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Trinity In Twelve Weeks

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This week we're looking at study skills, including
  • Learning Styles
  • Time management
  • Note-taking
  • Writing
  • Procrastination
You can get more information on all of this, including workshops and one-to-one appointments from Student Learning Development

Student blogs

Hiram Harrington - 2nd Year TSM Film Studies and Spanish

Hiram Harrington
2nd Year TSM Film Studies and Spanish

Studying for college isn’t as gruelling a task as you think. For Freshers, the word “study” can often bring you flashbacks to hours memorising everything from Sraithpictiur to Shakespeare at Leaving Cert level - but it’s nowhere near as challenging as that. Studying for your college course is a lot easier than you think. For one, you actually chose this course yourself! Beyond that, you may need a little encouragement and advice for how to get going, and that’s what I’m here to give you.

1 - Know What You Need To Do

From the get go in any class/module, keep notes religiously, whether it’s on your laptop or in a notebook. No matter how exhausted you are in a class, or how useless you think the information taught is, take notes. If your lecturer gives out typed notes, make handwritten addendums or comments for your own use in the margins. Don’t go crazy with the highlighter either - focus on what’s really important.

If you haven’t been taking notes or you’ve missed a class or two, get in touch with your lecturer. Most times, they’ll be more than happy to send you missed powerpoints or documents, and inform you of what subjects the test will cover. Easier so, get in touch with two or three classmates to confirm the topics. That way, you can focus on what you need to study and not end up wasting your time on the irrelevant bits.

2 - Go To Class!

I can’t stress this enough! It may seem like a given, but you’d be surprised how quickly missed lectures can add up. Going to class and being an active participant is ideal, but there’s days when it’s hard to be up to it. On days like that, go anyway. Even if you’re sick, exhausted, or just can’t stand the thought of it. You may not learn a lot, but it’s a little bit more than you would have learned if you stayed home. Obviously, there are exceptions to this - your personal health is so much more important than any first.

3 - Make A Plan

Starting to actually study is the hardest part. You need to sit down and make time for it. Make a timetable template (available for free with a quick search or on Google Calendar), plug in all your classes and your work schedule if you have a job. Now look at your free time, and the gaps between your classes. Fit in as much study as you think you can handle, but try pushing yourself. Schedule four hours a day, and if you only do three, hey, that’s still three more than you did last week. Sticking to a schedule can be rough, especially if it’s the first time you’re getting yourself into such a regime, but it does pay off in the long run. Start now, stay strict, and by the time exams roll around, you won’t be stuck in the rut of late nights and cramming.

4 - Get In The Zone

Right, so you have a timetable. Now you need the right space. If you think you can “study” when your flatmates are throwing the mother of all ragers down the hall, you’re sorely mistaken.

  • Go somewhere that gets you in the right headspace. Staying cooped up in your room all day or working in front of the television won’t put you in the right mood to study. Try the library, an empty classroom, or if the silence unnerves you, a spacious coffee shop can do the trick.
  • Get snacks. Healthy nibbles like yogurt-covered raisins and trail mix is preferable, but being real, a big bag of M&Ms or Hunky Dorys the odd time is fine too - just make sure you sustain yourself.
  • Drink water. Lord almighty stay away from Red Bull and energy drinks. That stuff may give you a short burst, but the aftermath is exhausting and does so much more harm to your productivity than not. Don’t be that guy in the library at 10am. Just don’t.
  • Reduce your distraction. Yeah yeah, we both know you’re not gonna listen when I tell you to put your phone far away and not to touch it. It’s distracting, but a necessary evil. Put it on silent and do not disturb, that way you can use it if needs be without twitching to check your notifications at every buzz.

5 - Look After Yourself

Study is one of the most important parts of your college career, and you know what? It’s still not as important as you. Go to the library, read that essay, participate in that lecture - but make time for the fun, relaxing things in life throughout. For every paper you read, read a silly Buzzfeed article about what fruit salad you are. Don’t spend every night cooped up in your room without social interactions. Make time for your friends and yourself, whether going out and partying is your thing or a quiet night in with Netflix. You can’t and won’t study if you’re in a bad place, and you’ll burn out if it’s all you do. If there’s anything you take from this - look after yourself this year.

