Prof Dr. M. Es’ad Cosan (Rh.a)
I. Efficient Studying
We can sum up our goal as being “people who are polite, well-mannered, beneficial to our society, and well-spoken.” But this requires some pre-conditions. We can only obtain positive results if we fulfill these pre-conditions and act in accordance with certain knowledge and principles. First of all, we must become accustomed to studying efficiently and systematically. We should use our memories well, develop our reasoning ability, pay attention, read frequently, listen well, take proper notes, and structure our speaking and reading activities. Therefore, first we must focus on these fundamental activities, and present the necessary information required for the methodology of the topics in question.
Everybody should make an effort to do their best in whatever their duty may be within the society. This is the only way to develop as a nation. Meanwhile, a students’ duty is to be successful, and to improve themselves as qualified members of the society by following their lessons in the best way. This is both a personal issue and a national duty. However, many students are not accustomed to the routine of studying and fail to adapt in spirit. In addition, there are many obstacles preventing a student from studying.
First and foremost, the greatest enemy of studying and success is laziness. The source of this is not others, its ourselves, our ego. Laziness is not an enemy that confronts a person and fights bravely, on the contrary, laziness works subtly by changing its form, using various means of deceit like in the old fairy tales. This is where the magnitude of its danger originates.
If laziness occurs from a defect in the body, then doctors can prescribe a cure for this, whereas if this is due to a psychological lack of attention, laziness, disregard and heedlessness; then solving this is extremely important.
Another enemy of success and studying is unfavorable friends. This obstacle is also deceptive and subtle, they appear to be friendly, caring, and helpful towards you. Moreover, laziness usually begins with the suggestions of unfavorable friends, and over time becomes a habit, embeds within us. An unfavorable friend is disturbed by one who makes an effort, he gets revenge by underestimating and ridiculing a person’s success. Books that convey such a philosophy also can be classified in the category of unfavorable friends.
There are other factors that prevent success and studying. These can be listed as; a passion for entertainment, a faulty national education system, the wrong teacher, not rewarding those who are hardworking, easy but illegitimate earnings and obstacles on the path of achievement.
A. Ethical will
All these obstacles that prevent success and studying can be overcome by being strong-willed. A person does not advance with intelligence and knowledge but with willpower. Successful people are always strong-willed. We should progress to our goals by exerting ourselves more and more every day. High achievements can be earned over time by studying on a continual and systematic basis. In addition to teaching knowledge, schools should focus on giving direction to the disciplining g of this huge intellectual force. However, simply using willpower as an unavailing force is unimaginable. This power should be directed toward personal and national goals, morals and merits and this is what we call “ethical will.”
B. Conditions of Studying
Studying has 4 conditions which are physical, sensual, external and mental.
1. Physical condition is health and strength. If we have any pain, discomfort or abnormality in any of our organs, our studies or work will be hindered. Rest is vital for studying. From this perspective, we should have a normal amount of sleep every day, and not force ourselves to study when we are too tired. We should not neglect our health and treating our illnesses.
2. Sensual condition of studying is to enjoy it, the will to study. The feeling of success and peace at the end of a day is the reward of working. We should enjoy studying, not consider it as a form of slavery that we are compelled to do, but rather as a form of sport that we enjoy.
3. External conditions of studying are that our environment and other physical conditions are suitable. Environments that have bad lighting; are noisy and overcrowded are not the most suitable conditions for studying.
In addition, focusing on these external conditions is also a mistake because ideal external conditions may not be available for everyone all the time.
The psychological condition of studying is becoming familiar with the methods. That is, it is necessary to adopt studying into a specific system. Studying without a system or method leads to a waste of energy and time, is inefficient; eventually it tires the individual. Descartes says that the difference of development and lack of development between people is not due to the difference in intelligence and understanding as assumed, but rather is due to studying in a methodical and rational In many countries, hundreds of experts concentrated on efficient working and published many studies on this issue. The most important principle of studying and succeeding is not simply completing the task, but completing it with minimum energy and maximum efficiency.
