How to Study at University

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


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 […]

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 […]

What not to read

Point: Learn to choose what to read from course reading lists   I sometimes stop in the middle of a library or a bookstore – places I love – and look around. All those books; so little time! And I feel the will to live begin to seep out from under my toenails. That’s how I feel looking […]

How to catch, cook, and eat an article

Point: Choose carefully what and how you read If you are studying at university, I bet you have a lot of reading to do. You might have three to five journal articles a week to read. Or more. For twenty weeks. For each course. In academic language. And maybe not your language! Is there a secret […]

Hurry up, slow down!

Point: Read slowly for detail; read your notes for ideas People read at different speeds. My mother, for example, reads very fast, while I read slowly. (She still loves me, though.) It tends to be easier to follow a story if you read quickly. In fact, one of the benefits of reading easy texts is […]

Being critical but nice – it’s possible

Point: Read with questions in your mind Nobody likes to be critical. Well, perhaps that’s not completely true.  We all know people who like to complain, who seem to enjoy pointing out what’s wrong with everything. They are not nice to be around. And we all want to be nice to be around. Except your tutor, apparently. Your […]

Read all about it!

Point: Read the news to increase your vocabulary There are over 600,000 definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary. That’s a heck of a lot of words. But don’t worry, most of them you don’t need to know. And no matter what your level, you would probably be surprised at how many you know already. The rest? Well, you […]

Know what you know

Point: Be positive about what you already know If you think that academic language is more difficult and complicated than other kinds, you are not wrong. Academic sentences are longer; the clauses within the sentences are longer; and the words within the clauses are longer. And, yep, it usually takes longer to read and write. A […]

Don’t learn a word; learn words

Point: Learn words in context. Do you keep a vocabulary list? You don’t have to answer; let me believe you do; we may both be happier that way. Let me imagine how you add to your list. I see you reading a difficult article. You are frowning at it. There is hardly a sentence which doesn’t have […]

Read to write better

Point: Read to improve your writing. If you want to run faster, do you practise swimming? Or if you want to play chess better, do you play more tennis? Not only that, do you play less chess and more tennis? Probably not, right? If you want to do something better, you usually do more of it and less […]

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