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New to science (sort of), and need suggestions.

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New to science (sort of), and need suggestions.

Postby cursive » Fri Apr 27, 2012 2:32 am

Hello,

The subject of this thread may strike you as odd, and I confess, it is a little. However, I need help.

I grew up in a very conservative family and attended private school for all but 3 years of my existence. In fact, one of the very reasons I went to private school was because of my families' dissent with Darwinian evolution. In kindergarten I came across an illustrated story book for children about ape-like creatures evolving into humans. I asked my family if we came from monkeys, and, well, they sent me to private school.

Anyways, as time droned on, I started being careless in my studying and learned practically nothing in either Science or Math (I was rebellious and quite stupid). Therefore, any recollection I really have of Science is more or less blur, and who knows how honest.

So, I've began researching on my own, and thus far, have become hooked on learning more.

And here I am.

I need help with recommendations on how to study biology and retain the information I digest. As I go to college, I am planning to keep taking biology and various science courses until I literally can't (either due to mental limitations, or because there are no more classes -- obviously the former is more likely). So, my need for suggestions is as I've stated, please help me with advice on how to retain what I read, and some basic books to get a general knowledge of science before enrolling in some classes.

As I've said, I've done some research of my own, via internet access, YouTube, and some of Dawkins. I've also recently purchased Biology for Dummies. And while, I confess, For Dummies isn't the best resource guide, I figured it's a good start. But, even just reading some of it, it's so interesting to me, but I don't know how to retain the information I read. So, I'd just like some general studying tips.

Well, this post is already longer than I predicted it would be (sorry)... so, yeah, I'll shut up now.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: New to science (sort of), and need suggestions.

Postby jonmoulton » Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:20 pm

I'm not worried about your studies. Based on your writing, I've the feeling that you have the drive to do this well. You have made some good initial steps, like purchasing and reading the Dummies guide (I sometimes use those when I need to learn an unfamiliar topic). I don't know of any one trick that will help with retention of the information, but here are some thoughts.

1) Don't be afraid to reread. It doesn't mean you are dumb. I recall when I was in grad school I heard a Professor (whom I respected) say that he often reads a paper four or five times before he really gets the author's point. That changed my relationship with the research literature. You likely won't need to do that for the introductory stuff, but the deeper you go into science writing, the more likely that rereading will be beneficial.

2) Read broadly. Sometimes you'll need a fact from a distant part of science to understand something you are tackling. Read some chemistry, geology, physics, cosmology, history of science and philosophy of science. It won't be obvious at first, but all of these interrelate and provide useful tools. The magazine Scientific American is a good resource for undergrad-level reading outside of your field. American Scientist takes it up a notch, allowing a bit more math in the articles. To get really current stuff, try reading the editorial content of Nature or Science (don't worry about the primary research articles, they will be written in what appears to be a foreign language, as discussed below).

3) Realize that for the first three years of undergrad education in science, you are essentially taking a bunch of language classes. In introductory biology, you will be introduced to more terms every day than you would in a foreign language class. You can use some of the same tricks for success, such as keeping new-word lists and notes on definitions.

The Dummies series includes more in-depth titles, like Genetics for Dummies (I recall helping a Physicist friend work though that one). If there is a nearby college that has seminars open to the public, you might try attending some of those; hearing science spoken about can help you learn some pronunciation for those new words.

Stay involved with learning the topics, hone your self-discipline and follow your curiosity. All I know about you is a few paragraphs of text, but I've the impression you'll do fine. Enjoy!
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Re: New to science (sort of), and need suggestions.

Postby cursive » Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:15 pm

Thank you for the help, encouragement, and compliments. I appreciate them. Does anyone else have any suggestions?
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Postby AstraSequi » Sat May 05, 2012 3:02 am

I only have general statements to offer, but I hope that I can help.


Never be afraid to look something up for yourself, even if it won't be on an exam (sounds like you've got this one already :) ) - Google, Wikipedia, Khan Academy, etc.

Never be afraid to talk to your professors and ask as many questions as you can.

Never be afraid to study a subject that takes more work to understand.

Never be afraid to find out that you were wrong about something. It is better to be right than to think that you have never been wrong.

Never be satisfied with understanding something partially.


As part of a different theme, I would also add "Education really is more important than having a social life, even though it never seems that way at the time."

As I go to college, I am planning to keep taking biology and various science courses until I literally can't (either due to mental limitations, or because there are no more classes -- obviously the former is more likely).

Don't worry about mental limitations. I think it's far more beneficial to assume that they don't exist. :)
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