In my previous post, I talked about the preliminary steps towards cutting out information bloat — in a nutshell, before one can distill anything useful from the mass of information, one should know the expectations and requirements of the (sub-)topic(s) that he/she is studying for. Failure to do so would make it difficult to identify helpful information, and, by extension, make it more difficult to revise for that subject.
This follow-up to last week’s post is going to examine what the learner needs to do to actually distinguish relevant from irrelevant information.
Determining Relevance Of Information
Obviously the first thing one needs to do is to determine if the information is relevant or not — that is, after all, the gist of what this article series is about right?
Now, in order to accomplish this, we need to go back to the preliminary step of understanding what the task expects of us. Take expository writing for instance — to adhere to the Point-Explain-Examples-Link framework (which I rather disagree with, but that’s beside the point), students should know that they’re expected to memorise information that can help them with the ‘Examples’ part of that structure. I’ll let that sink in for a minute.
A-ha, suddenly it all makes sense now, doesn’t it? Everything but the ‘Examples’ segment in the PEEL framework does not require an iota of memory work at all — this is what we typically call ‘smoking the examiner’, to put technicalities crudely. If the student knows this, then it becomes so much easier to dissect information.
To put things into clearer perspective, consider this bite-sized chunk of information:
The 1955 Hock Lee Bus Riots was a series of crises in Singapore that could be considered one of the biggest turning points in the nation’s history.
Which piece of information would you extract from there? Which is the only bit worth remembering?
The 1955 Hock Lee Bus Riots (memorise this) was a series of crises in Singapore (duh) that could be considered one of the biggest turning points in the nation’s history. (duh, though arguably so).
Of the twenty-seven words (including the ‘1955’), only five should be memorised for reproduction. The reason for this is simple: everything else either echoes Captain Obvious or is arguable (i.e. subjective).
This hypothesis extends to textbooks. Should the content be found to be arguable or a statement of the too obvious, one typically can and should skip it — it’s bloat.
Wrapping Up Today’s Post
There is one more step to the process of information filtration, but I will save that for next fortnight. In the meantime, I hope today’s post, along with the previous, has been insightful and has shed more light on the process. I will leave you to think about what’s been said. Thanks for reading, and if you’d like to stay up to date on the latest posts, do follow Swords & Stationery on Twitter and Facebook.