Scheme: what it is, how it is done and types of schemes

What is a scheme?

Scheme is a graphic representation of the association of ideas or concepts that are related to each other, and between those that establish hierarchy relationships.

In a scheme there is usually a main idea that is associated with others of lower rank, but which are indispensable to understand what is being studied.

The schemes serve to explain complex concepts or as a method of study, since they help to understand a topic in a synthesized way.

Scheme Types

There are different types of schemes that can be developed to facilitate the compression of a topic. These are some of the most used.

Key scheme

The key scheme uses, as indicated by its name, keys or square brackets to group ideas. In this case, the key idea is followed by a key in which the secondary ideas are grouped, and from each of these ideas, new keys start to explain tertiary or complementary ideas, if necessary.

The key scheme is also known as a synoptic chart.

Arrows scheme

It follows the same principle of the key diagram, but the concepts are nested with arrows. For many, this method helps them to better link ideas, understanding faster where they come from.

Development scheme

This type of scheme is based on a central idea that is developed from other related concepts. Generally, the main idea is located at the top of the sheet or support, and from there the secondary concepts are linked down.

In development schemes the hierarchy can be numerical or alphabetical.

Radial scheme

This type of scheme receives this name because of the way in which ideas are related. According to this model, the main concept goes in the center, in a more immediate radius the secondary concepts go, and in turn, these are surrounded by tertiary concepts or complementary ideas.

Concept map or diagram

In the concept map the main idea is encapsulated in the upper central part. From there the secondary ideas start and from these, the tertiary ideas. As the scheme has developed downwards the ideas become much more concrete.


It is a graphic representation of a process. It has symbols or characteristics that denote a specific action. It is used in the technological field and in project management.

Characteristics of a scheme

A properly developed scheme should meet these characteristics:

  • An outline is a graphic representationTherefore, the way to relate concepts is through resources such as shapes, lines or colors.
  • An outline must be concrete, therefore it must contain all the necessary information summarized in a few words or short concepts.
  • The function of the scheme is to summarize. If it is necessary to add information to the scheme to relate the ideas, it is probably not well done
  • Generally a scheme has one or a few main ideas, from which the complementary concepts start. If the central ideas abound, it means that an adequate reading or summary was not made.

How to make an outline?

To know how to draw up a scheme, it is necessary to have previously read the content that you want to analyze or learn. Once read and understood, it is necessary to follow these steps:

  1. Underline or annotate the subject title or the name of the chapter to schematize.
  2. Divide the topic into sections. For example, if the subject to be studied are vertebrate animals, it can be divided into 4 sections, which correspond to the 4 large groups of vertebrates: osteictios, condrictios, agnatos and tetrapoda.
  3. Highlight the main ideas of each section, as well as the secondary ideas that complement them.
  4. In some cases, secondary ideas may have tertiary ideas or details worth highlighting or schematizing.
  5. Start the hierarchy: once the topic, sub-themes or sections and main and secondary ideas are clear, the scheme can begin to be made.
  6. Ideally, the scheme has only the key concepts. If it is necessary to make a long explanation within the scheme, it loses meaning.
  7. Once the scheme is ready, try to explain the subject studied. If it was possible to understand it from that summary, it means that the hierarchy of ideas was correct.