  1. Write down the name of the text (or concept) you want to map.
  2. Draw a box for the main idea.
  3. Draw boxes for supporting ideas.
  4. Draw more boxes for supporting details.
  5. Draw arrows connecting the boxes. Organization flows vertically in this example, but concept maps can be organized horizontally, or even with the main idea in the center and supporting ideas and details surrounding it.

Watch It

In this video, you’ll see how you can use a concept map to visually analyze a text.

You can view the transcript for “Creating a Concept Map” here (opens in new window).