Study Tips & Law Library Resources for Outlining

Final exams fast approaching and the Law Library can help! Below are some resources that feature general law school exam studying tips and help with outlining. Stay tuned for our future blog posts where we’ll look at study aids for taking exams, reviewing for exams, and specific subject study aids!

Effective Study Techniques

It’s not enough to just study. There are only so many hours in a day and you need to study effectively and efficiently. Some of these study techniques may seem labor intensive at first but the payoff will come when you sit down to take your exams.

Elaborative Interrogation

Passively reading and rereading material is the worst study method available. Marking and highlighting a text during reading is very popular but you have to be careful and not all studies have shown any benefit. Over highlighting reduces your ability to distinguish the highlighted text from other text, and people are less likely to remember marked text if it is not distinctive. It also takes less processing to highlight a lot of text than to single out the most important details and write them out separately. Most studies have shown no benefit of highlighting as is typically done.[1] Instead of passively reading and highlighting, use active reading strategies. One active reading strategy is called the “Elaborative Interrogation Technique.” As you read, ask yourself questions such as “why” or “how” and then provide the answers. Relate your questions and explanations back to things you already know. Create diagrams, mindmaps, and flowcharts to illustrate how the concepts that you are reading relate to each other and back to your prior knowledge. The theory behind this technique “is that elaborative interrogation enhances learning by supporting the integration of new information with existing prior knowledge” and that students using this technique discriminate among facts.[2]

Distributed / Spaced Practice

While many law students are prone to cramming, research has shown that one of the best way to study is something called “distributed practice.” When trying to master new concepts, study hard for a short period of time, take a break, and then study some more – using short bursts of studying over a longer period of time. You can do this both within a single study session and across study sessions. Better learning occurs when learning is spread out in time. One study found that “to remember something for 1 week, learning episodes should be spaced 12 to 24 hours apart; to remember something for 5 years, the learning episodes should be spaced 6 to 12 months apart.”[3] To implement distributed practice across study sessions, review material covered in class at frequent intervals. You might set aside a small amount of time one day after class to review material covered the previous day. Then go back later and review the most important information from that class and relate it to the newer information you are learning. To implement distributed practice within a single study session, review material, take a break or move on to new material, and then return to the previous material. One tool to help with distributed practice in a single study session is to use the “Pomodoro Technique.” The Pomodoro Technique involves setting a timer for a specific task, focusing on that task for that time period (25 minutes is the amount of time the Pomodoro Technique developer, Francesco Cirillo, suggests), and then taking a short break before returning for another set time period.[4] An easy way to set this up is to use your phone, a kitchen timer, or try the free browser based Marinara Timer. With this timer you can use the traditional Pomodoro method of working for 25 minutes with 5 minute breaks and a 15 minute break after 4 25 minute sessions or you can set your own intervals using the customized timer.

Practice Testing / Retrieval Testing

“[M]ore than 100 years of research has yielded several hundred experiments showing that practice testing enhances learning and retention.”[5] Practice testing could involve using flashcards (virtual or physical), completing practice problems or questions included at the end of textbook chapters, or completing practice tests. Even better is to make up your own practice questions. Practice tests that require more free recall, such as short answer tests, are more effective than practice tests that use fill in the blank or multiple choice. More practice tests are better than less practice tests. Combine your practice testing with distributed practice because studies have shown that repeated practice testing produces better results when spaced out within the same session and when completed in different study sessions.[6] Study aids with review questions and sample or practice exam questions are a great way to find practice questions.

Interleaved Practice

For certain types of material, blocking study, where one topic is studied or all problems of one type are practiced before moving on to the next topic or type of material, is less effective than interleaved practice.[7] Interleaving can help you choose the correct strategy to solve a problem and help you to see the links, similarities, and differences between ideas.[8] These are things you will do all of the time in the practice of law. Interleaving naturally occurs with distributed practice.

Accessing Law Library Study Aids

For an overview of our study aid subscriptions and a demonstration of how to access them, see:

Introduction to Study Aids & Research Guides Video

  • This video introduces you to our four online study aid collections, demonstrates how to access the study aids, and looks at research guides that will help you throughout your law school career. The video is 7:36 minutes long and features closed captioning.

CALI

If using CALI, you will need to create an account (if you have not already done so) using a Cincinnati Law authorization code. You can obtain this code from a reference librarian.

Lexis OverDrive

If accessing study aids from Lexis OverDrive, you will need to login using your UC credentials.

West Academic

To create an account, click the Create an Account link at the top right corner of the Study Aids Subscription page. Use your UC email as the email address. Once you have filled in the required information to set up an account, you will need to verify your email address (they will send you a confirmation email that you will need answer to verify the email address — be sure and check your junk mail). Once you have created an account and logged in, you can use the links below to access individual study aids or you can access all study aids through https://subscription.westacademic.com.

Wolters Kluwer

If accessing study aids from the Wolters Kluwer subscription, you will need to login using your UC credentials.

