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Showing posts with label Learning skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Learning skills. Show all posts

25 May 2017

Some revelations for effectively studying for exams

Want to ensure your study is effective? Learning Skills Adviser Roland Clements has a few pointers.


The rule for studying for exams is to study for understanding ... not just to get good grades! Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself: “I can do this” and think about the following...

What subjects should I start with?

Start with the material you like. Before you delve into a subject, a quick read of the entire topic is a great idea. Go through the relevant texts and notes to refresh your memory. Once you understand the scope of your subject, you can focus on the details. So start with the material you like, and then move on to the more challenging parts that require extra work.

Group or individual study?


Why not both? Here are a few pointers:
  • Firstly, all the group members should study independently. Once you all grasp the fundamentals of your subject, you can revise as a group, so that everyone is on the same page.
  • It might help to take turns teaching others what you have learnt. Be prepared to ask questions and to challenge each other. Studying this way also prepares you for later life and teaches you the value of collaboration and the effectiveness of collective effort to achieve a target.
  • Even if you chose to study by yourself, take some time to teach others, this will help clarify and retain the subject matter you are studying.
  • Have fun and laugh, but make sure you all get back to the work at hand.

Should I study for long periods of time?

It’s a good idea to work for an hour at a time. If you start to feel tired before an hour, then you need to discipline yourself and gradually build it up to an hour. Here is a structure of a one hour model:
  • 5 minutes: Prepare (what will I study now? How will I study?)
  • 45 minutes: Study (revise, synthesise, practice)
  • 5 minutes: Review (what did I learn?)
  • 5 minutes: Refresh (stand, stretch)
Do something you really enjoy and then come back to work. You will find you can go on like this for quite a while.

Some handy tips:
  1. Find a spot that you find comfortable and start work - the library is a good choice, as there will be minimal distraction and you can make optimum use of your time.
  2. Keep all the stuff you need at hand: your notes, pens, textbooks and water.
  3. If you can, study with one or two other people in the same room to keep you on track.
  4. Skim over all the notes you have at least two or three times so you get an idea of what you are in for in the exam.
  5. Eat a light dinner and keep some snacks for those hunger pangs.
  6. Take a fifteen minute break every two hours or so to relax. Do something you like which you can do quickly – stretch or take a short walk.
  7. Two hours before the exam do a quick revision but don’t learn anything new, just a review of everything you managed to study once or twice.
  8. Keep all the materials you need for the exam the next day packed and ready – pens, calculator, pencils etc.
  9. Check out the Library’s tutorials on Studying for exams and Examination strategies.

After the exam

Enjoy and celebrate – you’ve earned this one!

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14 February 2017

Are you a Library lover?


Did you know February 14 is also Library Lovers’ Day? Declared so by the Australian Library and Information Association, it is a day of spreading library love.


Having a healthy relationship with your library while studying means you're significantly more likely to achieve higher grades. A healthy relationship means that while you engage with the Library by using information resources and spaces available, the Library cares for you in return by providing a welcoming and inspiring place of study and the resources you need so you can do your tasks efficiently and achieve your learning outcomes. 

Not only will your grades improve, you'll be less stressed while you're working on them, too. Library staff work with you so you can develop skills to research your topic, write your assignment, finish that dreaded reference list or prepare for an oral presentation.

So for Library Lovers' Day, we're taking a moment to step back and share with you the many ways Monash students love the Library, and some "love letters" we've received over the past year. This day only happens once a year, but our staff are working hard every day to find that elusive resource, answer the difficult questions, and solve all (well, most) of your information problems.


Love letters

One of our librarians received this glowing praise from the VCAL coordinator who appreciated how she engaged well with the students.


“Today I took a group of my students to Monash to participate in a library session.  I have been bringing my students to Monash since 2010 and really appreciate the library staff giving these students an introduction to library skills.

I teach students who attend an alternative school and can be quite difficult to engage.  Romney had great presence in the classroom and was able to very quickly form a connection to the students.  She made the session both fun and informative for my students and really engaged them in the process.  The students tested her on a few occasions and she handled it with grace, humour and professionalism.  All of the students found the day to be highly engaging and enjoyable and Romney really helped to set the tone for that with the introductory session.” - Mark Hunt, VCAL Coordinator
One of our learning skills advisers got a special mention in a SETU survey last semester. In their comments students singled her out and the session she delivered as some of the aspects of the SCI2010 unit that they found most effective. The unit had its best ever ranking.
The Library workshop and tutorial
The Library classes that helped with the assessment tasks
I really enjoyed the Library session and would encourage future students to attend
Tami and the Library staff are extremely helpful and lovely
Another learning skills adviser received this feedback from a grateful student – we’ve got more than just research tips up our sleeves!
“Thank you so much. I have backed up all my work just as you taught me this morning. That is really helpful and I will not worry about that anymore. You and all the Library and eSolutions staff do such an excellent job for us. Many thanks.”
One of our Law subject librarians received a heartfelt thank you from a postgraduate student. A great example of Library staff helping students achieve greater learning outcomes.
“I just wanted to say, thank you so much for helping me with research. There was a notable difference in my marks because I had improved on research. I couldn’t have done that without your help. So I truly appreciate what you do for students!”
And this Arts student was able to find what she was looking for through our Library services:
Thank you all so much for making my research easier and more worthwhile – today I found ten much-needed books in the Holds section. This is an excellent service and so helpful and prompt.”
So go on, share something with us! We appreciate any and all comments here at the Library, and are continually aiming to improve our services for both staff and students alike, as well as the wider Monash community and all who enter our doors.

