Last week we looked at managing your social media/network but what do we mean by learning through social media? Online social networks provide a whole host of tools to help you learn, share resources and connect with other students. This can be useful as university study has an ever-increasing focus on communal learning. Social media can also greatly assist in your career prospects.
Social media tools for learning
You may remember we covered podcasts in a previous article on Vlogs and Podcasts. So I’ll just give you a quick refresher, Podcasts and vodcasts are episodic programs distributed over the internet. Podcasts are audio-based (music or talk) programs and vodcasts are video-based programs. The ‘cast’ part of the term refers to the ability of a user to subscribe to future episodes and download them when available. There are thousands of Podcasts and Vodcasts available and they can be music, talk, or a mixture of both. There are many podcasts and vodcasts that focus on academic or work-based topics, we recommend checking out:
Cloud-based calendars and organisational tools are brilliant for group projects. They allow you to share events, deadlines, files and notes with other people in your group. The university provides a guide on working in the cloud for more information.
If you need to complete group work with other students but are not able to get together, there are lots of tools that can enable you to collaborate.
Google Docs allows you to simultaneously edit a single file at the same time as other users. You can also annotate and comment on the document which is useful for peer review. These tools can also be useful if you are in the same room but need to edit something at the same time.
Learn through online videos
There are thousands of videos available online to watch for free. Though some of these videos are more useful than others and cover a whole range of topics, there are also very useful explanations of academic/work concepts. If you are struggling to understand something or want to develop or learn a skill you may be able to find useful explanations on sites such as these:
Pinterest is a visual social network that allows users to create photographic pinboards. As it is purely visual media, Pinterest works well as a source of inspiration. It not only allows you to share interests, but you can find lots of different study or career tips presented in a visual format as you can see below.
Build a professional community
LinkedIncan be used to find the right job or internship, connect and strengthen professional relationships, and learn the skills you need to succeed in your future career.
Twitter can also be a useful way to build a professional community through:
Joining in Twitter Chats – these are when a group of people agree to go on Twitter at a regular time (say once a week) and discuss a topic (usually by answering a set of questions). The tweets are linked by including a particular hashtag. Good ones to check out include #LTHEChat
MOOCs are free online courses that provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and receive quality educational experiences. The courses are normally delivered asynchronously so you can complete them when you have time available. They often include activities such as discussions and peer assessment where you communicate with others. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course:
Massive because enrolments are almost unlimited
Open because anyone can enrol, there is no admission process.
Online because they are delivered, you guessed it online
Course because they are designed to teach you a specific subject.
How do they work?
Many of the courses can be started at any time while others start at regular intervals every few weeks or months. Although some may be less frequent and maybe only offered once. Some MOOCs are self-paced so you can choose how you progress throughout while others run on a schedule but are still somewhat flexible.
All the course material may not be available from the beginning. Instead, it’s released in fragments each week, allowing you to pace yourself.
Assessments may have deadlines, preventing learners from lagging behind.
They often range in length from 1 to 16 weeks. Most provide an estimate of the weekly time commitment, although this time scale may vary depending on the learner.
MOOCs can include:
Auto-graded quizzes – quizzes that are automatically graded upon submission, such as multiple-choice questions.
Peer-feedback assignments – assignments that are graded by other learners according to specific rules.
Your performance on these assignments then determines your overall course grade.
Especially as a student, you may have to take into account the costs, though a vast amount are free some courses may have components hidden behind a paywall. For example, graded assignments.
MOOCs often offer two enrollment options:
Free Auditing – which gives you access to videos, readings, and forums for free.
Paid Enrolment – which gives you access to all the content, including paywalled elements such as the certificate of completion.
A small number of courses are pay-only. Also, when you finish a MOOC you may earn a certificate of completion. Sometimes, the certificate is free, but often, you may have to pay for it. A Paid certificate often requires ID verification, which involves sending a picture of yourself and a form of ID like a driver’s license.
MOOCs the considerations
These are some questions you should ask yourself when considering why you want to take a MOOC.
