Tips for organizing a large amount of information

In many situation we have to organize a large amount of information, such as collecting information for a business project, writing a literature review for a research paper, or writing a summary of a book, lecture or video. In order to review and share information effectively, we need to organise it in a clearer way.

How to organize information

There are many note-taking methods, including linear note-taking, integrated outline, mind-mapping, Cornell system, etc. Which is the best? It depends on your purpose. I usually combine linear note and mind mapping , and refactor information into small chunks when organizing a large amount of information. Let me share my tips to you.

Write a summary of information

Because of my job, I need to digest information and share it to other team members. However, it is not easy to pass through the content precisely. Recently I find a clear way to organize information in following steps:

Step 1: Identify main ideas of the information (videos, lectures, speeches, articles, etc.)

Step 2: Organize an outline/a summary of an idea in a node (small chunk)

Step 3: Make connections between ideas

Here is an example: Design of everyday things

Collect information for a topic /an idea

And when collecting information for a topic or manage materials for literature review, I usually classify and categorise materials into separate nodes, which contains the relevant sources, notes, outlines or drafts.

See the example here.

Benefits of refactoring information into small chunks

According to Don Norman, he thinks the future of book is like that: books should be “composed of small sections, readable in whatever order is desired… You should be able to experience it in the order you prefer, reading items out of sequence and skipping whatever is not relevant to your needs.”

Information composed of mall chunks can make you focus on one single idea at a time. What is more, you can:

  • Receive precise comments of an idea.
  • Read with author’s mind flow or in the order you prefer.