Happy Library Lovers’ Day!


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15 August 2016

Strategies for efficient reading



It can be challenging to find enough time for all the reading you need to do at uni. However, by staying organised and using the right reading strategy, you can get more out of the time you have...
by Clinton Bell, Tami Castillo, and Damian Gleeson


3591108120_b73d0df696_z.jpg
Sam Greenhalgh/Flickr
Getting organised

Before you start, you should plan what you’re going to read. Some readings may be assigned by your lecturer, but you’ll also be expected to read independently for assessment tasks to revise or help you understand your subject.

Make a note of what you need to read, and set aside time to do so. Prioritise readings by importance as well as due date - some readings are essential, while others may be helpful but not strictly necessary. You should also work out how you will access the readings - it might be hard to borrow an important textbook just before an exam!

For many units, the Library publishes reading lists which can help you find and access your readings. If you sign in you can, make notes and mark off the ones you’ve completed. If you’re reading for an assessment, it’s a good idea to write down the publication details (title, authors, publication date, etc.) of what you’ve read. You’ll need them later for your reference list.

There are different ways to read a text, depending on what you want to get out of it. Usually you want to do one of three things: get a general understanding of a topic, find a specific piece of information, or learn something in detail. Using the right strategies for each can save you a lot of time!


Getting a general understanding

Sometimes you need to understand the general ideas behind something, but don’t need to know all the details. In this case you can skim over parts of the text instead of reading every word. You might also do this to help you decide whether you should take the time to read something in detail, for example when researching for an assignment.

Many texts provide an overview of the important ideas for you. Look for an introduction, abstract, or executive summary at the start, and a conclusion or summary at the end. You can also look at the section headings or table of contents to get an idea of what the text covers.

Another approach would be to read the first paragraph of each section and the first sentence or two of each paragraph. Usually the main idea of each section and paragraph is presented at the start, so this will let you get most of the meaning without getting into details.


Finding specific information

If you’re only looking for a specific piece of information, you don’t want to have to read a bunch of other stuff to find it. Fortunately, most texts have tools which help you skip to the information you need.

For most electronic documents, you can find a word or phrase by pressing Control+F on Windows or Command+F on a Mac. For paper textbooks, use the index at the back of the book to find the right page - it lists the concepts in the book with the pages they are mentioned on. If there’s no index use the table of contents and the section headings to find the right general area, then read in detail.
It may also help to use a reference work instead of your normal textbook. Reference works are designed for quickly looking up information, instead of reading from start to finish. Dictionaries and encyclopaedias are examples, but there but also more specialised reference works such as drug handbooks for nurses or databases of materials for engineers.


Learning content in detail

Often you will need to develop a detailed understanding of what you’ve read. In this case you do need to read all of the text carefully, but it can be useful to start by reading for general understanding, like we discussed above. Once you understand the concepts, you can go back and read more thoroughly - it’s easier to remember the details that way.

Detailed reading can take a long time, so make sure you plan for it. It’s also a good idea to set aside time to revise, since it’s hard to remember everything from one reading.

For more on the different reading styles, you can check out our quick study guide or have a look at these questions to help you build effective reading strategies from the ground up! You can also book into a Library workshop via the Library Class Booking System (search for ‘reading’ to find relevant workshops), or chat to a Learning skills adviser at your Library’s Research & Learning Point for more advice.


Happy reading!



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30 May 2016

Strategies for exam-day success

There’s an art to sitting exams. Knowing the material is important, but you also need to use the right strategy, says Clinton Bell.


In the run up to exams, you might have thought a lot about the best way to revise. But what about the best approach to use in the exam? There’s a certain skill to taking exams, and taking the right approach on exam day can really help your mark.

There are three main aspects to exam day success: making sure you understand what’s being asked, managing your time, and staying calm under pressure.

Understanding the question

Read the exam instructions thoroughly during reading time. At high school, I knew someone who rushed through the instructions because he was nervous, and missed the part that said “Choose one (1) out of the following topics”. He ended up trying to write three essays instead of one!

You should also read each question carefully and make sure you address exactly what was asked. Pay close attention to direction words like “describe” and “compare”, as well as any other instructions. If you don’t do quite what you were asked, or you only address part of the question, you won’t get full marks.