Do you want to become better at a particular skill?
Are you looking to improve your job prospects?
Are you considering changing your goals or career path?
Is it just for the pleasure of learning?
Then you should also consider the more logistical considerations
Do you want to take the full MOOC or just part of it?
How much time can you dedicate to the course weekly?
Are you looking for an introductory, intermediate, or advanced course?
The MOOC listing usually contains information to help you decide if the course matches your goals, such as potential prerequisites, course content, difficulty, and expected time commitment.
Revising your work and the information you’re studying is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure a high-level understanding of those subjects and high-quality work. Students in every subject area can benefit from a well-thought-out revision plan. Today we’ll discuss some of the different revision methods you can use, and how you can use feedback and revising drafts to your benefit.
Study methods for revision
John Weightman & Codey McShane
There are a wide range of possible techniques that may be useful to you when revising. The most important thing is to find what works for you. Everyone uses a combination of different learning styles throughout their academic study, and these will be unique to that student. That said, here are some example techniques that may be useful to you.
Leitner Flash Cards
The Leitner system is a revision technique using flashcards. The idea is to create your flashcards for the subject you are revising for and sort the individual flashcards into groups depending on how well you know the knowledge on the card. You then pull a flashcard from the group you remember the least from and attempt to recall the knowledge on its back. If you succeed, you can send it one box further along the line. If you fail, you send the flashcard back to the first group.
Groups of flashcards you know quite well should be revised less frequently than those you are having trouble with. This way, you’re focusing on the gaps in your knowledge, while still refreshing yourself on what you already know every so often.
Mind mapping is a technique that allows you to visually organize information in a diagram. Start with a word in the centre of a blank page (or use a tool online) and around this write your major ideas and keywords and connect them to the central concept. Then branch out into sub-branches from your major ideas with other related ideas that support your major points. You could also consider using different colours for each branch and draw pictures if it helps. The structure of a mind map is related to the way our brains store and retrieve information. Therefore, using this method can improve your reading comprehension and enable you to see the big picture by communicating the relationships between concepts and ideas.
Writing in colour is a dynamic way to organize the information you’re learning. It also helps you review and prioritize the important ideas. A recent study found that colour can improve your memory performance. The study also found that warm colours (red and yellow) “can create a learning environment that is positive and motivating that can help learners” It also reported that warmer colours “increase attention and elicit excitement and information.”
Consider these tips:
Write down key points in red.
Highlight important information in yellow.
Organize topics by colour.
Don’t just colour everything because then nothing will stand out
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique was originally created by Francesco Cirillo in 1999. This method has been widely used by thousands of students for over 20 years. The method is based on studying in timed intervals. Cirillo actually named it after the timer he used which was shaped like a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian). Cirillo found that breaking large tasks up into smaller manageable timed units is the most effective way to study.
Decide what you want to study and for how long. Then break your work into Pomodoro’s.
Set a timer for 25 minutes and start studying. (There are many pomodoro apps available or you can follow along with someone’s study session on YouTube).
Minimize distractions during each interval. If a thought pops into your head write it down.
After 25 minutes take a short break. Have a tea or a coffee, go for a walk, call your friend, or just relax.
Then just repeat and after 4 Pomodoro’s take a longer break for 20-30 minutes.
The Feynman Technique
This technique is one that I find quite useful. It doesn’t require any extra resources, as all you need to do is take a concept you’re revising and pretend to teach it to someone else – specifically, a child. As you take a particular subject and pretend to explain it to a child, look for the gaps in your own understanding. Explaining a particular concept to someone else out loud can be an excellent way to realize exactly what it is you don’t understand fully yet.
After refreshing yourself on the knowledge you didn’t fully understand, there is a final step. Simplify your explanation. Using analogies is a suggested way to do this, as analogies are easy to recall and explain, and require you to omit any specialized jargon.
This also prevents you from merely committing facts to memory. If you’re able to take a concept, reduce it to its simplest form, and then explain it in a different way, you’re more likely to understand the concept.
