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Looking for any and all advice

  1. Mar 15, 2009 #1
    Hi everyone...

    I just turned 19 and I am a sophomore in college, soon to be junior. I have always been interested in physics since 9th grade, because I had a teacher that really captivated my interest and motivated me to do well. When I went to college, I declared a major in physics and more recently a double major in math, because I love math and it is always used in physics.

    My first year of college went great. I got A's in all my physics courses and understood everything. Given, it was very simple and basic, but it kept my interest. I took classes such as "Physics with calculus I and II" and "modern physics," which were pretty similar although modern physics went more in depth only on certain topics.

    Then in my sophomore year of college... everything became so confusing! I am currently taking electrodynamics II (took electrodynamics I in the fall) as it was the only course offered that I could take this semester. I am struggling so badly and I don't know how to approach it anymore. I'm using a text called "Griffiths Introduction to Electrodynamics," but I really can't understand any of his examples and his writing style is very boring and confusing! In addition, I feel like there are a lot of concepts I'm missing because I was forced to take a junior-level class since my school offered ZERO sophomore-level physics classes during my sophomore year (ugh!) ... so I haven't taken classes like electronics or quantum mechanics which I probably should have.

    When I took electrodynamics I, I got an A, but I feel like I didn't deserve it. All we did was homework problems and had 1 exam that was take home. For the homework, it's easy to find online and I can usually fill in any unclear gaps because as I work through the already-solved problem I can write it out more clearly on my own level. the same goes for the take home exam, because - even though the problems were made up - there were extremely similar to ones worked out online and I could manipulate them accordingly. The thing is, I don't feel like I'm learning anything. I always read the text carefully and throughly and try to understand the examples in the text, but I can never understand it clearly and don't even know how to start the homework problem! I am always helpless and clueless and feel so far behind, even though I can probably get an A for this semester too just because the internet is a horrible resource with countless similarities between examples.

    What can I do to get back on track? Physics has become this struggle and overwhelming field of study. I used to love it, not because it was simple in my earlier years, but because I wasn't completely lost and understood how to do the examples. Now, I have no basis with which to do examples with - I'd love to be able to do a few homework problems, struggle through with it, but have a general idea what I'm doing. Now I feel completely helpless and getting through minimally.

    How should I study an area of physics I have absolutely no understanding about? Even with class lectures and such, I am so lost... I usually 1) read each chapter, 2) look at examples done in each chapter, 3) look at class notes (I have a bad memory and cant learn what I learned in class), and 4) look at solutions to past homework that are posted after it's due. However, each and every time I need some kind of aid to substaintally help me! I want to be able to do it myself with a huge understanding...

    Does anyone have any study methods that might work? And if you are going to suggest doing problems over and over again, which is quite valid in physics, how do you do problems if you don't understand them in the first place? Are there any good sites out there that really explains concepts well?

    Sorry for the rant... I am just a mess right now, and am worrying about my future in physics. I believe I can correct it now before it's too late since only this year I have been off track. Specifically, electrodynamics (electricity and magnetism) is where I am losing understanding. Thanks.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2009 #2
    When did you develop your habit of not doing the homework yourself? I would suggest actually working the problems and if you don't know where to begin, there are many available resources. Have you considered asking your instructor or even physicsforums?

    Solving the problems is key to physics, you shouldn't have to memorize a bunch of material so much as the techniques. Do the problems, if you need help, get it. You could also work problems with fellow classmates, you aren't the only person who has the slightest difficulty with physics.
     
  4. Mar 15, 2009 #3
    As for study methods what worked best for me were two things. 1) Recording lectures. A friend suggested it to me and I didn't really think that listening to what-might-as-well-have-been-Greek twice would have helped, but it did. It filled in gaps in my notes and I started to see it all a little clearer. 2) Classmates. About half-way through my Modern Physics course when I was a sophomore I realized I just couldn't do the homework without explaining my thought process to someone.

    As for sites: physicsforums,or just papers in general. Maybe another book in the library (Like an earlier or different edition of your textbook) would help. If your professor has office hours, definitely go to those. I practically live in office hours, if my professors aren't obviously getting annoyed.
     
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