Outlining reading assignments from college textbooks allows you to accomplish two tasks at once. First, outlines help students to better understand and retain material in the textbook's chapters. Second, creating the outline provides the student with an instant study guide for course exams. Effective outlining requires you to be an active rather than a passive reader.

Step 1

Look to see if there is a summary at the conclusion of your chapter. Reading the summary first will allow you to preview the content and prepare your mind for what's ahead.

Step 2

Read the chapter over the course of several reading periods rather than trying to read the whole thing at once. This will help you retain the information. Trying to cram the reading of a chapter into one sitting won't allow you to soak in what you need to know to develop an outline.

Step 3

Underline key points and write notes in your textbook as you go.

Step 4

Use chapter and section headings in the course text as headings for the outline. It helps to turn section headings into questions and then use the related text to answer the question. For example, a textbook section titled "Articles of Confederation" could be altered to an outline heading such as "What were the Articles of Confederation?" After each heading, summarize the textbook's answer to the question.

Step 5

Have your professor look over your outline to ensure summaries are on point. This is an important step, which could significantly increase your understanding of text material. Ask professors if you interpreted the readings correctly. Ask professors if you missed anything in your summarizing of the text.