The Skills & Strategies for Success at University

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2022 • 491 Pages • 5.28 MB • English
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Summary of The Skills & Strategies for Success at University

What are lecturers looking for in a tutorial? Whether you are a new student, you need a bit of help with your studies, or are simply up against an assessment crunchpoint and don’t know where to start, this book provides a toolkit of techniques and tips from the experts to help you focus your efforts and ensure your success. Covering the entire university experience from Freshers Week to Graduation, this highly practical reference book is both a help manual for students and a bridge between Lecturers’ and Students’ expectations of study in Higher Education. The topic coverage, content, design and structure of the book have all been put together from material with a proven track record of student success and student-tested to ensure: • a focus on key issues and rapid solutions, • a clear design so that you can immediately access the information you need, • a common sense, no-nonsense approach with lots of practical checklists and tips, • an avoidance of patronising assumptions and educational jargon. This essential reference book has been written by experts and tested on students and will help any Higher Education student to focus their efforts, troubleshoot any problems and thrive in their university studies. Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers The SMARTER STUDENT Skills and Strategies for Success at University What is the best way to plan for an assignment or exam? Where do you concentrate your efforts for maximum impact on your grades? Jonathan Weyers and Kathleen McMillan work within the �s Learning Enhancement Unit. Both have been teaching for over 25 years and now specialise in supporting academic skills. Their work has involved creating a University website for the development of students' transferable skills and developing and running specific academic skills courses and Summer School for students with exam resits with great success. Kathleen’s expertise lies in supporting academic writing and Jonathan is the coauthor of the Pearson Education Practical Skills’ series. Between them, they cover both the Arts and Sciences. The SMARTER STUDENT Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers ISBN 0-273-69532-0 9 780273 695325 Cover photograph © Getty Images Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers The SMARTER STUDENT Skills&Strategies for Success at University Skills and Strategies for Success at University 0273695320_COVER 4/7/06 3:40 pm Page 1 .. The Smarter Student TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:45 Page i .. .. We work with leading authors to develop the strongest educational materials in study aids, bringing cutting-edge thinking and best learning practice to a global market. Under a range of well-known imprints, including Prentice Hall, we craft high-quality print and electronic publications that help readers to understand and apply their content, whether studying or at work. To find out more about the complete range of our publishing, please visit us on the World Wide Web at: TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:45 Page ii .. .. The Smarter Student Skills and Strategies for Success at University Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:45 Page iii .. .. Pearson Education Limited Edinburgh Gate Harlow Essex CM20 2JE England and Associated Companies throughout the world Visit us on the World Wide Web at: First published 2006 © Pearson Education Limited 2006 The rights of Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers to be identified as authors of this work have been asserted by the authors in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without either the prior written permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying in the United Kingdom issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4LP. ISBN–10 0–273–69532–0 ISBN–13 978–0–273–69532–5 British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 10 09 08 07 06 Typeset in 9/12pt ITC Interstate by 35 Printed and bound by in Great Britain by Henry Ling Ltd., at the Dorset Press, Dorchester, Dorset The publisher’s policy is to use paper manufactured from sustainable forests. TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:45 Page iv v .. .. Contents About the authors viii Preface ix Acknowledgements xi Guided tour of the book xii 1 Introduction 1 Part WHAT UNIVERSITY INVOLVES 3 2 Preparing for university 5 3 Starting out 15 4 General expectations 22 5 What makes university education different 27 6 Personal transferable skills 33 Part MANAGING YOURSELF 39 7 Personal development planning 41 8 Time management 46 9 Financial tips 54 10 Campus orientation 60 11 Social life at university 64 12 Dealing with stress 7 1 Part A TOOLKIT FOR LEARNING 79 13 Your learning personality 81 14 Studying independently 90 15 Lectures 98 16 Listening skills 104 17 Note-taking in lectures 109 18 Co-operative learning 1 15 19 Participating in a team 1 20 20 Laboratory sessions and field visits 1 26 21 Tutorials 1 32 22 Thinking critically 1 37 23 The library as a resource 145 24 Analysing and evaluating information 151 25 Effective academic reading 158 26 Note-making from texts 169 27 ICT literacy 1 79 B C A TSS_A01.qxd 3/7/06 15:12 Page v 28 E-learning 186 29 Number crunching 192 30 Interpreting and presenting data 202 31 Shaping up in maths 2 1 2 Part A TOOLKIT FOR ACADEMIC WRITING 219 32 Tackling writing assignments 22 1 33 Academic writing format 228 34 Planning writing assignments 232 35 Citing and listing references 238 36 Plagiarism and copyright infringement 251 37 Academic writing style 255 38 Sentences and paragraphs 262 39 Grammar 269 40 Punctuation 277 4 1 Spelling 284 42 Vocabulary 290 43 Reviewing, editing and proof-reading 299 44 Presentation of assignments 306 Part A TOOLKIT FOR