For more complex questions, you may find it helpful to make a list of the key information before writing your answer. For example, for a question about a medical case study you might note the patient’s symptoms, age, gender, and so on. This helps you keep track of all the relevant information without having to read the entire question again.

Time management

Even if you know the material really well, finishing an exam within the time limit can be challenging, so it’s important to manage your time carefully. Spend time on each question based on how many marks it’s worth - you don’t want to spend 50% of your time on a question that’s only worth 5% of the total mark! On most exams you don’t have to answer the questions in order, so just move on if you get stuck. You can try again later if you get time.

It’s also a good idea to start with the questions you know you can answer. That way if you run out of time, at least you’ll get good marks for the questions you did complete.

Working under pressure

It’s normal to be a little stressed during exams, but if you’re too anxious it can be hard to think. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, take a moment to focus. Concentrate on breathing slowly and evenly.

Once you’ve taken a few deep breaths, work through the questions methodically. Read each question carefully, identify the important information, and think about how you can apply that information. Don’t panic if you don’t know the answer to a question right away - just keep working through the process.

You can also reduce your stress on exam day by looking after practical things. Make sure you know how to get to the exam venue, and plan to arrive early in case you’re delayed. Set any equipment you need out the night before so you don’t forget them. Finally, don’t go overboard with caffeine on the morning of the exam. One cup of coffee is fine, but it can give you the jitters if you have too much.

Have a healthy and successful exam period, and best of luck on your exams!


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26 May 2016

Exam study tips from an expert

We'll have learning skills advisers available online via the Library's Facebook page to provide expert advice, tips and answers to your exam study-related questions. It's available, so why not take advantage of the opportunity?



It may be your first time to sit final exams in university. You have your lecture and unit revision notes but feel that you could use some help to clarify or just confirm what you think you know about exam preparation.

Visit the Library's Facebook page during Swot Vac when a learning skills adviser is available online to work with you on:

  • studying for exams
  • strategies for exams
  • types of questions and more.


From Monday 30 May to Friday 3 June, 2pm until 5pm, we invite Monash students to post their exam study-related questions on the Library's Facebook timeline rather than via the inbox. This way, the answers to questions, advice and tips can benefit more students.

If you've been to a Library research and learning drop-in session in person before, then you'll know how useful it is to get an expert's advice. We're just making the opportunity available to more students by taking it to the virtual space.

Like us on Facebook and ask us your questions.

Face-to-face drop-in sessions are offered at advertised times in some libraries during Swot Vac.







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17 May 2016

Getting ready for exams

With the end of the semester just around the corner, now is the time to focus on your preparation for exams (if you haven’t already!). Here are some tips to help you make the most of your study time and feel more confident heading into exams, says Learning Skills Adviser, Emma Price.



Managing your time 

‘Night before’ cramming rarely delivers good results on the day. Start by planning your schedule with specific days and times to revise your units. Use a weekly planner on paper or an app to mark out your classes and other commitments, then assign times around these when you will study. Try to get a good spread across the week and make this a regular part of your planning. Each study session should have a clear goal of what unit and topic will be revised. You may also find it useful to spend a small amount of time initially getting all of your unit materials organised so it is easier to use them for revision (more tips on different styles below). 

One of your biggest enemies in exam preparation is procrastination. By setting goals within your week you can more easily accomplish your revision rather than having a vague sense of revising all of your units. Be wary of time-eating technology too. TV, social media, smartphones and other devices may all seem much more attractive than study. Even cleaning your bathroom might have more appeal! But make sure to stay on target. Switch off any devices during your study times to avoid distraction and then use them as short rewards for when you have completed your study sessions. Prioritise your other commitments around your study too - if your bathroom really is in dire need of a clean, it can still wait till you’ve spent some time on revision!

Mix it up

Aim to be active in your revision approach. This means doing more than just reading over your notes or textbook. A good approach is creating your own topic summaries from your lectures, notes and readings. This way you synthesise and compile each topic into its main points and examples for a more effective study resource, and the very process of creating a summary is helping you understand and remember the topic.

There are a range of different study styles you can use to be more effective in your study time and to help you remember information. Everyone has their own learning style preference so work to your strengths. Do you prefer hearing information, talking about it, or a more hands-on practical approach? Perhaps you are a more visual learner and prefer diagrams and mindmaps? Use any or all of these styles to help create useful revision materials, such as:

  • Posters of main topic information - either note form or diagram. Post them up where you will see them often (next to the bathroom mirror, over your desk, etc.) Go over them regularly and then test yourself.
  • Record yourself talking about a topic on your smartphone and then listen back to it on the train or walking.
  • Use mnemonics as a memory aid to associate important information with particular cues. You can use songs, images or names. For example, for order of taxonomy: Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species)
  • Form a study group. Talking through unit topics with your peers can be a great way to expand your knowledge, work through trickier ideas together, and revise what you already know. The very process of discussing with others is another way to help your brain retain information, as well as giving you some friendly support during the exam period. 

