Schematic summary: Explanation & step-by-step plan

A common method of learning your study materials is to make summaries of them. There are two types of summaries: a regular summary and a schematic summary. In this article, we’ll focus on the schematic summary. We’ll give you a definition, and explain when you should consider making a schematic summary. We also give you a step-by-step plan to help you make the best schematic summaries yourself.

What is a schematic summary?

A schematic summary is a summary that describes a process. It contains only the most important concepts from your textbook. Unlike a regular summary, in a schematic summary, all the important concepts are visible in one glance. Because you link the most important concepts yourself, these are no longer isolated facts: a coherent picture is created that makes all the learning material clear. This not only helps you understand the concepts better but also helps your argumentation during the exam. A schematic summary is also called a schematic overview, because it shows you in one glance what your study material is about.

When to make a schematic summary?

The choice between making a regular summary or a schematic summary is partly determined by your personal learning preferences, and partly by the specifics of the course involved. Especially when you have to learn many different concepts and find it hard to remember the connections between them, it is useful to make a schematic summary.

How to make a schematic overview?

You now know what a schematic summary is, and when you should make one. But how do you make a schematic summary? Please follow the 10 steps below and you will be well on your way:

1: Find out what study materials you need to learn

Before you start making a schematic summary, it is important to carefully check what study materials you need to learn to pass your test or exam. You can often find this information in a module manual, course guide, or study plan. Make sure to do this before you start, because often specific paragraphs and even chapters are not part of the mandatory study materials.

Also important is to take a look at the school’s learning objectives for the course involved. This will show you more about which processes to recognize in your schematic summary. Write this down, so you know in advance which specific parts need your attention. Completed this first step? Then move on to the next!

2: Carefully read all of the text once

After you have figured out what study materials you are required to learn, you must read through all of the text once. This will help you create an overview, and gives your brain a chance to take in the different concepts, processes, and relationships inside the study materials. A quick tip: Reading the texts aloud could help you remember them better.

3: Determine the described process(es) inside the study materials

Study materials always describe a process. Therefore, in step three, determine the process of the schematic summary. Find the beginning of this process, and give it a name (if it is not already given). You can use the name of the process as the (sub)title of your schematic overview.

4: Highlight the concepts

Highlight the most important words and phrases from the text. You can, for example, use different colors for main and slightly less important concepts. An easy and quick way to know what paragraphs are about is to look for sentences that summarize a paragraph. These sentences are often at the beginning or end of the paragraph. Also look for bold, italic, and underlined words in the text. These words are often concepts that you are expected to know during your exam.

5: Start with the main process

The preparation is done; it's time to make your schematic outline!

Write down the title of your schematic outline and then funnel it to the processes you have spotted. In the example below, the chapter title is "Sleep yourself fit!" and describes specific processes of sleep, such as the biological clock. Come up with questions to go with these processes. This way, you will find it easier to remember a particular process.

Tip: Not quite getting there? A mind map can help you organize all the titles, processes, and concepts. By making a mind map, you can see connections faster. You can then include these in your schematic summary.

6: Complete the schematic summary

Once you have identified the core concepts, you need to examine what influence this concept has on other concepts and how the different concepts are related to each other. Again, it is advisable to use a mind map. After you have noted down the core concept, you can divide the core concept into various branches. These are also called sub-topics, which you then can divide further into smaller subsections.

7: Indicate connections through the use of diagrammatic symbols

It is important to use diagrammatic symbols in your schematic summary to indicate connections. These include characters such as =, <, >, → and ?

An arrow can be used here to indicate mutual influence and can be used in any direction:

  • Model A affects (→) concept B;
  • Concept A and Concept B mean the same / are related to each other (↔).

The equals sign can be used when a concept is similar to another concept:

  • Concept A and Concept B mean the same thing (=).

The symbols for is smaller than or is greater than can be used to indicate the relationship between two concepts:

  • Concept A is smaller than (<) concept B;
  • The result from Model C is greater than (>) the result from Model A.

A question mark (?) can be used to indicate the question of the process. This could be your learning objective from school or a question that comes to mind about your topic.

8: Rewrite or shorten your schematic summary

Now that you have listed all the key concepts as well as sub-concepts, you probably have a page full of chaos in front of you. The next step is therefore essential: you are going to make your schematic summary clear. Start again by writing down your core concept and its sub-concepts. This time, put the concepts in a logical and clear position. When doing so, avoid explanations or examples. By doing this, you not only make your outline clear but also re-learn the process.

9: Start learning

Congratulations, you created your schematic summary! And so, preparation is done and you can start learning. Through your schematic overview, you will be able to recognize all concepts, processes, and their connections quickly.

10: Upload your schematic summary and start to earn money

Did you make the perfect schematic outline? Do you want to help other students with it, and earn some extra money at the same time? Then don't wait any longer, upload your summary and start earning!