When referring to studding can I use the term "shallow level" in a meaning of study subject not deeply?

For example if I see a video that teaches biology but very basic, can I refer to it as "a shallow level"?

Actually, I didn't see the use of "a shallow level", but it's a direct translation from my language. Of course, I tried to do some googling but I didn't find something that answer me about that.

  • 5
    A better preposition would be AT a shallow level. – Msfolly Jan 30 '16 at 18:49

For teaching videos or courses, I usually hear them called "introductory" level courses. Overview of (topic), introduction to (topic), (topic) basics, or (topic) fundamentals are course titles that are typical. I don't think it's incorrect to say "the video teaches biology at a shallow level", but it's not phrasing I would chose.

To me, fundamentals implies that the course teaches some basic information that might be necessary to study the topic in more depth. An overview or introduction is more general information about a topic and may be intended to give information to folks who are interested in the topic, but may not go on to study it in more depth.

Some other related phrases:
skim the surface - to do something very superficially.
gloss over - to treat unpleasant or complex facts rapidly or cursorily, or to omit them altogether. For example, "The video was interesting, but glossed over how the DNA was integrated into the cells."


Yes, you can use it that way.

Here's an example of it being used in the context of a wikipedia article

The levels-of-processing effect, identified by Fergus I. M. Craik and Robert S. Lockhart in 1972, describes memory recall of stimuli as a function of the depth of mental processing. Deeper levels of analysis produce more elaborate, longer lasting, and stronger memory traces than shallow levels of analysis. Depth of processing falls on a shallow to deep continuum. Shallow processing (e.g., processing based on phonemic and orthographic components) leads to a fragile memory trace that is susceptible to rapid decay. Conversely, deep processing (e.g., semantic processing) results in a more durable memory trace.

  • Thank you. Actually I saw it but I thought that I can conclude from that, because it deals with process, rather than studding. Anyway, are there any alternatives for a "shallow level"? – Judicious Allure Jan 30 '16 at 18:49
  • 2
    (side note, it's "studying" not "studding". I thought it was a typo the first time, but you've done it twice so I wanted to point it out). You could also say things like at a "superficial level" or "surface level" to keep that metaphor. Otherwise, maybe at a basic or general or low or cursory level. – Sarah Jan 30 '16 at 18:54
  • Yes, you right. Thank you for the correction and for the alternatives. – Judicious Allure Jan 30 '16 at 18:55

You can use shallow that way, as Sarah observes. However, if it is not used in a specific technical context (in IT we talk about shallow and deep copies of objects, for example), it usually has the pejorative meaning of artificial, careless or stupid. More appropriate words for the meaning you intend to convey are basic, introductory, fundamental, beginning or primary. Of these, probably introductory would be most often used; four levels of difficulty might be introductory, intermediate, advanced and expert.

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