Organizing Information Overload

Welcome back to the start of a new school year!  This is easily one of our favorite times of the year.  Everyone is excited to get started with the new school year, everything is new and exciting, and we are faced with lots of new information.

Sometime information overload can be difficult to manage, especially starting a new field of study (like law school) or a new class in a new area of knowledge.  It can be helpful to know that there are five primary ways of organizing information, according to The Visual Communication Guy.  Here is a quick summary of these organization types:

  1. Location – A visual depiction of where something is located in a physical space, like a street address, a mall map, or other visual depictions.
“Map” by NellsPhotography on Flickr.
  1. Alphabet – Simply; A, B, C, etc… If you can remember the Alphabet Song, you are in great shape. Here, good examples are a dictionary or an index.
“Alphabet” by Jim Swenson on Flickr.
  1. Time – A look at something over a period of time to see changes, or look at a cycle or process. Some examples would be a chart showing the timeline of a crime, or a flowchart to remember the steps in a process.
“timeline” by maria jb on Flickr
  1. Category – This is a very all-purpose method; if you can find a way that items are related, they can be categorized. An easy way is by color, size, subject (Library of Congress subject headings), and any other number of ways.
“books arranged by color!” by monster town on Flickr.
  1. Hierarchy – Shows rank or order of importance; oldest to youngest, shortest to tallest, lightest to heaviest are good examples. One example would be a family tree.
“Books” by Phallnn Ool on Flickr.

How is this helpful to you in law school? Here are some ways organization can impact you here at law school.

The Law Library uses organization by category when we catalog books using the Library of Congress system.  Our books are arranged by letter and number which are hierarchical in nature since they go from “A” to “Z.”  Most law books are in the “K” classification and they are in number order from smallest “1” to highest “9999.” Our study guides, found behind the Circulation Desk, are organized by study aid series and then by subject matter.

Organization can also help impact how you’re studying.  You could potentially organize your notes alphabetically, by date, by a particular process (using something like a flowchart to remember what analytical steps to go through), by subject.

Remember, if you start getting overwhelmed by information, organize it using one of these five methods.

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