By Edwin A. Locke
An unusually helpful tool for the serious student, this book offers a concrete program for improving study skills by isolating the two fundamentals of successful studying: proper thinking methods and proper motivation.
The principles rigorously detailed are applicable to any educational endeavor—including the world of work. This is an invaluable aid for students and anyone whose life involves studying and learning.
(Softcover; 183 pages)
Comments from an appreciative reader:
Dr. Edwin Locke's Study Methods & Motivation has been one of the most important books in my life.
Here is why.
1. The book's personal value for me. When I was a child, I saw my parents performing the usual household skills—from cooking to simple carpentry. I asked a child's equivalent of, "How do you know how to do this?" In my family, the answer was always the same: First a shrug, and then, "You either know it or you don't." I will never forget my sense of bewilderment and anxiety—bewilderment because the answer didn't make sense, but anxiety because if it were true, the world would be an uncontrollable place in which to live.
When I began reading Ayn Rand's writings, at age 17, I began to see that one can learn how to do things, but philosophers generally don't teach specific methods. In the years following, I learned some particular methods while working for two very good electronics companies. But not until I was in my mid-forties did I fully realize that specific methods—both mental and physical—could help me do what I love to do: study history, understand it, and then write about it. Dr. Locke's book first made that insight explicit to me.
2. Basic nature of the book. Following is a brief selection of the headings in the Table of Contents:
PART I. STUDY METHODS
4. How To Do Abstract Integrative Reading. . . .
6. How To Program Your Memory: The Nature of Memory.
7. How To Program Your Memory: Specific Techniques. . . .
10. How To Manage Time.
11. How To Take Lecture Notes. . . .
13. Study Monitoring.
PART II. STUDY MOTIVATION
16. Blocks To Mental Effort. . . .
19. Motivational Monitoring.
Even this brief sampling shows the book's breadth of coverage. Let's concentrate on just one chapter mentioned above, and I will show you why I am delighted to have used this book.
Consider Chapter 11. This 10-page chapter begins where it should begin—with the varying nature of lectures. Some lectures present only new material not found in texts; others clarify assigned reading material; and so forth.
Identifying the nature of the lecture determines the nature of the notes. This is typical of Dr. Locke's objective approach:
Given certain values, facts determine methods—facts about sources of
information, facts about the nature of one's mind, facts about purposes of information. Dr. Locke's approach is an integrated approach.
As in any objective process, Dr. Locke not only integrates, but he also differentiates. For example, here he distinguishes, in the second section, lecture note-taking from reading note-taking. In the third section, he devotes four pages to Common Errors in Lecture Note-taking. They include: Errors of Omission, Errors of Commission, and even the physical problem of Inadequate Note Paper and/or Margins. In the fourth section, Using Your Lecture Notes, he recommends critically reviewing the lecture notes immediately after the lecture, and then he covers Editing, Underlining, Organizing, Reformulating and Integrating, and Programming [one's] Memory. Finally, the chapter ends with a half-page summary and four exercises to ensure integration and application of the material covered in the chapter. All these elements in this chapter show that Dr. Locke is writing to active minds.
(Note also that the idea of "monitoring" appears in both Chapters 13 and 19.
This idea—of watching one's own mind while engaged in an activity—is crucial for developing better methods of doing things. The idea comes from an Objectivist cited by Dr. Locke.)
Study Methods & Motivation is not a book for students only. Anyone who studies, and has not already laboriously thought through his methods and the basics of the underlying psychology of learning, may gain from this book. Some will gain more than others, but I predict that most students of Objectivism will benefit.