Finding a Place to Study

     Should I study in my room or the library? Alone or with others? To be sure, finding a good place to study is partly a matter of personal taste. More important than anything else, however, is whether the place you have selected enables you to work with the greatest amount of concentration and the fewest distractions. The reason for this is simple: your learning effectiveness drops every time your concentration is interrupted during study. For this reason, the ideal place for study is a quiet area away from the disturbance of other people, television, and stereos. By selecting a place with few distractions to begin with, most of your mental energy can then be used for learning instead of for blocking out distractions.

     If you are an individual who has learned to study with some noise in the background and prefers it this way, don't worry. Research indicates that this will not significantly reduce your achievement as long as the noise does not include "language." Television, radio, and music with vocals certainly can have a negative impact on learning, however. Study involves thinking about and processing both written and spoken language. "Irrelevant" background language present in the study environment usually interferes with the learning process.

     Students often deal with varying study demands by having more than one place to work. The most effective approach is to have two or three possible study areas, but no more. The small number is important because of what psychologists refer to as a conditioning effect created between you and your place of study. As you become familiar with and build the habit of studying in a particular place or places, potential distractions are reduced. In addition, by conditioning yourself to use these areas only for study, you can train your mind to settle quickly into its "study" mode and to remain focused while you are there. At the same time, if you nap or socialize while in your place of study, you can also become conditioned to do that instead of concentrating on your work. The bottom line is this: avoid potential problems by using your place of study only for that purpose.

     In addition to noise, the quality of your study environment can affect your learning success. This makes it important that you consider both your physical and mental comfort. Such concerns are most apt to involve lighting, temperature, furniture, and space. For best results, just keep these tips in mind: First, eyes strain from weak or glaring light is the biggest potential problem you may have with lighting. Lighting that is comfortable to the eyes is usually a result of more than one light source and the diffusion of light from the bulb through panels or lamp covers. Second, good concentration is not possible unless you are working at a comfortable temperature. Knowing how to dress for comfort in your regular study areas will enable you to keep from shivering in cool areas and dozing in warm ones.

     Third, find furniture that encourages you to sit up but is also comfortable. Hard, straight-backed chairs may keep you awake but are distracting because of their discomfort. On the other hand, reclining on sofas or beds will almost surely lead to daydreaming or to sleep.

      Finally, be aware of the impact of the space in which you are working upon the quality of your study. Whatever its size, arrangement, or decor, it must make you feel comfortable and secure enough to withdraw from the world for a time while you give your entire focus to learning.

Adapted from Penn State University

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