I need study skill help(14 Posts)
Have just started an MSc and am studying online, while working & having young kids at home. It's ok so far, & I already have an MSc so the leap academically isn't a problem. However I graduated 8 years ago, and I seem to have left behind a few brain cells in the delivery room.
I could do with some advice on studying efficiently and effectively. I am having to read a lot of academic (psychology) journals and at the moment am doing that pretty passively. Anyone got any tips or can recommend any good (short) books on study skills?
The Open University publish various Good Study Guides. If anyone knows about remote studying, then it should be the OU but I've done a quick google and found this page with testamonials from students and ... OU lecturers!
You'd like to see a few more impartial recommendations, wouldn't you? arf.
This book might be useful:
There's also a lot online on university websites. This is for international students but I've found a lot of it useful:
Most universities have units that help with study skills. Our distant learners can book telephone and/or skype appointments to learning support. It might be worth seeing if your uni offer the same.
Some universities have set up a Virtual Learning Environment which includes online support and instructions for reading and academic writing skills. Check whether this is the case where you have enrolled.
Wrt the reading, I find making notes as I go along helps. Don't highlight, you can do that mindlessly, make notes in your own words. You have o process it more that way. If I'm having a really bad day, I find reading out loud helps too
As somebody who returned to academia to do a PhD part-time (after and whilst working full-time), and now as somebody who is, er, an OU associate lecturer (with 2 v young DC), I feel I've some understanding of your situation!
Firstly, bin the books. That's procrastination! I'd recommend students read a study guide if they were new to, say, academic conventions but you already know about bibliographies, references, etc.
Without knowing specific details (course, institution, exact mode - all online or some face-to-face/telephone?, work/childcare situation, whereabouts you are) it's difficult to give specific tips, but generic ones I give to my students in similar situations are:
- establish a place of work upfront and have an "office" or study. This can be as simple as a packed bag with all your study-related stuff - books, study aids eg technical dictionaries, USB key, pens, paper etc - or as elaborate as a dedicated room.
- if it's going to be difficult to work effectively at home, find somewhere else. You'll almost certainly be able to work at a local campus university library which is likely to open late, or explore local council libraries or cafes with wifi and elec sockets.
- buy a separate USB key. Use it only for study. Back up everything onto the hard drive. Also regularly back up somewhere else - cloud, another USB, whatever as long as it is kept in a different place. So many of my students have come unstuck with loss/breakdown of laptop and all their work.
- if you use the USB key you can take it to work and then if you find yourself with spare time in your lunch hour you can get some studying done.
- use wasted time eg commuting time. If on public transport, read. If driving, download podcasts in advance. Even if you're only half-listening some will sink in!
- ensure relevant online links are saved on every device you have - laptop, phone, tablet...
- consistency/routine helps. Several students have said that one of my tips has worked really well for them: going in to the office 90 mins early one weekday, and staying 2hrs late, using the time to study and letting their partner or other family/friends sort out the kids that day. You kind of claw back 3.5hrs out of other people's time rather than yours. One woman who did most of her studying this way after I suggested she try it used to drop her kids off for breakfast at a neighbour's house twice a week. The neighbour then took them to school with her own kids. In return my student took the neighbour's kids one weekday and one weekend morning, giving the neighbour a gym session and a lie-in. Worked for both of them...
- getting your partner or somebody to take the kids out one weekend morning helps. I try to reserve Sunday mornings for teaching work - if DH takes the kids to the park or soft play from 9-11, having given them breakfast, I can work from 8-11 without interruption, get early lunch ready and then have a long family afternoon.
- re studying itself, do manageable chunks. Have a dedicated notebook or ring binder. Reference EVERYTHING as you go. Too much time is wasted hunting out references at the end. Use online materials as much as possible. Eg copy and paste quotations into word docs (with refs!) rather than writing them out by hand. Not only is it quicker to record, but you don't then have to retype them for your assignment.
- Get a big wall planner and mark up all relevant dates. Write up what your objectives are for each week. Take note of your assignment dates, if any, and plan when you're going to do the writing. Eg my students' assignments have to be in at midday on Fridays. For most of them that means completing it by the previous weekend so they need to be thinking a week ahead in diary terms.
- communication and moral support is key. Find other people to study with - either someone IRL who'll be studying in the library/cafe alongside you, maybe doing something else but there for coffee breaks and to spur you to go, or online 'buddies' doing the same course. Make use of online student forums. Many courses now have unofficial facebook groups too. Of course if you arrange to meet IRL, stay safe... Loneliness is a huge morale-killer.
I'm sure there are plenty more tips, hope these help a little but if you're concerned about specific aspects, ask and I'll advise if I can. Good luck!
(Sorry, interrupted by DD so posted without finishing)
Btw, I wasn't sure if you meant "approaching study" or "reading texts" by "study skills", I've interpreted it as the former. If the latter it's more about trial and error and personal style, I think. Some people study more efficiently by sitting down for 7hrs solid and rewriting everything. Others are better in 20 min bursts and highlighting. Personally I skim read a whole text very quickly in one sitting, then go back and make notes on sections in sessions of around 2hrs. My notes are keywords and the ideas they lead to with a page ref, then the appropriate paragraph on that page is highlighted. I find rewriting text pointless as when I re-read it I can't remember why I thought it significant. However, everyone works differently and some people need to rewrite it in order to get the info into their minds; I have more of a problem with working out what to do with it for my own purposes.
I do sympathise with the lacking brain cells feeling. I've just reread a conference paper I gave a fortnight before DC1 was born and I didn't understand it at all. I had to look up several words in the dictionary, including one from the title. Honestly, if it didn't have my name on it I'd swear somebody else wrote it.
Thanks for all the tips, especially your comprehensive ones Wingding. You have it completely on the nose about a book being procrastinating! It's the active reading I'm struggling with. I am managing to crow bar in time, I think I'm more used to that anyway now I'm have young kids. DH is being great.
My course is mainly online. The lectures aren't much cop tbh (so far at least) so am going to have to rely on my own study. The other students haven't been terribly interactive so far. I'm such an extrovert & I think best out loud so I am going to struggle with that part. Will try and carve out a buddy somehow (bribery)!
Oh and the course is Occupational Psychology.
What about a blog about what you're reading? Doesn't have the interactive element but still let's you put out winning arguments and being persuasive
When you read a journal make a 1 paragraph summary of it.
If you can't do that you have not read it properly.
DillyTante try and google 'academic and critical reading' or 'reading academically-academic skills' or 'skills for academic writing. You will find that some universities have published guides you can download. Students are different and learn in different ways.
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