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How to self-study advanced books like Weinberg's QFT?

  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Although the question came to my mind while studying Weinberg's QFT books, the doubt is much more general than that, and is not a doubt about physics, but rather about how to actually study and learn the topic alone from the book.

From one point I agree that coming up with this doubt nearly finishing my master's is quite a shame, but I believe its never too late to seek improvement. The thing is: I took one QFT course last year based on Schwartz' book, and this year I've decided to take Weinberg's book to recap the topic and improve my knowledge, but then I've found out I really don't know how to self-study.

I pick the book, and then I don't know what to do.

What sequence should I follow? Should I just follow the book step by step without missing anything (recall I already studied the topic)?

Should I just read it? Should I try to summarize the book in some notes? Should I not try to summarize the book, and rather just pick a paper and reproduce the derivations?

If I just read the book, I feel a few days after I'll have forgotten the details (this doesn't seem to happen when having a course, because the topic is constantly being presented by the instructor).

If I try to summarize the book, I feel it becomes extremely time consuming and becomes counterproductive, because it takes forever to go through a single chapter.

With Weinberg's book I've tried summarizing it, and it took me forever to go through chapter 2, and in the end I didn't even continue. So this seems to be not the correct way.

My question is: I have an advanced book like Weinberg's QFT book, I already have previous knowledge on the topic (I took a course - albeit based on much easier book - and passed with A). What are techniques that really work (that won't take forever to go through a single chapter, for example, and that also will allow me to leave each day of study confident that I actually learned the topic) to go through the book and study it alone?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
tnich
Homework Helper
1,048
336
Although the question came to my mind while studying Weinberg's QFT books, the doubt is much more general than that, and is not a doubt about physics, but rather about how to actually study and learn the topic alone from the book.

From one point I agree that coming up with this doubt nearly finishing my master's is quite a shame, but I believe its never too late to seek improvement. The thing is: I took one QFT course last year based on Schwartz' book, and this year I've decided to take Weinberg's book to recap the topic and improve my knowledge, but then I've found out I really don't know how to self-study.

I pick the book, and then I don't know what to do.

What sequence should I follow? Should I just follow the book step by step without missing anything (recall I already studied the topic)?

Should I just read it? Should I try to summarize the book in some notes? Should I not try to summarize the book, and rather just pick a paper and reproduce the derivations?

If I just read the book, I feel a few days after I'll have forgotten the details (this doesn't seem to happen when having a course, because the topic is constantly being presented by the instructor).

If I try to summarize the book, I feel it becomes extremely time consuming and becomes counterproductive, because it takes forever to go through a single chapter.

With Weinberg's book I've tried summarizing it, and it took me forever to go through chapter 2, and in the end I didn't even continue. So this seems to be not the correct way.

My question is: I have an advanced book like Weinberg's QFT book, I already have previous knowledge on the topic (I took a course - albeit based on much easier book - and passed with A). What are techniques that really work (that won't take forever to go through a single chapter, for example, and that also will allow me to leave each day of study confident that I actually learned the topic) to go through the book and study it alone?
I have had varying success with this, too. I try to work through the derivations to convince myself that I really understand the material. I have learned not to obsess too much if I don't understand any particular point as it is presented. Sometimes it gets clearer later with additional context, and allowing myself to get stuck on one thing I don't understand tends to stop my progress altogether. This is when I usually consult other sources to find a clearer explanation.
One thing that really helps me is to have in mind a project or a problem I want to apply my new knowledge to. That motivates me to keep going, and gives me something to practice on. Also, I work all the problems given in the book. (If none are given, I try to find problems in other sources.) That is what really gives me a solid feeling that I know the material.
 

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