Sometimes we forget that notetaking and outlining don’t just have to be a matter of making lists or writing out paragraphs, they can also include something called “mapping”. Mapping is more like it sounds than you might think; reject the ideas of outlines and paragraphs, and think in terms of representative key words and symbols.
To create your map you’ll need any of the following: a pencil and a large sheet of unlined paper, a blackboard and (coloured) chalk, or post-it notes with an applicably sized surface. If you find other materials more useful, use them.
To begin with, write the key concept in the centre of the page and circle it. And this is where the fun begins! When brainstorming for an essay, write your ideas around that centre concept, draw a line from the circles around those ideas to the one in the centre – this aids in keeping things organised. If those secondary concepts trigger ideas, write them down too, and so on, making sure to draw lines from the inspiring concept to what it inspired. Keep going until you’ve exhausted your thoughts. If you’re taking notes for a course, note other key concepts outside of the centre circle, and show their relationships the same way as above, by drawing lines between related items.
You can help to better organise your notes by using different colours of ink or chalk, or even different colours of post-it notes. You could also make excellent use of highlighters here, by using them to note relations between different items, even multiple colours per item if that’s called for, to show its relation to multiple other items. Using post-it notes is actually somewhat more convenient in this case, because if items need to be moved or reorganised, you simply have to move a piece of paper, rather than erasing and rewriting something elsewhere.
Continue to work outwards from the centre, noting brainstormed ideas and key concepts, and combine ideas to expand your map. Don’t be afraid to break some boundaries as you work!