It’s a new year, albeit the end of the first month. The year doesn’t really start until the holidays are over, does it? Then we drag ourselves back to work, back to school or university or back to the writing desk and try to wake the grey cells up.
For those who are beginning university study this year, it may be well to go over a few well-worn pieces of advice. I’m certain that these wise words have been handed down from student to student for decades, but they are worth repeating for those who have not yet heard them.
Twelve years of school drudgery are behind you, and you are entering an adult world of research and truth, right? Once you eagerly soak up the knowledge and insights that your generous teachers will impart to you, the words will flow from your fingers onto the computer screen, right? (I would once have said, ‘…the words would flow from your pen…’, but that is just giving away my age.)
Wrong. University study is exciting and you will make many wonderful discoveries, but it also involves a lot of hard slog and late nights of reading, research and writing.
I must admit that I am being rather pessimistic, but I operate under the adage, ‘Be prepared for the worst, and hope for the best.’ If you are prepared for the worst, you can deal with everything between that and the best possible position.
Here we go…
- Read the material
All the notes and readings are given to you for a reason. When you go over your material at the beginning of the semester, ensure you have all the materials. In your mind (or even on a notepad), total up the time you think you will require for reading your materials at least twice – as you write your assessments, you will then go back and refer to these core readings as you compile your notes.
- Time management
Five or six weeks between assessment pieces feels like a lot of time at the beginning, but remember that in full-time study you are juggling all the elements from four subjects, so time management is a must! Running to lectures, revising print articles and listening to podcasts, attending study groups and finding time for private study – is there enough time for all of this as well as maintaining your social and home life and perhaps part-time work? Did I forget to mention you might need time to eat and sleep?
All of this sounds overwhelming, yet it would take only a little management at the beginning of your course to set up a timetable that will take you through the whole semester.
As well as reading the course materials, you will also be researching your own information from various sources. This also takes time, and you need to organise your timetable so that you ‘finish’ the assessment at least a couple of days before the due date. This will ensure that you have time to reread and revise your work and its elements, thereby giving you time to include those extra pieces of information you almost forgot, or expand an idea or perspective that strikes you as insightful on rereading the piece as a whole. This extra work may entail a revisit to your research.
This extra work is essential if you want your assessment task to shine as a comprehensive, polished piece of writing. Without it, you can probably pass, but this additional polish can earn extra marks and set a higher personal standard.
- Before you hit send…
The last read-through you will do before submitting your assessment piece will be for a proofread. This is essential! Some tutors see spelling, grammar and punctuation errors as minor infractions whilst others will zealously take off a mark or two to teach you to be more careful with your language.
Spelling is easily corrected – invest in a Concise Macquarie Dictionary Ed. 6 (for my Australian readers). It does not take long to look up the correct spelling of a tricky word, and then you will spell it correctly forever (hopefully)!
Grammar and punctuation are somewhat symbiotic; the one affects the other. The simplest way to check is to read your assessment out loud – imagine that someone in authority (teacher, journalist, etc.) is reading it – you will hear the awkwardness in incorrect phrasing.
Most of these errors are highlighted in MS-Word or Adobe Acrobat, so they are sometimes easily identified and corrected.
These are only a few issues that can help you in a general way; I will be expanding on these (and others) in future posts.