Learning Styles

Find out yours

Follow the link below to take a short questionnaire to determine your dominant learning styles

Learning Styles Questionnaire

Aural/Auditory

This perceptual mode describes a preference for information that is “heard or spoken.” Learners who have this as their main preference report that they learn best from lectures, group discussion, radio, email, using mobile phones, speaking, web-chat and talking things through. Email is included here because; although it is text and could be included in the Read/write category (below), it is often written in chat-style with abbreviations, colloquial terms, slang and non-formal language. The Aural preference includes talking out loud as well as talking to oneself. Often people with this preference want to sort things out by speaking first, rather than sorting out their ideas and then speaking. They may say again what has already been said, or ask an obvious and previously answered question. They have need to say it themselves and they learn through saying it – their way.

Aural/Auditory learning strategies

To take in information:
  • Attend classes, discussions and tutorials
  • Discuss topics with others and your teachers
  • Explain new ideas to other people
  • Remember the interesting examples, stories, jokes…
  • Use a tape recorder
  • Describe the overheads, pictures and other visuals to somebody who was not there
  • Leave spaces in your notes for later recall and ‘filling’
To learn information:
  • Your notes may be poor because you prefer to listen. You will need to expand your notes by talking with others and collecting notes from the textbook
  • Put your summarised notes onto tapes and listen to them
  • Ask others to ‘hear’ your understanding of a topic
  • Read your summarised notes aloud
  • Explain your notes to another ‘aural’ person
To use information (in exams, assignments etc):
  • Imagine talking with the examiner
  • Listen to your voices and write them down
  • Spend time in quiet places recalling the ideas
  • Practice writing answers to old exam questions
  • Speak your answers aloud or inside your head

Kinesthetic

By definition, this modality refers to the “perceptual preference related to the use of experience and practice (simulated or real).” Although such an experience may invoke other modalities, the key is that people who prefer this mode are connected to reality, “either through concrete personal experiences, examples, practice or simulation” [See Fleming & Mills, 1992, pp. 140-141]. It includes demonstrations, simulations, videos and movies of “real” things, as well as case studies, practice and applications. The key is the reality or concrete nature of the example. If it can be grasped, held, tasted, or felt it will probably be included. People with this as a strong preference learn from the experience of doing something and they value their own background of experiences and less so, the experiences of others. It is possible to write or speak Kinesthetically if the topic is strongly based in reality. An assignment that requires the details of who will do what and when, is suited to those with this preference, as is a case study or a working example of what is intended or proposed.

Kinesthetic learning strategies

To take in information:
  • All your senses – sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing …
  • Laboratories, field trips
  • Examples of principles
  • Hands-on approaches
  • Trial and error
  • Exhibits, samples, photographs…
  • Recipes – solutions to problems, previous exam papers
To learn information:
  • Your lecture notes may be poor because the topics were not ‘concrete’ or ‘relevant’.
  • You will remember the “real” things that happened.
  • Put plenty of examples into your summary. Use case studies and applications to help with principles and abstract concepts.
  • Talk about your notes with another “K” person.
  • Use pictures and photographs that illustrate an idea.
  • Go back to the laboratory or your lab manual.
To use information (in exams, assignments etc):
  • Write practice answers, paragraphs…
  • Role play the exam situation in your own room

Read/Write

This preference is for information displayed as words. Not surprisingly, many teachers and students have a strong preference for this mode. Being able to write well and read widely are attributes sought by employers of graduates. This preference emphasizes text-based input and output – reading and writing in all its forms but especially manuals, reports, essays and assignments. People who prefer this modality are often addicted to PowerPoint, the Internet, lists, diaries, dictionaries, thesauri, quotations and words, words, words… Note that most PowerPoint presentations and the Internet, GOOGLE and Wikipedia are essentially suited to those with this preference as there is seldom an auditory channel or a presentation that uses Visual symbols.

