Ergonomics when studying

This section describes how to promote good ergonomic working when studying, either in the library, or at home. This guide focuses on studying when not primarily using a computer - also see the sections on computer use.

Studying is synonymous with being a student, but many people don't really know what studying involves, or how to get the most out of a study session. How to study best depends on your own learning preferences and on the subject. This is not designed to be a study guide, just a gentle reminder to take care of yourself when you are hitting the books.

Posture and movement

The most common postures adopted while studying are sitting, but people may also study in different places, such as slouched on couches or in bed. In Trinity, the best study locations are most likely to be in the library, where there are desks and chairs.

Regardless of where you study, consider the posture that you adopt. If sitting, make sure that you are supported, and as far as possible, not slouching forward.

Here are some tips on sitting well:

  • Sit on a chair with a support for your back;
  • Sit upright so that your back and neck are upright, but so that the natural curves are maintained;
  • Relax and drop your shoulders, so that they are not hunched up;
  • Sit on your bum, not your back, so that the weight is passed through the pelvis (the ischial tuberosities);
  • Position your hips so that it is comfortable to keep the natural curves in your back. This is probably between 60 and 90 degrees;
  • Don't cross your legs, and make sure that there is a gap between the back of your knees and the chair;
  • Have your knees and ankles at about 90 degrees.

If you find yourself hunching forwards and over the table, consider getting a book stand to hold up the reading material.

Make sure to take frequent breaks, a few short breaks are more useful than one long break.

During breaks, move around, walk, move your shoulders, and rest your eyes by looking at a distant object for a minute or so.

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Environmental factors

Choose a study location that suits you best. Some people find that studying at home suits best, whereas others find that space on campus, such as the libraries is where they are most productive. Wherever you study, make sure that:

  • There is enough light. Ideally, task lighting should light up your study material, not you;
  • The noise is kept to a minimum. Some people find that they enjoy listening to music, but others find that this can actually be distracting;
  • Try to study in an area with as few distractions as possible;
  • Make sure that you can set up your immediate environment with what you need to work, including books, paper, computer or whatever you need.

Ideally, in a study environment, there should be plenty of fresh air, and the room should not be too hot. If this is not possible, take walks outside during your breaks.

It has been suggested that "work" and "rest" areas should be separated somewhat, so working in the same space where you rest or sleep makes resting harder and vice-versa. For most students, this is not realistic, but it is a good idea to have a specific place for all of the study equipment, and to make sure it is "put away" before resting.

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Work Organisation, Information and Operation

The way that you organise your study time and place and what you do and how you do it are important to consider. Here are some tips for good work organisation:

  • Set goals and time-lines, once you have reached your goal or time; make sure that you take a break, which should involve moving around and changing posture;
  • Set everything up for yourself, so that you have everything that you need to hand;
  • Plan your study sessions for times and in places where you can work best. If you don't know where or when you work best, it may mean a little trial and error - do this early in the year when there is less stress;
  • Work out your own learning preferences, and use study aids and strategies that enable you to use your strengths. Doing a learning styles questionnaire may help with this.

It is important, wherever possible to avoid carrying heavy books and laptops around. Arrange your work, wherever you can, so that there is no need to carry heavy study equipment - either leave books and study material where you study, try to organise a locker on campus, or reduce the weight of study materials that you need to carry. This may involve deciding what to work on during a particular day of the week, so you don't need to bring all books around. Photocopying can work well for some people.

Your own notes will be your key study aid. Keep notes in a format that best suits your learning style.

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