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Tips To Improving Your Study

Aug 17, 2007
"All the intellectual value for us of a state of mind depends on our after memory of it," says Professor James.

In other words, there would be little object in reading, or reflection, or travel, or in experience in general, if such experience could not later be recalled so as to be further enjoyed and used. Want of reference thus far to memory does not therefore, signify any lack of appreciation of its worth. No time is likely to come when a low estimate will be placed upon memory.

How prominent memorizing should be, however, is a question of great importance.

The four factors of study that have now been considered are the finding of specific aims, the supplementing of the thought of authors, the organizing of ideas, and the judging of their general worth. These four activities together constitute a large part of what is called thinking. Memorizing - meaning thereby, in contrast to thinking, the conscious effort to impress ideas mind so that they can be reproduced - has been a more prominent part of study than all these four combined.

The Jesuits, for example, who were leaders in education for two hundred years, made repetition "the mother of studies", and it is still so prominent, even among adults, that the average student regards memorizing as the nearest synonym for the term studying. Repetition, or drill, however, is far from an inspiring kind of employment. It involves nothing new or refreshing; it is mere hammering, that makes no claim upon involuntary attention. When it is so prominent, therefore, it stultifies the mind, starving and discouraging the student and defeating the main purpose of study.

Thus early attention to organization is a large factor in memorizing, as in study that aims principally at comprehension of the thought. Where good organization is wanting, as in tracing lessons in geography, and other mere tests of facts, this aid to memorizing is lacking, and one must depend more upon brute memory power. On the other hand, where the portions of one's knowledge have become so closely interrelated and so well organized that they form a well-knit system of thought, one's ability to remember may be surprising.

Spencer and Darwin were examples of men whose ideas were thus organized. Neither of them possessed phenomenal memories to start with; but their observations so generally found a group of close relations to sustain them, and these groups were associated with one another in such a close and orderly way, that the outline of the whole could be easily surveyed, and any fact could be quickly reproduced, just as any book can be speedily found in a well-organized library. Thus, as we grow older, if the organization of our knowledge is improving, the power of reproducing it will likewise be increasing.

Comparisons are another means of establishing valuable thought connections. Study by topics, also furnishes special opportunity for comparisons. "It is generally better," says James Baldwin, "to learn what different writers have thought and said concerning that matter of which you are making a special study. Not many books are to be read hastily through." Koopman likewise declares, "A single trial will prove to any student the superiority, in interest, of the topical and comparative over the chronological and consecutive method of studying history." Again, "The student who has not known the pleasure of reading all the works of an author, as a study in personality, has a great source of enjoyment still before him." That is a salient thought to carry with oneself when undertaking any particular subject of study.
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