C. The methods of studying
Higher education is different from secondary education. There is nobody that will tell you when and how you should study. A student is required to plan his own path and arrange his own studies. Studying in higher education should be perceived as the working hours of a proper job. Firstly, planning the studies over a week will be more suitable. To achieve this, make a table with hours in the first column and days in the first row and write everything you did from 5 am until 12am every day for the whole week. After a week, shade in the areas of sleeping, eating, resting and compulsory studies including classroom and laboratory, in other words all the vocational tasks; and include the topics that you need to work on to the unshaded areas.
Studying within a planned day/hour schedule as such will increase and strengthen the will to study. Even if it is short; uninterrupted and systematic studying can bring efficient results. Hence, Ibn al-Sina wrote his book Kitab al-Shifa allocating only2 hours per day for writing.
D. Golden rules for studying and success
1. Don’t wait for a convenient day or hour (and inspiration) for studying; realize that every hour and day is the most convenient moment for studying. Don’t look for a convenient place or corner; realize that everywhere and every corner is the most convenient place for studying.
2. Never leave what you must do today until tomorrow. Hence, like all everyday issues, one day’s studies/work is enough for that day alone.
3. Study only one subject at a time, only work on one lecture, one book, or even one chapter; so that your concentration will not be distracted.
4. Never leave something you have already started and go onto another topic. Aborted work means it was never started.
5. After completing the one day task, plan what you will do the next day.
6. When you begin to study, give all your energy and concentrate on that particular subject; stay awake like a soldier watching out for his enemy on the firing line.
7. Never give up before you overcome a difficulty you come across when you are studying and know that frustration is a form of laziness in disguise; again, know that enthusiasm to study/work is generated and strengthen by overcoming those difficulties. Spiritual satisfaction of overcoming a difficulty is a unparalleled pleasure.
8. When you face a difficulty in your studies, first divide this into smaller parts; then try to overcome each part one by one.
9. Study frequently and in an organized manner, never interrupt your studies with long breaks so that you do not lose your enthusiasm to work.
10. If you feel tired while studying, change what you are doing to rest, or slow down your pace of studying but never stay idle for the sake of resting. Study even in your holiday months, even if it is at a slower pace and less.
11. Never measure productive studies by the time you spent and don’t say “I worked this many hours today, that’s enough.” Consider the results of your studies and what you have learned.
12. Think a lot and realize that studying does not only consist of movement or reading and writing.
13. When you begin to study, or work on a certain subject do not rush or be impatient. Make progress but don’t rush; work by absorbing what you learn.
14. When you go to bed, do not sleep without thinking about what you did that day, its results and what you will do tomorrow.
15. Never make a decision about something when you are angry; wait until you have calmed down.
16. When you are in doubt about doing something, consider the benefits and disadvantages of both options; and choose the one with more benefits and less disadvantage.
17. Be determined. A lake is formed drop by drop, and constant dripping of water can even wear away stone.
18. Benefit from the experience of elders. Never attempt to re-experience what you’ve already experienced so you won’t regret it.
19. Think carefully when you are studying, there is no point crying over spilt milk.
20. Whenever you hesitate and are uncertain about what path to choose in life and are looking for advice, choose the person whose opinion you can ask carefully.
21. Never boast about your success; know that pride is the greatest enemy of future success.
II. Strengthening the Memory
The memory stores the material that is required for thinking. We need to use this skill constantly in every step of our lives.
Psychological experiments show that memory power is not an invariable skill. Just like a used muscle develops, the memory also can be strengthened with time and memorizing methods. Therefore, try to memorize a sentence, story, poem by keeping them in the “memory notebook” that you always have with you.
There are methods and principles of storing and memorizing knowledge in your brain. To achieve this, the following can be recommended:
1. Make sure that you understand the topic that you want to memorize well. Understanding the source of a subject, absorbing the principles it is based on will make it easier to remember.
2. Learn a topic with the aim of remembering. Experiments show that when there is no purpose in remembering, the memory becomes weaker. “Absent-minded professor forgot his umbrella not when he was leaving the classroom, but when he entered the class, because he was thinking about something else he forgot that it was leaning up against the table.”
3. Try to categorize the subjects you plan to memorize.
4. To remember larger pages and paragraphs, find keywords among them that represent the topic on a whole.
5. Try to use as many of the sensual organs you can when you are learning. For example, subjects learned by both seeing and reading loudly, or thinking and writing will be remembered better than those learned by only one sensual organ.
6. Determine your memory type and base your learning skills more on that type. Memories are identical: Some people may have stronger visual memory, while others may have stronger hearing memory.
7. Memorize larger texts or subjects by dividing these into smaller logical parts.
8. Use short studying times. Instead of using one hour inefficiently, studying half an hour with full concentration and resting your brain occasionally is more beneficial.
9. Use memorizing cards especially for memorizing technical terms, dates, and foreign languages. You can memorize easier by writing the word, date, formula on one side of the card.
III. Developing the Ability of Reasoning
Thinking and reasoning are usually one of the main elements of success, especially in speaking and writing properly. Most people use this skill randomly. Although opinions are highly important, we say “his/her opinions are useless” concerning some people. By this, it means sentences deprived of value, no logical order and truth. And sometimes, we use the word ‘thought’ simply to envisage something. However, the kind of thinking that is the key to success is that which is done with deliberation. This is not a random aligning of thoughts, but the proper sequence of thoughts. This skill is enriched throughout the entire education process, and developed with logic and mathematic sciences. Nevertheless, judgement disorders can also be found in many educated people. Therefore, we should concentrate on this matter and succeed in guarding ourselves from judgement disorders.
One of the most common disorders of judgement is rushed generalization. Another is the dilemma or inability to judge (Qiyas al-Muqassam). This means that although there are many possibilities regarding an event, ignoring all those possibilities and reducing these to two; forcing others to accept one of these. A third mistake is comparing two things that have different conditions and trying to extract a false result from this wrong principle. Many people act over assertive on defending a result or decision; some exaggerate events and facts to prove their own argument. Some try to conclude an illogical result by exploiting emotions; over praising those he likes, or over-denigrate his enemy, referring to ideas or persons that he opposes with unfavorable words, answers a question adversely , or simply pretends not to understand etc.
Learning how to be original and productive in thoughts is necessary to solve the problems that one may face in education and working life. Issues must be dealt with objectively, including our own issues, and we must be able to follow the path of logic and reason.
We can consider taking these logical steps in solving a problem:
1. Understanding the problem/issue properly,
2. Researching and learning about the subject in question to the best of our ability, collecting the required information,
3. Determining the possible solution strategies,
4. Designing the tests of possible solutions,
5. Selecting the best solution with minimum risk,
6. Applying the final solution.
IV. Controlling Concentration
Controlling concentration is the ability to focus, direct and control attention. This ability is also open for development. The problem of not being able to concentrate arises from either being unaccustomed to doing so or due to another problem that is occupying the brain. The first can be solved by long-term regular studying. As for the second, it is necessary to determine and eliminate the cause of distraction. For example, you may be thinking of calling someone or buying something. Doing this immediately is the best solution, if possible. But if you need to study first, write down that task, thought or problem onto a notepad so you will remember later. Thus, you will be able to eliminate the thought that is distracting you from your mind. If you have a psychological problem, you can prevent this with logical reasoning and autosuggestion techniques.
Another way to improve the density of concentration is to develop certain habits for studying. For example;
1. Develop the habit of studying in a certain place; do not use that place for entertainment or resting purposes.
2. Study in places with minimum noise and entertainment because although these will not prevent you studying 100%, they will increase the energy required for focusing significantly.
3. Keep only study-related material on your table.
4. Avoid sitting in an over-comfortable chair or in hot room because these encourage laziness.
5. Determine a certain measure or goal, and plan to complete this.
6. Put your tasks in order and prevent this from abstracting you.
7. Begin to study immediately, don’t wait for inspiration.
8. Compete with yourself.
9. Do one task at a time. For example, when you are reading, do not try to remember the previous chapter.
V. The Art of Listening
Our daily business activities, social life and education require us to use and develop our listening ability constantly. To be a good listener, knowing the technique of listening is necessary, and this is vital for success.
