Learn Fundamental Principles, not Procedures

Chapter 7 - Problem-solving and Diagnostic Strategies in Control System Analysis

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“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Effective problem-solvers always reason from fundamental principles, rather than follow memorized procedures. Following this logic, the wise strategy for any student learning how to solve any type of problem is to internalize as many general principles as possible, and to connect common threads of principle to different applications and scenarios.

A good way for any student to self-check that their focus is indeed on principles rather than procedures is to continually ask themselves if they are able to explain why what they have learned is true. It is one thing to be able to explain what you have learned, but it is quite another to explain why your new knowledge is valid. “Why” may be the most important question you ever ask, and you need to ask it often.