Read/write learning strategies

To take in information:
  • Lists
  • Headings
  • Dictionaries, glossaries, definitions
  • Handouts
  • Textbooks, readings, library notes
  • Manuals
  • Essays
To learn information:
  • Write out the words again and again
  • Read your notes (silently) again and again
  • Rewrite the ideas and principles into other words
  • Organize any diagrams, graphs … into statements, e.g. “The trend is…”
  • Turn reactions, actions, diagrams, charts and flows into words
  • Imagine your lists arranged in multiple choice questions and distinguish each from each
To use information (in exams, assignments etc):
  • Write exam answers
  • Practice with multiple choice questions
  • Write paragraphs, beginnings and endings
  • Write your lists (a,b,c,d,1,2,3,4)
  • Arrange your words into hierarchies and points

Visual

This preference includes the depiction of information in maps, spider diagrams, charts, graphs, flow charts, labelled diagrams, and all the symbolic arrows, circles, hierarchies and other devices, that people use to represent what could have been presented in words.

Visual learners use symbolism and different formats, fonts and colors to emphasise important points.

Visual learning does not include video and pictures that show real images and it is not Visual merely because it is shown on a screen. It does include designs, whitespace, patterns, shapes and the different formats that are used to highlight and convey information. When a whiteboard is used to draw a diagram with meaningful symbols for the relationship between different things that will be helpful for those with a Visual preference. It must be more than mere words in boxes that would be helpful to those who have a Read/write preference.

Visual learning strategies

To take in information:
  • Pictures, videos, posters, slides
  • Flowcharts
  • Underlining, different colours, highlighters
  • Textbooks with diagrams and pictures
  • Graphs
  • Symbols @ and white space
To learn information:
  • Use all of the techniques above
  • Reconstruct the images in different ways… try different spatial arrangements.
  • Redraw your pages from memory
  • Replace words with symbols or initials
  • Look at your pages.
To use information (in exams, assignments etc):
  • Draw things, use diagrams
  • Write exam answers
  • Recall the pictures made by your pages
  • Practice turning your visuals back into words
VARK learning styles

Time Management

Time management strategies

  1. Prioritise: You probably have a lot of things to do, so assess how important and how urgent the tasks are; then make sure high priority tasks get done first and are not put off on a regular basis. Avoid time wasters!
  2. Be specific: Make the task as specific as possible - we tend to follow through then, especially if we write it down. For example, instead of telling yourself “I’ll do some statistics this week,” try “I’ll do 3 descriptive statistics problems Tuesday at 7pm.”
  3. Small bite-size pieces: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, so try breaking tasks down into smaller sub-tasks. Once you’ve started it’s easier to keep going.
  4. Use all available time: This is an especially good strategy if you are pressed for time. You don’t necessarily need a block of time in order to study. Students often have time between classes, travel time, etc. There are lots of study tasks that can be accomplished in short periods, such as reviewing main points of a reading or a lecture.
  5. Structure the environment: Find a place, preferably one you can use regularly and with limited distractions. Make sure you have all the essentials so you have no excuses.
  6. Establish a routine: We are creatures of habit. If you always study at a certain time or day then it will be easier to get into concentration mode. Also, it is better to study briefly and regularly

These are just the basics, find out more on the Academic Skills Blackboard Module

Blackboard

Organising your materials

  1. Once a week clear and sort out loose papers and handouts etc. into colour-coded or labelled files and folders. One colour for each subject.
  2. File lecture notes etc. in the correct file as soon as you get home.
  3. Label file folders, boxes, notebooks etc. using colour codes or pictures.
  4. Use a pin board or whiteboard near your desk or computer to hold important information.
  5. Use a wall planner in addition to a diary, or put all your diary and timetable into Microsoft Outlook and link this to your mobile phone or Google calendar in MyZone.
  6. Set up different folders for different modules on your computer desktop rather than having lots of individual documents cluttering up the space

