How to Study at University

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

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 […]

Your forgetory

 Point: Your brain is designed to remember I had this wierd thought the other day: Our brain has a forgetory, not a memory. Here is how I arrived at the thought. Things enter our brain through eyes, ears and other senses. The main job of a brain, therefore, is to sort out and then to forget […]

When students know better

Point: You can solve problems, like how to take lecture notes, yourself We don’t know everything. We, in this case, being tutors, lecturers, professors, and all other kinds of teacher. You don’t know everything either but then you’re a student. You are defined by not knowing things; we are defined by knowing things. I was reminded of […]


Point: Always read with questions in your head You already know how to read. (If you don’t, I suggest you stop right here!) If you have ever read a novel or a fascinating blog post – and I know you have – you also know the underlying process of reading. So why is academic reading […]

The medium picture – Part 2

Point: Be clear about the goal of each module you are studying So, following on from Part 1, can you see the medium picture of each of your modules? Do you know why you are studying them? Can you say I am studying X in order to understand …? Knowing why you are studying X […]

The medium picture – Part 1

Point: Be clear about the goal of each module you are studying Do you know why you are studying each of your subjects? I don’t mean your whole course – your degree or diploma – and I don’t mean each field or discipline – Business or Medicine or Geography. I mean each subject. (Different universities […]

Fighting words

Point: Learn how academics express opinions When you think of an academic – if, in your valuable free time, you ever do – what image comes to mind? Do you see an elderly, grey-haired man or woman with a wise and kindly look on their face? Do you see someone bent over a desk, writing […]

Unconventional wisdom

Point: There may be better ways to study  A quick question (and an even quicker answer). Do you usually follow conventional wisdom? And the answer is yes. It would be very surprising if you didn’t. Conventional wisdom refers to beliefs that most people hold. For example, conventional wisdom says that older people can’t learn a language […]

Get S.M.A.R.T!

Point: Set careful goals for each task   If you are studying business, you may know about S.M.A.R.T. goals already. If you do, don’t stop reading! Not yet, anyway. And if you don’t, read on! All through your academic life you have tasks, and you have to meet goals. You have to write an essay, pass […]

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