The multitude of information that is available on the Internet makes it very easy for you to learn just about anything. The proliferation of the Internet over recent years has made information distribution happen in a much more rapid pace. That is why continuous learning is necessary if you want to stay ahead of the curve and well-informed in your area of expertise. If you neglect to keep up with the latest industry trends, you might find yourself backdated and unable to make the best decisions.
In order to stay on top and keep up with changing times, you must be an efficient learner. School teaches you many things, but rarely focuses on the most basic yet most essential element: the act of learning or, better put, how to learn. The art of acquiring knowledge, of “installing new software” in your brain, so to speak, is much more important than the knowledge that you’ve accumulated so far.
We’ll be looking at 3 important techniques that will help you acquire knowledge faster and easier. A quick look into the inner workings of the brain will help us better understand how memories are stored.
Psychologists and neurobiologists discovered that the human brain craves novelty and unusual, unexpected and inspiring information while sorting out the boring and the useless. That is why learning can be difficult. Psychologists and medical doctors from UCL – University College London have discovered that exposure to new experiences improves memory performance.
How to Use The Knowledge about Brain to Learn Faster
Researchers have long believed that the human brain is particularly attracted to new information and that this might be essential for learning. A specific region in the midbrain, which is responsible for motivation and reward-processing, responds better to novelty than to the familiar. This system also controls levels of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain, so it could be helpful for learning. The link between reward, motivation, memory and novelty could be really helpful for persons that have memory problems.
In the study paper “Absolute Coding of Stimulus Novelty in the Human Substantia Nigra/VTA”, published in Neuron, on 3rd August 2006, dr. Emrah Duzel mentioned that when seeing something new, people also see a potential for rewarding in some way. This potential leads to the motivation to explore our environment for rewards. New things activate the midbrain area and increase the level of dopamine. Once the stimulus becomes familiar, no reward is associated with it and it loses its potential.
Have you ever been in love? Of course, you have. You’ll find out something very interesting. Researcher Helen Fisher studied persons who were in love to see what is happening in their brains. The researcher scanned the brains of young lovers and discovered that when they were focusing on their partner, a whole segment of the brain starts lighting up. The brain areas related to dopamine and norepinephrine production light up. These chemicals are associated with pleasurable activities and excitement.
Let’s get out of the love’s territory and return to learning. To become a better learner, you need to find a way to go through all boring yet useful material. The secret to being as focused and engaged as possible is to convince your brain that whatever it is you need to learn is very important for you. Not only that, but you must also learn to enjoy what you’re learning, even if it’s boring. The key is to find the fun and the usefulness in the apparently boring.
The brain is stimulated by emotion. That is why the essential element that increases focus, understanding and memory is the emotional charge. You memorize much faster when the material makes you feel something. The stronger the feeling, the easier it will be to learn and stay focused for hours.
Scientifically Proven Ways To Learn Faster
That is why it’s best to learn by including playful, challenging and curiosity-inspiring activities. Let’s deepen into some efficient ways of learning and finishing your tasks on time.
1. Teach someone else
A great way to learn something new and have it drilled into your memory for a long time is by thinking how you could teach someone else what you’ve just learned. Think how you could explain it to someone that is totally new to the subject. That means eliminating the formal and academic tone and trying to explain it as simply as you can by using common terms that even a newbie can understand. That shows that you yourself understand the logic behind all the jargon. You might even find out that you aren’t sure of some terms, which is great because you know where you have to fill in the gaps.
A study conducted by some specialists at Washington University in St. Louis revealed that this helps speed up the learning and remember more. In this way, the expectation changes your mind-set so that you engage in more effective approaches to learning. You tend to seek out key points and organize information into o coherent structure.
2. Visualize the information
We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. Researchers concluded that pictures facilitate the memorization process and help you learn 90% faster. That is why it’s good to build mental diagrams of what you’re studying. You can also draw them on a piece of paper, illustrate them on the computer or anything that will offer you a visual representation of what you’ve learnt so far. Mental images that you can build with your “mind’s eye” can greatly help in understanding and memorizing the information due to the brain connecting that information to more parts of the brain.
