Thursday, January 14, 2010
13 - The Comprehensive Course Outline
THE COMPREHENSIVE COURSE OUTLINE
Much can be said about outlining, but I am a firm believer in developing a comprehensive outline of each and every course you take. This is why I spend time in each class helping my students construct this outline.
The best place to start is with the table of contents for each book you are using for a course. You will notice that the ToC is set out in sections. There will be a number of main sections and each main section will have a number of sub-sections. The first thing to do is to make a list of all of the main sections. Let me use the criminal law books that I use in my classes.
Starting with the Hornbook , I note four main sections. I know this because the Summary of the ToC says, Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four. So this is a clue for us.
Part One is the introduction. I usually do not include such a section since it is seldom test worthy. But, I DO read and understand the introductory section.
Part Two is “General Principles.” Part Three is “Offenses Against the Person.” Part Four is “Offenses Against Property.” These are included in my comprehensive outline for this course. So I know from the beginning that there are these three main sections of the course.
Next, I pull out my casebook. Here I note, on the Summary of Contents (SoC) page, that there are twelve chapters. I won’t list them here, but I note that there are some similarities.
Next, if your professor has some material – an outline or syllabus – pull it out and see where the HN and the CB fit within the professor’s material. Use the professor’s material to establish the order of your outline.
Now you have the basis for your comprehense outline. You know where you are going for the duration of the course and you have a quick snapshot of the course. You can begin to fill in the outline as the course unfolds and you will know where you belong as you tackle a reading assignment. All of the sub-sections in the ToCs or SoCs will help you organize the course and the Comprehensive Outline.
Pay particular attention to the sections or topics to which your professor allocates more time. Generally speaking, the more time a professor spends in an area, the more likely on which it is to be tested. Note, however, some professors get off on tangents and then do not test on them. You may want to discuss this with your professor early on and also ask about equally testable areas. I will usually tell my students, though, if it is in your syllabus, lectures, other classes and assigned reading, it is fair game. If you are allowed by your professor and your school to look at prior exams, do so, and make notes of topics covered in order to find an established pattern. This tactic is not foolproof, but it could come in handy.
Next: The Ten Minute Memorized Outline:
Professor Doug Holden
© 2010 Douglas S. Holden. All Rights Reserved.