How to Study at University

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

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 […]

Don’t answer that question!

Point: Don’t waste time writing facts if you are not asked for them This is the post you’ve been waiting for. This is the one that will put you out of your study misery. The one that will get you your degree. It’s on how to answer questions. To get your degree you will have […]

Ben’s Way

Point: Learn to write well by imitating the best If my father found some emails I’d written to a friend, read them, and criticised my writing style – said it wasn’t elegant or clear, that my line of reasoning was weak, and that my friend wrote better – I wouldn’t be very happy. I’d probably say something like, “What? […]

KISS your baby

Point: Make sure you are prepared before drafting your essay If you have read other posts on this blog, you will know that I like acronyms. An acronym is a way of remembering things. You take the first letter of each word in a phrase and join them together to make another word. Or take the […]

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 […]

You and other people’s words

Point: In a literature review, sources should be mentioned in a certain order It may be – I’m guessing here – that the literature review is the hardest part of your essay to write. Here’s how I see it going. You have read enough sources, you know what your stance or thesis is, and you […]

Write safely

Point: Keep mentioning the topic of your essay. When I was learning to drive, I remember my uncle giving me an important piece of highly technical advice. He said, “Assume every other driver on the road is an idiot.” Now, obviously, every other driver on the road is not an idiot. You’re not, for example. If you […]

Whatever love means

Point: You can often define terms in a question to suit the information you have After Prince Charles and Lady Diana  announced their engagement, an interviewer asked them if they were in love. “Oh yes,” said Diana. “Whatever love means,” said Charles. Now, you might think that Charles was being quite cold when he said that […]

A topical topic

Point: Topic sentences should be about both the paragraph and the essay topics Let me share a few words about topic sentences. You’ve probably been taught that a topic sentence is usually the first sentence in a paragraph, and that it has the topic of the paragraph in it. If you haven’t been taught yet […]

How to kill an essay

Point: Write a satisfying conclusion to your essay Let’s start with the obvious. Writing an essay is not the same as doing mathematics. In most basic maths, you do a series of calculations and reach an answer. At the end of most calculations, you don’t need to repeat your answer and summarise your workings in […]

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