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What's The Best Way To Learn A New Subject?

  1. Jul 24, 2008 #1
    Particularly a Scientific subject. Part of my problem with learning new material is how to go about ingraining the information into my memory. Are there any techniques that were successful for you that you could possibly share?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2008 #2
    When I want to learn something new, I get a textbook and read it cover to cover. Then I read it cover to cover again. Then I re-read each chapter working out the problems (there better be problems!)

    Of course I try to not memorize anything. I do my damnedest to follow the throughline of the book, and place each new bit of knowledge entirely within the context of the material that came before (and on second reading, after) it.
  4. Jul 24, 2008 #3
    Practice! Do as many questions as possible. More time you spend with something, better you get at it.

    I hardly knew anything about web development/office add-ins etc. in March but now, I can develop really complicated web applications ... and I also made a really cool Word 2007 add-in yesterday (automatically emails documents to gmail - backups)
  5. Jul 24, 2008 #4
    You have to learn to economize the subject, studying what is most important for advancement and understanding. This is especially true in a University setting. But it is also true for the advancement of science. A lot of it is made possible by knowing what needs to be referenced, tips on how to reference, and so on.

    I don't know about memorization; I've always had more trouble with economizing.


    That is a page from the University I attend and I agree that memorization will naturally come once you work the problems in mathematics and science, and this will come by immersing yourself in the subject.

    "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them."

    Note: this may all be partial to mathematics.
  6. Jul 24, 2008 #5

    Math Is Hard

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    Here's a few tips from one of my profs:

    I also sometimes condense a process I need to remember into a labeled diagram, and then post it somewhere I'll look everyday (like my bathroom mirror).
  7. Jul 24, 2008 #6
    Yes. I agree. This is my opinion as well and how I practice.
  8. Jul 24, 2008 #7
    Actually in light of OrbitalPower's posts, I have a better way of saying that:

    The act of trying to memorize facts precludes memorization - since the "flashcard" style adopted by many students completely rips the material out of context! The facts will become completely passive, however, once you know how to use them.

    I had an absolutely wonderful Calc 3 teacher. He'd teach us the material, and then go exceedingly far beyond what he knew he was going to test on. Invariably he lost a few people on the way, but when it came time to take the test, the department's standards were trivial compared to what we figured we had to know just to pass! In being forced through the applications, the theory became second nature; we didn't think we had the time for it not to be.
  9. Jul 24, 2008 #8
    Thanks for the link MIH. I do learn more when I'm given examples or when I apply a concept in the natural world.
  10. Jul 24, 2008 #9
    Actively read a book. That means read, pause, reflect, continue. This re-reading scheme will.c suggests looks like a waste of time to me. I've never tried it personally, so don't take my word from it. But skimping through a book 2 times before a serious reading doesn't sound like it will do anything but expose you to the vocabulary, something you can do by just reading headings and bold terms...
  11. Jul 24, 2008 #10
    It depends what you want to learn. I personally have a funny way to learn physics when I read such a book. Try to disagree with as many of the claims as you can. See if you get into trouble. I got a reputation of trouble maker in class, but that's just a different approach :smile:
  12. Jul 24, 2008 #11
    I think flash cards work well, if you are a visual learner. :biggrin: Use differnt colors to specify different categories, and such. It works well for me, so it might for you too.
  13. Jul 25, 2008 #12
    Get a pretty girl to teach it to you.
  14. Jul 25, 2008 #13
    Last time I tried to do that, neither of us ended up learning it.
  15. Jul 25, 2008 #14
    I like to get an overview of the subject, to see the grand structure of it. Knowing what I'm up against and seeing the big picture first keeps my more interested in the material than grinding through the introductory topics. I learn about something before actually learning it.

    I like using a lot of sources, including texts, online articles, class websites, forums.

    I'll think about key concepts and see if I really understand them. It helps to try and apply your knowledge. For instance, you are learning E&M, how does a radio work?
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