Studying at uni
To learn effectively, you will need to employ a variety of different methods. Use the tips below to improve your study skills. Alternatively, you might like to attend a workshop.
You may also like to use our Semester Planner to help plan your time at uni.
Group work can be required in a number of courses, and there are simple guidelines that will help you complete work this way.
All members of the group will have different goals for the standard of work they want to achieve, how often they should meet and the quality of the work submitted. It is important to establish:
- the grade your group is hoping to achieve
- how many meetings you'll have and their duration. Construct a timeline, showing meetings, deadlines, etc.
- how the group will work by identifying roles so that everyone knows what each member is responsible for and keep minutes of your meetings. Consider rotating roles each meeting so that group members experience each role.
- the rules for discussions and organise time for everyone to make contributions
- that decisions are made as a group – this might require gathering more information before a decision can be made
From the first meeting, get into the habit of both expecting and allowing the Chairperson to keep the group on task and work-focused. Divide into sub-groups when it is appropriate. A single task might be completed more effectively by assigning individual members responsibilities for sub-tasks. Make sure sub-groups and individuals always report back to the main group and obtain approval for their tasks.
Being prepared throughout your course will help ease some of the exam stress.
- Make a regular time for review and use a variety of methods, such as summary cards and diagrams or recite practice questions. Rehearsing the information allows it to be saved in your long-term memory.
- Maintain a healthy work-life-study balance.
- Look at copies of past exams and analyse the format. Know what to expect in the exam.
To help you recall information:
- Put information in your own words - summarise, outline. Can you explain the idea to someone else?
- Organise information into chunks or sets. Recall mind-maps and diagrams, turn them into paragraphs.
- Show relationships by using diagrams, flow charts, mind-maps. Use associations like colour coding, drawings or numbers to make links.
- Use similarities and differences tables.
- Devise practice questions and plan answers for them.
Try to avoid:
- copying, rather than using your own words
- not taking a break
- studying several subjects together
- not having material organised into logical categories
- no regular revision
Referencing is a method used to accurately indicate the source of information or ideas which are cited or discussed in your work. It also gives the precise location of anything quoted.
The Library offers more information about referencing.
Why do we reference?
- To incorporate a source that supports your work.
- To demonstrate scholarly and critical familiarity with the field of study.
- To enable readers to find the original source of the reference.
- To demonstrate differences in the approaches or findings of previous researchers.
- To avoid plagiarism by indicating the origin of an idea, information or actual text that has been used.
What do we reference?
- Any quoted text - direct quotations must be indicated using quotation marks (short quotes) or indented paragraphs (longer passages).
- Any idea or information (paraphrased or summarised) from a source which is not common knowledge.
Different systems of referencing
There are two main systems of referencing: author-date and traditional footnotes/endnotes. There are many variations of these systems. A style manual will show you how to use the referencing system required.
What is a style manual?
Style manuals are referencing guides that list rules on layout, font and structure for a source. They also include examples of how to format in-text references, endnotes/footnotes and the bibliography. Find the style manual relevant to your course.
What is an 'in-text' reference?
In-text referencing is when you acknowledge the source of your information or ideas within the text of your work. Here's an example, using APA style:
The imposition of western-style education on traditional societies has been labelled assimilationist (Christie, 1985)
Christie (1985) believes that the imposition of western –style education on traditional societies is assimilationist.
What is a bibliography?
A bibliography is an alphabetical list of all the sources used or referred to in the text of your assignment. Here's an example, using APA style:
Christie, M (1985). per cent Aboriginal perspectives on experience and learning: The role of language in Aboriginal learning. Geelong, Australia: Deakin Press
What is a reference list?
A reference list includes only the references that you have cited in your assignment. A reference list is placed on a separate page and listed alphabetically at the end of your assignment.
What is an annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is a bibliography which includes a summary paragraph, or annotation, for each source listed in the bibliography. These annotations summarise such things as the main idea, findings, methodology and conclusions of the source.
How do I reference?
- Find out which referencing style is used for your course.
- As you research keep a full bibliographical account of the text you are using. This will make in-text referencing and writing your bibliography much easier.
- Find a copy of the style manual relevant to your course and use it to record your in - text citations and bibliography. Remember, it is essential to use the exact format as shown in the style manual.
- Complete in-text referencing as you write your essay.
- Complete your reference list or bibliography once you have completed your essay.
- Check and edit your referencing before you submit your work.
It is not enough simply to reproduce, summarise, report or describe what others have found. You need to test the opinions and findings of an author against the evidence provided, against the opinions and judgements of other writers, and against your own point of view.
Questions to ask:
- Why has the author come to this conclusion?
- How valid is the proposition?
- How sound is the methodology?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the author's argument?
Critically engaging with the reading involves thinking about what an author is saying, and not just looking at what he or she is writing.
Authors who hold contrasting points of view on a topic are an excellent resource. They help you evaluate arguments and evidence put forward in a particular text.
When should I stop?
You've done enough reading when you have formulated a clear argument, supported by relevant and up-to-date research in your field.
Over time, you will develop a sense for when you have read enough. You don't want to have so much information and readings to integrate that the essay becomes confused and dense. Your ideas and the development of your original argument are still going to be the bulk of the essay.
- Take your notes in an organised way, either in a notebook or directly onto your computer.
- If you are reading a book, simply bookmark the relevant part of the text and keep reading. At the end of each chapter assess the importance of each marked section, and then take notes. Be selective.
- Take point-form notes in your own words. This is the best way of ensuring that you understand the material you are using.
- Continue to evaluate your reading in terms of its relevance to your essay question. As you do more reading, you may need to change or develop your plan.
A 2,000 to 3,000 word essay should be started three to four weeks before the due date. This allows time for:
- topic analysis, planning and research – about 50 per cent of your time
- writing the first draft – 25 per cent
- revising, editing, referencing and proofreading – 25 per cent
It is also a good idea to allow time for someone else to read over your essay for any language or logical inconsistencies.
To shave off stress with exams, a little preparation is key. Success with study is all about the organisation, not procrastination. First up, confirm your exam dates and add these to your diary. Then you can start scheduling your study using these simple exam prep tips.
- Start your study preparation well in advance of any tests – four weeks out is an optimal figure.
- Download any exam or assessment prep from Blackboard or gather together anything you've printed out beforehand.
- Understand what type of exam you'll be sitting: multiple choice, open book or long answer, and what's expected of you.
- Set up a study and work timetable, making sure you schedule in time for exercise, catching up with friends or doing something you enjoy.
- Schedule your study for times that benefit you – when are you at your most alert/enthusiastic? Early mornings can work for some – so set your alarm to get up earlier than your housemates and study for an hour before breakfast – or plan for mid-afternoon library sessions between lectures.
- Take advantage of short 15 minute breaks to cram and plan. If you travel on a bus or train to work use this time while you're travelling (or waiting for a bus) to study.
- Prioritise your toughest subjects, or those worth the most, and allocate more time for studying these.
- What works for you? Reading out loud? Recording then listening back? Rewriting notes in your own words? Highlighting? Practice runs? Experiment, and then do what works.
- Stay well-hydrated, drinking plenty of water while you're studying - particularly if you've increased your caffeine allowance. Keep your snacks light and nutritious (nuts and fruit are good). And take a break after 60 minutes to stretch, walk around and get refreshed.
- Just do it. Don't procrastinate – sit down,set a timer and start studying!