What Are the Most Common Uses of a Time Line?


Quick Answer

Students commonly use time lines to correlate discrete historical facts within a larger historical context. This helps them to see how different events relate to each other and to visualize simultaneous events in the scope of history. Time lines do not generally apply a narrative to history as many history texts do; instead, they lay information out so that students can make their own interpretations and connections. They may especially benefit visual learners.

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Time lines are infographics that are useful for learning almost any subject within a historical context; they are especially useful in understanding larger chunks of time, such as a historical era. Time lines locate specific facts within their historical background, which helps improve critical analysis of history. For example, a time line of author births and deaths sheds light on how literary movements rise and fall. Time lines of great artists and exhibitions allow art historians to identify the period in which one artistic movement influences the next. A time line of economic philosophy and market fluctuations is useful to economists and financiers for understanding the connections between historical events and economic activity.

Time lines are not limited to simple parallel lines, according to adult education specialist Connie Malamed. Some creative time lines make use of maps, slide shows and trend graphs. Malamed recommends that students make their own time lines to help retain information. The website DoHistory.org provides step-by-step instructions on how to plot a simple time line by choosing a segment of time and labeling it. The example that DoHistory.org provides is not as visually appealing as other infographics, but it gives a basic structure from which students can choose to elaborate.

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