So, never underestimate the power of visualization. The mental imagery really accelerates learning and improves the performance of your skills. Mentally rehearsing may be just as effective as physical training and it also helps understanding abstract concepts.
Did you know that 2% of the population or one in 50 people is dealing with aphantasia? Aphantasia refers to the incapacity to form mental images and was named by the neurologist Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter. People that are dealing with aphantasia experience visual imagery in their dreams, but they are unable to visualize something voluntarily. Aphantasia is not directly related to learning disabilities. It is known that there are people who cannot visualize things in their minds since the 1880s when the psychologist Francis Galton conducted a paper called “Statistics of Mental Imagery”. He tried to establish the different degrees of vividness with which people have the faculty of recalling familiar scenes under the form of mental pictures.
3. Question everything
You must know that your brain learns and memorizes new information only when it actively focuses on it. The Socrates technique was widely used by Greek scholars. The technique was defined by thoughtful questioning that allowed learners to explore the idea for themselves. Thus, the learner takes an active role and the lesson becomes an interactive discussion which engages the people present to stay focused and use their minds to come up with new ideas and inquiries.
That is why learning through guided questioning is one of the most efficient learning techniques ever used. It’s best not to just go through a text without mentally or physically “scribbling” some questions that need answering before you progress to the next lesson.
You could ask yourself questions like: “What is the main idea of this chapter/paragraph?”, “Have I ever read about the topic?”, “What do I already know about this?”, “Could I be wrong about this term?”, “What does this mean?”. Oftentimes, the author has begun or ended a chapter with a series of questions.
Also, simple questions like “How?”, “Who?”, “Where?”, “When?”, “Why?” or “Do I need to know?” should always be part of your thought process while reading.
Cognitive psychologists like Jepma, Verdonschot, van Steenbergen, Rombouts and Nieuwenhuis identified, in 2012, two types of curiosity, perceptual and epistemic, which are classified as either be “specific” or “diversive”. While perceptual curiosity is triggered by novelty, epistemic curiosity is driven by the desire to learn and acquire information. That means that epistemic curiosity helps intentional learning, usually about particular topics and perceptual or diversive curiosity is related to an unintentional way of acquiring information, involving the desire to learn about general information.
Neurological research has revealed that curiosity makes the brain more receptive to learning, determining people to enjoy the sensation of learning. Curiosity is known for preparing the brain for learning as it puts the brain in a state that accelerate learning and it helps retain any kind of information.
Being an efficient learner is often overlooked by many. Taking an idea and breaking it down into easy-to-understand pieces that you can explain to everyone will make it a lot easier to understand the essentials. Visualizing will help you gain a better picture and will engage other parts of your brain, which will make the information more connected and drilled into your memory. Questioning is the best way to fully grasp an idea and the best remedy for ignorance.
Better Research = Better Grades (10 Powerful Tips to Make It Easier)
Here are the ten tips to help you search, find, arrange, organize, and use the information you require completing a decent research paper.
- Set a Program
The first tip in writing a research paper is to set a schedule for the paper. A student needs a program with well-organized milestones to reach the goal of the project. The program helps to complete the objectives of the research within a certain time. For instance, you can state, find 15 sources by October 20, and finish preliminary research by November 17. A student requires time to understand the overview of the relevant materials available for the research.
- Use Wikipedia for Subject Overview Only
Wikipedia is a good site to get a good overview of the subject of research. However, spend more time searching and browsing other links since most institutions do not accept the use of Wikipedia as a source. You should avoid citing it as one of the sources in your study. Wikipedia is far much better in providing an overview of subjects because it is hyperlinked. It should prepare you for the research. By the time you begin writing your research, you should have sources other than Wikipedia.
