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New to the University

A series of guides for students new to university.

Know what you have to do

Finding out what you have to do and the way your work is going to be assessed is one of the first things you can do to ensure you are becoming academically active. You will have to make sure that you are clear on what deadlines you have to hand in work, and that you understand assignment questions. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification. Knowing what is expected of you will give you a clear purpose and help you become academically active.

Know where you've got to be

It's up to you to find out where you should be and what time you should be there. Make sure you know where your lectures and other classes are going to be and that you have done any necessary preparation beforehand.

Think about your subject from a variety of angles

All the time that you are reading and writing you should be asking yourself why?  Why have authors written what they have written? Why are you making the points you are making? Why have you chosen the data or evidence you have chosen to support your arguments? You should also try to get involved in non academic reading or activities connected to your subject area. This can help you develop a wider insight in to your chosen area.

Practise making effective notes

Whether you are reading or listening to a lecture, you will want to make sure that you have taken in the information accurately. In order to do this you must practise making notes. Note taking is more than writing down exactly what someone has read or said and if you do this too much when you are making notes from books then you could be accused of relying too much on other people's work.

In lectures:  Make sure you use abbreviations and find a system that works for you. There are many online sources showing how to use the Cornell system of note taking. This system is popular because it encourages you to ask questions and summarise as you are note taking.

When you are reading: Try to practise making notes after you have read a section of the text. This will help you to avoid using too many of the same words or phrases that the original text has used, and stop you from copying it word for word.

Be realistic about what you can and can't do

You've done well to gain a place at university but this doesn't mean you'll know or understand everything overnight. Make life easier for yourself by being honest about the things you can and can't do. Ask your subject or personal tutors or the academic skills team for help when you need it. Try to find out when the deadlines for your assignments are and what your exam schedule is. Make sure you give yourself enough time to prepare adequately for what you have to do.

Learn to be self disciplined

Even if you are really interested in  your subject you are going to have to make sure that you allocate your study time wisely. You also need to ensure that you allow yourself some free time to socialise and take part in activities you enjoy. At the same time you must be thinking about your workload and when your deadlines are. You will have to be honest with yourself about the amount of time you are realistically going to have to spend on given tasks. You are not a super hero. You can't expect to continually get by staying up all night to complete assignments, you must allow yourself enough time to do what you have to do.

Learn the academic writing rules

When you are writing academically you need to follow certain rules. These include writing in a formal style, using a recognised referencing systen, providing evidence for your point of view and writing in an objective ( non personal) way.

Learn how to paraphrase

Paraphrasing means writing about something you have read or listened to, in your own words, while keeping the main points of the text. Paraphrasing is a skill that will need a great deal of practice as it is not always taught in schools and colleges.

Some students think that paraphrasing means just changing the order of words around or using different words to the words in the original but with a similiar meaning but this is not the case. The danger of relying on these methods is that your text may appear too similar to the original work. You have to ensure that your work is your own. You should practise writing your notes away from the source you are using. 

 When you are making notes in lectures only write the key points not whole sentences.

Paraphrasing is a topic you can speak to someone in the academic skills team about in order to get extra help with improving your skills.

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