The Preview, Questions, Read, Recite, Review method
This method (also called PQ3R) is potentially a more natural way of understanding academic textbooks. It encourages asking questions to facilitate your learning, as well as understanding the context surrounding the facts you’ll be learning. Following the PQ3R method in order should help you have a streamlined study method that will work every time.
Preview: Before you dive into any source material, it’s important to understand what it is you’re about to read. With a chapter in a textbook, this means reading the chapter title, introduction, subheadings, the first sentences of each paragraph, and finally, the chapter summary.
Questions: During the Preview step, you should take note of any questions that are raised by the initial text you are reading. This will help you to become active in your study, and you should keep these questions in mind during the next step, Read.
Read: That’s right, it’s reading time. Read the chapter now, paying attention to any text that is specifically emphasized by highlighting or bold text. Look at all the graphs and illustrations, including their captions, and reread anything that you didn’t quite get the first time.
Recite: If there are any questions that come at the end of this chapter, now is the time to complete them, as well as your own questions that you recorded during the preview step.
Review: A couple of days after finishing the previous steps, you can perform the Review step. Attempt to summarize the chapter. See if you can answer the questions that you created and those in the text easily, having already done so before. How confident are you that you could explain the content in this chapter to another student?
Revising your revision techniques
You may not think honing your skills and looking back on your techniques is revision, but when you do this, you are actually revising your techniques which results in them developing.
Before starting an assessment, going back to basics will help familiarise yourself with how its structured and how to get the best possible grades. For example, if you’ve been asked to write an essay, revising essay structures and academic writing will make for a better outcome. For more guidance on essay writing, we have a whole guide on it: Essay Writing Skills Guide.
If you’re a creative, honing your craft is a key part of your course – writing, drawing, any kind of creative skill needs to be continuously used to help it develop. Have you ever not drawn for a period and when you get back into it, you seem to not be able to draw anymore? You obviously haven’t lost your capabilities; you just haven’t been exercising your drawing muscles. Once you start drawing again, you’ll find your techniques starting to develop once again.
This isn’t only for creatives though. If you’ve been using a computer software, you need to keep up to date with it to build your knowledge on how to use it. The same goes for health practitioners, who must always have more training when new medical practices are found.
As a writer, I continuously revise narrative structures, planning techniques, and poetic form. I write whenever I get the chance to develop my writing, but I also read craft books and fiction/poetry in the genre and form I am writing in. This helps me familiarise myself with the genre and its narrative structure, but also any devices other authors use that may make my writing stronger.
Therefore, revising techniques and honing your skills is important when it comes to the revision process.
For more information and guidance on revision, processes check out our Skills Guide.
Stella Cottrell thinks so. Cottrell is the author of Mindfulness for Students (2018) which isn’t only a book explaining what mindfulness is and how it can be useful, but it’s also full of exercises which can help you learn how to be mindful.
What do you think of when you hear the term “being mindful”?
You may scoff thinking it’s some mumbo jumbo about meditation and spiritual healing. You wouldn’t be wrong, it is to do with meditation, but there is a reason mindfulness has been practiced throughout the world for at least 2500 years. It helps build your awareness and makes you more focussed. It can teach you techniques to help you in stressful situations and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. These techniques can also help with productivity, therefore can be very helpful for students.
What is Mindfulness?
Cottrell simplifies it by not simply telling you but showing you by having you do an exercise – something we will do at the end of this post. For now, I’ll tell you this, to experience mindfulness first you must stop. Stop moving, stop doing and simply be in the moment. Take time out of your day, even if it’s five minutes to do nothing but be aware of your surroundings, your mind and body.
To become mindful, you are asked to simply observe, but this doesn’t mean you must stop thinking. As we know this is almost impossible, and a misconception of mindfulness and meditation. You don’t need to stop thinking but become aware of your thoughts. For example, if you were sat listening to your surroundings and thoughts emerged, you acknowledge them and then refocus on your listening.
