• The Thinker's Guide for Students on How to Study & Learn a Discipline
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    The Thinker's Guide for Students on How to Study & Learn a Discipline

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The Thinker's Guide for Students on How to Study & Learn a Discipline

Second Edition

Richard Paul and Linda Elder

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In this guide, Richard Paul and Linda Elder empower students to take control of their own learning by asking questions, challenging assumptions, drawing upon reliable information, and exploring alternative opinions. Making intellectual work more accessible, practical, and engaging, this book fosters minds that question, probe, and can master a variety of forms of knowledge through intellectual perseverance and regular use of critical thinking skills.

As part of the Thinker’s Guide Library, this book advances the mission of the Foundation for Critical Thinking to promote fairminded critical societies through cultivating essential intellectual abilities and virtues across every field of study across world.

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers / The Foundation for Critical Thinking
Pages: 62 • Trim: 6 x 8 1/4
978-1-63234-000-9 • Paperback • January 2014 • $21.99 • (£14.95)
978-1-5381-3383-5 • eBook • June 2019 • $20.50 • (£13.95)
Series: Thinker's Guide Library


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The Thinker's Guide for Students on How to Study & Learn a Discipline

Additional Information About:
The Thinker's Guide for Students on How to Study & Learn a Discipline

Why A Thinker's Guide On How To Study & Learn?

This thinker's guide is designed not only for students but also for administrators and faculty, to remind us all of the essence of what it is to study academic subjects with discipline. It does not aim to take the intellectual work out of learning---for this would be an insult to the intelligence of our readers. It contributes, rather, toward making intellectual work and deep learning more manageable, practical, and intuitive. Its goal is to foster lifelong learning and the traditional idea of a liberally educated mind: a mind that questions, probes, and masters a variety of forms of knowledge, through the command of itself, intellectual perseverance, and the tools of learning. It respects equally the traditions of John Henry Newman, Bertrand Russell, and Albert Einstein.  

It does not answer all questions, but rather puts all questions into a clear perspective. It emphasizes that all bona fide fields of study share common intellectual structures and standards of reasonability. It emphasizes that foundational intellectual structures and standards of reasonability are worth learning explicitly and in themselves since they help us more deeply interconnect and understand all that we learn. It also emphasizes foundational intellectual dispositions and values that define the traits of the disciplined thinker in all fields: intellectual autonomy, intellectual humility, intellectual integrity, intellectual perseverance, intellectual empathy, confidence in reason, and fair-mindedness. On every page, it honors the idea and power of intellectual work. 

It scorns the idea of knowledge as the memorizing of bits and pieces of information, or as the mere accumulation of so many units or institutional credits. It rejects both dogmatic absolutism and intellectual relativism. It warns us of the danger of ignorance and misconception, and by implication, that of self-deception and illusion in human affairs. It emphasizes the importance of contrasting disciplines whose questions are, by and large, answerable in definitive ways, with those whose questions require multiple perspectives, role-playing, and reasoned judgment. It distinguishes, in short, one-system subjects like physics, chemistry, and math (where disagreement between experts plays a minor role) from competing-systems subjects like history, psychology, and art (where expert disagreement plays a major role). 

If this thinker's guide is successful, it will serve as a resource to which one can return again and again to garner new depth of meaning and understanding. What is worth learning is worth learning well, and there is nothing better worth learning than the very process of learning itself: the development---through systematic intellectual work---of the arts, habits, and strategies of a DISCIPLINED mind. 


Contents Include: 

Part I: Laying the Foundations

  • 18 Ideas for Becoming a Master Student
  • How To Study and Learn a Discipline
  • How To Learn With Discipline
  • How To Identify an Underlying Concept for the Subjects You Study
  • How To Understand Content Through Thinking: A Key To Deep Learning How To Identify The Structure of A Discipline (The Elements of Thought)
  • How To Figure Out the Form of Thinking Essential To Courses or Subjects
  • How To Think Within the Ideas of the Subject
  • How To Analyze the Logic of An Article, Essay, or Chapter
  • How To Figure Out the Logic of A Textbook
  • How To Understand Ideas
  • How To Control (& Not Be Controlled By) Ideas
  • How To Understand Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening & Thinking
  • How to Learn Ideas From Textbooks


Part II: Following Through

  • How Good a Student Are You Now? Test Yourself
  • How To Think Through The Defining Traits of the Disciplined Mind
  • How To Understand Fundamental Intellectual Standards
  • How To Question Using Intellectual Standards
  • How to Evaluate An Author’s Reasoning
  • How To Raise Important Questions Within A Subject
  • How To Distinguish One-System From Competing-Systems Disciplines
  • How To Ask Questions About Fields of Study
  • How To Ask Questions About Textbooks
  • How To Understand The Logic of Biochemistry (An Example)
  • How To Think Biologically (An Example)
  • How To Think Historically (An Example)
  • How To Understand The Role of Questions in Thinking & Learning
  • How To Distinguish Inert Information and Activated Ignorance from Activated Knowledge
  • A Test To Repeat In Every Class & Subject



I am incorporating the How to Study & Learn miniature guide into the course as well during spring term. Thank you for the exam copy. I plan to use it along with the text and the "little blue book" Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools. One valuable part in the "little yellow book" is the essential idea at the bottom of each page. One technique I tried this last quarter in class was to have students write down one key concept or idea they felt they had learned that day in class. It was an effective way for me to gauge their understanding of what had been discussed in class. When I did this during the last five minutes of class, it was also an effective review because I called on several students to read aloud the key idea or concept.

Another valuable characteristic of How to Study & Learn is that it speaks to the student as if s/he is a real human being. Students appreciate that they are engaged in the process. I am also going to use this miniature guide as a source of reading material when I teach students to critically read. The passages are short and will work well for this exercise. As I use this new guide, I will let you know how students respond to it...kudos for your work.

Cindy Lienhart
Education Instructor
Blue Mountain Community College