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Top Tips for Studying

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Monday, 9 Oct 2017, 14:09

I am a social anthropologist by training, and so whatever I'm doing, I am always observing it too, and making little mental field notes.

As I gear up for my own studies (see my Student Blog - which is an example of a blog being used as a Learning Journal), I'm seeing how I go about that and what tips I could pass on to my own students about studying.

My top tip for years has been If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing badly. As a busy mum myself, I have often had to just put something in that I knew wasn't anything like my best piece of work. But if you put in nothing, you get nothing. I have managed to get countless students through their first set of studies by telling them to just put in an unfinished draft, or scrappy bit of writing which they think is not good enough. It's not usually good enough for a Distinction (although that has happened once or twice!) but we get through the module, get a Pass mark and are able to go on with the next set of studies - and a better understanding of how to manage study time. That's a far better outcome for everyone than failing altogether because you didn't want to show your tutor something that wasn't 100% perfect.

Course certificate

Certificate of Completion for course where I only got through by sometimes submitting draft assignments, late - but I did it!

Time management is one skill that students often say they want to improve. To manage your time, you do have to have time to manage - which is not always the case if you are studying and working while bringing up three children, a small dog and some guinea pigs, plus popping in to make sure your elderly parents are OK.

Remember that 'time management' doesn't mean getting everything in on time - the university will sometimes allow extensions to your assignments. Make sure you talk to your tutor about these (negotiating proper support is part of proper time management). Think too about a good time of day when you will be able to put your head down to your studies for a couple of hours. (More in this blogpost, although if you read my whole blog you'll see there were plenty of occasions when I had no time at all and had to put aside my own studies. I am therefore very sympathetic to my own students about time management wide eyes)

Read to write - the world is full of knowledge. There is so much already written about everything that nobody can read it all. Grownup Academics therefore do something called 'read to write'. We focus on the things which are directly relevant to what we are going to write about. When you start reading a block of material, read the assignment question first. That way, you can make focussed notes as you go along, rather than reading everything, then reading the question, then going back over all the materials to see what was most relevant.

Photo of online assignment page - with mug resting on laptop keyboard

I didn't wait til Weeks 5-6 to read this, I read it right at the start. I will go back through it again, carefully, in Weeks 5-6.

Skim read, read and read ahead - I quickly skim over the whole of a week's work, then I go back and work through it slowly - doing the exercises. When I have finished working on an exercise, I quickly re-read the next bit of material without doing the exercise for that part. I'm thinking about the exercise as I get on with my day, and when I go back to do it, I am well geared up for it.

Screenshot of study activity with advice note


Have you got any top tips for managing your studies? Share them in a comment here, or in a thread in your Student Forum. 

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