Test yourself often. As well as any sample exam questions provided by your unit, you can also create your own tests by turning your unit topics into questions. For example, in a business management topic on effective practice, change the topic heading into a question: what are three effective management practices and how are they implemented? You might want to try simulating exam conditions by getting rid of all distractions, putting away your notes and assigning a set amount of time to answer some questions on your topics.

Look after yourself 

As exams get nearer it’s natural to feel a bit stressed and obsessed with revision. But you need to stay balanced in order to get to the finish line. Some stress is ok as it can keep you motivated and focused but too much or poorly managed stress can have negative effects. If you feel over-stressed or anxious in your exam preparation then you might want to reflect on your study approach and perhaps seek out some help from counselling.

Make sure to eat well and get enough sleep. Too much junk food and caffeine or all night cramming could impact your ability to study effectively through too much fatigue or adrenaline.

Your brain can’t handle study all the time so be sure to give it some breaks for rest. This could be five minutes or so at end of each hour of study to make a snack, get some fresh air or do some stretches. Regular walking or jogging, or something like a weekly gym session or yoga class can provide an important break from your revision and can help regulate any exam stress. And remember to schedule a bit of time with family and friends where you (and your brain) can relax.

Above all, remember that effective study is about how much you learn, not how much time you spend hunched over your desk. So keep these tips in mind, and good luck!

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26 April 2016

Strategies for group work

Group work can be a positive experience in your studies if you work as a team and follow some of these straight-forward strategies, says Emma Price, Learning Skills Adviser.


It is common to feel a bit discouraged or pessimistic when set a group assignment. Students often prefer to work individually due to previous negative experiences of group work. This could involve some kind of conflict within the group, people dropping off and leaving others to do all the work, or difficulties negotiating time or ideas amongst the group members. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Group work can be a very positive experience in your studies; it just takes a few easy steps to manage it effectively.

As an extra incentive, effective group work is essential to learn, as this is an increasingly important skill required by employers. Students who have experience working in groups are better prepared for the collaborative nature of work in their future careers. It also means you can demonstrate this skill in job interviews using your experiences at university. So it makes sense to develop these skills while studying.

So with all that in mind, here are some straightforward strategies you can use whenever you have to work in a group:

Set ground rules

Always do this first. This could be more formal in a ‘group contract’ or through an informal discussion/email agreement. You’ll want to decide on:


  • how often you will meet,
  • how you will maintain regular communication,
  • what roles or tasks each person will complete, and
  • assignment goals and a timeline for completion.

Make sure everyone agrees and understands how the group will work.

If everyone is involved in this planning stage and has their thoughts considered, they are less likely to disengage from the group.

Regular meetings are essential

Try to organise your meetings and their individual goals from the beginning of the assignment. This way you will all know what you are aiming for as a group with set milestones and tasks to be completed for each meeting. If availability is causing problems, you might want to discuss if online meetings or a combination with face-to-face meetings will suit all of your group better.
Always record any decisions made, task allocations and assignment progress in every meeting.

Dividing up work

Before you can allocate tasks, your group will need to analyse the assignment closely to decide what is required and how you will achieve this. Once you have a clear picture on the assignment, you can then determine a fair and equal way of dividing the workload. Sometimes this isn’t always clear at the outset, so you may want to share some earlier tasks (such as initial research) and then divide up later tasks once you have a better idea of what is involved.

Communication

It might seem obvious to mention but all of your group communication should be polite and respectful. Not only is this common etiquette but will also help to maintain good relationships between the group members and potentially avoid problems. Listening to everyone’s thoughts on the assignment and keeping an open mind to suggestions is essential to effective completion. Be aware of your non-verbal communication (body language) when meeting together and focus on giving each other constructive feedback rather than negative criticism or ‘nit-picking’. At the same time, always consider any constructive feedback or suggestions you receive from your fellow group members and don’t take it personally.

Managing any problems

Problems will often happen due to group dynamics or slow progress. If conflict does arise, clearly identify the problem as a group and avoid negative ‘finger-pointing’. Focus your discussion on constructive ideas (rather than on individuals) and consider practical solutions to address the problem. You may need to revise your plans or change your goals, but remember, this is all part of working in a team.

Group work can be challenging but it is also rewarding. Through careful planning, active participation and good communication, your group work experience can be effective and positive.

Don’t forget the friendly Learning Skills Advisers at the Research and Learning Point drop-ins are available if you have any questions on effective group work, and remember to check for any upcoming workshops.










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21 March 2016

Managing your reading


Feeling bamboozled by all the things you have to read? Learning Skills Adviser Tami Castillo has some suggestions on managing your reading tasks better.


It’s week 4 - already feel like you’re falling behind? Can’t believe how much pre-reading, post reading, required reading and suggested readings there are? Not to  mention reading all the academic articles you need to complete your assignments?

Reading strategically and employing different  reading strategies can help you use your time more effectively.

