‘Approach to studying’ research focuses on the manner (deep, surface, etc.) in which studying is grasped. This is the Husserlian ‘noesis’, the mental orientation, to studying. In this article, it is argued that attention must also be given to the subjective meaning of studying and of what is studied – the Husserlian ‘noema’. However, the noema/noesis distinction, though it draws attention to the poverty of characterising approaches to studying simply as mental orientation, has certain flaws, which are discussed. It is most appropriate to develop the noema so as to bring out the human situation of studying within the lifeworld of the student. Idiographic sensibility – an awareness of the individuality of the lifeworld – is needed for anything close to a full understanding of a person’s approach to studying.