Studying is perhaps the only sphere for which “murder” can have a positive connotation. That’s because the term serves as an acronym for a study system employed by many meticulous learners: mood, understand, recall, digest, expand and review. See? M-U-R-D-E-R, she wrote. Here’s an explanation of the system and how it works.
M is for Mood
This refers to creating the right environment for effective study. Of course, finding an appropriate setting for studying is a personal affair. People have to employ the things that work best for them, and individuals being individuals, this will fluctuate wildly. But no matter your preference, the main thing to keep in mind is concentration — the ideal environment will be one you hardly even notice as you study.
First, consider the location itself and your own immediate reaction to it. Is there a great deal of external stimuli around to distract you (TV, Internet, other people, etc.)? What you’ll be using to study also influences where you’ll be doing it. Think about what tools and materials you’ll need to use most during that time. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t have more than the bare necessities, as too much stuff can drive you to distraction.
U is for Understand
You’re bound to come across some unfamiliar topics and terms as you study a new subject. When you find yourself not comprehending a particular concept while reading a print or virtual resource, make a note of it and move on.
Also, keep a dictionary on hand so you can look up unknown words, understand them in their context and then move on to the next point. If the terms are so technical or cutting-edge that they won’t be found in a standard unabridged dictionary, try to find some kind of technology reference book that explains the ones you don’t understand.
R is for Recall
After you’ve finished going through the material, try to remember as much of it as you can. Even better, see how much you can write down in your own words. If you’re having trouble recollecting the information — or worse, are drawing a blank — go back to the first step and start over.
D is for Digest
Once you’ve recalled what you know, revisit the stuff you didn’t quite get. Go back and re-read the terms and concepts you had trouble with to see if you can make sense of it. If not, try to find another source or a knowledgeable expert who can explain it better.
E is for Expand
Once you’ve got all that down, move to broaden your knowledge of the topic even further by thinking critically about it. Proponents of the MURDER system recommend starting out with three rhetorical questions:
1) If I could speak to the author, what questions would I ask or what criticism would I offer?
2) How can I apply this material to what I am interested in?
3) How could I make this information interesting and understandable to others?
R is for Review
Finally, consider everything you’ve learned in a final review session. Although this obviously includes the topic (or topics) you studied, it also constitutes an evaluation of what study techniques and strategies you used and how well those worked. Figure out what suits you best, and just throw out the rest.