Saturday, January 11, 2014

How to Outline a Textbook Chapter...

Photo by John Delay
School is starting up, and that means there's a fresh new crop of young, budding geographers eager to begin learning about way the world works.  But besides learning about the way the world works, students should also be working to develop study skills, which will help us not only to do well in class and retain the material that has been covered, but also to organize information and be more effective problem solvers in life in general.  One important skill that all students should master is how to outline a textbook chapter.

Outlining a textbook chapter helps you to distill out the most important concepts and material while organizing it in a way that makes it easy to review.  Many students are reluctant to outline chapters because it takes some time, but I promise that in the long run it really pays off, because you won't have to read the chapter again when it is time for an exam, and it will help you to remember the most important and useful points of the chapter.  For a standard textbook chapter, it generally takes me between 2-3 hours, but this includes a careful reading of the chapter.  It may take you a little longer, or you migth do it a little more quickly than me, but by the end you will have a great understanding of the chapter and you will also know what points are less clear to you so you can ask questions in class.

The steps to outlining a chapter are pretty simple.  Some guides say to read the chapter first, but I always do my outlines while I am reading through the chapter.  I think this is a much more efficient and effective method.  Some things to remember:

1.  Make a separate heading for each section in the chapter, and pay attention to the nested headings (sub-headings) within the chapter, and follow this pattern of organization in your outline.  This helps you keep track of the relationship of the concepts to one another and their relative importance.

2.  Look for the main idea in each section and subsection and include that in your outline.  Then add in the facts and details that seem most relevant to you.  Sometimes this takes some getting used to, but it is useful to omit trivial points.  Always pay attention to the words in bold.  I usually define these under separate sub-headings.

3.  Repeat these steps for each chapter in the paragraph.

Soon you'll have a great, detailed chapter outline that will help you remember what you've read, and you will be able to go over it in a fraction of the time it takes to read the entire chapter.  And if you keep your outlines you'll probably find they are useful in other classes, or if you ever have to prepare a literature review or take comprehensive exams.

Below I've included a sample outline I made of the first chapter of McKnight's Physical Geography, the textbook we use for 101 at Leeward.  Use this as an example.  Your outlining style may be a little different from mine, but this will give you the basic idea.

Good luck, and have a great semester!


This outline took me approximately 2.5 hours for a 30 page chapter.

McKnight Chapter 1: Introduction To the Earth

I.  Introduction
A.  What do geographers study?
1.  Tangible things....rainfall, mountains, trees
2.  Less tangible things...language, migration, voting patterns
B.  What is this book about
1.  Fundamental processes in the natural world
C. This chapter sets the stage for the study of physical geography
1.  Important stuff in the chapter
a.  using science to explain natural environment
b.  the "spheres of the earth"
c.  Earth's place in the Solar System
d.  Latitude and Longitude
e.  What causes the seasons
f.  Time do they work?

II.  Geography and Science
A.  Intro to section
1.  Geography from Greek meaning Earth Description
a.  used to be purely descriptive discipline
B.  Studying the World Geographically
1.  Two basic branches
a.  Physical geography (Environmental)
b.  Cultural Geography (Human)
2.  Fundamental question: "Why what is where and so what?" (4)
3.  Also interested in interrelationships
4.  Global Environmental Change....a broad theme of the book
a.  both human and natural changes
b.  long and short temporal scales
5.  Globalization...another theme running through the book
a.  processes and consequences of an increasingly interconnected world
C.  The Process of Science
1.  Scientific method
a.  Observe phenomena that stimulate a question or problem
b.  Offer an educated guess about the answer (hypothesis)
c.  Design an experiment to test the hypothesis
d.  predict the outcome of the experiment if the hypothesis is supported and if it is not supported
e.  Conduct the experiment and see what happens
f.  Draw a conclusion or formulate a simple generalized rule based ont eh results of the experiment.
2.  Science best though of as a process or even an attitude for gaining knowledge
3.  New observations and new evidence often cause scientists to revise their conclusions and theories or those of others
D.  Numbers and Measurement systems
1.  Two different systems in use
a.  English System (US)...miles, pounds, etc
b.  International System (pretty much everywhere else).

III.  Environmental Spheres and Earth Systems
A.  Earth's Environmental Spheres
1. of Earth's crust as well as unconsolidated mineral matter...
2.  Atmosphere...gaseous envelope of air surrounding the Earth
3.  Hydrosphere....comprises water is all its forms....
a.  Cryosphere, or ice and snow, is part of this
4.  Biosphere....all parts where living organisms can exists.
B.  Earth Systems
1.  Definition: a system is a collection of things and processes connected together and operating as a whole (8).
2.  Closed systems....self contained and isolated from outside inclfluences
a.  Earth with respect to matter
b.  Not many other examples
3.  Open Systems....inputs and outputs
a.  most systems are like this.
4.  Equilibrium...when inputs and outputs are in balance over time
a.  If balance changes, equilibrium will be disrupted until a new equilibrium is reached...
5.  Interconnected Systems...most systems are connected with other systems
6.  Feedback Loops....some systems produce outputs that feedback into the system, reinforcing change
a.  Positive feedback loops change the system in one direction
b.  Negative feedback loops inhibit a system from changing
c.  tipping points (thresholds) beyond which the system becomes unstable and changes abruptly until it reaches a new equilibrium.