 

Study Aids to Help Generally with Studying Techniques

  • 1L of a Ride
    • Available through the West Academic subscription
    • Covered topics include pre-planning, top student fears, first-year curriculum, the Socratic and case methods of teaching, effective class participation, top habits of successful students, essential study techniques, legal research and writing, exam strategies, maintaining well-being, and much more. Combines anecdotes, comments from law students, empirical research, and authentic samples of signature documents from the 1L experience, including exam questions.
  • Creating Study Aids CALI Lesson
    • Available through CALI
    • This CALI lesson introduces you to law school study aids. It begins with a brief overview of self-regulated learning and Bloom’s learning taxonomy. Then, the lesson introduces law school study aids by pairing them with learning objectives at each level of the taxonomy. Finally, the lesson concludes with an activity designed to help you reflect on your learning. It can be used as an introduction, supplement, or as review. Learning Outcomes On completion of the lesson, the student will be able to: 1. Understand the relationship between self-regulated learning, metacognition, and Bloom’s taxonomy and your learning. 2. Create study aids to help you remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create important law school concepts. 3. Reflect on your learning.
  • Excelling in Law School: a Complete Approach
    • Available through the Wolters Kluwer subscription
    • This text outlines the available resources and study-aids and shows how to effectively use new technologies such as websites that distribute outlines, companies that provide MP3s of detailed lectures on first year courses, student-maintained outline banks, recorded lectures, professor podcasts, and PowerPoint slides. Students learn the specific, unique skills required to approach law reviews and scholarships and to hunt for jobs.
  • Hyped About Hypos
    • Available through CALI
    • Law students often hear about the importance of “doing hypos” but don’t know why they are important, where to find them, how to do them, and so on. This CALI lesson will cover the what, why, when, where, and how of hypos so law students can conquer the material they are learning and be prepared for exams. Learning Outcomes On completion of the lesson, the student will be able to: 1. Define the term “hypothetical” in the law school context. 2. List several reliable sources of hypotheticals. 3. Explain how to use hypotheticals to prepare for an exam. 4. Discuss why using hypotheticals is important for success in law school.
  • Law 101: What Law School’s Really Like
    • Available through LexisNexis Digital Library (Lexis OverDrive)
    • Law 101 gives a behind-the-scenes look at what law school’s really like. The advice covers all aspects of law school, and ranges from academic advice on such topics as study techniques, classroom skills, and tips for exam success, to the best ways to participate in extracurricular activities, maintain healthy relationships outside of law school, and get a job after graduation. A companion documentary, available online, provides additional perspectives on life in law school.
  • Law School Without Fear : Strategies for Success
    • Available through the West Academic subscription
    • Covers case analysis, the Socratic method, studying law; Writing for law school; Preparing for exams and exam writing; Managing precious time; Coping with the emotional stress of law study.
  • Learning Outside the Box
    • Available through LexisNexis Digital Library (Lexis OverDrive)
    • The purpose of this book is to provide research-based learning strategies for law students who learn differently. If you are a student who has been diagnosed with a learning disability or if you simply have a unique learning style, you may need to outline differently, read cases differently, and approach law school in a more active, engaged, and efficient manner. In addition to covering reading and briefing cases, the book covers outlining and tackling essay and multiple choice exams.
  • Metacognition
    • Available through CALI
    • This lesson focuses upon the concept of metacognition and teaches you how to enhance your understanding about how you learn to better improve your study, organizational, test-taking and self-assessment skills with the goal of improving your performance in law school. The lesson should help you better understand your individual learning process and show you how to use this information to develop study and test-taking skills needed for success in law school. Learning Outcomes On completion of the lesson, the student will be able to: 1. Better understand how to develop your skills as a law school learner. 2. Create a schedule, and develop study strategies that work in tandem with this schedule, that helps you work more effectively and efficiently. 3. Assess your own work to better understand where you performed well, where you struggled, and how your study and test-taking strategies impacted your performance.
  • Note-Taking in Law School 101: The Basics
    • Available through CALI
    • This lesson will walk you through things to consider before setting “foot” (physically or virtually!) in a law school doctrinal classroom. You’ll learn about how to listen for and capture the most important information, how to maximize your note-taking efficiency by using symbols and shorthand, and the various software options available for taking notes.
  • Note-Taking in Law School 101: Case-Based Content
    • Available through CALI
    • This lesson, intended for incoming and current 1L law students, guides participants through the process of note-taking in law school classes with a focus on case-based information. Using a series of cross-doctrinal audio lecture examples and integrating periodic checks for understanding, students have the opportunity to develop their note-taking skills and practice categorizing the pieces of case-based information.
  • Starting off Right in Law School
    • Available through LexisNexis Digital Library (Lexis OverDrive)
    • Law school is different. Incoming students, confronted with an entirely new vocabulary and unfamiliar with the discipline’s unique and demanding educational methods, are often disoriented. This book is designed to give these students a head start, both by introducing them to the fundamentals of the legal process and by helping them acquire the study skills necessary for success. Starting Off Right in Law School introduces new law students to the practice and study of law by following a lawsuit from its inception through the appeals process, illustrating what lawyers actually do, how they prepare, how they interact with clients and in courtrooms, how a lawsuit proceeds, and how students can effectively read and analyze cases, outline, and apply what they have learned on the exams.
  • Strategies and Tactics for the First Year Law Student (Maximize Your Grades)
    • Available through the Wolters Kluwer subscription
    • Strategies and Tactics for the First Year Law Student gives you a detailed, step-by-step program for surviving the first year of law school. Note-taking–Sharpening your note-taking skills will maximize your study time and improve your grades Your law professor’s personality–Understanding it can be to your advantage Study traps–What are they and how to avoid them Memory aids–How classic memory systems work and when you should (and shouldn’t) use them The pressures of law school–Effective techniques for handling the pressure from classmates, professors, and reading assignments Taking exams–Nine steps to writing exceptional exam answers The Internet–Useful search engines and websites.
  • A Weekly Guide to Being a Model Law Student
    • Available through the West Academic subscription.
    • This book gives law students weekly checklists explaining the skills necessary to successfully navigate their first year of law school. Each chapter provides a checklist of things to do that week, such as briefing cases, going over notes, outlining classes, or doing practice questions. When a new concept is introduced, this book clearly explains the concept and its purpose and provides examples. Instead of merely providing advice, this book lays out a detailed plan for students to follow. It also includes a bank of over 100 short, medium, and long practice questions in six first year subjects.
  • Your Brain and Law School
    • Available through LexisNexis Digital Library (Lexis OverDrive)
    • Before you can learn to think like a lawyer, you have to have some idea about how the brain thinks. The first part of this book translates the technical research, explaining learning strategies that work for the brain in law school specifically, and calling out other tactics that are useless (though often popular lures for the misinformed). This book is unique in explaining the science behind the advice and will save you from pursuing tempting shortcuts that will take you in the wrong direction. The second part explores the brain’s decision-making processes and cognitive biases.

