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Techniques for Self-Study

  1. May 29, 2013 #1
    I've been a reader of this forum for a while but this is my first post so please be nice. I'm not sure if this is the correct place for this post, but it seems to be the most related board I could find.

    I am hoping to spend this summer more productively than normal. I would like to use my free time to study up on some ancillary material before next semester and do some self-learning through a few textbooks I have picked up. I have never attempted to formally teach myself through a textbook of this nature.

    I was curious if anyone had any suggestions for carrying out a self-learning course? Any systems or study habits or methods that you felt helped you truly grasp and retain the material without the aid of an instructor? Any help that can be offered will be greatly appreciated. Thanks,

  2. jcsd
  3. May 29, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to PF. What is your interest?

    If you were majoring in Physics then perhaps studying Vector Analysis would be good as its used a lot in Physics. Alternatively, you could learn how to do computer simulations using Java and the Open Source Physics library.

    If you were majoring in Math or Engineering then perhaps playing with Mathematical Origami would be stimulating. (see http://www.langorigami.com/ )
  4. May 29, 2013 #3
    I guess I should have been more specific. I am a chemistry major. I already have the materials that I would like to study, but I have never attempted to teach myself something like this without outside instruction.

    I was curious if anyone had any suggestions for how to actually carry out a self learning course. For example, did you find problem solving most helpful, or taking notes from the book (as opposed to having lecture notes) etc.

    I would simply like to spend my study time as effectively as I can; if anyone has experience trying to teach themselves through an academic textbook like this and has any advice that would be helpful. Thanks,

  5. May 29, 2013 #4


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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Working problems is the only way for most students to master the material and to verify that they have it down. If your text includes answers (to odd numbered problems, e.g.), then do them! If not, then a study guide like Schaum's outline that provides the answer to every problem, plus has many worked-out examples, is valuable. Choose problems that correspond to the textbook chapter or section you are reading.
  6. May 29, 2013 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    When I first learned Vector Analysis, I used an outline book like Schaums. I read the chapter then worked the problems and read the chapter again as I struggled to do the problems. I kept notes of what I read, how I solved a problem and questions I had when I couldn't solve it (didn't match book answer).

    Don't get hung up on solving every problem, pick the ones that look interesting (not trivial or mentally solvable)

    Remember to keep to a schedule, same time each day do your work and take breaks to have a peanut butter sandwich (very important).

    Try to see if you can explain the concepts on paper without looking back at the book like you're teaching some else.
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