Studying a Subject (old-2)

Please see Course on Subject Clearing

Textbooks exist because more than dictionaries are needed to clear the whole subject. Key words help one understand the fundamentals and main ideas of a subject in the proper sequence. But text books are needed to fill in all the supportive details.

When studying the text, one must not go by a word or symbol that he does not understand. It is not only the meaning of the words that one clears up, he also sorts out the anomalies encountered. 

NOTE: Procure the study materials in a form that you can add your thoughts to them. This can be done when the materials are copied to a word processor on a computer. Add the comments in a color different from the text. See an example here: Socrates.


Steps for Studying a Subject

1. Read the subject material one paragraph at a time.

Study the materials of the subject one paragraph at a time. If the paragraph is too big, break it down into chunks of reasonable size.  If the paragraph is too small, then combine two or more consecutive paragraphs together. 

2. If the paragraph is difficult to understand then look for the first word not fully understood.

If you find your mind going blank as you read the paragraph, then find the first sentence which doesn’t make sense. Then find the first word in that sentence that seem to generate confusion. Here you have to be careful because the confusion may come from a simple word like “on”, “of”, or “in”. 

A word usually has more than one definition. Confusion arises when a wrong definition is used. Usually there is an obvious word, whose meaning you may have guessed in the past, but never actually looked up in a standard dictionary. Make sure you have the right definitions of words such that the sentence make sense. Repeat this procedure until the whole paragraph is understood. 

3. If the paragraph is still difficult to understand then look for anomalies. 

If the difficulty persists even after looking up all possible words that could have been misunderstood, then look for anomalies in that paragraph. An anomaly is generated when there is a discontinuity (missing information), an inconsistency (contradictory information), or disharmony (altered importance of arbitrary opinion). Once the anomaly is precisely identified, it would explain the difficulty.

4. When the paragraph, or its difficulty, is understood, write your comment below it.

The comment may consist of your understanding of the main thought expressed in that paragraph, or your reaction to that thought. Treat this action as having a conversation with the author. Additionally, you may write down any anomaly you noticed in that paragraph. Write you comments such that they are helpful when you review them later. See examples of comments at Comments on Books.

5. Check the paragraph for key words, or for explanations given for key words.

Go over the paragraph as many times as necessary to understand the main thought. Make sure that you understand the key word to which that thought relates. If that thought relates to a new key word, then add that word to your Key Word List. Furthermore, you may add brief explanations to those key words.

6. Continue as above.

Continue as above with rest of the paragraphs in that chapter, and with the chapters in the book. 

7. Gradually build up the key word list and glossary for that subject.

Add new key words to your list as you come across them. It may be convenient to build up the Key Word List on Excel, where you can easily rearrange their sequence. You also start adding next to each word its original broad concept and the applicable definition. It is easy to cut and paste. 

As you study the subject chapter after chapter, and book after book, note down additional concepts next to the appropriate key word. Also note down the questions that may arise in your mind about the key words or the underlying concept. In this way, you may convert your Key Word List into a subject glossary and a research reference. Keep it concise and to the point.

When you are dealing with a broad subject, such as, Religion, you may find many different definitions for the same key word, such as, GOD, all written down in one place. You may also find different words used in different religions for the same fundamental concept.

As you work on this step for a subject you will have many realizations along the way. This is a continuing step. 

8. Arrange the key words in sequences appropriate for understanding.

The concepts in a subject always evolve in some sequence. This sequence may be linear at first but then it branches out in different directions like a network or a matrix of concepts. This can easily be seen in Mathematics and Science.

In Excel, you may place the “fundamental concepts” on one worksheet, and “derived concepts” on separate  worksheets, and then arrange the concepts in each worksheet in the best order they seem to have evolved.

Since the sequence of the evolution of these concepts is multi-dimensional, you may set up the Excel worksheet to sort out the key words in different sequences. To do this you may create different “priority columns” in the worksheet. In each “priority column” assign a unique number to the key word so it sorts out in the order you want. The whole idea is to arrange these words in different ways to examine the relations among them.

9. Note any inconsistencies among the concepts and clarify them.

As the study of the subject progresses, you’ll be collecting more data to describe each key word. As you come across an anomaly for a key word, resolve it through careful examination and contemplation. Once resolved, express the broad concept and meanings for the key word in your own words. You are now creating your own glossary.

Next, examine the evolution of the key words by arranging and rearranging them in different sequences. You are looking for inconsistencies that do not make sense. Or they may simply represent holes among the concepts that need to be filled. Be wary of arbitrary notions, assumptions and beliefs that may be covering those holes. Isolate the areas of anomalies and discover and get rid of arbitrariness and assumptions. 

Deeper research may be required to clearly identify the holes among the concepts, and fill them. Review your study materials to clarify the anomaly. Research through other materials in the library, or on Internet, until the inconsistency is resolved.

10. Clarify the fundamentals of the subject as a priority.

The consistency of the fundamentals determines the consistency in rest of the subject. Any inconsistency at the fundamental level must be handled as a priority. For example, a unified theory is desperately being looked for in the subject of Physics, which could bring the fundamentals of Newtonian Physics, the Theory of Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics in line. This means that inconsistencies exist in our understanding at the fundamental level of physics

There are likely to be many contributors to a subject who may use different words for the same concept. This is the case with religious knowledge from different cultures. Group such words together to discover inconsistencies among concepts.

Study of anomalies may lead to discovery of arbitrary beliefs that were advanced in the absence of knowledge, or you may find erroneous observation, or simply some notions that are taken for granted. This may reveal gaps in the subject itself. Develop your own understanding by seeking consistency among the fundamental concepts in a subject.

11. Make the subject as complete as possible.

There are many examples in the subject of religion where gaps in knowledge are hidden under fixed beliefs and dubious explanations. This may be the case with any subject where anomalies abound. Follow up on anomalies, which may then reveal gaps in the subject. Real progress then becomes possible.

Fill gaps in the subject with wider research. Make the subject as complete as possible through direct experience and experimentation.

12. Keep your viewpoint as objective as possible.

This step is done after one has acquired a good bit of experience with subject clearing. This is an advanced step that consists of doing meditation along the following lines: Meditation from Mystery to Knowing.


Also see:

  1. General Study
  2. Subject Clearing
  3. Subject Glossary


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