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What is Elaboration?

Elaboration is all about going beyond the surface level of memorisation and actively engaging with the material you're learning. Instead of simply regurgitating facts, this technique encourages you to dig deeper, make connections, and attach meaning to what you're studying. By doing so, you'll build a stronger foundation of knowledge, making it easier to recall and apply information when needed.

How Does It Work?

When you use elaboration in your learning process, you essentially expand upon the information you encounter. You relate new concepts to your existing knowledge and experiences, which creates more neural connections in your brain. These connections strengthen your understanding and make the information more accessible when you need to retrieve it later.

This idea is reinforced in the poster below from the Learning Scientists (The Learning Scientists).

Source: The Learning Scientists (

Practical Tips for Studying with Elaboration

  1. Relate Physics Principles to Real-Life Examples: When studying physics, don't just memorise formulas and theories. Instead, relate them to real-life scenarios. For instance, when learning about Newton's laws of motion, think about how a football rolling on the grass comes to a stop due to friction (Newton's second law) or how a rocket propels upwards by expelling gas in the opposite direction (Newton's third law). These relatable examples will deepen your understanding and help you remember the concepts better.

  2. Create Detailed Mind Maps: Mind mapping is a powerful tool for elaboration. When learning complex physics concepts, create detailed mind maps that interconnect different ideas and subtopics. For instance, if you're studying electromagnetism, your mind map could branch out to cover topics like electric fields, magnetic fields and circuits. By visualising these connections, you'll reinforce your understanding and have a clear overview of the subject.

  3. Teach the Material to Yourself: Teaching is one of the most effective ways to learn. Once you've read about a physics concept, pretend you're the teacher and explain it out loud to yourself. Use simple language and break down the ideas step-by-step. Teaching yourself forces you to organise the information coherently, strengthening your grasp of the material.

  4. Write Detailed Notes in Your Own Words: When taking notes during lessons or while reading, avoid copying verbatim. Instead, paraphrase the information in your own words. This process of rewriting helps you process the material and forces you to think critically about what you're learning. For physics, this could involve explaining the principle of conservation of momentum using your own language and examples.

  5. Create Associations with Acronyms and Mnemonics: Physics can involve remembering a lot of equations and constants. To make this easier, create associations using acronyms or mnemonics. For example, you could use "SOH CAH TOA" to remember trigonometric ratios in maths, or the name of the magical elf “ROY G. BIV” to remember the order of colours in the visible spectrum. These memory aids can make studying more enjoyable and help you recall information faster.


By incorporating elaboration into your study routine, you'll move beyond passive learning and build a foundation of deep understanding in physics or any other subject. Remember, it's not about memorising facts but about connecting and making sense of the information.

Source: TILTatCSU (YouTube)


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