How Concentration Improves Our Thinking

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Listening is just a matter of hearing sounds or spoken words, for it is possible to hear sounds accidentally or hear what a person says without taking in the meaning if one is not listening to him.

To listen and comprehend what is heard in social and academic contexts, the listener must have functioning ears. He should be able to concentrate and think along with the speaker.

Factors affecting concentration

The concentration varies from one individual to another. We all differ in our ability to sit down at a certain task for long periods.

A few people can study one subject for a short time and then switch without any difficulty to another subject. We must take into account the kind of study tasks being performed.

Our degree of concentration will vary according to their complexity, their size and the terms in which they’re defined, another factor involved in concentration is fatigue. Concentration is bound to fall after a certain period of study.

Place of interest in concentration

As we have seen, there is a strong link between concentration and interest. An interest in a subject will usually increase our span of attention and help us to remember information much more easily.

If we don’t feel much interested in the subject, then we ought to think about ways of relating it to a subject in which we are interested.

A sense of urgency in our study

If the concentration is difficult, we’ll probably experience certain initial inertia when trying to get down to serious study.

Clearly defined short term objectives will help here, for vague objectives are a great deal harder to accomplish – and so foster feelings of initial boredom. However, if we still find it difficult to study, then we can try studying only for short periods at a time.

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In this way, we can approach each study session in the knowledge that we’re going to finish in, say, an hour or so. This will create a sense of urgency in our work.

Types of work required a longer time of study

Advice on the ideal length of time for study sessions is difficult to give, for the account must be taken of each individual and the work he is engaged in.

On the whole, the more advanced the field of study, the longer the time we should spend on it. It takes a certain time to warm up, especially in studying at advanced levels.

Task expected for the university student

In your general approach to your academic work at the college or university level, you will find yourself having to meet new demands.

In most schools the teacher bears the responsibility for the learning process; very often spoon-feeding takes place. In most universities and colleges, however, a few concessions of this kind are made to the individual students.

You will be expected to read widely and discuss new concepts, many of which will seem foreign to you. Above all, working in a strange environment in which standards and expectations are even higher than previously.

The chief function of the lecturer

There are many different types of lectures: at one extreme there are those lectures packed with information while at the other extreme are those which appear to be pure entertainment.

You may expect a lecturer to be highly factual and may be disappointed when this is not so. But the amount of factual information given in a lecture is rarely an indication of the use fullness of that particular lecture.

Many university lecturers argue that the chief function of a lecture is to stimulate learning. It should motivate students to think and learn. Indeed, if the purpose of a lecture were simply to convey information, then most textbooks would do this far better.

Familiarity with the subject of the lecture makes it easier to identify

Several lecturers digress frequently from the subject of their lecture; a few even give personal reminiscences.

You will soon become familiar with the different characteristics of each lecturer and so you will be able to spot such digressions more easily. Familiarity with the subject of the lecture will make it easier to identify salient points.

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In addition, an awareness of the various devices used to signal information and attitudes will be valuable in distinguishing the important from the trivial points.

Lectures by doing some preliminary reading

No matter the type of lecture and style of delivery, you should attempt to adopt a critical attitude. You should avoid sitting passively or scribbling detailed notes without considering what you’re writing. Instead, you should try to think critically and independently.

Get into the habit of writing down questions to discuss with your colleagues later. Prepare for each lecture by glancing through the notes you took of the previous lectures.

If you have the title of the lecture in advance, do some preliminary reading before the lecture. Approach the lecture with as much background knowledge as possible and with a critical attitude.

Reading through your notes as soon as possible after lectures

It is also vital to carry out any follow-up that may result from the lecture. Remember to leave a period free as soon as possible afterwards so that you can go through your notes and digest what was said. Then you can make a note of the follow-up reading that you intend to do.

Advantages of sitting in front of the front row during lectures

A small but useful point of detail: if you sit in the back a few rows during a lecture you will probably be under a severe handicap unless the acoustics of that particular lecture room are exceptional. Sitting near the front of the lecture room helps in catching every word spoken.

Two reasons why it is important not to miss lectures

Sometimes you may wonder how much time you ought to spend on lectures, especially as examinations approach. Should you sacrifice a lecture or a seminar to do some more reading?

A decision of this nature, of course, is highly subjective and impossible to answer in general terms. In certain courses, lectures are very important and cover most of the ground for the student.

Other lectures may be just as relevant but in a more indirect way, giving the student new ideas and providing necessary motivation.

In any case, there is a definite advantage to attending a lecture with the rest of the study group: nothing seems worse than feeling you’ve missed a lecture which others found important and interesting.

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Reasons are given for not allowing reference books to be borrowed out of the library

Although most students are familiar with school and college libraries, few are aware of the many facilities available. The organization of most libraries, big or small, however, is the same.

In addition to the newspapers and journals which may stock, all the books in a library are classified in two ways. There are those books which can be borrowed by an authorized user of the library and those which are reference works and cannot be taken out of the library.

Reference books generally encyclopaedias, yearbook handbooks, dictionaries, atlases, and band bibliographies-are considered too widely used to be permitted to leave most libraries.

The Congress classification

Whatever system of classification is used, it’s necessary to rely on the library catalogue for much of our preliminary information.

There are four types of catalogues in many libraries: the first catalogue to approach is generally the index of Subject Headings; this is arranged according to the titles of subjects and is in alphabetical order:

Education is under E, Language is under L, and so on. Having obtained the numbers of the category into which our subjects fall, we must now look at the Classified Catalogue to find the actual titles of books listed.

Again, the cards are arranged for each sub-section, this time according to the classification numbers. Within each sub-section cards are arranged alphabetically by the author’s name.

Detailed information about each book is generally given here: the publisher, the date of publication, the price, the number of pages, and so on.

Types of catalogues in many libraries

Next, the Author Catalogue lists each book under the name of its author. The same detailed information as that found in the Classified Catalogue is given here. The title Catalogue in a library is usually incorporated in the Author Catalogue.

The arrangement here is by the first word (or occasionally the keyword) in the title, and the information given is generally the same as the 15 given on the equivalent card in the Author Catalogue. (Now answer questions 5 and 6 in the Listening comprehension section).

Reproduced from Studying in English by H.J. Heaton (Longman, 1985)

 

 

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