Want to know more? Read on!

First of all, please don’t feel like you have to read everything from cover to cover. One of the keys to reading strategically is knowing there are different  reading strategies to use for different reading purposes. This video explains this succinctly.




Reading strategies

As you can see, using effective reading strategies can help you:
  • save time
  • prepare for assignments and exams
  • keep up with weekly readings, and
  • learn and revise your unit’s content.
Check out this infographic for more information, and have a go at using different reading strategies for your different study purposes. If you’re not sure how to begin, have a look at these questions to help you build effective reading strategies from the ground up!

Being an effective reader saves you time, and brings you closer to those higher marks and success rates in exams. Book into a Library workshop via the Library Class Booking System (search for ‘reading’ to find relevant workshops), or you can chat to a Learning skills adviser at your Library’s Research & Learning Point if you’re not sure where to start.

Happy reading!


Photo: jemimus on Flickr




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9 March 2016

Get started on your writing task


Sometimes just sitting down and starting to type is the toughest hurdle to clear when you are submitting an assignment. The steps in this blog entry will help you fly over it, leaving it far behind you, write Tami Castillo and Damian Gleeson.



You’ve been working for days now and you still don’t have one word of your essay or report written. You really have worked hard but have nothing to show for it. Fear not! All the groundwork has prepared you well, and the writing should take nowhere near as long as the preparation. Sometimes just sitting down and starting to type is the toughest hurdle to clear. The steps in this blog entry will help you fly over it, leaving it far behind you!

Have you fully analysed the topic?

If you don’t analyse it fully, you may not avail yourself of all marks on offer. Assessment topics always have the same key ingredients: direction words that tell you what to do, topic words and limiting words that set the required scope. Be very clear that you understand what your topic is asking you to do and what your tutor requires from you. There are several possible genres that might form part of your writing assessment. Be sure that you know what each genre entails. The Library’s Research and Learning Online is a useful resource to guide you. Several faculties at Monash have their own style guides, like BusEco’s Q Manual and IT’s Style Guide. Check your unit guide and Moodle sites for further information.


Have you done your research?


This does not mean using Google - anyone can do that. The Library spends millions of dollars on subscriptions to databases and journals, and it is your privilege as a Monash student to use them. So use them! Library Guides are a good starting point for finding discipline-specific databases and journals, but a librarian can help you choose some great databases to start with, and also work with you to build your skills so you can get the most out of your searches. Also, don’t forget your lecture and tutorial notes and required/recommended weekly readings. When you start writing you’ll probably find you’ll need to go back and research some aspects of your topic more. This is normal and to be expected. It means you are becoming suitably focused on key aspects that require rigour. Good for you!


Make a plan, Stan. Then use it to structure your work, Björk.

An unplanned essay is potentially a recipe for disaster. As a bare minimum, note your academic position/thesis and the subject of each body paragraph. This should assist you in maintaining a clear, structured response to the assignment question. Remember that each paragraph should consist of one idea that is explained in detail, supported by evidence and examples and linked back to the topic in order to prove its relevance. To do this in 1 - 3 sentences is impossible. If your paragraph is longer than a page, there is probably more than one main idea or there is too much detail. Don’t forget a clear introduction that
  • provides a general intro to the topic
  • tells your reader about your particular focus
  • offers a thesis statement indicating your academic position
  • previews your work’s structure, showing how you intend to achieve your stated goal. 
A conclusion is also necessary, summarising what you achieved and how you achieved it in your assignment, as well as providing a big picture statement of what is all means in the wider context.

Ready? Set? Write!

There are countless excuses to stop you from sitting down and typing your assignment. None of them is likely to justify your inertia. Once you actually start writing, you should find all that research, reading, planning and thinking has put you in a position where the flow quickly becomes a torrent. Get it all out of you as fast as you can! You can edit and proofread it all later. Go!

You may have doubts about whether your work is at the level your tutor expects or not. This may be because you are new to university, the first in your family or your friends to undertake tertiary study, or you are returning to study after a long break. See our Librarians and Learning Skills Advisers in your library’s Research and Learning Point -- they are available a few hours a day to see students or groups. At drop-ins, experts can provide tips, advice and feedback on all the research and academic work you need to do. There is no need for an appointment and you’ll be seen on a first-come, first-served basis.


Tami Castillo is a Learning Skills Adviser and Damian Gleeson is a Research and Learning Coordinator.



Images: Monash Image Library


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29 February 2016

Time management: Getting things done!

Some things remain a challenge no matter how organised you are. If you want to be prepared for your university course this year, read a few tips from Library staff  Damian Gleeson and Michelle De Aizpurua.


University requires a lot more independence in your studies than when you were at school. This means you are responsible for organising your own schedule and study plans. You are free to take the approach that best suits you, however leaving everything to the last minute usually isn’t the best strategy. This post offers some advice and suggestions on how to manage your time so you can be a successful student and have a life!

