Updated: Jul 5, 2020
Beginning to make an outline is probably one of the hardest steps of Law School. For people who are new to making an outline and don't know what it is, let me give you an insight.
An outline is a structure or a concise form of your notes that is specifically made by you for yourself to prepare for your final exams.
What's so special about this?- you may ask. The speciality of having an outline ready with yourself is probably the biggest asset in law school. It not only saves up a lot of your time, but it also helps you during your final examinations when you need to have concise notes, so that you don't always need to refer books and other study materials.
But now you may ask me- Aren't class notes enough, that we need to make an outline too?
My answer would be pretty simple- consider yourself in a situation where you can carry only up to 15-20 pages of a document for the entire semester, and you remember everything from that even though it is a simple document with no fancy words. Wouldn't you be happy to know that you remember every detail by merely looking at a small document you made?
My answer would definitely be a yes! At least for me.
Now this brings us to our next step-
Making an outline can be a little difficult at the beginning, but as you get used to it, you'll realise that it is probably the easiest thing to do.
Making an outline saves a lot of your time, that you would otherwise spend on making other notes a week before the finals! It should act as a summarised document of the whole thing you learned throughout your semester.
So how do you start making an outline?
The essential element while making an outline here is, start it from the first week itself. A lot of you may say, "But we don't know what is going to be taught in the entire year, so why bother making an outline from the first week itself. Why not make it during the end of the semester before the final exams? That way, we will remember as well as learn everything while making the outline." While this sounds like a pretty good idea, it is actually a waste of time. The time that you could've utilised for revision instead of studying. The time that you could've worked on other things and relaxed instead of being stressed out.
Outline is not the final document. It is a means to the final document. You still have to study through your books and other notes, but with the help of an outline, you can always revise as and when required. It is a summarised document which holds up almost everything that you have already studied. It is only good for revision during the last minute. Please don't consider that if you've made an outline, you have studied everything through that. Although, if you have been consistently making an outline, I am pretty sure you would have finished studying by then.
Begin by choosing the subject you want to make an outline for. An outline should be concise, so make the structure for it first. Essentially, you would get the syllabus of your subject at the beginning of the semester, with a week or two after the classes begin. Use that syllabus provided and make a structure for your outline. Now you have the base of your document ready. Anything that you add to this document, would make the outline tailored just for you. Prepare the table of contents based off your syllabus.
After you have made the initial structure, go on to write down the headers of each topic. This way, you will know what topic you are going through and can look back upon, as and whenever required.
Towards the end of each week, fill up the document with whatever was taught in the classroom along with the materials or the books that you refer to. Note that the outline of whatever was taught during that week, in that subject, should not be more that one page per week. This way, you have your most important points in a concise document.
Remember that whenever you're making an outline, initially, you would be tempted to include all of the class notes as well as the notes that you take from the books and other study materials, but note that even if you do take all of these and put them in your document, you will have to filter out the most important topics from the whole week's lecture and then include them in your outline. Write down the key points and the key phrases.
In the case where you have to write down the cases and illustrations of the Statutes, you should stick to writing the case name and the decision in the most precise and concise form- probably in one or two lines at the most. Do not write down the facts, because all of that is already in the notes you have taken. This outline is to help you revise, not to study.
Towards the end of the semester, you will have the most concise form of revision notes, and they will help you study because they have been tailored specifically for you.
If you have missed a point, you can always go back and edit your outline whenever you want to.
I would suggest writing down your class notes in the classroom itself, then prepare your proper notes with all the study materials provided to you and then towards the end of the week, start preparing an outline for each subject. This way, you would keep up with your daily study routine and also prepare your concise document without stressing about it in the final week.
So here was a simple method to make an outline and why it is important to make an outline of your notes. Let me know if you find these tips helpful and if you'd like to add anything else in the above text, comment below!
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