Listening is an irreplaceable part of our speaking and writing activities. We express our ideas to others when we speak or write; whereas with listening, this is the opposite; we are not transmitting, but we are receiving. Good speakers always have a reputation for listening properly and carefully. Listening to others and giving them right to speak is an dispensable condition of politeness.
Is hearing listening? Of course not. Hearing is the transmission of soundwaves to the eardrum; listening is absorbing the words and keeping it in the mind. Sometimes we cannot remember what we heard because we didn’t listen carefully.
To increase the efficiency of listening, we need to prepare ourselves physically and mentally. First, we need to abandon what we are doing, we should get as close to the speaker as possible, sit comfortably, and have a pen and paper on hand to take notes.
We should attend the speaker’s speech from the beginning. If we miss even one sentence, we may not be able to understand the logical sequence of speech.
Preparing mentally for listening is possible by guessing the words of the speaker and trying to remember our personal knowledge on the topic. Considering and planning the speech as if you will have to convey this to others is also an effective way. A careful and serious listener analyzes the material of the topic and previously makes preparations for the topic if possible.
This is how we should act during a speech:
1. If the speaker wants to emphasize on a point, he/she will give examples . In the meantime, you can think about your own experiences and try to find examples to shed light on the topic.
2. If you disagree with the speaker, do not concentrate on this and miss the speech. The main purpose of listening is understanding what is being said properly; criticism is only possible after totally understanding the topic.
3. Never give in to your emotions. Another enemy that prevents listening is antipathy towards the speaker. If you don’t like the clothing, face, mimics etc. of a speaker, make an effort to overcome this; concentrate on the topic and ignore the speaker’s mimics and appearance.
4. Repeat the speaker’s ideas with your own words.
5. Follow the scheme of the speech in your mind.
6. Try to perceive the speaker’s ideas and style of speech.
7. Make use of your advantage of fast thinking.
Normally, a person that thinks is much faster than the speaker. This difference in speed may cause our minds to jump to other topics. To prevent this distraction;
a. We can repeat, summarize, and re-express our thoughts with our words
b. Try to predict what the speaker is going to say next.
8. Take notes on the speech. It was proved that those who take notes while listening to a speaker are better listeners and more successful in understanding compared with those who do not take notes. Therefore, we should make it a habit to take notes in lectures and conferences.
9. Apart from exceptional situations, we should not talk to the person next to us. This not only distracts the person next to you, but also the speaker.
VI. The Technique of Taking Notes
One of the important tasks in education, business or daily life is putting things we want to remember into writing. We can categorize this into three stages:
a. Taking Notes:
We take notes mainly in our daily lives and our field of work. For example, we take notes on our ‘to do list’ for that day so we don’t forget. We take a note of a task that is given to us; a name, address, telephone number of a person we just met.
Taking notes in our field of studies/work is briefly writing about the main aspects of a topic, idea, emotion or an observation. If we take notes regarding the things we plan for a task, or ideas that come to our minds from time to time, this will be material for our studies in the future. This is something we should not neglect, because as time passes these can be forgotten, and may not come to mind when the information is most needed. Especially authors, they base their books on materials that they accumulated with these kinds of works.
b. Taking Structured Notes:
This is to determine the main aspects of relatively longer speeches such as a conference, a speech from the radio or a lecture. This kind of note taking is one of the most crucial tasks for students. The importance is even greater in classes or lectures where the sources will not be available later. Students who are good note takers are more successful; in fact other students can also benefit from these student’s notes.
The following points can be beneficial for taking notes in lectures:
1. If possible, study or look through the topic before the lecture/class.
2. Sit close to the speaker so you can hear better.
3. Do not record lectures exactly; take brief notes of the main aspects of the topic in your own words.
4. Use certain abbreviations where possible but in a way that you will not forget them later.
5. Do not write your notes on unsuitable pieces of paper and too closely spaced.
6. If you miss a certain point, leave a space to add it later and continue to follow the lecture.
7. Follow a systematic order for your notes so you can separate the main and secondary points.
8. Review your notes as soon as possible, control and edit the notes before you forget the subject. Underline the main points.
