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comment How can one determine the radical for a given character?
actually the '能' is a character made with 'pictograms象形' from ancient character meaning bear '熊'. it's radical is not easy to find. it's '肉' actually, and simplified as '月' in simplifide Chinese. the way to find a radical of a character I think is to disassemble the character to pieces and pick the one which looks more familiar :D
comment Techniques for learning and retaining characters
the 矛盾 both are 独体字 . so they should be remembered by rote. maybe a better way is to find the origin of the word and remember it . but it's sometimes far too cost in time and stamina. e.g.: 矛 zdic.net/zd/zi/ZdicE7Zdic9FZdic9B.htmzdic.net/zd/zi/ZdicE7Zdic9BZdicBE.htm . they are both created with "pictogram 象形"