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Organizing Information With Outlines & Text Mapping

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

If you need assistance when it comes to reading and writing development, this lesson will come in handy. We will go over how and why to use outlines and text mapping in order to organize information for improved writing. Read on to learn more.

Organizing Information

Consider what it would be like to put a large puzzle together while someone continuously mixes up the pieces. Sounds pretty frustrating, doesn't it? That is because without proper organization, putting a puzzle together is near impossible. This same concept can be applied to reading and writing development. If you have scattered ideas and details all over the place, yet fail to organize them, your writing will look like a scattered puzzle of words.

This lesson will go over two strategies, outlines and text mapping, which can be used to organize information, so that writing does not turn into a frustrating experience. We will go over why the strategies are effective, and how you can begin incorporating them into your reading and writing routine. Grab your pen and paper; let's get started!

Outlines

So what are outlines? You have probably already seen, used, or even created outlines at some point or another! Outlines are like the blueprint of your writing, as they are the summary, or breakdown, of main and supporting ideas. The more detail provided in the outline, the easier writing will become. Just like an architect uses the blueprint to organize the details and plans for the project they are working on, you will use an outline the same way for your writing.

Outlines are very beneficial when it comes to organizing information for writing because they:

  • Put ideas in logical order.
  • Show the relationship between ideas/material/evidence.
  • Provide a summary of main ideas and supporting evidence.

The following image of a basic outline shows one overall topic (Healthy Living), provides a list of main ideas/categories relating to that topic (healthy eating, healthy activity, and healthy habits), and then goes on to list sub-sections that can be used to further explain or support the main ideas/categories. This outline provides a basic summary of the information, shows the relationship between the ideas, and then puts them in logical order.

Image of an outline example

You can format your outline in a variety of ways, depending upon the type of work that is being completed; however, it is always beneficial to determine the purpose of your writing before you begin. Different types of writing require different types of information; therefore, outline templates and formats could vary according to your overall writing goal.

In every situation, however, you should aim to do the following when creating your outline:

  • List the ideas/information/evidence you would like to include in your writing.
  • From that list, organize ideas/information/evidence ideas into like categories.
  • Arrange those categories into main ideas, and then sub-sections for those main ideas.
  • Organize information/evidence into proper sections to be used as support.
  • Format information into logical order.

By using an outline for organizing your information, you will find the writing process easier to navigate, and far less frustrating to deal with in the long run!

Text Mapping

This strategy may not be as familiar as the outline, but it is very useful for organizing information. Text mapping is a scroll-based graphic organizer that allows you to view and engage with complete lengths of text, rather than just bits and pieces. It is basically like you are viewing an actual scroll laid out; therefore, you get to organize and see all of your information at once. In addition to viewing the text all at once, you mark the text as you make notes, pick out important information, highlight areas that need clarification, and define new words or concepts.

Text mapping creates interaction and engagement with the words and information being presented because it requires close analysis of the textual content. Simply put, when you take the time to look at the whole picture, you are less likely to miss important details or information. Text mapping is a valuable strategy since it teaches you to break down information more explicitly so you can pick out the important details that come together to form the whole.

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