As I previously said, the techniques you learn as you become more mindful not only help with your mental wellbeing, but also your productivity. You learn how to refocus your attention, not become as easily distracted and enjoy your studies. Yes, enjoy them.
How can mindfulness help with studying?
Firstly, you want to start every day mindfully. Don’t worry this is incredibly simple and you will no doubt forget to do it sometimes to begin with but creating a new habit can take time. Be persistent and don’t get annoyed with yourself for forgetting. Just tell yourself you’ll remember next time and be proud of yourself for doing so.
At the beginning of each day, you want to do a meditation or mindfulness exercise, like sitting concentrating on your breathing or listening to your surroundings for 5-10 minutes. If you are unable to do this, you can bring the exercise to an activity such as brushing your teeth or even as you travel to campus. When doing this exercise set the tone of the day, what will you be doing and what do you want to get out of your day. By doing this first thing you are more likely to continue having this mindset throughout the day.
Speaking of the structure of your day, try and set time aside for meditation and/or mindfulness exercises. Again, this could be simply doing a 5-minute breathing exercise to help your concentration. It is also advised to do these before lectures and study sessions. If you’re self-conscious about doing this in public, you could go to the chapel in Larkin or find a quiet place away from crowded areas.
When it comes to your study time you can also learn how to have a mindfulness approach to this time.
As first years we are, usually, eager to get started and excited about our studies, but as we realise how tough our studies can be at times our relationship with them may change and become more negative. We want to change our relationship with studying and how we think – yes this is still about being mindful. Being mindful, as I’ve said previously is becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings and asking ourselves why we may feel negatively at times. Change how you communicate about studying.
Do you have an essay coming up that you’d rather not write? Before you start your assignment why not sit for a moment and think about how this could be enjoyable. Is the topic something you’re interested in, have you enjoyed learning about specific things related to it, what are they? Does this essay relate to something you want to do in future? Try not to divert from your assignment by daydreaming about the future though, set a 5-minute timer and allow yourself this space to feel positive about the assignment. You’ll find yourself enjoying your study time a lot more if you go into it positively.
Continue learning how to be mindful
I have only touched the surface of mindfulness in this post, but I hope you have found something useful here. If you wish to learn more about how mindfulness can help your studies, I highly recommend Stella Cottrell’s book, Mindfulness for Students. It is full of exercises you can do to help with studying.
A mindful exercise
Set a timer for 5-minutes.
Close your eyes and smile gently to loosen your face muscles, then relax your face.
Bring your awareness to any sounds you hear, don’t describe them just notice them.
If you notice your mind beginning to wander, try not to get irritated or annoyed, simply bring your awareness back to what you hear.
When the timer goes off, open your eyes, stand up and stretch.
Now you can go about the rest of your day. Have a good one and remember to stay hydrated.
You might remember last week we covered digital notetaking, so I thought I would take you through Microsoft OneNote. OneNote is a digital note-taking application that allows you to gather information which can be backed up to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud. What makes Microsoft OneNote perfect is it is such a versatile tool that you can use to:
Take lecture notes
Embed Excel sheets in your notes,
Take seminar/meeting notes,
Pull text out of images,
Create and share anything you could wish to even if it’s just a shopping list.
How to Use Microsoft OneNote?
Making the most out of OneNote
Alright, now that you have clear answers to “what is OneNote” and how to use Microsoft OneNote, let’s take a look at how to make the most out of Microsoft OneNote in the first place. Some of the reasons for using OneNote are quite similar to the arguments for digital notetaking.
Digitize What You Read
You are probabaly picturing something from the Matrix when I talk about digitizing what you read. This is in fact quite simple and is one of the best practices in OneNote. Most people often write down notes and highlight texts when reading books, articles, and magazines. When it comes to online sources, this can be a bit difficult. However, you can simply copy and paste texts to your OneNote and then edit, add some bullet points, highlight important paragraphs, and also save the source link as you like.
Regularly Organize and Reorganize
If you are constantly adding notes and creating new notebooks, it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. That’s why you should organize your notes regularly into correct folders
Another effective way to organize OneNote is to use tags to prioritize and categorize notes. Tags can help your future searches. Just click the line of text you want to tag and then select a tag from the drop-down. It’s possible to add multiple tags to a single note as well.
