3 ways to summarize a chapter

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3 ways to summarize a chapter
3 ways to summarize a chapter

A chapter outline can be a very effective tool. It can help you organize the material in a way that is easy to understand. Also, an outline can be really useful to help you find the main points of a chapter and to help you study for tests. Sometimes teachers may ask you to make a grading outline. Follow the steps below to write an organized and useful outline, either for personal or qualified use.


Method 1 of 3: Write the outline

Do a Chapter Outline Step 1
Do a Chapter Outline Step 1

Step 1. Browse through the material

An outline is a useful way to help you summarize information. The first step in understanding the chapter is reading the material. Leafing through means turning the pages, rushing through some passages in a somewhat superficial way.

  • Focus on the key terms. Many textbooks put important words in bold to help you locate them quickly.
  • Don't spend a lot of time trying to read every word. On the first reading of the material, review the information so that you get an idea of what the chapter is about.
  • As you flip through the chapter, read the introduction and conclusion. Also, read one or two sentences from each paragraph. Try to figure out what the main points of the chapter are.
Do a Chapter Outline Step 2
Do a Chapter Outline Step 2

Step 2. Format the outline

Once you understand the basic concepts of the chapter, it is time to prepare the outline. The format of most diagrams uses a combination of numbers and letters. Typically, main points are indicated by Roman numerals and sub-points by letters.

  • For example, if you write an outline for a chapter on the American Civil War, you will want to start by organizing it according to its main points.
  • It could be something like this: I. The origins of the conflict; II. Important battles; III. Impact in the north; IV. Impact in the south; V. Reconstruction.
  • When you have the main points, you can add sub points. In I. The origins of the conflict, you could add A. Slavery; B. Rights of the states.
  • Make sure that the main points of the outline are based on the main points of the chapter. You could consider using the chapter subtitles with main points from the outline.
Do a Chapter Outline Step 3
Do a Chapter Outline Step 3

Step 3. Write the outline

The schematic will include additional components. After you have the format, you can work on writing the introduction. The introduction of the outline should have a paragraph in length.

  • The most important thing to include in your introduction is your thesis statement. The thesis is the argument or main point of the chapter.
  • For example, in the chapter on the Civil War, the thesis could be that "the Civil War was a victory for the North, because they had more material resources, such as metals, and a larger demographic base."
  • Rewrite the thesis in your own words and include it in the introduction. In addition, the introduction should provide a brief overview of the main points of the chapter.
  • The introduction should be at the beginning of the outline. Once you finish it, you will be able to complete the numerals and the numbers with the main points.
Do a Chapter Outline Step 4
Do a Chapter Outline Step 4

Step 4. Write down the outline

An effective outline should be succinct. You don't have to rewrite the entire chapter. However, to give a clear idea of what you are trying to cover, you will want to add enough information to each of the points.

  • A note is a comment or explanation for each of the sub-points.
  • For example, in I. The origins of the conflict; A. Slavery, you could comment something like: "The South was reluctant to reform society without four million slaves. Furthermore, this was one of the ideological causes of the war.
  • Your notes should provide enough information to be useful, but not so much that it overwhelms you when you try to review the outline. Two or three sentences will be adequate.
Do a Chapter Outline Step 5
Do a Chapter Outline Step 5

Step 5. Be flexible

It will be good if you have a fairly clear idea of how you want your scheme to look. However, you must also remain open to changes. Be flexible when working on the outline so you can shape it to best suit your needs.

  • Leave room to add a few points. Maybe you originally planned to have only five main points and then you realize that you actually have to cover six.
  • Go ahead and add an additional point. Just make sure what you add really has to be a main point; if it would work just as well as a subpoint, you'd probably better include it as such.
  • Also, you can remove material. Perhaps your first impression was that submarine warfare was an important factor in the results of the Civil War. If you change your mind later, you can remove that point.
Do a Chapter Outline Step 6
Do a Chapter Outline Step 6

Step 6. Follow the instructions

Sometimes the teacher might assign an outline as a graded homework assignment. It is a useful way to help you learn new skills. The outline can also help your teacher determine if you have focused on the correct concepts.

  • Complete all the requirements. If the teacher asks for an eight-point outline, then the outline must have eight points.
  • Ask for clarification. If you have questions about the format of the outline, ask the instructor for some specific guidance.

