Updated: Sep 1
The Fenyman technique is a noteworthy study technique, because unlike a lot of other techniques, it forces you to gain a deeper understanding of the subject in question.
To understand the technique, we must first understand the man behind it. Richard Feynman was an award winning physicist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 for his work. He was well known for his amazing ability to explain complicated subjects in the most simple terms. He realised that if you can only explain something using complex language or jargon then you actually have little understanding of the subject.
He believed that to develop a deeper understanding of a particular subject, you must be able to explain it in the most simple terms.
So let's look at how we can achieve this:
1st Step: Choose what topic you want to develop your understanding of.
After you’ve chosen your topic, take out a piece of paper and a pen, and write down everything you know about the topic. Now, I’m sure most people would have already done something like this before, however there is a Fenyman twist. Everything you write down must be written like you are explaining it to a 12 year old!
This is where you will be able to pinpoint gaps in your knowledge. If you can't explain it in simple terms, then do the research and gain the knowledge that allows you too.
When you are sure you have covered everything within the topic, move on to the next step.
2nd Step: Have a go at explaining it! (don't have a 12 year old around? Just pretend!)
You can use the notes you did in step one for reference, just remember to only use words a 12 year old would know.
Tip- Explaining it out loud helps - you may find gaps in your knowledge that you previously missed!
3rd Step: Reflect, Refine and Simplify
Review your notes and ability to explain in simple terms. If you felt your explanation was confusing, or that you still have some jargon written down, go over those areas again, and fill in the gaps of your knowledge.
You can repeat these steps as many times as you like until you feel you have nailed the perfect simple explanation.
4th Step: Test out your explanation in the real world.
Find someone and give them your simplified explanation of your topic.
Note what questions they ask or if they get confused at certain areas of the explanation.
If there are any gaps identified, fill them in with knowledge!
Once this is done, you should have a deep understanding of the topic. Make sure not to throw away the paper you’ve been working on. Store it for future reference.
“I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”
― Richard P. Feynman