Calendars can also help you keep organised. You can capture your tasks or just the things you need to remember in OneNote and create an Outlook task inside the app. For example, you can set a reminder to start studying a particular topic at a certain time or when to work on your essay or project.
Also, you sometimes may need to use the notes you archived in a new note. In cases such as this, try to reorganize and find related content that should be aligned.
Archive your completed tasks and notes
This leads nicely on to using archives. You may go along with the notion that it doesn’t matter it was in the past. But as Rafiki from the Lion King would say you can either run from it or learn from it. You never know when you may have to use your old notes again. Instead of deleting them create an Archive folder in OneNote and add the old notes in that folder. This way, you won’t lose any information, and OneNote will still be able to search those files and bring you what you need.
Search through Your Notes
The built-in search helps you find your notes wherever they are. To search across your OneNote and find what you are looking for, select the magnifying glass or press Ctrl+F. Then type in a search word or phrase, OneNote can search for:
Words shown in pictures
Draw and Handwrite Your Notes
This was something we mentioned in the previous post, this allows you to quickly capture your ideas through drawing and handwriting. OneNote allows you to convert handwritten notes into text. To draw in OneNote, select the Draw tab in the ribbon. Then, click the desired type of pen and start making a quick drawing in your notes. This feature is a great time-saver when taking quick notes. You can capture complex ideas with a quick drawing and circle important things on a note.
Password-Protect Your Notes
This can be a useful feature both as a student or in the workplace where you may wish to keep your notes to yourself unless you are sharing them for a project. The password-protect option in OneNote is designed to keep your private notes safe from prying eyes. So, whether you keep your school notes, work tasks, blog content, or personal information in OneNote, you can protect them and keep them private with passwords. This will lock any page you want, and it won’t unlock unless you give the password.
Sharing Your Notes
Though you sometimes want to keep your notes private you may well need to share a few. If you plan to share your notebook with others, make sure you create your OneNote notebook on OneDrive so that other people can access it. If you have already created your notebook on your computer, then you need to move it to OneDrive first. The fact that it is now on OneDrive doesn’t mean others can see it. Click on share to share with other people.
To generate a link to share your note with other people:
File tab>Share>Get a Sharing Link.
To change the permission settings of your shared note:
Go to your OneDrive and change permissions or stop sharing.
OneNote documents become available offline when shared from OneNote or SharePoint.
I hope you have learnt more about OneNote today. If you can use the product effectively, it will have dozens of benefits that will not only help in your student and work life but in your day-to-day life.
Digital Notetaking can in fact fit into two of our digital capabilities’ digital creation and digital learning. So instead of ‘notetaking’, it should really be thought of as ‘note creating’ or ‘note making’. This is because good notes are creations that represent your thinking, learning, understanding, and questioning. In contrast ‘taking notes’ where you just write down what you have heard or read is actually poor for learning. Whilst these notes do help you record information (like in a lecture), they are actually poor for learning as they don’t require much thought.
The benefits of Digital Notetaking
Though notetaking with paper is very useful and I’m not suggesting you should only use digital notes but there are some benefits to digital notetaking.
Organization. Endless folders can be created almost instantly so sorting is simple and easy. Tags can be applied to files for easy access, sorting, and searching. Each file is named so it is clear what each file is; and you can change the name if you want. Also, files can easily be moved to different areas on the computer. Since the files are digital, they do not take up any physical space (unlike notebooks or papers).
Easy to share. Rather than copying or scanning notes, computers have simple share screens to instantly share with anyone. People can collaborate on a document like in Google Docs, or files can be emailed quickly. When sharing notes, unlike with paper you still retain the original notes.
Faster. Writing is time-consuming, especially in a fast lecture. Typing takes the least amount of time so more information can be put on the page.