- Skim Through Your Bibliography
After finding reliable academic books and journals sources to inform the research, you will have to seek more sources to support the research. Note down the titles that seem relevant from your bibliography. Academic authors do not have creative titles; it is easy to tell their work from the titles and subtitles. Check again if you recognize the names of the authors.
Once you identify the titles and subtitles of the book references, you can go through other sources and do the same. This will help you to know the sources that you need and those you do not. This will help you to save time from looking through books to find information that does not exist.
- Have Working Thesis
Technically, any person reading your research should pick out its thesis. Having a working thesis means having a question the research intends to answer before it begins. Research is supposed to provide an answer or solution to a problem statement. You should avoid anything that is relevant to the topic but does not answer the question of the research.
Gathering much material will tempt you to discuss matters related to the research and may lead to irrelevant information. You need one or two good sources to provide the background information. Wikipedia is a good background source in most cases. It helps you to focus on the topic of the research.
- Break It Down
It is unwise to tackle the subject all at once. Every research is as good as its outline. The outline helps you to break down the research into parts. The outline should have subsections where you can cite the references in the bibliography. Breaking down the subject of the research also helps to allocate sources to the right subheadings. It also helps to review the sources since a new subheading may require additional research.
The different portions deal with different aspects of the research. After creating an outline, you should be able to produce a draft and see the connection between different topics of the research. Tackling the subject at once without an outline shortens the research that may lack essential information.
After breaking subject of the research into different parts, you should deal with one piece at a time and determine how best it connects to the previous and next section.
- Be Systematic
Every research should start with an idea that shows how the collection and organization of the research take place. Although researchers commonly use index cards, I prefer a one-subject notebook. All the full bibliographic references should at the top of a fresh page. Copy and write the quotes that you use in the research.
Ensure that the quotes relate to their sources. Computers systems help with correct referencing. Some websites also have systems that help a researcher to copy the whole citation in MLA, APA, Harvard, Chicago, or any other format. In-text citations should also follow the right format to avoid confusion. The research should be in a systematic manner.
- Know Your Sources
Spending time to appreciate sources in your library improves your research skills. Take advantage of libraries that offer tours to students or talk to them. You can schedule to visit the library and walk through it to know where the sources you need are. The more often you do this, the more you get to know the library. This practice can help in future research when done continually. While visiting the library, pay attention to periodicals and microfilm depository, which are necessary for most research projects. These sources are accessible online.
You can as well know what you need at home and how you can access other sources from home. For instance, J-STOR is a source that you can access from home using your computer or internet-enabled handset. The website has scholarly articles that are easily searchable and accessible.
Human sources are important in the completion of research. Professors spend time in their offices waiting for students to ask them questions concerning their research subjects.
Research departments in different institutions have members who have served on dissertation committees. They can take you through the process of the research because of their experience and expertise. Most students overlook the librarian, yet their work is to serve students with research needs. Most librarians find pleasure in helping students because they are trained to do it.
Finally, remember your fellow student can also help you with your research. They may have come across what you need to complete your research.
- Carry a Notebook
The moment you start working on a research project, should have a notebook where you write ideas. The mind stores what we read even when we are not consciously thinking about it. If you write notes every time you read, you will be struck by the ideas the notes would create at the convenient time of the research. Keeping a notebook and a pen can help you note down ideas you come across in the library, in class or at group discussions.
Your research does not depend entirely on the sources you provide. You need ideas to interpret the information available from the sources to make your readers understand the research subject.
- Create Current Research
This is the final tip to improving your research skills. Avoid using old sources that may not be relevant to the current theory. Some of the old experimental research and observational research have been criticized and rendered irrelevant by the current practices.
Most institutions require sources that are not more than ten years old since publication. For instance, research done today should have sources between 2006 and 2016. However, old research is also important, but their findings have to be supported by modern research. It is also important to explain the reason for using the source rather than using it in a sentence and quoting it.