Skip to main content


Q.1: "If I write a summary of what I learned is that the same as elaboration?”

Q.2: “Interrupting myself to ask questions seems very time-consuming. Can’t I cover more ground by re-reading?”

(*See answers below.)

The pilot phase of Unlocking the Learning Code concluded in Spring 2017. No new text messages are currently being sent. To register your interest in future text messages complete this form.

The benefits of Elaboration.

Source: The Learning Scientists

To remind you how to space your study, download:
   Elaboration Poster                    Elaboration Bookmarks
  Spaced Practice Poster              Spaced Practice Bookmarks
Source: The Learning Scientists

* Answers

1. It seems like summarizing should be helpful. But research on the effect of summarizing on future test performance shows that it is not really that effective. The quality and accuracy of the summary matters. Furthermore, condensing what one has learned into a summary does not necessarily require extensive thinking about the subject. It really takes self-questioning to engage in deep thinking (see below).

2. It may take more time but not that much more. See the section on elaboration in "What Works and What Doesn't," from Scientific American. In experiments, students spent only slightly more time studying but had much greater test performance. The fact is any additional time is worth it. To learn it helps to think about meaning, what psychologists call “deep processing.” Thinking about meaning, instead thinking about an isolated fact or noting surface features, is the key to remembering and a foundation for complex thinking. See this video, created for students, that provides a concise description of an experiment illustrating deep processing.

Credits and Resources

Resources in this section were created by The Learning Scientists, cognitive scientists helping students and teachers apply scientifically sound learning strategies. Check out their blog for user-friendly advice.

Further Reading About Elaboration
Learn How to Study Using... Elaboration, Learning Scientists Blog

College Resources and Workshops
Advising Department's "Student Success Series" Workshops