IV.  Earth and the Solar System
A.  The Solar System
1.  Earth one of 8 planets
2.  lots of other things in the solar system as well
3.  Origins....most think the big bang 13.7 billion years ago
a.  Our solar system 4.5-6 billion years ago from a nebula
4.  Planets
a.  Terrestrial...mercury, venus, earth, mars
i.  smaller, denser, less oblate
b.  Jovian....Saturn, Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune
i.  Larger, more massive, more oblate
B.  The Size and Shape of Earth
1.  The Size of Earth
a.  topographical maps are usually very exaggerated
b.  Relief of the earth isn't very great compared to total size.
2.  The Shape of Earth
a.  Almost, but not quite spherical
b.  Bigger around at equator than through the poles (flattened)
c.  An "oblate spheroid" (12)

V.  The Geographic Grid--Latitude and Longitude
A.  The Geographic Grid
1.  Equator, North Pole, South Pole
2.  Great circles....any plane that passes though the center of the sphere and divides it into two equal halves
a.  this is the largest circle that can be drawn on the sphere
i.  Creates hemispheres
b.  The path between two points on a great circle is always the shortest route (the "great circle route")
3.  Small circles are created by planes crossing through other parts of the sphere
4.  Grid system based on small and great circles.
B.  Latitude: description of location expressed as an angle north or south of the equator
1.  Expressed in degrees, minutes, seconds
2.  Goes from 0-90, N and S
3.  Lines connecting all points of same latitude are called parallels.
a.  these never cross
4.  Descriptive zones of latitudes
a.  low, midlatitude, high, equatorial, tropical, subtropical, polar
5.  Nautical miles...the distance covered by one minute of latitude: 1.15 miles.
C.  Longitude: an angular description of location in the east-west direction.
1.  A line connecting all points of the same longitude is a meridian
2.  Only parallel to one another when they cross the equator
a.  distance between them is not constant.
3.  Establishing the Prime Meridian
a.  problem is that there is no natural baseline for measuring longitude
b.  Prime Meridian through Greenwich England established by international agreement in 1883.
4.  Measuring Longitude
a.  Maximum of 180 degrees
b.  Also uses minutes and seconds
c.  halfway around the world from the PM is the international datae line.
D.  Locating Points on the Geographic Grid
1.  Latitude and longitude together can be used to find an exact location

VI.  Earth-Sun Relations and the Seasons
A.  Earth Movements
1.  Rotation on the access
a.  Takes 24 hours (one day) in counterclockwise (from N pole) direction
b.  The speed of rotation varies depending on latitude
c.  Rotation has several important effects
i.  Coriolis effect: deflection of winds and ocean currents
ii.  Brings all points through increasing then decreasing gravity of the moon, causing tides
iii.  Diurnal (daily) alternation of daylight and darkness
2.  Revolution around the sun
a.  365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds
b.  Orbit is elliptical and so distance between earth and sun varies
i.  Perihelion is when we are closest to the sun (January 3)
ii.  Aphelion is when we are farthest away (July 4)
3.  Inclination of the Earth's axis
a.  imaginary plane of orbit is called the plane of the ecliptic
b.  Earth is tilted at 23.5 degrees off a line perpendicular to this plane
c.  the tilt is always in the same direction throughout the year.
4.  Polarity of the Earth's Axis
a.  Tilt is always in the same direction (axial parallelism).
b.  Combined effects of rotation, revolution, inclination and polarity result in seasonal patterns.
B.  The Annual March of Seasons
1.  Seasonal variation increases in general as you move away from the equator.
2.  Three things really important
a.  Latitude receiving sun from DIRECTION OVER HEAD (declination of the sun)
b.  Solar Altitude (height o the sun above the horizone)
c.  The lengtu of the day.
3.  June Solstice: About June 21
a.  the point in orbit where the north pole is maximum tilted towards sun
b.  Tropic of Cancer (23.5 N latitude) has sun directly overhead.
c.  Longest day in the northern hemisphere, shortest in southern
d.  24 hours of day north of Arctic circle, 24 hours of night south of Antarctic circle
4.  September Equinox: September 22
a.  All locations on earth experience 12 hours of day, 12 hours of night
5.  December Solstice: Around December 21:
a.  The opposite of the June Soltice...
b.  Sun directly overhead at Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 South)
6.  March Equinox: March 20
a.  Same as the September Equinox
C.  Seasonal Transitions
1.  Latitude Receiving the Vertical Rays of the Sun...
a.  Sun rays only strike vertically between Tropic of Cancer and Tropicc of Capricorn, depending on the time of year
b.  analemma is a diagram showingthe latitude of the vertical rays of the sun.
2.  Day Length
a.  At the equator day length is constant...12 hours
b.  Day length changes more seasonally the further you get from the equator
c.  Overall, the annual variation in day length is the least in the tropics and greatest in the high latitudes
3.  Day length in Arctic and Antarctic
a.  these regions experience 24 hours of daylight and 24 hours of darkness over the course of the year.
D.  Significance of Seasonal patterns
1.  Both day length and the angle at which the Sun's rays strike Earth determine the amount of solar energy received at any particular latitude
2.  The higher the sun is in the sky, the more effective is the warming.
3.  Seasons are basically determined by the amount of sunlight a place gets.

VII.  Telling Time
A.  Standard Time
1.  Telegraph and railroad and other technologies increase connectivity creating a need for standard time....
2.  24 time zones of 15 degrees longitude agreed to in 1884.
B.  International Dateline
1.  180th meridian is the international dateline
a.  opposite from the prime meridian.
C.  Daylight Savings Time
1.  Created to conserve energy during WWI in Germany
a.  US begins the policy in 1918.

No comments:

Post a Comment