COURSE ASSESSMENTS 315 45 Assessment at university 3 1 7 46 Multiple-choice and short-answer questions 323 47 Numerical questions 328 48 Essay-style assessments 332 49 Tutorial assessment 338 50 Assessments of practical and laboratory work 341 51 Tackling experimental project work 345 52 Report writing 350 53 Reviews and dissertations 357 54 Poster presentations 362 55 Spoken presentations 368 56 Exploiting feedback 376 Part A TOOLKIT FOR EXAMS 381 57 Creating a revision timetable 383 58 Revision tips 388 59 Focusing your revision 393 60 Study buddies 399 61 Improving your exam performance 402 62 Exam strategies 407 63 Combating exam nerves 41 3 vi .. .. D E F TSS_A01.qxd 3/7/06 15:12 Page vi vii Part LOOKING TO THE FUTURE 417 64 Planning for a career 4 1 9 65 Assessing yourself 425 66 Your curriculum vitae 435 67 Kick-starting your career 440 Appendix: student resources 447 References and further reading 45 1 Glossary of key terms 452 Index 467 .. .. G TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:45 Page vii .. viii .. Kathleen McMillan is Academic Adviser, Learning Enhancement Unit, University of Dundee. Jonathan Weyers is Director, Learning Enhancement Unit, . This book represents a synthesis based on over 50 years of combined teaching experi- ence. Between us, we’ve taught at all levels – including secondary school, undergraduate, postgraduate and within academic staff development. We’ve supported students in a wide range of topics – from biology to dentistry; architecture to orthopaedic surgery; history to social work; information and communication technology to English as a foreign language. We’ve contributed to access and FE/HE transition courses, run various aca- demic skills courses and organised a successful summer school programme for students with resit exams. In addition, we have written several texts on practical skills and study techniques and we have jointly produced websites covering undergraduate and post- graduate transferable skills. Over the years, we’ve presented hundreds of tutorials and lectures and run many work- shops and practicals. Above all, we’ve spoken to countless students, both individually and in focus groups, and have observed at close quarters our own children going through the university system. We have read widely and tested many ideas. This book is a distilla- tion of all the best tips and techniques we’ve come across or have developed ourselves. About the authors TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:45 Page viii ix .. .. Welcome to The Smarter Student. We’re delighted that you’ve chosen this book and we’d like to think it’s because it promises insight into the higher education experience and gives you plenty of useful tips to help you settle into the rhythms of university life and learning. University is an exciting phase in your life and a time of anticipation of new experiences, both socially and academically. Very quickly you’ll be faced with sorting out your life as a student, attending your first lectures, getting logged on to the university computer system and using its e-learning tools. There will be a lot of information to gather, filter and make into some sort of sense. All the while you’ll be meeting new people of differ- ent ages and outlooks who are in exactly the same position. All in all, it’s a stimulating but demanding time. It all builds on one basic notion and that is that students, regardless of age or experience, are good at organising themselves and will quickly conform to the standards that the university community expects. As practising academics we know that this is not achieved quite as quickly as everyone – staff, students (and their families) – might wish, partly because there is simply so much to learn how to do. So, this book is about helping new (and not so new) students gain and develop the skills, attributes and knowledge that universities will require of them. Of course, you will already have some of these skills – from school, from college, from employment and even just from life in general – but this text takes you further. We begin with some tips and insights about what university involves and then take you through the very first days when you’re coming to terms with your new environment and deciding how you’re going to organise your life. Then we move into the kinds of things that you’ll need to be able to do as your course gets under way. This all comes into the ‘A Toolkit for Learning’ – useful tips on practical matters such as taking notes in lectures, using the library, engaging with e-learning and thinking critically. As your course gathers pace, you’ll find that you’re having to tackle all sorts of writing assignments. In the ‘A Toolkit for Academic Writing’ you’ll find valuable suggestions to guide you from planning to submission, with help along the way on topics such as punctuation, spelling and grammar, so that your writing is well developed and meets academic requirements. As you work your way through your first term, you’ll find that you encounter all sorts of different kinds of assessment – in lab practicals, in debates, in tests and other written submissions. The ‘A Toolkit for Course Assessments’ gives you some insights as to how these assessments work and how you can gain the best marks possible. Then we come to the ‘A Toolkit for Exams’, which gives you tried-and-tested tips, from revision technique to coping with exam nerves. Finally, you can peep over the edge of the university world and look to the future by considering career planning and kick-starting your career. We had many kinds of students in mind when we decided to write this text and we hope that it will meet your personal needs – regardless of your experience and background. Preface TSS_A01.qxd 3/7/06 15:12 Page ix .. We’ve tried to remain faithful to the idea that this book is one that you can dip into in time of need. We’ve tried to evolve a layout that makes information easy to find – the ‘Guided tour’ on pages xii–xiii illustrates how the design works. We wish you the best of times at university and hope the tips we have collated will help you tackle assignments with confidence and produce better results. Despite all the advice given here, we acknowledge that there is always an element of luck in any good performance, and we hope you get this, when and if required. We’d be delighted to hear your opinion of the book, any suggestions you have for additions and improvements, and especially if you feel it has made a positive difference to the way you study and approach university life. Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers Learning Enhancement Unit, x .. TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:45 Page x .. .. We should like to offer sincere thanks to many people who have influenced us and con- tributed in one way or another to the production of this book. Countless students over the years have helped us to test our ideas. As we produced drafts of chapters, the following students made specific comments either as individuals or as members of focus groups: Scott Allardice, Mariam Azhar, Eleanor Dempsey, Sandie Ferrens, Daniel Harper, Wai Lee, Kara McAuley, Katherine McBay, Leanne Murphy and David Wallace. Our PREP resit summer school students also provided valuable feedback on the revision and exam tips. We are grateful to the following colleagues and others who collaborated directly or indirectly: Margaret Adamson, Michael Allardice, John Berridge, Richard Campbell, Kate Christie, the late Neil Glen, Anne-Marie Greenhill, Nick Halpin, Jane Illés, Andy Jackson, Allan Jones, Neale Laker, Kirsty Millar, Eric Monaghan, Dave Murie, Julie Naismith, Fiona O’Donnell, Richard Parsons, Neil Paterson, Jane Prior, Mairi Robb, Anne Scott, David Walker, Will Whitfield and Hilary-Kay Young. Also, we acknow- ledge those at other universities who have helped frame our thoughts, particularly our good friends Rob Reed, Nicki Hedge and Esther Daborn. We are grateful to Catherine Boyle at South Bank University for organising student focus groups and providing very useful comments on early drafts. We owe a special debt to the senior colleagues who encouraged various projects that contributed to this book, and who allowed us the freedom to pursue this avenue of schol- arship, especially Robin Adamson, Alan Davidson, Ian Francis, Rod Herbert and David Swinfen. At Pearson Education, we have had excellent advice and support from Pauline Gillet, Simon Lake, Amanda McPartlin, Alex Seabrook and Steve Temblett. Finally, we should like to say thank you to our long-suffering but nevertheless enthusiastic families: Derek, Keith and Fiona; and Mary, Paul and James, all of whom helped in various capacities. Publisher’s acknowledgements We are grateful to the following for permission to reproduce copyright material: Figure 20.1 The Main EU Hazard Symbols, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, via Enrico Fermi, Ispra 21020 Italy; Figure 30.1 Reprinted from Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 32, No. 10, R.G. Rogers and E. Powell-Griner, Life expectancies of cigarette smokers and non-smokers in the United States, 1151–9, © 1991, with permission from Elsvier; Figure 42.1 © Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd: The Chambers Dictionary 2003; Figure 42.2 from the Penguin A-Z Thesaurus edited by Rosalind Fergusson and Martin Manser (Penguin Books, 2001). Copyright © Penguin Books, 2001. In some instances we have been unable to trace the owners of copyright material, and we would appreciate any information that would enable us to do so. Acknowledgements xi TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:45 Page xi .. xii .. PART A WHAT UNIVERSITY INVOLVES 2 Preparing for university: what you and your family need to consider 3 Starting out: how to get the most out of Freshers’ Week 4 General expectations: how the university system works and how this impacts on you 5 What makes university education different: how to get off to a good start 6 Personal transferable skills: how to learn what employers expect from university graduates Guided tour of the book 22 4 GENERAL EXPECTATIONS The academic community of a university consists not only of the lecturing staff who teach you, but also administrators, cleaners, janitors, secretaries, technicians, and a range of specialist staff who work behind the scenes. You will interact with many of these people as you study, maintain yourself and socialise. They will provide services for you but will expect you to do certain things to keep the system running smoothly. It’s in your own best interests to understand their expectations and to try your best to meet them. Communicating with the institution The university machinery of administration is not really as complex as it sometimes seems. Your main role is to communicate with it effectively, for example by: l matriculating (enrolling) on the date and at the time given in your letter of acceptance; l accessing your university email account regularly and responding to communications from staff members. Some departments only communicate on coursework and routine matters by email; l making a habit of reading notices on faculty, departmental and course noticeboards as well as routinely checking announcements for courses that use the university’s virtual learning environment (VLE) (Ch 28); 4 General expectations How the university system works and how this impacts on you Universities are large organisations, frequently with long histories and traditions that have evolved over many generations. However, it is not always so clear to students how to fit in with these traditions and what is expected of them. This chapter outlines some common requirements. Key terms College Faculty Matriculation Virtual learning environment This chapter covers: l Communicating with the institution l Organising yourself l Learning new skills l Planning your studies l Looking after yourself It makes sense to transfer all your email to the account assigned