Guidance on Study Methods
You may find it useful to have some general guidance you can regularly dip
into to support you with your studies. It is important to note that everyone
has their own style and methods of study and there is no right or wrong way of
doing it. You may have already found a method that works for you (you may
consider sharing that method with a friend who is struggling), you may want to
improve it, or you may have been away from study for a long time. We recommend
that you use the first few weeks of the academic year to try some different
methods until you find something that suits you. Below are some ideas which you
may want to use.
Learning is an interactive process
One of the reasons we expect you to attend your classes is the benefits you
gain from academic discussions with your peers and with your teachers. The
points of view of others will help you discover new ways to tackle subjects and
help to broaden your horizons. If you are given the opportunity to talk about
or argue a point of view or perspective the module material will help to show
what you have learned, highlight areas you do not really understand and help to
develop your skills in expressing a point of view or developing a well
structured argument. We have seen evidence that those who attend classes achieve
the best grades.
Much of your study will be a solo effort but do take the opportunities of
discussing difficult topics with friends and teachers don’t suffer in silence!
Developing a Study Habit Get organised!
It’s a sure way to avoid frustration, worry, panic and stress. Get your
module materials in order. Find a way of filing or organising these things so
that they are easy to get hold of when you need them. It is important to
organise a study habit in the first instance. Try making a timetable that takes
into consideration work and family as well as study commitments; it will help
you use your time more efficiently. This might seem quite strict at first but
it will help you have a clear idea of what you need to do by when and removes
the problem of indecision, procrastination and a work pile-up!
Reading is an essential part of academic study and the amount required will
vary from module to module. Organising your reading is an essential part of
your timetable creation. When reading, it is always handy to have your pen and
notebook nearby and your trusty highlighter pen if the text is your own (please
never mark up library books!)
As you read it is helpful for you to be: thinking about the content; making
notes; trying to consider the relationship between concepts; contrasting your
reading with knowledge and insights you already have; consider how your reading
influences or answers a potential essay question or class discussion; ask
yourself what are the applications of what you are studying. Be critical and
discerning about the materials you use.
Do not underestimate the importance of taking your own notes. Notes you
decide to write highlight what you think is most important, relevant,
interesting and helpful for you to understand concepts and ideas.Putting these
concepts in language you understand is an extremely potent way of developing
your knowledge of the subject.Note taking increases the time spent
concentrating on a study topic and reinforces your ability to absorb what you
have been reading. Your notes will be invaluable when it comes to preparing
coursework and revising for exams.
If you write out quotes from a text, don’t forget to write down the author,
title and page number. There is nothing more frustrating than having to go back
to all the texts you have just read to find page numbers! This will be
particularly important if you want to use the quote in your coursework.
Guidance on Essay Writing
- First year student essays should, at the minimum
- Show an understanding
of the issues raised by the questions
- Refer to the basic literature in
the area (assigned texts and other sources).
Show analytical skills
including ability to synthesise material, present evidence; argue effectively, be
able to qualify arguments and defend or attack established academic positions.
Essays should also be placed in a theoretical framework which guides the
reader through the argument. It is a skill to write a good essay and it can
be a daunting process. Below are some tips for you to try.
How to Approach
What is the purpose of essay writing? Well, it can be two things:
It will help your teachers assess your understanding of the subject and 2) it
is your opportunity to express your point of view and help you widen your
experience of a subject you are interested in
How to Get Started
1. Understand the question - get your pens/highlighters/coloured pencils ready!
- Read the question carefully. Analyse the question. Identify key words
in the question and make sure you understand them (if in doubt, ask!).
- What are you being asked to write?
2. Gather material.
- Ask yourself:
- Does this relate directly to the question?
- Does this agree with what I
have read before?
- Do I need to do more research/reading?
3. Write an
- This may seem time consuming but it will help you organise
your thoughts coherently and allow you the chance to immerse yourself in your
essay writing without the interruptions of having to check a source or do more
- What your essay plan looks like will depend on how you like
to work. The purpose of an essay plan is to provide you with a concrete
reference point which you can return to as you write, keeping your ideas and
arguments progressing in a logical and ordered way.
4. Essay Structure
- Introduction - Your introduction should clearly show the direction your essay
will be taking
- Development of argument - this forms the main
discussion of your essay.Don't forget that paragraphs in themselves have a
beginning middle and end. What is the point you are trying to make? Develop or
modify your point using references and an analysis of the references to
illustrate your point. You should conclude by returning to your original point
and showing how it has been developed.Remember that your paragraphs should
flow into each other
- Conclusion - this should summarise the key
argument of your essay
5. Don't leave it to the Last Minute!
- Work from
- Write in the third person
- Write the first draft
and leave it at least overnight before re-reading. If you look at it for too
long, you will not necessarily notice any glaring errors!
- You might
find it useful to ask somebody else to review your work who can offer some
constructive criticism and spot flaws you may not have noticed.
- Honestly ask yourself if your essay answers the
- Check that you have structured correctly, that you are
within the word count (if your essay is too long consider editing the language
you use), that you have referenced correctly and you have a bibliography.
- Re-draft, re-draft and redraft again if you need to.
Last modified on 16 September 2011