7 junio, 2024

Scheme: what it is, features, how to do it, types, examples

What is a schema?

A scheme It is a visual representation that allows us to panoramically capture, in a single image, the relationship between various concepts or ideas referring to the same topic.

The outline is a very useful tool to facilitate learning or to expose an abstract topic before a group of people. If we have difficulty understanding the meaning of a text, making an outline helps us determine what the central ideas of the text are and how they are organized among themselves.

This provides us with a cognitive mastery over the content of the text greater than what we would achieve with one or even several readings.

Likewise, if we are going to present a topic to our study partners or in the office, the scheme constitutes an important visual support that allows the listener to maintain mental orientation on how what we are explaining relates to what we have already said and what which we will say later.

Characteristics of a scheme

Although there are different types (of keys, arrows, branches, etc.), the schemes in general have these four characteristics:

They are knowledge representations.

The schemes provide us with a panoramic or overall vision of a topic or the content of a text.

They are analytical and synthetic structures at the same time.

Analytics because they break down the information to determine what the most important content is. Synthetic because, by marking the logical relationships between those contents, they give us an organic or synthesized vision of the theme or text on which the scheme was elaborated.

They are buildable structures

A large outline can be divided into smaller outlines, so that we can focus on a specific concept from our study material.

In the same way, several small, specialized outlines can be assembled to form an overall outline of the topic or text on which we have built our main outline.

They are an excellent review method.

Schemes not only facilitate the learning process, but also save us a lot of time and effort when reviewing, since a glance at the key words or phrases in the scheme is enough to awaken the concepts and relationships learned in the memory.

How to make a scheme?

The elaboration of an effective scheme goes through two stages: the collection of information and the construction of the scheme itself.

Information collection

1. Carefully read the material on which the essay will be based. scheme

Although it may not seem like it at first glance, this is in fact the most important step in drawing up an outline.

Don’t try to skip it or quickly get out of the way. Don’t rush: read line by line, without skipping any. Take your time, read slowly, more than once if possible.

Keep in mind that if your reading is poor, your entire outline will inevitably be too.

2. Underline the most important ideas

After having carefully read the text, take a few minutes to reflect: what are the essential ideas of the text? What ideas are essential to have a complete knowledge of the subject?

Once you have determined the most important ideas, find them in the text and underline them. Consider the possible ramifications of the same idea.

For example, if you are making a diagram about the cell, you will need to first underline the two or three lines where the cell definition is stated; but you will also have to take into account the types of cells: prokaryote, eukaryote, etc.

3. Select the keywords

Now focus your attention on the text you have underlined. Each underlined block should contain an important idea.

Think of a word or a small sentence (between 3 and 6 words) that summarizes the essence of the content of each block and that helps you remember it.

Going back to the cell example, our first block contains the cell definition. But we will not transcribe it completely, but rather the essentials: «Cell: basic unit of living beings.» And so with the rest of the underlined content blocks.

Schema Construction

1. Choose a title

It’s time to make the scheme itself. You do not need more than a sheet of paper and a pencil or pen.

The first thing is to place the title of the scheme: at the top of the sheet, if you prefer to use it vertically, or on the far left, at half height, if it is more comfortable for you horizontally.

The title can be the same as the topic to which the outline refers. For example, “The cell”.

2. Decide the layout of the content

Now all that remains is to distribute the content in an organized way in the extension of the sheet.

The first thing, after the title, is to place the main or root concept. In our example: «Cell: basic unit of living beings.»

As during the reading we find that the types of cells are also important, we will draw six lines that will originate in our main concept and will correspond to the six types of cells: animal, vegetable, etc.

And in the same way we will proceed with the rest of the content.

3. Be creative

Many details of a scheme you can decide according to your taste and preference.

For example, the shape that encloses each keyword group can be a square, rectangle, rhombus, circle, or oval. The interior of the figures can be white or another more striking color.

You can also use rectangles for main ideas and circles for secondary or subordinate branches.

Schema types with examples

of keys

This type of outline uses braces ({}) to indicate the transition between two ideas. It is used to represent contents that have numerous divisions.

of arrows

Use arrows (⇆) instead of keys. It is suitable when there is little branching of the main concepts. Visually, it clearly and emphatically marks the relationship or transition from one concept to another.


To carry out this type of scheme, the sheet is oriented vertically. From the root concept, located at the top below the title, the associated concepts descend, from general to particular or from more to less relevance.

It is used very frequently for organization charts in companies. In these we can see the most senior position at the top and those with less responsibility, much more numerous, at the bottom.


American Psychological Association (2009). Scheme. OFF. Concise dictionary of psychology. Mexico: Editorial Manual Moderno.
Bembibre, V. (2009). Scheme. Taken from definitionabc.com.
Castillo, S. and Polanco, L. (2005). Teach to study. Didactics of the study. Madrid: Pearson Spain.
Royal Spanish Academy (2020). Spanish dictionary. Taken from rae.es.

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