General Study

Reference: Course on Subject Clearing

When you are studying a subject from a textbook or any other material, it is very important that you do not go by any word or symbol that you do not understand the meaning of. The moment there is confusion look back for a misunderstood word. A word behaves as a misunderstood when the right definition is not being used for it. You may think that you know the word, but you may not have the right definition. This is specially true for small words like ‘of,’ ‘in’ and ‘on’ because they are used in many different ways.

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Common Words

Here is the recommended procedure for handling common words that are misunderstood.

1. Read one paragraph at a time.
If the paragraph is too long, you may break it down into sub-paragraphs of reasonable size.  If the paragraph is too small, and the thought continues to the next paragraph then read the two paragraphs together. 

2. Take a pause to see if the paragraph is fully understood.
Summarize the paragraph to its main thought. If you can do it easily then you have understood it fully. If you can’t, then find the sentence in that paragraph that is a bit troublesome. Then locate the word in that sentence that doesn’t seem to fit quite right.

3. Look up misunderstood word or symbol if there are any.
A misunderstood word does not always stand out. It may be a familiar word for which you may be using the wrong definition. So, you check the word out.

4. Determine the broad concept of the word from its etymology.
You may google the etymology or look it up in a simple dictionary.

5. Check its definition in the present context.
A common word has many different definitions. Apply each of them in the present context to see which one fits the best. To do so, visualize each definition. You may use “google image” to visualize something concrete like “oak”. Or, you may make some real-life examples from your experience to visualize something abstract like “love”.

6. Familiarize yourself with that particular usage of the word.
Make some sentences of your own using the word in the same sense as used in the given context to become comfortable with that meaning.

Hopefully the above will resolve the difficulty with the sentence and the paragraph. If there are more such words, handle them in the same manner.

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Word Chains

Sometimes the definition of a word may contain words that are not fully understood. So you look up that word. The same thing may happen again and you may get in a long word chain. This usually happens when you are using a dictionary that is using big words. So a simpler dictionary may be the solution. But a dictionary that is too simple, may get you into circular definitions without clearly explaining the word.

Some word chains are simply not avoidable. When that happens, note down the words on a separate paper as you look them up. The word chain may branch out in many directions. You simply continue noting down the words. At some point, the words will start clearing up. When that happens you cross the word out of the word chain and work your way back. It is okay to look up the same word as many times as necessary. Each time you look up a word you may pick up a new dimension of its meaning.

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Clarity of Understanding

You will be amazed at the clarity a proper understanding can bring. After using word clearing for some time, your general vocabulary will increase by leaps and bounds and you will start making much faster progress in your studies.

It is the tendency of the mind to fill the missing definitions by preconceived notions. This leads to contradictions and conflicts in the mind. Therefore, it is very important to examine the definitions of the words in the context at hand. Correct definitions bring continuity, harmony and consistency to the understanding of the materials.

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