If Attaining Knowledge Is Your Goal, Writing About It Is More Effective Than Reading About It.
This is known as the “Generation Effect”. Generating content is the most effective way of understanding any topic.
Most of us have written papers. Remember how well you knew the material after you’ve completed your paper? You’ve generated content and it helped you retain information.
Here are two reasons why:
- Writing allows you to identify the flaws in your thinking. Trying to explain a concept, even to yourself, will highlight any gaps.
- Reading is a passive activity. You’re not required to do much thinking. Your brain can easily coast through the material without having to process it too deeply. When you’re writing, you have to think about what you’re trying to say. What are the main points? How can you best explain this concept? This deep level of processing helps embed the information into your memory.
Here’s how you can use the Generation Effect to your advantage.
- When you’re trying to learn something new, come up with a list of questions you want to answer. Then, write out the answers. Not only will this help you understand the material better, but you’ll also have a written record you can refer back to later.
- If you’re stuck on a problem, try explaining the steps you would take to solve it. Progress slowly. Zoom out and look at the problem from a macro sense. If you can explain the big picture well enough, start zooming in. Try explaining more difficult concepts.
The bottom line is this: if you want to learn something, write about it. It’s the best way to ensure you understand the material and can remember it later. So next time you’re stuck on a problem or trying to learn something new, pick up a pen and start writing.
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