the ABC Study Guide home
page The ABC Study Guide, University education in plain English alphabetically indexed. Click here to go to the main index home page to all of Andrew
Roberts' web site

ABC Study Dictionary: More information

a page for material linked to from elsewhere

Motivation Incentive

"If you motivate someone, you make them determined to do something". "An incentive is something that encourages you to do something" (Plain English Dictionary)

How do you create motivation to study? If you have ideas on this, please share them

One student found her motivation was greater when she worked with a friend.

Discussing your work with other people may stimulate some enthusiasm for it.

You could also look for new approaches that you could enjoy

The student who wrote the following sensitive reflection wants to be anonymous:

"The skills I think are most needed for autonomous learning are self motivation and drive. I feel I need more self motivation and that it is something I have always lacked. But the secret to finding it may be to realise that it could not be entirely true that I lack motivation and drive. I must have had it to some extent to get as far as I have. I need to develop the skills that got me this far. I have not had much help with this in the past. It is something I have developed myself. When I came to the university, the library tour helped me, because I was given lots of different approaches to do similar things. It showed me the advantages of flexibility. We were not given much encouragement to develop autonomously at school. A lot of the information and resources were just given to us. I have come to the conclusion that self-direction is something you develop on a daily basis. But it is not always something you realise you are doing."

Anxiety and

Moderate anxiety may spur us on, but we only usually recognise anxiety when it becomes debilitating. Fear can freeze us so that we are unable to study - however hard we try. These are not strange or unusual responses to study. In some way, at some time, they probably happen to everyone.

Study anxiety can feel as if it is about everything, but there are probably particular areas that are causing most of the anxiety. Familiar areas that often cause anxiety are

  • mathematics
  • writing,
  • group work,
  • spelling and
  • speaking in public.

    The same areas can be sources of enjoyment. To get anxiety problems into perspective, we can list the areas of study that we enjoy, as well as those that cause us anxiety.

    Just as anxiety can stop us studying, enjoyment can move us along. Switching from an anxiety causing activity to an enjoyable one may be a valuable step in breaking away from an anxiety that is preventing us from study. When self-confidence is restored, we can look again at the anxiety raising area, to see if there are ways to approach it positively.

    One positive way to deal with anxiety is to look for a way to enjoy the subject that is causing anxiety:

    Writing and mathematics, for example, are very broad areas.

    Preparing an essay in a required style may be freezing you into inactivity, but perhaps there are ways you can write about the subject that do not freeze you, even that you enjoy? If you can get something onto paper, you will have something to work into the required style later.

    If statistics is terrifying you, maybe there are other terrified students you would enjoy working with? Meeting together to discuss the meanings of the statistical terms and to try some of the exercise may prove to be fun. If not, try another way.

    Any solution to the problems of anxiety is going to be personal to the person who finds it, but anxiety problems are a common feature of academic work, so should not make us believe we are different from other people, or that we have a problem that cannot be resolved.

    "Energy is eternal a delight" (William Blake)

    "For what purpose were the passions implanted?" (Mary Wollstonecraft)


    read about imagination

    "A passion for the subject would help with autonomous learning. Reading, understanding and discussing should be a pleasure (or fulfil a drive) rather than the work seeming arduous and dull. More generally, self-discipline, self-motivation, time management, to-do lists, discussion with other students and making time for thought would all be skills relevant to autonomous learning." (Sharon Cottage)


    In general terms, a class is any number of people or things grouped together, graded together or thought of separately from other groups.


    Data is a word for special types of information.

    John Stuart Mill speaks of primitive data or original data which provides "the ultimate premises of our knowledge". He is speaking as an empiricist, who believes all knowledge is based on experience. Data here is any kind of sensation that we can observe. He argues that

    "All science consists of data and conclusions from those data, of proofs and what they prove".

    In computing, information includes programs and data. Computer Data is the electrically stored information that the programs operate on.

    Statistical Data is the information to be used in statistical analysis.

    Research data is the information to be used in empirical research.

    In statistics and research we describe data that has not been worked on as raw data.

    The original information that you gather yourself is called primary data and there are many different ways of gathering it.

    Secondary data is data published in books and other secondary sources.

    See data set - data revolution and big data


    Systematic analysis of data by a computer looking for meaningful patterns and also finding ways to communicate those patterns effectively. For example, the visits made to a website might be classified according to regions of the world they came from and the results displayed in a graph.

    Algorithms See Al'Khwarizmi in 820

    An algorithm is a step-by-step list of directions that need to be followed to solve a problem.

    A recipe could be considered as a formula if it just states the ingredients:

    Egg in hot water = boiled egg

    Or as an algorithm if it states the steps:

    Put egg in a saucepan of water

    Boil water on fire for about seven minutes if you like it hard

    Cool egg under cold water

    Crack shell and eat contents

    Algorithms are often used to describe how a computer might solve a problem.

    The algorithm to find the area of a circle could be used as a computer program. This example is quite simple, but logical, step by step, solutions to simple problems can be complicated. The Simple English Wikipedia demonstrates this with examples of three algorithms designed to sort a stack of cards into numerical order. In each case, the algorithm is given, and then a demonstration with a small stack of cards. Alongside each example is an animation that shows how the cards move.

    A simpler algorithm

    Wikipedia says that "one of the simplest algorithms is to find the largest number in an (unsorted) list of numbers."

    Assume the first number is largest until proved wrong. Make a note of it.

    Look at the second number. If that is larger, make that your note.

    So on through the whole collection of numbers, changing the note whenever you come across a larger number

    When you have finished going through the numbers, your note will be the largest number.

    1935: Computable numbers

    In June 1935, Alan Turing tried to envisage a machine that would decide the provability of any mathematical assertion presented to it. His paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem" (January 1937) laid the mathematical foundations for modern computers. Turing described an automatic machine which would read and manipulate symbols on a tape through algorithms. The software programs of today's computers are long algorithms that tell the computer what to do, step by tiny step, but at great speed.
    See BBC Magazine 16.11.2011 Why is Google in love with Bletchley Park? -

    and move on to Big Data

    Our algorithms suggest you will not buy enough

    A number of persons or things belonging or classed together, or forming a whole, is described as a group. It can also be called a
    class or a set.


    Study links outside this site
    Andrew Roberts' web Study Guide
    Picture introduction to this site
    Top of Page Take a Break - Read a Poem
    Click coloured words to go where you want

    Andrew Roberts likes to hear from users:
    To contact him, please use the
    Communication Form

    © Andrew Roberts