How to Study at University

Practical tips and general thoughts on how to study at a Western university

Practice doesn’t make perfect

Point: Prepare for tests by practising writing answers Exams test two things. They test what you know; and they test what you can do with what you know. Most students – and maybe you – prepare for only one of these two aspects of tests. They – and maybe you – work very hard to […]

My one hundredth

Point: A few thoughts on life This is my one hundredth post. So I’m going to go a little crazy and celebrate. And the way I am going to celebrate is to have a few big thoughts. Crazy, eh! Perhaps I should get a life. In academia we spend so much time looking at details […]

Being human – Part 2

Point: Use theories to explain facts In Part 1 I gave you two introductions to an essay* and asked you to decide which was more academic. The question was Why did Japan and Germany become allies in peace and war? I wanted you to think about the focus of each introduction. Was it on the facts, […]

Being human – Part 1

Point: Use theories to explain facts We are pattern-seeking animals. A few weeks after we are born we recognise that a certain pattern of lines and shapes is our mother’s face. We look at the stars and see animals or figures outlined in them. We look at events in history or business or geology or […]

Cite seeing

Point: Learn when to cite   Some of you do it too much; some of you don’t do it enough. And when you do it, most of you, I suspect, do it wrong. What can ‘it’ be? Talking to your mother? Maybe. Brushing your teeth? Possibly. Citing sources in your essay? Definitely! If you ever […]

Understanding understanding

Point: Understand relationships to help you to remember Do you remember things easily? You remember some things but not others, right? That’s natural. It’s often said – possibly even by you – that people remember the things that interest them most. And forget the things that don’t. So you remember who is in your favourite […]

Imagine a perfect essay

Point: Imagine your essay before you research or write it  When you look at a red dress or a blue shirt can you imagine yourself wearing it? When you look at a room can you imagine what it would look like with different coloured walls and different furniture? Can you, like Robert Kennedy, “dream of things that never […]

Building knowledge

Point: A major purpose of seminars is to construct knowledge Here’s a deep question: Where does knowledge come from? Does it come from books? Or lecturers? Does it come from personal experience? Or from your rumply old grandfather, the one who lived a hard life, smokes a lot and always has a story to tell. […]

The strange case of the vanishing jobs – Part 3

Point: You don’t know what jobs will exist in the future Why do many arts and science majors end up in higher managerial jobs than business or vocational majors? This was the question I ended Part 2 with. Not a bad question, is it? It does seem strange that people who studied business or engineering […]

The strange case of the vanishing jobs – Part 2

Point: You don’t know what jobs will exist in the future In Part 1 I pointed out that the first job you get after graduation may not exist in 10 or 20 years time, and I said that one way you could prepare for this is to do nothing. Let me explain what I mean. You […]

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