Method 2 of 3: Read More Efficiently

Do a Chapter Outline Step 7
Do a Chapter Outline Step 7

Step 1. Analyze the chapter

Outlines are a great way to help you learn and retain material. Also, you can learn how to improve your reading skills so that you can become a more efficient learner. There are several things you can do to read faster and retain more information at the same time.

  • To read effectively, you don't have to focus on every word in the chapter. Instead, flick through the chapter to get a clear picture of the material to be covered.
  • That doesn't mean sloppy reading. It simply means reading in order to find the specific information.
  • When browsing through the material, keep your reading goals in mind. For example, if you are looking for information on the root causes of the Civil War, don't get bogged down in a paragraph about the distance at which a rifle can fire.
  • Reading more effectively will help you discover which material corresponds to the outline. The more effective you are at reading the material, the easier it will be to summarize the chapter.
Do a Chapter Outline Step 8
Do a Chapter Outline Step 8

Step 2. Focus on the introduction and conclusion

The introduction and conclusion are often the most important parts of a chapter, book, or article. In the introduction, the author usually presents the thesis and other important points. The conclusion should reiterate those points.

  • Read the introduction and conclusion first. This will help you distinguish the main points and you will know what to focus on when you read the rest of the text.
  • Look for the milestones. Authors will often help you by clearly establishing what is most important.
  • For example, a sentence that begins with "I will hold …" is a good sign that the thesis will follow. Also, it is best to take note of paragraphs that start with phrases like "It is important to understand …" or "One of the main points is …".
Do a Chapter Outline Step 9
Do a Chapter Outline Step 9

Step 3. Read actively

Don't let your eyes just slide over the words without really concentrating. Reading is an activity that demands that you get involved with the content. To help you read more effectively, try using the following method:

  • "Investigate." Examine the material and pay careful attention to the introduction, conclusion, and subheadings.
  • "Question". Write down any questions you have about the material you browsed.
  • "Read, declaim and check." To answer the questions, read each section carefully.
  • Declare the answers out loud. Verbalization can help you retain the material; then check your notes.
Do a Chapter Outline Step 10
Do a Chapter Outline Step 10

Step 4. Make notes

As you read, be sure to take notes. Try to develop the habit of using the outline as a method of taking notes. Your notes will be much more useful if you can format them.

  • Don't try to write down everything you read. Focus on jotting down the main points, as well as any questions you have.
  • Prepare your outline before reading the chapter completely; then, as you read, you can fill in the numerals and letters.
  • Avoid highlighting excessively. Highlighting is very useful for many students. Just make sure to read and retain as well, and not just mark the passages.

Method 3 of 3: Use the Best Study Methods

Do a Chapter Outline Step 11
Do a Chapter Outline Step 11

Step 1. Review the material frequently

An outline can be one of the most useful tools when studying for an exam or writing a document; if used in combination with other methods, it may even be more effective. Another way to help you be successful is by creating a schedule.

  • Review your notes several times a week. It is better to study for short intervals than to try to "saturate" yourself for several hours at a time.
  • Set aside 10-15 minutes a day, for most of the week. Use that time to review your summaries and any other notes.
  • Review your notes after school. You will better retain the material if you review it within 24 hours of making the outline or taking the notes.
Do a Chapter Outline Step 12
Do a Chapter Outline Step 12

Step 2. Make an individual study plan

Studying can be difficult and sometimes even boring. Try to find ways to tailor your study sessions that take into account your personality. For example, if you love being outside, try reading outside.

  • Maybe you are a very sociable person. Ask some classmates to form a study group with you.
  • Find methods that are helpful to you. For example, you may learn better if you make flashcards to accompany your summaries.
Do a Chapter Outline Step 13
Do a Chapter Outline Step 13

Step 3. Choose the right environment

It is important that you pay attention to your surroundings while you study. Find a room that is not too noisy. Avoid watching television when reviewing your summaries.

  • Make sure the room temperature is comfortable for you. If you are very hot or very cold, your mind will wander.
  • Try to have a light snack before studying. A banana or some nuts will give you energy and help you focus.


  • Don't complicate the simple.
  • Take enough time to do the outline. Do not rush.
  • Find the outline style that is right for you.

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