Most organizational formats can be used to structure history information. The strategies are very helpful in preparing for both objective and subjective tests. Nine approaches are described and illustrated here:
Flow charts are useful for organizing spatial information, chronological information, cause and effect relationships, and processual information. Examples of flow charts are given below.
Flash cards are used to organize terms and definitions (see the first example below), people and contributions, time periods, and other types of information. When identifying major terms, people and concepts, focus on four things: who or what is the term, with what geographic region is it associated, with what time period is it associated, and why is the term or concept important to the study of that time period (C. Krause, CAL). These ideas are illustrated in the second and third examples below (C. Krause, CAL).
An effective way to organize information in preparation for essay exams is herringbone maps. They are used to describe events in terms of six questions: who, did what, when, where, how, and why. An example for World War I is shown below.
Spider Maps or Webs
Spider maps (webs) lend themselves to organizing a great deal of information related to one major concept. Main topics related to the major concept are draw off it, and details are arranged around the main topics. Three examples of spider maps completed with history information are provided below; the fourth example is a web template that may be used to summarize information about a historical event.
Time lines are used to summarize information about the temporal order of historical events or events in a person's life. Events can be ordered in a relative or an absolute chronological scheme. Time lines can be oriented horizontally or vertically; in the former, older events are shown to the left and more recent events to the right, while with the latter older events are typically written at the bottom and younger events at the top. Examples of horizontal and vertical time lines are shown below.
Similarities and differences between historical events, periods, or people can be summarized using a variety of compare-contrast organizers. An example of a compare-contrast Venn diagram is shown below.
Matrices are helpful for organizing information about two or more events, people, policies, or groups. Matrices also help to summarize information about one topic. Examples of completed matrices and matrix templates are provided here.
Hierarchies or Arrays
Hierarchies or arrays are useful for organizing superordinate and subordinate material. They help to distinguish main ideas from supporting information. An example of a completed history hierarchy is shown below.
Formal and informal outlines are useful for organizing information related to a main topic. In the informal example below, information is arranged vertically. The second example is more formal, combining vertical and horizontal organizational formats.
Era of Good Feeling
(J. Ihlenfeld, CAL)