Developing the Art of Acquiring Information [Archives:1999/44/Culture]

November 1 1999

Acquiring a mass of relevant information, preserving it for future use and presenting the same in the examination script in an orderly fashion constitute the basic requirement of all students, to whichever faculty or discipline they may belong. As a matter of fact, one’s success in studies is to a large extent determined by the efficiency with which one is able to accomplish this task.
Some students are quite adept in the art of locating the source of information, selecting the ones necessary for them in terms of the degree of their importance, preserving them for the right time and right occasion, as well as utilizing them in a proper manner. But others are not so particular about these points. As a result they end up groping in the dark about necessary information when the examination is round the corner. In their utter despair, they do not know what to do. They run to others for help, but hardly find any. Some of them resort to malpractice in the examination. In trying to cheat others, they actually cheat themselves.
In order to avoid such an unfortunate situation, all students should be familiar with the simple techniques of acquiring information and storing information in the form of notes. For this purpose, students should know the principles of note taking and note making. If they practice these techniques, they would be more and more self-dependent or autonomous learners and less and less dependent on external sources. They would, further, know how to utilize the library for their purpose, how to use the dictionary and thereby be confident language learners. Our purpose, here, is to discuss some of these for the benefit of our students.
Let us first discuss the different ways in which a student can acquire information. In the first place, he/she can acquire information from his/her teachers, in three main ways:
(a) listening to the lecture in classrooms,
(b) interacting with the tutor during discussion sessions in tutorial or proctorial sessions, or,
(c) gathering information from the tutor’s lecture notes, called handouts.
However, without always depending on the teacher’s lecture in classrooms, one should keep one’s eyes and ears open and acquire a lot of information from outside. In fact, one of the differences between intelligent students and less intelligent ones is this, that the former keep the antenna of their mind sensitive or active and absorb the necessary information quickly as it comes. Such persons naturally develop a more complete, wholesome outlook. They don’t just have bookish knowledge, but a lot of practical wisdom about other things as well, which makes the knowledge they acquire from the books more meaningful and helps them build a multi-faceted personality. The latter kind of students only depend on the tutor or the books. Such people have an essentially narrow outlook. Their mind is not as sharp as their friends.
So, what are these outside sources? These ‘outside experts’ are by and large, reading outside books, listening to the radio such as BBC or programs cassette recordings, or watching educational TV programs. In the new age of information technology, the print media such as newspapers and the electronic media like the TV and radio play a very important role to supplement the classroom teaching. Admittedly, in the modern age, if a student depends only on the tutor, he/she is very likely to remain very limited in his outlook.
Thirdly, a student can get much of the vital information he/she needs by discussions with his/her peers during informal discussions or seminars or classroom discussions. As one of my students in Mahweet has reported, some girls have set up a study circle there where each member of the circle reports in its weekly session what she has read. This an admirable way of sharing information.
Last but not least. One can be a powerful source of information for oneself. He/she can acquire information from himself/herself by critically thinking about his/her subject as well as comparing and contrasting it with what he/she has already acquired from various sources. By such an exercise, one can sharpen one’s mind and develop a way of evaluation of experience.
Now let us try to arrange the aforesaid information in a note form, using headings, numbering, etc. as a worked out example for you:
Gathering information from:
I. Tutors
i) lecture
ii) tutorial
iii) handouts
II. Other experts
i) reading outside books/journals
ii) listening to radio, cassettes
iii) watching educational TV programs
III. Peers or fellow students
i) classroom discussions
ii) tutorial/proctorial work
iii) informal conversation
IV. Self:
Thinking about the subject and linking it with what one has heard and seen before.
You can now see how a lot of information has been condensed into a simple chart which is easy to remember. At the time of need, you can develop each point in order to make it into a coherent composition. In this way you can practice preparing a note when someone is giving a lecture, or gather useful information from some other source for your future use.
I hope, you’ll try similar exercises and derive benefit from it for acquiring information more efficiently.
Good luck to you.