Backups. Although computers and tablets can go wrong, they can be backed up on the cloud another drive or on a usb so that your notes are safe. Losing notes can be costly when studying for an exam especially if you spent a lot of time working on them. The ability to back up your notes is one less thing to worry about.
Audio recording. You can use a recording software or app that allows you to playback your notes, which is a great tool if you prefer to learn audibly. You could also record your lectures to back up your notes.
Digital notetaking via tablet
The tablet is a happy medium that has both benefits of the computer and paper notes. Sharing and customization is easy, and it also gives you the option of handwriting which while not as fast provides better retention. Additionally, the small size makes tablets as portable as notebooks. Some note-taking apps for tablets such as the iPad include GoodNotes and Notability.
Apps for note creation
Here are a few apps that you might find useful. The Hull University Libguides has a full explanation of all these applications.
Today we have discussed the benefits of digital notetaking but that isn’t to say that one form of notetaking is better than the other. You could utilize both physical or digital noteataking effectively as this video explores. It’s up to you which one you find most useful or you could use a combination of the two.
We’ve recently published our brand-new Public Communications SkillsGuide, but you may be scratching your head wondering why we’d need such a guide. The way students are being assessed is ever-changing, so we need to keep up with the digital age. This guide provides much-needed advice on assessments in this category.
What are Public Communications?
There are many forms of writing produced for public audiences (no not tweets and Instagram captions), more like articles and blogs etc. Public Communications are used to make academic research available to the public. They are written in an accessible and readable way to not exclude certain groups, therefore reaching a wider readership.
The aims of public communications are to explain, inform, and educate. They may also be written to enact change.
Here are a few examples of formats used to accomplish these goals:
Why are academic blogs written?
To reflect on your work – talk about your strengths, weaknesses, achievements and what you would do differently next time.
To share experiences –collaborating with a group and writing a short section each about your role and the work you completed.
To update – an e-portfolio to post a run down of your creative process, or data you’ve collated. This would be written over the course of your module.
To share knowledge and advice – like an academic essay where you go in depth about a topic, however, a blog will be more informal, shorter, and use less academic jargon.
Letters to the Editor
You may write a Letter to the Editor after reading an article, or journal and wish to voice your opinions on it. A few reasons for writing such a letter are:
Discuss controversial aspects of something recently published.
Enrich the existing knowledge of the piece with an informed opinion.
Seek clarification on an aspect of something you’ve just read.
Share relevant professional viewpoints.
Letters to the Editor should not only be critical but should add value to a topic and stimulate debate.
An article gives a balanced view, or a biased standpoint on a topic which will depend on where it is published and the target audience.
They are usually written to:
Inform – give information about current events.
Persuade – to get readers to agree with their viewpoints.
Enact Change – educate people about socio-economic issues and how they can help change happen.
(I thought this one would feel left out if there were no bullet points)
A wiki is a place to gather information, thoughts, and ideas which you can easily share with others. Now, you maybe sat there thinking “wait isn’t this Wikipedia?” You’re not wrong, sort of. A wiki is structured like a Wikipedia page, yes, so as you all clearly know what this is I guess I don’t have to go on…
But wait there’s no bullet points!
What can a wiki be used for?
To document work – use multiple pages for different topics and store your work.
Create collaborative bibliographies – you and your group can summarise and critique further readings.
Build a collection of links and/or documents related to your work to discuss with your group.
Create e-portfolios– a place to showcase your work and process.
Reflect as an individual or group, writing about how you got from A to B and how the process went.
I feel better now all have bullet points. I hope this has helped you understand what Public Communications are used for. This may also clarify why you may be asked to complete one, or multiple of these whilst at university.
Other types of Public Communications include infographics, newspaper articles, opinion pieces and posters. We go into greater detail in our skills guide.
Students have settled into their dorms, now the nights grow long,
Prepare thine selves as assessment season dawns.
Overindulgence crept up on the first years,
Overestimating the time they had before essays were due.
Karaoke cats got thine tongues?
They didn’t realise being a student meant hard work,
October brings chilling realisations.
Books upon books soon cover their rooms,
Emergency study sessions are being scheduled.
