What are good techniques or suggestions for people on verge of memory decline to better remember where to find a scientific material?

Personally when I read something in a book or in a paper or a website/blog (for example a particular proof of a theorem, a particular approach to a concept, a particular application of a result), I unconsciously assign it with the names of its authors.

When I would like to recall or to see that thing again, knowing the names of its authors is very helpful, since by knowing the name I can find the source very easily even if I have forgotten the title of the source.

This approach works if one has a relatively sharp memory. But as the memory starts to decline (for example by aging), sometimes recalling the author of a source could be difficult. When I forget the authors' name finding the source could be very difficult. Sometimes even with the help of search engines, I can not retrieve what I want.

Are there good techniques that people with limited memory use in order to better recall a scientific source?

  • 1
    I find remembering what I can't remember is a challenge... :) – Solar Mike Jul 21 '19 at 13:50

You can use note taking to both save the information you later want to recall, and, more importantly, reinforce the learning that helps you recall it.

There is evidence that hand written notes are best for memory enhancement as they engage the brain in a different way than typing (or certainly more than cut-paste).

But you can go an extra step. You can, at a somewhat later date, summarize your notes, which, again, reinforces the learning.

And there is no reason that you can't also capture your original notes and/or summaries in some computer media for keyword searching and such.

This personal database of past readings and thoughts about those readings is better for recall than, say, Google, which searches a larger space than you are interested in and so comes up with un-useful hits.

But the key to it, is to use reinforcement tricks (hand written notes, etc.) so that deep learning is achieved and recall is more likely.

Personally, I prefer taking original notes on index cards. You can always carry a pen and a few cards for making quick notations and for noting questions you might have so that they can be explored later. The cards can then serve as the basis of summaries. See this answer to an unrelated question for more on the concept of the Hipster PDA.

Of course this technique works best if you start it before you need it. But it isn't ever too late. There is a Chinese proverb: The best time to plant a tree is forty years ago. The second best time is right now.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy