Study Skills

This page contains material which complements our book (Arksey H and Harris D (2007) How to Succeed in Your Social Science Degree, London: Sage Publications -- more information here). Any comments about the book or this page would be very welcome --

(Our) Re-Usable Learning Objects

RLOs are multi-media files designed to help people learn what is usually a small chunk of material. They are often introductory. They can contain PowerPoint slides, video, audio and text (HTML) files. These RLOs  will only run on Internet Explorer. They usually contain audio material and so you will need to connect speakers or headphones. Allow the browser to run 'active content' if it warns you -- this is only the stuff behind the controls on the video and audio panels.

How (Not) To Read an Academic Article

Dave Harris

This is a demonstration of two approaches to reading an academic article. The first one involves lots of detailed note-taking and slow patient reading: I think the video gives some idea of the tedious nature of this approach, as does the 'alienated' commentary. The second approach demonstrates much more brisk reading for sense and understanding. I tried to 'think aloud' as I did these tasks. I also illustrate on PowerPoint some relevant characteristics of 'surface' and 'deep' approaches to learning in general.

Approximate length: 16 minutes

Revision -- getting motivated

Dave Harris

This is a rather experimental RLO, drawing upon work on the motivation of sportspersons and suggesting that students try out similar techniques to get motivated for examinations. It also expresses the view that video clips are best used to motivate learners as well as, or even rather than, to inform them as such.  Clips of exciting activities are combined with fairly unexceptional pop music, while the PowerPoint slides convey the actual advice.

Approximate length: 6 minutes

Revision -- performing in examinations #1

Dave Harris

This RLO offers some basic advice about structuring examination answers, and discusses implications for revision. This one features soothing and mildly amusing video with a pop music background.

Approximate length: 5.30 minutes

Revision -- performing in  examinations #2

Dave Harris.

Exactly the same material as the above, but with a classical music track and some calming and inspiring video of Dartmoor in the spring. The idea is to relate to different student tastes, and also to encourage experimentation to see which kind of music works best.

Approximate length: 5.30 minutes

Revision -- going for excellence

Dave Harris

This RLO builds on the ones on preparation and suggests how to add additional comments to well-prepared exam answers, that will maximize success. The advice is based on the work in the book again, and follows a survey of typical assessment criteria in HE. The video displays visual analogies to the content, and there is an 'easy listening' pop music track.

Approximate length: 5 minutes

Voice-Recognition Software -- a Demonstration

Dave Harris

This RLO demonstrates the use of IBM ViaVoice software, which types as you speak (sometimes!). Using it has changed my work habits considerably -- I use it all the time to make notes, type up minutes and course outlines, and write stuff for publication. As with all software, I find it often easier to change my work habits as much as training it to imitate them, but the training is quite easy. I would advise people to do the whole training routine (provided with the software), and prepare for lots of mistakes at first!. Windows Vista, which has its own voice recognition software built in, looks really promising too.The user principles demonstrated here are the same for the new software too.

Approximate length: 8 minutes

Other Useful RLOs

Basic Referencing With Modified Harvard
The University of Nottingham  School of Nursing Educational Technology Group. A very useful little device to guide you through the mysteries of referencing books, articles and websites etc. NB local variants of Harvard might differ slightly (e.g. this one puts titles in bold, whereas other places put them in italic or underline them). The examples are from nursing -- fill in your own.

What is Referencing?
The University of Nottingham  School of Nursing Educational Technology Group. A very useful accompaniment to the quick guide above which helps explain the principles behind the techniques.

The University of Nottingham  School of Nursing Educational Technology Group. All about medical research, so it looks mostly at quantitative research , but a very useful general guide as well. If even medical research can be criticized...

Reflective Writing
Looks like it has been designed by a team at London Metropolitan University. Located at the main site here, with a contact email Quite an extensive RLO with audio and video case-studies! This one demonstrates the main techniques from several famous accounts of reflective activity (including Schon, Kolb and Dewey)

Additional 'Reading Guides'

Reading guides are notes taken from a range of relevant reading material, often recent articles. They represent my interests and my views, obviously. The idea is for you to look at them and then decide if you want to go on and read the real thing. You must read the actual article to get the full picture, to read arguments which I might have skipped, and to get references and further reading. I shall be updating the list as I read more stuff --so check back.

Academics' expectations
The entries below refer you to some well-known sets of principles that are supposed to guide course design (and assessment). Whether they are really useful in that sense is debatable, but the point is they also contain strong values about what universitites are supposed to be doing to students -- so read them to understand academic values. You can then check them against your own progress ( and maybe practise couching your work to complement them)

Bloom's taxonomy
A very interesting set of intellectual abilities in three familiar 'domains' that students are supposed to be acquiring as a result of university education. The terms used are often found in descriptions of course or learning outcomes. They describe what it is you are supposed to be developing and practising.

Perry's scheme of development
An influential set of stages in being able to handle argument that students are expected to undergo while at university -- and reveal in their work. Rather technical and 'difficult' language, perhpas, but you should get the idea

Academic writing
Students need to get to grips with the peculiarities of academic writing, first to understand what is going on and then to be able to do some themeselves. This section has some analyses of academic writing.

Hyland, K.  (2001)  'Bringing in the Reader. Addressee Features in Academic Articles', in Written Communication, 18(4): 549 - 74. (A thorough analysis of how academics try to involve readers, with useful asides about what they imagine readers to be like).
Myers, G  (1990)  'The Rhetoric of Irony in Academic Writing', in Written Communication 7(4): 419 - 55 (A long and complex analysis from which I have extracted some gems to help new readers spot and understand the use of irony in academic writing -- which is actuallky quite common but often not noticed by newcomers)