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The development of two dominant research traditions is described: students' approaches to learning (SAL) and information processing (IP). The development of the third tradition, self-regulated learning (SRL) is added. SAL is based on European research, whereas IP and SRL are more typical background ideas for North-American research. The most central conceptual frameworks behind these traditions are analyzed. These frameworks form the foundations for the most common inventories used in higher education to measure university students' learning and studying. A larger multilayered perspective is then outlined with three levels of context: general, course-specific, and situational. The other contributions to this Special issue are discussed in relation to this larger picture.