Watch this short video to see tips, advice and suggested strategies for organising your time and your life. The better you can do this, the more successful you are likely to be.



Procrastination affects everyone - ever heard of the procrastibaking method? But you can prevail. One of the best ways you can avoid the need to pull all-nighters, panicking and madly typing with only coffee and Red Bull to keep you company, is to keep organised with a long-term semester plan and a short-term weekly plan.

Whether you like to write important dates in your diary or use a Google calendar, get organised now! You’ll be grateful for it when the pressure is on.

We’ve got some great resources available on our Research & Learning Online site, covering things like managing your time, and setting up your personal study space. You can also check out these helpful study strategies, grab a few pointers on the transition from research to writing, and other time-saving tips.

Don’t forget, we have workshops for this stuff too! Log in to the Library Class Booking System and search for ‘time’ or ‘study skills’ to see what's on offer from our expert staff.

Starting your assignments ahead of time means you’ll have more wiggle room when your new uni friends invite you out for fun times - and the only regret you’ll have the next day is that one extra drink, not that one extra essay.



Damian Gleeson is a Research and Learning Coordinator at Caulfield Library and Michelle Aizpurua is a librarian at the Law Library.


Graphic: Nessima El Qorchi


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8 September 2015

Incorporating research into your assignment

How much of the assignment should consist of my ideas about the topic, and how much should consist of researched ideas? When my tutor’s feedback says “Where is your voice?”, what does that mean? How will my tutor know what my thoughts are in contrast with those of the authors I’ve read? This blog post will answer these questions and more …  by Damian Gleeson

It’s (mostly) all about you


Your tutors are interested in your response to the assignment topic. They are more than familiar with the experts’ thoughts on the matter; they may indeed have contributed significantly to the body of expert knowledge on the issue themselves. What your tutor wants to know is: after listening to the lectures, attending tutorials or labs and reading widely on the topic, what do you think about it? What is your stance? What can you prove and how can you prove it? For these reasons, the majority of most assignments should consist of your considered response to the topic.

Show your working

In terms of attribution, the majority of your assignment should comprise your particular response, but not all of it. Of course you need to incorporate the research you’ve done

  • to show off all the reading, note-taking, critiquing, evaluating and synthesising you’ve done
  • to have published experts support what you want to say, adding weight and credibility to your academic position.
The voice

So the majority of your assignment comprises your response. The research you’ve done is introduced to back up your contribution. In doing so, you demonstrate your control and authority. Nice! Of course the ideas you’ve borrowed need to be acknowledged in-text with citations and at the end of your assignment with referencing. Check out the blog post on this, see the Library’s guides to citing and referencing to learn more, and always have one of these guides open when you are writing.

Some points about incorporating research

Borrowed ideas should generally not appear in the first sentence of a paragraph. You should show control of the topic by stating the point you want to make first. In simple terms, your paragraph should consist of

  • a topic sentence summing up your main point,
  • further explanation of that main point,
  • evidence and examples to demonstrate the point in action and
  • a link back to the topic and your point’s relevance to it.

Paraphrasing is preferred to quoting as it shows deeper understanding of the literature. Your choice of reporting verb (‘state’, ‘claim’, ‘assert’,  etc.) also demonstrates deeper understanding, and reminds your reader that you have processed published ideas and incorporated a response to them in your work.

If you remain uncertain about how to incorporate the thoughts and work of others, don’t forget a friendly librarian or learning skills adviser is available to speak with you at a Library drop in.


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11 August 2015

How to manage your time

Some things remain a challenge no matter how organised you are. In case you're new to Monash or missed it the first time, check out this blog post on managing your time throughout the semester... by Damian Gleeson, Learning Skills Adviser.




Managing your time used to be easy when you were at school. There were rules about where you had to be, what you had to do, and when you had to do it. University is not like that. You are free to take the approach that best suits you!

We all get caught out sometimes, but being organised with a long-term and a short-term plan for the semester can help you to avoid those long, sleepless nights madly typing up the two essays that are due on the same date in week 6 or week 11.

In the video below, see tips, advice and suggested strategies for organising your time and your life. The better you can do this, the more successful you are likely to be.  Get your Google calendar (for example) organised now! You'll be grateful for it when the pressure is on.

There are further time-saving suggestions in the Library's Quick Study Guides. Or check out these helpful study strategies, and grab a few pointers on the transition from research to writing.

Check out the video:





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27 April 2015

5 strategies to manage your group assignment

Practical strategies to manage the challenges of working in a group can spell success for your next group project or assignment... by Sebastian Borutta


http://pixabay.com/en/startup-meeting-brainstorming-594091/
Do you dread working on a group assignment?  Are you sick of group members dropping off the radar, and having to carry the group across the line?  Research into attitudes towards group work among undergraduate students would suggest that you are not alone.  One study revealed that more than half of undergraduate students surveyed had a negative attitude towards group work, with around 40% stating that they would rather work alone[i].
According to the study, the most significant factors that contributed towards negative attitudes were difficulty coordinating schedules and “free riders” in the group, followed by members not contributing equally and differing grade expectations[ii].