 

Study Aids to Help with Outlining

There are issues with using commercial outlines. Your professor is emphasizing different things. You miss nuances and context. Reading an outline is not an effective learning technique. Studies have shown that if the reader has to decide which material is most important and has to think about the meaning of the text and how the different pieces relate to one another, they perform better on tests later.[9] Also, studies have shown that “writing about the important points in one’s own words produced a benefit over and above that of selecting important information….”[10] So, if you are using commercial outlines, be sure and use the review questions and practice tests. You may find it helpful to look at other outlines for structure. But be aware that each of your professors may have different ideas of what is important and what is not. Tailor your outline to the class. Also, each class is different from year to year so relying solely on other people’s past outlines may not be a good idea. Don’t just read the outline. Use it as a guide but make your own!

  • Outlining Basics
    • Available through CALI
    • This CALI lesson teaches you why, when and how to create outlines when preparing for your law school exams. On completion of the lesson, the student will be able to: 1. Recognize the importance of outlines as a learning and test preparation tool in law school, thus making the outlining exercise more valuable. 2. Develop outlines during an optimum timeline. 3. Create outlines that offer the student a tool that improves comprehension, synthesis, and exam performance.
  • Black Letter Outlines
    • Available through the West Academic subscription
    • The Black Letter Outline Series is designed to help students recognize, understand and master the primary principles of law by gaining a good understanding of the rule of law first before applying it to complex fact patterns. They contain comprehensive outlines of particular areas of law, a capsule summary of each outline, practice examinations, and examples and review questions.
  • Emanuel Law Outlines
    • Available through the Wolters Kluwer subscription
    • The Emanuel Law Outlines series is a study aid that outlines the law, gives exam tips, and offers chances for you to quiz yourself.
  • Gilbert Law Summaries
    • Available through the West Academic subscription
    • Gilbert Law Summaries give students a detailed, comprehensive outline to prepare for exams. Each title also includes a capsule summary that is perfect for last minute review. Students can also test their knowledge.
  • Quick Review (Sum and Substance)
    • Available through the West Academic subscription
    • This series contains capsule summary outlines each section with a clear and concise explanation of legal concepts and terms, along with exam hints, strategies, mnemonics, charts, tables and study tips.

 

Stay tuned for more blog posts on how study aids can help you prepare for exams!

Footnotes

      1. John Dunlosky, et al., Improving Students’ Learning with Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions from Cognitive and Educational Psychology, 14 Psychol. Sci. Pub. Int. 4, 19 (2013).
      2. Id. at 8.
      3. Id. at 37 (referring to N. Cepeda, et al., Spacing Effects in Learning: A Temporal Ridgeline of Optimal Retention, 19 Psych. Sci. 1095 (2008)).
      4. Francesdo Cirillo, Do More and Have Fun with Time Management, The Pomodoro Technique, https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique
      5. Supra note 1, at 29.
      6. Id.
      7. Id. at 40.
      8. Yana Weinstein & Megan Smith, Learn To Study Using…Interleaving, The Learning Scientists Blog (Aug. 11, 2016), http://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/8/11-1
      9. Supra note 1, at 19.
      10. Id. at 15.

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