Remember thy words: university doesn’t have to be that scary, you know.
Yes, a poem because sometimes you have to let your creativity loose and in my opinion, spooky season is a great time to do so.
What on Earth does the poem mean?
Basically, what I’m trying to say is, try to manage and organise your time, so you don’t find yourself overwhelmed. And, as it is Spooktober, remember to treat yourself when you’ve done enough studying. Go for a walk down Cottingham Road and the Avenues, it’s wonderful this time of year as the leaves begin to fall.
Arrange study sessions with coursemates and friends, you can book rooms in the library for a nice, quiet place to meet. Use the Booking Service to book seats, rooms with or without computers. We now have a lovely Family Room too so parents can have a quiet place to study whilst keeping an eye on their little ones.
Then you can treat yourself to a nice warm drink in the café on the ground floor, you might even want a cake!
Another way to help you manage your time is by contacting your lecturers and personal supervisors for advice on assignments and how to arrange your time best. Remember, they are there to help.
Most of all remember that university doesn’t have to be full of tricks, schedule in your day some nice treats too!
In the past 30 years, there has been much debate over whether music can help you study. In 1993 Dr Gordon Shaw reported that a group of college students increased their IQ by as much as nine points just by listening to classical music. However, 10 years later some researchers looked into it and discovered very little evidence for this. This does not mean music has no benefits and though it can’t magically make you more intelligent there are ways, we can use it to assist in our studies and it may also help our brains in other ways.
You probably remember those long nights of studying; you tell yourself I’m going to study this subject till this time, and you think you’ve planned everything perfectly. However, you find yourself losing motivation and by the end of the session you’ve only done half of what you wanted. This is where the reward method comes in, you promise yourself a reward for the end of the study session, such as the latest episode of a show or eating that delicious Ice Cream. Well, this works with music too, research from 2019 suggests music can activate the same reward centres in your brain as other things you enjoy. Rewarding yourself with your favourite music can provide the motivation you need to study, so you can listen to all your favourite music during study breaks.
According to a 2014 study, listening to classical music while not making you more intelligent seemed to help people perform better on memory and processing tasks. These findings also suggest certain types of music can help boost memorization abilities and other cognitive functions. Music helps stimulate your brain, similar to the way exercise helps stimulate your body. The more you exercise your muscles, the stronger they become and much in the same way this stimulation is like a cognitive workout for your brain.
According to a 2007 study from Stanford University School of Medicine, music specifically classical music, helps your brain absorb and interpret new information more easily. They also found that music can engage your brain in such a way that it can train you to pay better attention to events and more accurately predict outcomes. So, when you are studying if you struggle to make sense of new material, listening to music could make this process easier. You can also link the ability to make better predictions about events to reasoning skills. Improved reasoning abilities won’t help you pull answers out of thin air, but you may notice a difference in your ability to reason your way to these answers based on the information presented.
Other ways to use music for study
Music can also help reduce stress and promote a more positive mindset. Studies have shown that a good mood generally improves your learning outcomes. You’ll likely be more successful in your studies when you’re feeling good. Also, if you are musically inclined, you could consider writing a song based on what you are studying as our brain seems to process learning songs differently, making it easier to remember. For example, have you ever listened to a song you haven’t heard in a long time and out of nowhere you can just remember the words.
Music to avoid
Whilst research suggests music may benefit your studies it may not always help:
If you listen to loud music with lyrics while trying to read or write it tends to be less efficient and you may come away not making the most of your study session.
Loud or agitated music can adversely affect reading comprehension and mood, making focus more difficult.
Some Students who use music to help them memorize may need to listen to music while taking the test in order to reap the benefits of this study method,
What could you listen to?
As we’ve discussed most research suggests music without lyrics is the most beneficial for study so when choosing music for studying here are some genres you could try.
Classical – Most classical music is mainly instrumental
Electronic Music – As long as it’s not really loud and has no lyrics
Ambient – A form of instrumental music that uses layers of sound rather than a structured musical beat or melody meaning it has less distractions.