Why have group assignments at all?

Unsurprisingly, the ability to work in a group is an increasingly important skill required by employers; therefore, students who have experience working in groups are better prepared for the collaborative nature of work in their future careers.[i]  Consequently, as a student it is useful to develop strategies to effectively work in a group setting. 


So how can we try to manage these challenges?

The following five-part plan will offer prompts to consider for when you embark on your next group task.
1.  Group formation and expectations
  • If given the choice, select group members who you can work with effectively. Friends are not necessarily the best option.
  • Develop ground rules to guide your group’s behaviour and activities.
  • Assign roles based on members’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • Ensure that all members are involved in initial planning discussions. Members who feel that their voice is heard during these discussions are less likely to disengage from the group.
  • Ensure members have compatible availability, or options to maintain regular contact with the group.
  • Set goals such as grade expectations early, and together as a group.
2.  Scheduling and meetings
  • Organise regular meeting times from the beginning of the task, including expected outcomes for each meeting.
  • Consider the advantages and disadvantages of face-to-face VS online meetings when deciding on meeting format.
  • Record decisions made, and the allocation and progress of tasks.
3.  Division of work
  • Before dividing work, ensure that the group has a clear understanding of the task, and all the associated work involved in the task’s completion.
  • Determine an equitable method of dividing work.
  • If this is difficult or not immediately obvious, share initial tasks and then divide the workload. For example, share the initial research stage of a task and then divide up the written component once you have a better idea of task expectations.
4.  Communication
  • Be polite and respectful when communicating with each other.
  • Ensure team members listen carefully, and with an open mind to each other’s suggestions.
  • Be aware of your non-verbal communication when engaging with the group.
  • When giving feedback, also focus on positive aspects rather than only negative aspects.
  • Don’t take constructive feedback personally.
5.  Dealing with conflict
  • Problems usually arise due to group dynamics or task progression.
  • If conflict arises, as a group, clearly identify the problem.
  • Consider solutions to address the problem, allowing specific and constructive discussion.
  • Focus discussion on ideas rather than individuals.
  • As a group, make necessary changes and revise initial plans.
Group work can be challenging and rewarding, both in an educational setting and in the workplace. Through planning and by anticipating and managing potential challenges, you can help your group work experience be a more positive one.

For more information on group work, or any other aspects of your approach to learning, take a look at the Library’s online resources, meet with a learning skills adviser at a drop-in session, or attend a workshop.





[i] Gottschall, H. & Garcia-Bayonas, M. (2008). Student attitudes towards group work among undergraduates in Business Administration, Education and Mathematics. Educational Research Quarterly, 32(1), 2-28.
[ii] ibid
[iii) Hansen R. (2006) Benefits and problems with student teams: Suggestions for improving team projects. The Journal of Education for Business, 82(1), 9-11.


 

 





















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24 March 2015

Managing your reading

You’re expected to do 12 hours of study per unit per week. Two to four of these hours are in class, leaving the remainder for private study. The majority of this should be spent reading, and this intensifies when you are researching for assignments. So there’s a LOT of reading you have to do, and you’ll need some strategies to manage the load. ...by Damian Gleeson




Watch this short video to learn how to read effectively. Using effective reading strategies can help you:

  • save time
  • prepare for assignments and exams
  • keep up with weekly readings, and
  • learn and revise your unit’s content.







It’s impossible to succeed in your assignments or exams without being an effective reader. The sooner you can master effective reading strategies, the more likely it is that you’ll get the high grades you desire. End transmission.

Have a look at these questions to help you build effective reading strategies, and download this Quick Study Guide to efficient reading.

 

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23 March 2015

Being a survivor at uni

Is university different to what you expected? Are you unsure how to get started on your
assignments or if you're doing it right?


At the libraries we offer drop-in sessions where you can get advice or suggestions on how to make progress in your studies when you are feeling uncertain.

Please visit - you are welcome to attend and no appointment is needed.

Our learning skills advisers and librarians have written blog articles for you that may give you a lead in to getting started on that assignment:
At Clayton, the Matheson Library is offering Life Hack videos which will give you tips too.
 
At Caulfield this week, special Survival Week fast classes on Using the APA reference style and Using multi-disciplinary databases are offered at the Caulfield Library. Again, bookings are unnecessary.

Survival Week (23-27 March 2015) offers you a chance to check in and ask yourself how you're coping so far. Check out activities on your campus.


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11 March 2015

Get started on your writing task


You’ve been working for days, even weeks, and you still don’t have one word of your essay written. You really have worked hard but have nothing to show for it.

Fear not! All the groundwork has prepared you well, and the writing should take nowhere near as long as the preparation. Sometimes just sitting down and starting to type is the toughest hurdle to clear. The steps in this blog entry will help you fly over it, leaving it far behind you! .... by Damian Gleeson, Learning Skills Adviser.


