How to Study at University

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

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 […]

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 […]

It all depends on how you look at it

Point: Use perspectives to organise your assignment answer One of the truest expressions you will ever meet is ‘it depends’. Everything depends on something. When you are asked to write an assignment about the causes or effects of something, you can always say, “It depends.” Because it does. Everything depends on something. And many things […]

Yes, you can use Wikipedia and Google

Point: There are ways you can use unreliable websites in your study The internet is a wonderful thing. No question. Your lecturer thinks so too. Really, she does. Even if she is always giving you books and journals – old fashioned paper – to read. And even if she tells you, if at all possible, […]

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 […]

You can quote me on this!

Point: When to quote and when not to quote There are some things in life that are so tempting that you want to do them even when you know they may be bad for you. For me, some of those things are … eating five bars of chocolate one after the other; staying out late on […]

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 […]

Who can you trust in this life?

Point: Make sure your sources are reliable There’s a whole lot of information out there in the world. It can sometimes feel like there’s too much information. Everybody wants to tell you things. They want to tell you face-to-face, in newspapers and magazines, on TV, in advertisements, on the internet, in classrooms. In blogs! In your […]

Climb a Giant

Point: Use reference lists to find sources Do you remember Isaac Newton from your high school science classes? If you do, you probably know the story of how Newton thought of the idea of universal gravitation when an apple fell from a tree and hit him on the head. Actually, an apple didn’t hit him […]

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