So I study information systems technology, networking, programming, system security as my main focuses on school with a lot of reading material and a ton of independent research. My major problem is not remembering where I read something. The thing is I can remember something from it such as:

You have to remember to remember.

But without looking it up I would have no idea of the source. This leads me to want to find the source thus wasting large amount of time trying to remember where I read it. This happens with all of my areas of study. I worry I consume to much knowledge in a day and need to better document my findings and notate the sources but because I love my courses I'm always reading or researching so it's hard to constantly be writing stuff down and documenting all of it. I would end up with way to many pages reviewing them would be a task in itself.

Can someone explain why I can't remember the source of information I have learned or how to better remember the source. I always go back and re learn things that I can't remember. I suffer from major anxiety and depression so I know that can hurt my memory but it's weird because I can typically remember a lot of the content just not the source.

I know it's a weird question but this problem uses so much of my time and evergy. It also makes me ignore my lectures because it's right there I just can't remember. I find it happens because my teacher or myself brings up a topic which I have studied previously. There is a lot of repetition in my course because the underlying concepts need to be burned in.

Thank you.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to cogsci.SE! This question gets kinda close to the off-topic "self-help", although it definitely has more general aspects. Could you edit it to make it more generalized and focused? It would be easier to answer that way. $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Sep 30, 2014 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ Why? Because human beings are made to learn, not to store information. It is irrelevant who told you that this plant is poisonous, it is only important that you remember not to eat it. As for what to do: use DevonThink (see for example writers.stackexchange.com/search?q=devonthink). $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Nov 29, 2014 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ You're describing the distinction between semantic, and episodic memory, which is quite easy to look up. In short, the former is facts and knowledge, the latter is specific events from your own experience, and they're based on possibly different processes. $\endgroup$
    – Eoin
    Dec 7, 2014 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ As a programmer, I would suggest that knowing the source is not that important. As long as you can formulate a search query for google or stack exchange sites, you are good. You are bound to find alternatives to the same information you found before. This means remembering keywords from articles is far more important than the author. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Jan 28, 2015 at 18:07

1 Answer 1


Your question is around retaining information when you are immersed in four major fields of study. Yes you want a solid foundations from which to build- but perhaps you simply are taking on too much information.

There seems to be a focus in many educational systems on producing knowledge which is to be memorized in a formal, didactic, manner of "direct-instruction". However, much is to be said as well for the accrual of knowledge via conversation which seeks to solve a problem alongside another person or within a group- that which stays with you because you have an emotional connection to the process of procuring that knowledge- you feel rewarded once you've "won" the answer- and you remember these answers because you were both teaching and evaluating the answers alongside another person- developing and testing hypotheses and validities. Here you are not only processing content to reach an end result but also perhaps taking more time than you would on your own to assess content itself in relation to, say, the importance of the answer (or lack thereof). In this way the learning experience may feel more satisfying - you may feel a decrease in the drive to accrue lots of information on your own (phew- pressure, eh?) While it makes sense for one to want to document evidence of further validation of knowledge in a way that is, it could be that your process is dragging the knowledge down given the amount of purpose you find personally in documenting vs. that which is required to further good workmanship within the program.

In looking at context/environment of your learning: within academia, where is there overlap between your expectations vs. those of your program of study (i.e. do you have the capacity to develop a niche given your current psychosocial/socioemotional inputs?)

I would be curious to see a copy of a meta-mind-map if you were to draw one- you'd probably fill pages in minutes with the content of the information...and I wonder how the flow of this content would compare to the flow of a meta-mind-map of the processing of that content.

I hope that this makes sense and isn't too high on the advice-giving end especially since I'm sure that all of this writing could be so easily summed up in a visual involving just those systems which you study like a melted cpu or .... something...which of course goes against my own claim of the value of finding good mental heuristics..... .....


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