Creating a Knowledge Network – the Secret of Studying Success
Dr David Lewis BSc (Hons), D.Phil. FRSM. AFBsPS, FISMA. C.Psychol. (www.askdrdavid.co.uk)
Have you ever come up with the right answer after apparently forgetting the question?
You want to remember a name or a quotation, and although it’s on the tip of your tongue you just can’t bring it to mind. Then, some time later, that fact suddenly surfaces. If so then you have experienced your ‘Knowledge Network’ in action.
This Network contains the sum total of everything you have ever learned. Once instructed to find a piece of information memory diligently hunts through the ‘files’ in search of it.
Every fact in your memory is linked to every other fact. Sometimes the links between two facts are very short. If I ask you what colour a canary is, for example, you would reply almost immediately that it is yellow. Other links are longer and much more complex. If I ask whether a canary is an animal, for instance, you may need more time for reflection.
To ensure fast, error free, recall during exams, you need to organise what is learned into small and precise Knowledge Networks. By doing so you will ensure that the links between key facts are short and direct.
Creating a Knowledge Network
The first step is to extract all the key information about a subject from textbooks, lecture or lesson notes, and all other relevant sources and write it down on index cards. Do this very carefully since, from now on, you will be revising from these cards rather than your original texts. Use one card for each fact, keeping all your notes brief and to the point. Where suitable use abbreviations, drawings or sketches. Limit yourself to a single topic. No card should contain more than around 140 words.
Break topics down into smaller and smaller units until this can be accomplished. Next select up to 25 cards containing facts relating to a single topic or subject. If you were revising biology, for instance, you might pick cards containing information about the digestive system.
Select any card, it doesn’t matter which fact you begin with, and place it face up on the table. Now select a second fact that links, logically, to the first. In the biology example, a card containing notes about the first stage of digestion, mixing food with saliva in the mouth, might be followed by a card explaining how food passes down the gullet and into the stomach.