Guide to Study at University

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Royal Holloway

Classics Department

A Guide to Study at University


August 2011


1. Introduction

2. The study environment

2.1 your room

2.2 the library

2.3 managing your time

3. Information retrieval

3.1 buying books

3.2 which translations to use

3.3 libraries

3.4 text collections

3.5 dictionaries & encyclopaedias

3.6 journals

3.7 how to read for what you want

3.8 using online resources

4. Taking notes from reading

4.1 ask yourself this

4.2 what are notes for?

4.3 using notes again

4.4 making notes re-usable

4.5 noting sources

4.6 storing notes

5. Taking lecture notes

6. Seminars

6.1 preparation before the seminar

6.2 what to do in a seminar

7. In-class presentations

8. Essay writing

8.1 general points

8.2 what to do faced with a title

8.3 how to ‘decode’ a title

8.4 tackling the essay: planning

8.5 writing: the first stages

8.6 relevance: what is it?

8.7 style

8.8 cohesion & logic

8.9 how to structure the essay

8.10 conclusions

8.11 plagiarism

8.12 how to cite sources

9. Coping with tutor feedback

10. Playing the examinations game to win

10.1 revision timetable

10.2 time allocation within the exam

10.3 general revision hints

10.4 while revising

10.5 the night before

10.6 just before the exam

10.7 at the examination desk

10.8 when the exam starts

10.9 exam essay plan formats

10.10 exam essay structure

10.11 if time is running out

10.12 language papers

10.13 at the end of writing

10.14 after the exam

10.15 final remarks

11. Dissertations

12. Language learning

13. Advanced literary commentary (original language)

14. Word-processing tips

15. Further reading

APPENDIX: Departmental style sheet


This introduction seeks to answer briefly the following broad questions:

• Why does the Classics Department teach the way it does?

• How is teaching and learning different in university from that in schools?

• How is the British system different from overseas?

1.1 Teaching methods:

The Classics Department employs a wide range of teaching and learning methods, many of which will be familiar to you from schools or colleges elsewhere. Broadly speaking we use the following:

• small to medium-sized classes, especially for language acquisition

• small to medium-sized seminars, designed to develop class interaction, debate and discussion

• medium-large sized lectures, designed to impart evidence, methods of argument and source criticism, and to develop the skills of listening with a purpose

• student presentations, whose length and style vary according to course, designed to develop transferable oral presentation skills and self-confidence

• extended essays, projects or dissertations which allow you to develop valuable transferable research skills involving more primary and secondary evidence than for coursework essays

1.2 Individual tutors adopt many different styles of teaching to suit you and your courses. They are keen to respond to your observations and suggestions and so seek your feedback actively by oral discussion and, more formally, by course questionnaires. Such feedback can contribute much to future development of courses. Many of the courses you take now have been improved by the feedback received from students in past years.

1.3 University teaching and learning is, however, different from that in schools in the greater emphasis we place upon your independent study. While we actively support teamwork in some areas, the majority of your degree study is your own personal responsibility. Tutors offer as much guidance and support as they can, but, in the end, the effort you put into the courses will influence your own performance.

1.4 The British system used in Royal Holloway, unlike some overseas educational systems, is still based strongly on written assessment, usually a mixture of coursework essays or projects and unseen written examinations. Hence much of this booklet concerns advice about written study methods. If you are an overseas student who feels that you need extra support or training in this area, please talk to your Personal Adviser and see the Language Centre. Further differences between the British and overseas systems as regards essay-style will be discussed below in section 8 on Essay-Writing.

2. THE STUDY ENVIRONMENT: where to study best?

You normally have a choice between a) your room

or b) the library.

2.1 If you choose your room, make sure that

• you have a comfortable chair with back support to sit on

• your desk is in a well-lit position

• if you have a computer, that it is not reflecting back glare from the screen and that the screen is not too close to your eyes when you sit at your desk

• you have some way of letting visitors know that you are not to be disturbed

• that if you prefer to listen to music while working that it is not going to disturb your neighbours

2.2 If you choose the library (as many people find comfort in not working alone), make sure that

• you are really studying and not just socialising! Should you really sit surrounded by friends?

you focus your work realistically, and do not fall into the temptation of collecting all the books on your subject on your desk, thus depriving others of them, when you really can only work on one or two at a time.

• you don’t get put off seeing others writing away furiously while you sit thinking or reading: they may have totally different projects to do and work in quite different ways. Remember, time taken in careful thinking and planning is always rewarded.

• you always return books once you have finished with them.

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