9. Choose stapled notebooks, books that you can add paper to later.
10. Never attempt to rewrite your notes a second time; make it a habit to take careful notes.
c. Extracting Notes:
This means recording points that concern us onto a notebook or cards from written texts. Working with index cards has some practical benefits and finding the material is also easier; thus, it is worth recommendation. When we use index cards, we should write each piece of information on a separate card.
Notes for scientific studies and researches are 3 categories which are:
3. Personal notes. The type and source should be recorded on each index card. Scientists create their material for articles by scanning several sources many times and creating index cards.
VII. The Art of Reading
Reading is an activity that is certainly required for progressing our studies, occupations, for developing our culture; thinking, speaking and writing properly. Reading an interesting book develops our mind, raises our emotions, just like outdoor walks, games, gymnastic develops our body. In our short lives, how much knowledge can we obtain with our personal observations and experiences alone? However, it is possible to fit the experiences of hundreds of years into just a few hours by reading and enriching our thoughts with ideas from a book. Lectures, projections, movies, conferences etc. given by teachers has an effect that fades after a while; however, a book stays with us forever, it is a source that we can refer to anytime. Today, to make progress in a career, to become an expert in a certain field a person needs to follow all the texts, publications regarding the relevant topic. Rather than simply answering a problem immediately, it is necessary to know which book or publication contains the source.
All these points prove how important it is to read frequently. Therefore, an intelligent person must also become accustomed and enjoy reading.
Studying is the greatest ambition. Great writers spend half of their lives reading. Montesquieux says “I have never known any distress that an hour’s reading did not relieve.” Alphonse Daudet advised an old friend “read good books.” By reading only 20-30 pages per day, our culture will expand in a short period of time; in addition, reading the masterpieces of literature experts allows us to learn the richness of literature and the proper use of speech. John Bright, classified as one of the greatest orators in history, and known for his mastery of language reached this level by frequently reading books.
As there are a great deal of materials to read, first we must choose what we are going to read; we need to think about what kind of books we should read as our time is limited and precious. The first recommendation regarding this is that we should read books prepared with great effort; are recognized and recommended by experts, and are prime sources in the field of our choice. Low quality books produced simply for economic gains should be disregarded. The measure for distinguishing original works from reproduced books of no value is the level of expertise and competence of the author in that particular field. Second point is the quality of publishing; even if they are appealing, books that have no reviews, index, and even content page will not be any benefit to the reader.
Sometimes, a person can lose their motivation when reading a good book; this is generally due to the profundity of the topic. In this case, we need to exert ourselves a bit; we need to learn how to understand, even if we are not enjoying the book so that we can begin to enjoy things that we don’t understand that well. In the final years of his life (1830), German poet Goethe said; “Reading is the most difficult art to learn… I dedicated eighty years of my life to this. Yet still I could say that I am not satisfied with myself.”
The important question is “Should we read a variety of books from several, or a few authors?” Reading books by too many authors and a variety of books is a sign of inconsistency and indecisiveness; selecting on topics and planning to gain depth on selected topics is a better strategy to make progress in our careers.
As there is a great deal of reading materials, we need to think about our reading rate and work on it. Types of reading based on speed are as follows:
1. Browsing Through:
This is the fastest way of reading and must be used for determining whether the requested topic is included in that book, extracting the main structure of the text or determining the value and benefit level of the book.
2. Fast Reading:
This is the method of reading that is used for the following purposes by skipping over the text: if details are not important, remembering certain details from a familiar topic, finding the answer of a specific question. Stories, news and easier texts are also read using this technique.
3. Normal Reading:
This is reading a text without skipping any of the content, and is used for understanding the subject properly, gathering information on research topics and preparing a summary. A student should be able to study a coursebook by reading 200-400 words per minute.
4. Slow Reading:
This is reading while deliberating on the words, thinking about their meaning and is used for reading a difficult topic; to review and criticize an article, or finding a new solution or idea about a related topic. Mathematic and philosophic books, professional researches and articles should be read using this method.
Increasing the reading rate is possible and necessary. Many people empirically proved that they can double their reading rate without losing anything from understanding the text. For this, the following must be taken into consideration:
1. Avoiding voice and lip movements; as only ‘loud reading speed’ will be maintained in this way; however, the speed of silent reading is two or three times faster than reading aloud.