Planning

  1. Create a master schedule that indicates on a term or year basis when holidays, exams, reports, essays etc. are due. Post it in a prominent spot!
  2. Create a weekly schedule.
    • At a regular time, e.g. Sunday evening, plan your week taking into account your master schedule and your study goals for that week
    • Mark out commitments such as classes, labs, work, sport, meals, etc.
    • Make a list of your study tasks - be specific and prioritise.
    • Schedule into available time slots these study tasks.
    • Consider the purpose of the study task - if it’s working on an essay, more time will be needed therefore schedule a block of time. If the purpose is for review, say to scan a text then make use of the odd half hours available.
    • Schedule tasks that may require maximum concentration during your “peak” or periods of maximum alertness – this varies from person to person.
    • Allot times for relaxation, exercise, etc. and be sure to include a “Cease study” time that allows time to unwind before sleep (and it gives you something to look forward to!).
    • Monitor and Evaluate: review what has been accomplished at the end of a day and decide if the schedule needs to be changed the next day.
  3. Some students work better off a detailed daily To Do List. Again, at a regular time (for example last thing at night or first thing in the morning) plan your day taking into account your master schedule and the study goals for the week.
  4. When you have finished a study task, cross it off your timetable or list.
  5. Avoid too much detail - a schedule has to remain flexible or it becomes a dinosaur! Everyone has different needs; perhaps start with just organising study tasks for certain classes. Or only list your priorities.
  6. Schedule in rewards, for example your favourite TV programme after doing a task you were dreading.

You'll find downloadable weekly, monthly and annual planners in the Blackboard module

5 Minute Video

Watch a five minute crash course on time management here

Time management video
Academic Skills Blackboard Module

Note-taking

Note-taking methods

  • Prose or linear: Many students use this format (basically written paragraphs) and they are familiar with it. While this type can provide a summary the disadvantages are that it encourages verbatim copying and doesn't allow for organisational strategy use.
  • Outline: The advantage of this method is that it is more visual and allows for the imposition of structure. It forces the note taker to create main points. A disadvantage is that sometimes the material is not conducive or provided in such a format that lends itself to outlining.
  • Mind maps or patterened [Buzan]: Sometimes referred to as spider diagrams. The notes start in the middle of a page and 'explode' out towards the edge of the page. The advantage is that it is very visual, allows for structure and displays relationships. They are very useful for review and recall, brainstorming and revision purposes. Also, they work on both a verbal and a non-verbal level. Another advantage is that a lot of information can be condensed into a small area. Disadvantages include they are hard to produce, especially from lectures and they require practice.
  • Cornell or split page: This method involves drawing a line down the page, about 1/3 from left side of page. The right side is used to record notes. The left side is reserved for key words and main points. These can be done after the lecture, when trying to condense the information. The advantage of this method is that it forces the note taker to select main points; it also provides a basis for self-examination (by covering over the right hand side and quizzing using points on left-hand side). However, it needs practice.

Examples of note-making methods

Taking Notes in Lectures

Attending lectures is is the best chance to learn about material that may not be covered in the textbook, to be aware of links and possibly to discover what may be on the exams. Another useful idea is to discuss the ideas in the lecture as soon as possible to consolidate the information, for example leaving lecture halls take a moment or two with fellow students to cover main points or questions; or possibly just at the end of the lecture this can be encouraged by the instructor.

Taking good notes from lectures involves being an active listener. Some hints for improving notes:

  • Sit in an appropriate spot to avoid distractions
  • Focus on content not speaker
  • Review previous notes for better continuity and comprehension
  • Note examples and information on board/overhead
  • Listen for key words: because, two reasons, however, etc.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues: information that is repeated, amount of time spent on topic, change in lecturer's tone

Taking Notes while Reading

When taking notes from books it is a good idea to use summarising strategies to differentiate between arguments, main points and evidence or details. This may be a good time to review the department's preferred referencing system and policy on plagiarism.

