A Few Remarks about Studying for Logic

[Note: I will be passing this out to my logic class this week. Our logic class meets on Monday nights, and our textbooks are Kelley’s The Art of Reasoning, and the companion book of analytical readings by Hicks and Kelley.]

I had the benefit of a public school education that taught me how to learn and how to study. In sixth grade we were taught how to use the library for research, how to take notes, how to cite sources, and, ultimately, how to write a research paper. This was reinforced throughout my junior and senior high years. So, when I embarked on my undergraduate education, I was ready. I may not have always exercised the discipline I needed to learn and to study, but I knew how to do it. Given my personal experience, I have for some time assumed that students on coming to college either already know how to study or find out how to study by utilizing campus resources (such as the learning center or their academic advisor). But as I have taught more classes, I have found that that assumption is very rarely true.

So, I have decided to provide a general methodology of study for this class (but which can be slightly adapted as needed and applied to any class). But be forewarned: there is no such thing as “easy” learning. Anyone selling you on that is simply not mentally sound or is out to take your money. Learning and study are hard work. Even those who are “gifted” for academic study have to work to study and to learn. If you think that you can simply read the chapter once, before class, and copy the answers to the practice quizzes, and just write down some quick answers to any Hicks and Kelley question AND get an A, or even a B, in the class, you are chasing an illusion. Even if you have some basic familiarity with critical reasoning, unless you’ve done some work in logic before, you will have to work hard in this class to get an above average grade of B or an excellent grade of A. If you are not prepared to invest one to two hours per class hour a week outside of class in study and reading, then you should not expect a grade higher than a C.

My suggestion for study is generally as follows:

Give yourself a break on Tuesday, the day after class, and don’t do any logic homework. If you’ve been following my study suggestions, your mind needs a break from logic. Use Tuesday to work on other classes or to read other matters that interest you, or to go to a movie, take a walk in the park, or engage in spirited recreation. Enjoy time with your family and friends.

On Wednesday read through the chapter twice, underlining/highlighting passages that are main points of the chapter or are unclear to you–but don’t take any extensive notes at this point. Just read through the chapter twice and make some marks to call your attention to important or unclear passages. Also, don’t do any of the practice quizzes yet. This should take you perhaps about an hour. (1 hour)

On Thursday, go through the text again, this time going slowly and taking as extensive notes as you need to understand the text. Once again highlight anything that is unclear to you. I would suggest that an hour of doing this, perhaps an hour and a half, would be sufficient. Once again, do not do the practice quizzes. Anything that is still unclear to you, send me an email about and I’ll try to clarify it. (1 to 1 ½ hours)

On Friday take up the textbook again and this time work through the practice quizzes. Go through each quiz one at a time, checking your answers against the key in the back. Note each incorrect answer, but don’t spend any time on trying to understand your error yet. After you’ve worked through all the practice quizzes, go back through and note where you have incorrect answers. If you understand your error, you very likely don’t need to do much more study on that particular item, since it may have simply been a misunderstanding of the question or just a simple forgetting or a simple mistake. Nonetheless, if you understand your error, it was still an error and so you will want to do some light review of that item to make sure you understand it. For those errors that you do not understand why they are errors, go back through the text and see if you can get a better understanding of why you made the mistake you did. If you are still unclear, email me. This process on Friday should take about an hour. (1 hour)

On Saturday, then, read through the text again, focusing on the areas in which you made mistakes on the practice quiz or about which you are still unclear. If I haven’t clarified those issues in an email, make a special note to bring the matter up in class. This should take maybe a half hour or an hour. (½ to 1 hour)

On Sunday, if there are no Hicks and Kelley readings assigned, don’t do anything with regard to logic. Let the study you have been doing over the previous few days “simmer” in your subconscious. If you do have Hicks and Kelley readings, read over the text once, work through the questions by referring back to the text. This is to be “light” work, a way to reinforce the chapter you’ve studied. It should take only about an hour. Especially if you do not have any Hicks and Kelley questions, make sure to enjoy the day free of studying for this class. Read inspiring texts. Listen to classical music. Spend some time enjoying whatever weather the day brings. Always make the effort to spend large and generous amounts of time with your loved ones. If you have to work, work diligently and be respectful of your co-workers and customers. Listen to conversations carefully. Classroom study is not a separate part of your life, and what happens in your life outside of class impacts your “classroom life.” Be at peace outside of class and your class time and study time will improve. (If Hicks and Kelley are assigned: 1 hour)

On Monday, the day of class, do a light review. Skim through the chapter headings, the portions of the chapter you underlined. Review items you’ve memorized. Go over your practice quizzes lightly. Don’t take much more than a half-hour doing this. Reserve all questions about matters that are unclear for class time. (½ hour)

All told, you are looking at about five or six hours of study outside class. I’ve seen various guidelines about how much time to study per class hour, but my own experience and the experience of students I have spoken with is that you should invest one to two hours per class time outside of class, or, in our case, 3-6 hours of study.

I recognize that many in the class, perhaps yourself included, have full-time jobs, families, are taking other classes, and so on, and the expectation that one take 3-6 hours of study time outside of class seems impossible, or at least impractical. Here each situation will differ, but clear, open and honest communications with family members and house mates about your school obligations, if possible talking with your employer/supervisor, and just the hard work of personal time management–all these will help in carving out those hours.

If I can be of further assistance, let me know.

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