Lately I've been trying to educate myself but I haven't had an informed plan about how to go about that. Regardless of what I choose to learn, just about the only way to proceed has seemed to be to gather the materials on that subject and then to read through them, hoping to gain knowledge. This is rather like building a rocket, aiming at the moon and blasting off: if one got to the moon it would be purely coincidental. In my case, I have been traversing the web of knowledge in a depth-first manner, by which I mean that if I am reading something and have questions, I stop reading and proceed to find the answers to those questions. In seeking the answers to those questions, I find myself faced with ever more questions. As a result, I have at most skimmed over many areas but haven't really picked up all that much along the way. One way in which I have at least benefitted is that I can now read quickly and am used to books which are written with big words and long sentences. Evidentally, this method has serious flaws. While a chess playing algorithm might follow a depth-first traversal, the reason for that is (I believe) because computers are typically relatively fast with little storage. A depth-first traversal partitions the space into narrow alleyways, only one of which needs to be investigated at any time. However, this seems far less applicable to learning. In learning, one does not want to reach an elementary result like that moving a certain pawn is the best move. Rather, one typically wants to build a cognitive structure whereby one can make judgements at any time in the future. I wouldn't say this concerns problem solving per se, but rather what one needs to engage in problem solving. This is in preparation for problem solving, whereas a depth-first algorithm is solving a specific problem. The aims are different, so adopting a depth-first algorithm towards learning is very likely to be misguided. So having identified the inapplicability of this approach to learning, let me analyse why it failed. In my meanderings, I picked up a shallow understanding of many different topics, but is that what I wanted? I started out wanting a deep understanding of one topic but found that understanding that topic deeply depended on many different areas of knowledge. I therefore meandered through these different areas, trying to collect what I needed. In the process, I tended to spend more time in these abstract areas than in the topic in which I started. I would only have returned to this main topic with the ingredients in hand. So in a sense, the only knowledge I was gaining was not in the area in which I wanted to gain knowledge. In fact, I would only gain knowledge in that area after having gained knowledge in these other areas. This poses a slight problem. Typically when one wants to become knowledgable, the reason for seeking that knowledge is to use it in the near term. I was sacrificing superficial knowledge in this area for a greater understanding in the distant future but this goes against my reason for seeking that knowledge in the first place. I would like to say that my method was quality-constrained but not time-constrained. It was a method to breadth of knowledge whereas I need a method to expedient and applicable knowledge. If I must limit the scope of my investigations in order to gain the requisite knowledge in a timely manner, then that is what I should do. With the goal clarified, a method can now be sought. Another result of my meanderings is that having left one area to research another, on returning I discovered that I could not remember all that much of what I had read there before. Certainly it was quicker going over it the second time, but nevertheless that knowledge was at a very transient stage, very imprecise. A result of this is that, by leaving with a very shallow understanding of the area concerned, my meanderings could not be constrained. How should I identify while reading in another area that what I am reading is applicable or not, without having a relatively precise understanding of the area of knowledge I began with? Because I left it in an imprecise state, I was doomed to a very inefficient search for answers to questions I did not yet quite understand. My search was inevitably wider than it needed to be and that which I was gaining was inevitably imprecise. So I think the first thing to change is this lack of precision. Although I might come upon questions I don't have an answer for, leaving that area with an imprecise understand of what the question entails, what the relevance of the question to the discipline is, would doom me to an unnecessarily wide search. I therefore think that the most important methodological guideline is to ascertain the relevance of a question before trying to answer it. The way to begin is then to parse over the materials, noting the questions that arise and seeking to ascertain their relevance, before attempting to answer those questions. In constraining the relevance of such a question, it might become so constrained so as to admit only one solution, or at least it should be constrained to such a degree that one can find the answer without too much searching. This is somewhat analogous to a breath-first traversal. By enumerating the chess-boards after one move, we can prune that list using heuristics that would not be available to a depth-first traversal. In doing so, we constrain the search so as to get more meaningful results per time. By following this approach, more useful knowledge is gained early on because even if there are questions one can't yet answer, one should be able to make a far more informed guess than one would with an imprecise understanding. I am posting this here because I think that reading such things would have helped me, and so I make it available here in the hope that it might help someone else. I think self-study is inevitably a difficult endeavour, and without a mentor guiding one, insights are hard-won. Nevertheless, I would like to think that with a good understanding of the methodology of self-study, many more of us could become educated without selling a large portion of our lives to institutions. I can't spare the time and money to study further at university, and I imagine that many others can't. There is the matter than studying gives one a qualification, but it is my potentially naive hope that if one were to submit articles to journals and such, that would also be a good qualification. Whether this is true or not is a matter for another day, and it is an opinion for which I would not like to argue. If it turns out in the future than I must study, then so be it. Even if that were to be the case, I don't see that as a good reason not to seek to become more knowledgable on one's own, if one has a method that works.