to you at university. This will make it easier for you to check for messages from staff: much of the on- going course information will be distributed via email. Email accounts Chapter opening pages provide an introduction to what you can learn, and how the chapter is structured, and an introduction to key terms introduced in the chapter. Navigation and setting the scene The book is divided into 7 parts, each with a contents list to help you navigate around the book. Additional tips, definitions, examples and illustrations are provided in ‘Tips’ boxes, allowing you to gain the essence of a topic as directly as possible. TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:45 Page xii xiii .. .. Academic aspects A large portion of this book deals with the skills required for study at university level, many of which will be quite different from those required at school or college. Before embarking on your course you may benefit from carrying out a mental ‘audit’ of your current abilities to allow you to focus on areas where you can gain maximum benefit from improvement. You might start this process by considering the questions below. If you find the final question rather open-ended, a scan through the list of chapters in this book (pages v–vii) will provide a sense of the range of skills you will be expected to have mastered by the time you graduate. Ch 6 includes further information. 6 2 PREPARING FOR UNIVERSITY How much do you really know about what studying at university involves? q a lot q a fair amount q a little q not a lot What level of experience do you bring to university learning? q a lot q a fair amount q a little q not a lot How much effort are you prepared to make in order to graduate successfully? q a lot q a fair amount q a little q not a lot How much support will be necessary from others? q a lot q a fair amount q a little q not a lot What skills do you think you will need to develop? Questions to ask yourself about academic study at university There is much you can do personally to improve your academic skills levels: l sign up for appropriate skills-related courses and workshops (for example, those for IT skills, effective writing); l read textbooks, including this one, that provide relevant guidance and advice; l search for web-based resources that fit your needs; The answers to these questions should help you define your life and study goals: n What are your life goals? n What career path do you have as your aim? n If you haven’t chosen a career, will going to university help you choose one? n What subject(s) do you need to study to achieve your career goals? n What combination of subjects will best keep your options open? n How might university limit your options? Coming to university – a reality check 26 4 GENERAL EXPECTATIONS And now . . . 4.1 Get into the habit of using a diary. Use this to keep notes of what you have to do and when and where, and to plan ahead for large-scale assignments. 4.2 Plan ahead. Don’t leave it too late to organise vacation work or next year’s accommodation, or others will get there before you. Keep in touch with the careers service and residence services to get advice and see what is on offer. The careers service should be visited by every student as some point or other (even for vocational/professional studies, where careers seem well mapped out). Your careers service may also advertise in-term and vacation vacancies, so a visit may be worthwhile to see what is on offer. 4.3 Find out more about your university’s support services. Research what is offered and where you can seek advice, perhaps via leaflets and websites. These services aren’t just for help with crises – for example, they organise voluntary work, and arrange social events and outings. You may also gain from services without visiting their offices, for example, via websites. Practical tips for dealing with the university system Recognise that going to university is like moving to a new community. A university has its own culture and conventions. Although it might seem confusing at first, the information you need is usually available somewhere. A good starting point is the insti- tution’s web pages. From the university’s home page, you can usually find what you want, using the search facility. Think for yourself. University is not like school and people generally will not tell you what to do or when (Ch 5). It is up to you to organise your time and to follow the necessary procedures explained in your course handbook in order to fulfil the course requirements. If you have any queries, ask. If you don’t know who to approach, or are in doubt about what needs to be done and when, then ask the departmental secretary or administrator – who will usually be a mine of information. Get together. If you feel that you don’t understand course materials, then probably there are others in the same boat. Ask around and discuss the difficulty with fellow stu- dents. Between you, it may be possible to work out the answer. If this doesn’t work, then ask a lecturer or tutor for help. Seek support at an early stage. If you find that personal issues are beginning to interfere with your studying, then go to the support service that seems most appro- priate for advice. It is better to seek advice while things are low key than wait until the issues escalate into big problems. Chapter cross referencing is highlighted in the main text to avoid duplication and guide you to key material common to several subjects. Examples and self-assessment activities allow you to delve deeper into particular issues separately from the main text. Practical tips sections at the end of each chapter supplement the advice given in the chapter, and reinforce your understanding. ‘And now…’ sections at the end of each chapter suggest a set of further activities that will allow you to take what you have learnt further in your day-to-day activities. TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:46 Page xiii .. TSS_A01.qxd 6/27/06 16:46 Page xiv