The Gaps In Your Knowledge

by Randy Murray on September 1, 2010

You do not know everything.

In fact, you are mistaken, wrong about a great many things.

Even worse, you have gaps in your knowledge that likely cause you to hold opinions and make decisions that are counter to your own interests and welfare. And the less you know, the more likely you are to think that you know everything!

But you can, if you take the time and effort, uncover these gaps. Knowing what you don’t know is probably more important than understanding what you do know.

Here’s one quick and fun way to uncover some of these gaps – the Oxford University Press has a series of books called “A Very Short Introduction” on a wide range of topics, and they’ve put a quiz online to help you discover the level of knowledge you have about Arts & Culture, Science & Nature, Politics, Economics, History, Law, and Religion & Theology. Take a few moments and test the gaps in your knowledge (warning: Flash-based).*

The purpose of this quiz, other than to expose the real gaps in your knowledge about important general subjects, is to promote their book series of “Very Short Introductions”. And here’s a tip you can use to read them for free: use your local library.

Your local library doesn’t have them? A master Spend Nothing Game player doesn’t stop there! Here’s the one piece of information you need to know: most libraries participate in something called the interlibrary loan program. That means that if your local library doesn’t have the book you want, they can probably have it transferred from another library and you can pick it up, just like any other book in their collection.

And you can search books or other materials held by libraries around the country and around the globe in one place: the Worldcat.

Follow these steps to check on the “Very Short Introduction” series (provided by Penny, who knows a thing or two about libraries and the Worldcat):

  1. Go to the WorldCat site at and click advanced search.
  2. In the title field, type the search “very short introduction” without the quotation marks.
  3. Click Search.

You should come out with a list of titles in the series, and clicking on any one of interest to you should reveal holdings in libraries local to you. There’s also a Worldcat app for your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or whatever other iDevice you might have.

In my own case, there is a regional version of the Worldcat service, called Ohiolink. Check with your local library to see if there is such a regional service in your area. Even if there isn’t, the Worldcat still provides a list of libraries owning the item that are closest to you.

You thought it would be hard? Even if you don’t have access to a computer or the Internet, you can visit your local library and use their systems, with the assistance of a skilled librarian, and find what you’re looking for.

So get busy. What don’t you know?

*I passed the quiz, but was chagrined at the questions that I did miss. The more I read and study, the more I see that I have yet to learn.

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The The Gaps In Your Knowledge by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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