Tips on summarising:

  • Skim the text and gain the general impression of the information, its content and its relevance to your work; underline/highlight the main points as you read.
  • Re-read the text, making notes of the main points
  • Cover the text and rewrite your notes in your own words
  • Begin your summary
  • Restate the main idea at the beginning of your summary, indicating where your information is from, mention other major points change the order of the points if necessary to make the construction more logical
  • Re-read the work to check that you have included all the important information clearly
Notemaking

Writing

Referencing

The purpose of citing references is so that a reader of your essay or paper will be able to look up the material based on the information you provided.

References are also an important way of acknowledging ideas, information and quotations that are not your own. By not acknowledging the work of others you may seem to be presenting the work as your own and thereby committing plagiarism. For a refresher on plagiarism, go back to Week 2!

Record the complete publication details of any reference, e.g. book, journal article, video or website etc

  • Author
  • Year of publication
  • City of publication
  • Publisher
  • Page numbers

Recording information and references on index cards and filing them alphabetically can help you to keep your source information in order Make sure to record the exact page number when you are writing down a quotation. If it is a generally accepted idea within your field it probably doesn’t need to be cited but always reference if you are using it to back up criticism or evaluation, e.g. Smith (1980) states that...

Here is an example of citing in the written text:
Referring to an item in your text is known as citing. You then need a list of references at the end of your work to indicate where the citation can be found. (Drew & Bingham, 1997, p.47)

The full reference is then listed in a bibliography (sometimes called a reference list) at the end of the assignment in alphabetical order as follows:

Drew, S, and Bingham R. (1997) The Student Skills Guide. Aldershot: Gower Publishing Ltd.

This is referred to as the Harvard System of citing references. Please check what style of referencing your department uses as some prefer footnotes or endnotes rather than citing in the text. Also punctuation and other details may vary from departmental guidelines.

More resources on referencing

Essay writing strategy

  • Scheduling
  • Understanding the question
  • Do initial research
  • Create an Outline
  • Doing the research
  • Writing the First Draft
  • Revising Your Draft
  • Proofread
  • Make copies
  • Submit!
  • Feedback.
Essay writing

Essay Writing in 5 minutes

Watch a five minute crash course on essay writing here

Essay Writing video

Scientific Report Writing

Writing

Procrastination

What is it?

Procrastination is when we delay or put off something we know is to our benefit. The key is to stop making excuses and do something. Most people practice procrastination in some form, maybe your room was never as tidy as when you were supposed to be studying, or maybe you watched 8 seasons of a TV show in a state of panicky guilt. What is important is to know when it is time to stop making excuses and do something..

How to combat it

Here are a few different methods you can try to combat procrastination when you catch yourself at it.

  • Take Action: Sometimes just doing something creates the mood and momentum to continue, so decide to just do something, anything to get you working
  • Salami Technique: Slice a task or goal down by function and time, getting down to smallest unit. This is useful if your excuse for putting it off is that it's so big or you have so much to do can't start. For example, a long reading assignment in a difficult subject can seem intimidating and easy to put off, divide it into parts
  • Five minutes: Spending just 5 minutes on a task (anyone can do that short a time) and then see
  • Related tasks: Do something related; the back door approach. For example, if you have to start a project maybe decide to just go talk to someone about it; this in turn may lead you to the library because they suggest a reference. Often it can be easier to talk to someone then having to sit down and think alone
  • Worst first: That particularly boring or difficult task is easy to put off, in fact you'll do anything not to get it done but better to get it out of the way. Mark Twain said something to the effect, "It's best to eat a live frog first thing in the morning, that way nothing worse can happen all day"
  • Make commitments: An oft-used excuse is "I work better under pressure", so create pressure. Tell people you plan to get something done, and then they'll ask if you got it done
Procrastination Resources

Procrastination Exercise

Think about one problem that might develop [or has already developed for you] and that leads to procrastination.

  1. Describe the problem:
  2. What is the source of the problem:
  3. What is the reason for the problem:
  4. Can you set a goal for a solution [be specific]:
  5. With your goal in mind what options can you have [be practical in deciding your options]:
  6. What are the advantages of each of your options:
  7. What are the disadvantages of each of your options:
Procrastination