Have you fully analysed the topic?

If you don’t analyse it fully, you may not avail yourself of all marks on offer. Essay topics always have the same key ingredients: direction words that tell you what to do, topic words and limiting words that set the required scope. Be very clear that you understand what your tutor requires from you. There are several possible genres that might form part of your writing assessment. Be sure that you know what each genre entails. The Library’s Language and Learning Online is a useful resource to guide you. Several faculties at Monash have their own style guides, like BusEco’s Q Manual and IT’s Style Guide. Check your unit guide and Moodle sites for further information.

Have you done your research?


This does not mean using Google. Anyone can do that. Monash University spends millions on subscriptions to databases and journals, and it is your privilege as a Monash student to use them. So use them! Library Guides are a good starting point for finding discipline-specific databases and journals. Also, don’t forget your lecture and tutorial notes and required/recommended weekly reading. When you start writing you’ll probably find you’ll need to go back and research some aspects of your topic more. This is normal and to be expected. It means you are becoming suitably focused on key aspects that require rigour. Good for you!

Make a plan, Stan. Then use it to structure your work, Bjork.

An unplanned essay is potentially a recipe for disaster. As a bare minimum, note your academic position/thesis and the subject of each body paragraph. This should assist you in maintaining a clear, structured response to the assignment question. Remember that each paragraph should consist of one idea that is explained in detail, supported by evidence and examples and linked back to the topic in order to prove its relevance. To do this in 1 - 3 sentences is impossible. If your paragraph is longer than a page, there is probably more than one main idea or there is too much detail. Don't forget a clear introduction that
  • provides a general intro to the topic
  • tells your reader about your particular focus
  • offers a thesis statement indicating your academic position
  • previews your work’s structure, showing how you intend to achieve your stated goal.
A conclusion is also necessary, summarising what you achieved and how you achieved it in your assignment, as well as providing a big picture statement of what it all means in the wider context.

Ready? Set? Write!

There are countless excuses to stop you from sitting down and typing your assignment. None of them is likely to justify your inertia. Once you actually start writing, you should find all that research, reading, planning and thinking has put you in a position where the flow quickly becomes a torrent. Get it all out of you as fast as you can! You can edit and proofread it all later. Go!

You may have doubts about whether your work is at the level your tutor expects or not. This may be because you are new to university, the first in your family or among your friends to undertake tertiary study, or you are returning to study after a long break. Fear not! Librarians and Learning Skills Advisers work at your library’s Research and Learning Point for a few hours a day at most branches. At drop ins they can provide tips, advice and feedback on all the research and academic work you need to do. There is no need for an appointment and you’ll be seen on a first-come, first-served basis.


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9 March 2015

5 reasons for attending a Library drop-in

You can get advice at a Library drop-in session. Here are some reasons that you might wish to take this option....by Rosemary Miller

Library drop-in sessions commence this week and will continue through the semester. Students seek advice at these sessions on a range of topics and for many reasons. See if you can relate to any of these examples.

1. Need a handle 

Simon is unsure where to start with his first University-level assignment – so different from school.

2. If you feel stuck

Elena wants to know where she would find articles on her essay topic as her search attempts on the internet and on the Library site have found nothing.

3. Make group work work

Adam and Zhang need advice on how their project group might make an effective oral presentation to their tutorial group.

4. Talk to an expert

Sophia thinks that she cited all her sources properly in her work but her lecturer suggested she needed to include more details.

5. More tips

Taking notes in lectures is difficult for Jing. She needs some tips on how to go about it effectively.

You can get advice from a learning skills adviser or librarian at your library's Research and Learning point. Check when drop-in sessions are offered. No bookings are necessary .


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19 January 2015

Learning about academic integrity

The Academic Integrity online tutorial is available to assist students in developing the knowledge and skills required for good academic practice...By Heidi Binghay


As a student, you need to learn and adhere to the ethical principles relating to your use of ideas, knowledge and information. 

The Academic Integrity interactive modules set is an important part of the implementation of the Student Academic Integrity Policy and Procedures at Monash.

You will appreciate how the concept of academic integrity is connected with the real world through case study examples. As an interactive online tutorial, you will THINK and DO rather than just read.

When you go through the modules, you will get:
  • an overview of the main principles of academic integrity;
  • ways to develop skills to ensure integrity in your academic work;
  • information on plagiarism, collusion and academic misconduct.

The Library encourages you to complete the online modules. Academic integrity is a set of skills you can take with you beyond university into your future employment and career.

You can access the online modules in the Library Resources block within Moodle and on the Library website.

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About the Blog

Welcome to the Monash University Library blog. Whether you are engaged in learning, teaching or research activities, the Library and its range of programs, activities and resources will contribute to your success. Here you will find useful information, ideas, tips and inspiration. Your comments on any of the articles are welcome.

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