What Is Chronology?

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Chronology is a method of organizing information. There are two commonly used types of chronology: forward and reverse. Chronology is an effective tool to use when writing because it organizes information based on a logical time sequence.

Meaning of Chronology

  • At a basic level, chronology is an organizational pattern that deals with order and sequence of information. Most often chronology is referred to as a method in which items and events are placed into the order in which they have occurred. According to Merriam-Webster Online, chronology is an arrangement of items or events in “order of occurrence.” And, it also relates to measuring divisions of time and assigning dates to specific events.

Types of Chronology

  • Items can be placed in either forward or reverse chronological order. In other words, events can be placed in order from first to last or from last to first. Typically, when organizing events chronologically, it is important to start with main sections of time and then further divide those sections into subsections. For example, when writing about history, include certain spans of years, such as decades, and then list events as they occurred within those decades.

Functions and Benefits

  • Because items or events are placed in order according to time, it helps individuals understand sequence and its effect on events. It gives an audience the opportunity to grasp cause-and-effect relationships and reasons for certain occurrences.

Misconceptions and Other Types of Organization

  • Only organization related to time and sequence can be called chronology. There are several other types of organizational patterns, some of which are often incorrectly considered chronology. Some of these are spatial organization, which deals with arrangement according to space; topical patterns, where items are grouped into broad categories and then sub-categories; and specific to general organization, which means that the most specific information is presented first.

Word Origin, History & Forms

  • According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “chronology” comes from a combination of two Greek words: “khronos,” which means “time,” and “logos,” which means “word.” According to this dictionary, the term “chronology” was first used in 1593. However, Merriam-Webster Online states that the term was first used in 1585. "Chronology" is a noun. The adjectival form is “chronological,” which was first used in 1614, and the adverbial form is “chronologically.” The plural form is “chronologies.”

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