2. Reading should be done not to understand the words but the ideas. That is, instead of reading words one by one, a group of words enough to describe an idea should be read at once.
3. We should attempt to perceive the main idea in every paragraph.
4. Attention should only be focused on understanding the topic being read, the reader should not concentrate on a second task/thought, even it is the reading rate.
5. Rereading the text should be avoided, as the next sentence may shed light on the points not understood.
6. Readers must try to read faster, compete with themselves.
a. Beneficial Rules Valid In Reading
There are certain recommendations and principles for benefitting from a book better. These can be listed as follows:
1. The book should not be read when a person is tired and unwilling. Choosing the best time for reading is something for consideration. For some this can be in the morning, while for others this could be nighttime. However, reading immediately after a heavy meal is certainly not advisable.
2. The mind should be concentrating on the topic in question. Having a short rest after half an hour would be more appropriate.
3. Especially when reading an important book/text, the reader should keep a pen on hand and underline the important sentences and points. This will be very useful in re-readings and searches as well as helping to absorb important points and not missing the main structure of the text.
4. Short notes should be taken on the sides of pages; if we record our opinions, objections, criticisms and reviews on the relevant part of the book these will be a guide in benefitting from the book in the future.
5. If we add a personal index to the first or last page of the book; points we consider important, particularly the points that interest us can be found easily in the future.
6. Writing a summary or opinions about the book somewhere will prevent us from forgetting and having to read the same book again.
7. Interesting sentences and ideas in the book can be written on index cards. By doing so, we can develop a personal archive. This is especially recommended for those who will be concentrating on scientific studies. Recording index cards can also be used for memorizing poems etc.
8. The meaning of each new word in the book should be learned, and if necessary a dictionary should be used. Thus, our vocabulary will develop and expand. Additionally, we should also take into consideration the pronunciation, grammar and use of a word in a sentence.
9. Tables, graphs, pictures and maps should not be overlooked as these are recorded in the memory easier and are usually of a summative nature.
10. A final judgement should be made on the book and also take into consideration answers to questions such as “Is author unbiased and knowledgeable on the topic? Are the sources reliable? Is the work rewarding?”
11. We should read literal works aloud to improve our speaking skills, and concentrate on pronunciation, emphasis and meaning –known as diction- which is very important for public-speaking, theater and radio speeches.
12. Points learned from the book can be memorized better by;
a. Associating this with information from the past
b. Finding and producing examples
c. Discussing the information with friends
d. Repeating and echoing this in the mind…
Additionally, we should apply these practically, if possible.
b .Recommendations Regarding Language and Literature
1. Read 5 to 10 pages of a good book loudly every day. Thus, your skills of speaking and word expression words will be improved
2. Memorize some of appealing literal, intellectual, and philosophical texts you come across. Thus, both your vocabulary will be expanded, and your memory will become stronger.
3. First of all, learn how to write and speak properly in your native language. The most beneficial language for a person is his native language. A person’s true value is concealed in his speech and his words; and this becomes apparent by his manner of speech and writing. Grammar is not an objective, but rather a tool; the most important is the productiveness of opinions/ideas.
4. Keep your words and writings short and meaningful. Never speak too much; speak appropriately and concisely. Value and influence are not measured with a lot of words, but with appropriate and concise words.
5. Control your tongue and know that the damage of a single word can be worse than a knife wound.
6. Keep your jokes pleasant, words sweet, and attitude kind even towards your closest friends. A rude person is like a dog that bites, it is scorned by everyone.
7. Never deviate from the truth in your work or your words. Allah is the helper of the truthful.
8. Never be stubborn; search for the truth and embrace it. The Creator is the helper of truthful.
9. When you decide to write an article or script on a specific subject, read and search through written sources on the topic so that you will not waste your time repeating previously written or spoken words.
10. Continously study, read frequently and learn; because a knowledgeable person is always a strong person.
*Our language and Culture, Istanbul Server Communication, 2017, p. 19-36
Prof. Dr. M. Es'ad Coşan (Rh.a.)