World Music – Various kinds of ethnic, folk, and indigenous music from around the world even songs with lyrics might work as long as you don’t know the language.
Instrumental Jazz – If you stick to more mellow songs.
Instrumental and Atmospheric Rock – If they aren’t loud songs
How to listen to your music?
Most streaming services like Spotify have playlists designed for studying. Whilst you can listen to these for free on some services you can subscribe and get a student account with a discount (available on most streaming platforms) and you won’t get blaring adverts. Most streaming services like Apple Music or Amazon Music have similar playlists, or you can create your own. YouTube is probably the best free source for music although you may get some adverts. Here are a few study playlists you could try.
Writing skills allow you to communicate clearly with others, share ideas and create useful resources. Even if your subject area or profession doesn’t focus solely on writing you will likely still require a certain level of written communication expertise. Today we’ll discuss the writing skills that we have experience in based on our studies and how these could be important for you.
Research and Planning
By John Weightman
Whether you’re writing a book or a short essay planning can make all the difference. You should start with just a rough skeleton that maps out the order of your overarching thoughts. Next, go through each thought and start outlining the sub-elements. The idea is to focus on breadth before depth. If you focus too much on any given section of your writing, it’ll be harder to rearrange it later if you realize there’s a better way to structure the document. Properly planning any piece of writing before you begin provides a few key benefits:
Improves the structure and flow of your writing.
Organises your thoughts.
Cuts down on thinking-time when writing.
The best way to improve your planning skills is to develop an iterative approach.
In addition to planning in any academic writing knowing how to reference is incredibly important. It demonstrates the depth of your research and acknowledges other people’s work. It ensures that you avoid plagiarism by making it clear which ideas are yours as well as showing your understanding of the topic. There are many ways to reference depending on both the source and the referencing style most of which are discussed in the University Skills Guides and will be fully covered in a later blog post.
Writing skills for STEM
By Codey McShane
For students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses, it can sometimes seem like you don’t need to spend much time on your writing skills because they might not be as directly related to the work you’re doing. Whether it’s writing a research paper or creating technical documentation, the ability to express your thoughts through writing is an important skill even in the most technical of fields.
Within these fields, you’ll be required to write with clarity, ease and without jargon to prevent miscommunication (Google Developers, 2021). When writing, you should be aware of your audience and tailor your communication to their level of knowledge about the subject.
Developing your writing skills may also improve your critical thinking and problem-solving techniques. In STEM you’ll find yourself dealing with complex ideas and information – being able to break that information down and then evaluate or convey it to others is more difficult than learning the information in the first place. Developing your writing skills will improve your overall ability to communicate. (Quitadamo and Kurtz, 2007)
So, writing a blog about a blog
By David Moore
Writing blogs in my experience expresses to the reader the importance of creation, that being a story, a game or animation. This shows the development of creation and the journey of the creator, such as, where they may have gained inspiration and learnt new skills/ techniques. Without writing skills and creativity a blog would be a bland description of the designer’s day to day activities. Writing skills are important to help the reader understand what the writer is entailing, to show their point of view and expression to their piece of work. Without writing skills, you would not be able to provide clear communication, understanding or development to a project or share your own point of view with others.
By Joanna Rawnsley
Being able to reflect on your work is crucial to all academics, be it writing a reflective journal about your creative process, a blog about your research and how it’s helped you progress, or a commentary on a group task you did in a lab. You will always be learning from your previous work and using your experience to help you in future tasks. It’s not only crucial in writing heavy subjects such as English and History, but practical ones like the Sciences and Performing Arts.
Reflective writing makes you look at your work through a critical lens, this doesn’t mean writing in your assessments “my work is rubbish.” It means looking at your strengths and weaknesses, where did you go wrong and what would you do differently next time. It’s not all negative though! Maybe you achieved a great grade on an assessment after using techniques you learnt in class, this can also be a part of your reflection.
Reflective writing helps you understand yourself better and recognise any necessary changes you need to make in your techniques.