When we start our studies, all of us already have different kinds of study skills. Our motivation springs from different sources, as does our general attitude to our studies. Nevertheless, regardless of where we are coming from, we need to take many things into consideration in our studies. Study success requires clear objectives, motivation, planning, self discipline, self confidence, good study habits and a positive attitude. Being physically fit is also helpful. Now that’s quite a list!
It is relevant here to ask if motivation and the ability to make plans and set objectives are inborn traits? And what about good reading and study habits, a positive attitude and physical fitness? How self confident were we when we were born? Indeed, we must assume that we are not born with the above. These are not inborn traits; we have learned and developed them and many others through the course of our lives.
As a student, you are given an excellent opportunity to develop not just your study skills, but also many other skills useful in life. These skills will help you to succeed in challenging tasks after graduation.
We hope that the following pages will help you to reflect upon your own study skills and habits. The discussion proceeds on a rather general level. Should some topics raise your interest, however, we encourage you to dig deeper, for example by familiarising yourself with the reference literature provided at the end of this guide. You can also find lots of study tips on the net.
According to Entwistle and Ramsden (1983), one’s study orientation refers to both one’s study outlook and well as one’s studies in practice. Study orientation can be classified into four basic types:
SHALLOW ORIENTATION is characterised by learning by memorisation at the expense of understanding. The student who adopts this orientation often simply aims to pass rather than to genuinely learn new things. He or she pays excess attention to detail and external formalities, and routinely simply does what he or she is told. The student may answer exam questions correctly, but nevertheless an overall picture is missing. This type of study orientation generally correlates with poor or at most mediocre performance.
DEEP ORIENTATION involves a genuine motivation to understand what is studied. Students who adopt this orientation have an easier time learning both the detail and the big picture because the topics studied are placed in a meaningful context. A deep orientation fosters interest in conclusions and how they are made. Motivation is driven more by an interest in the topic, and less by performance as such. Exam answers describe, assess and are critical. In addition, the student shows that he or she has understood the big picture, and may illuminate upon this by means of examples. Students that have a deep orientation generally also enjoy their studies.
SOCIAL ORIENTATION is characterised by high interest in the social aspect of studies, rather than studies as such. A strong social orientation often also correlates with poor study success. On the other hand, it should be remembered friendships made during one’s studies can be infinitely rewarding!
PERFORMANCE ORIENTATION involves a systematic and structured approach to achieve set objectives. Students with a strong performance based orientation are able to tactically change their orientation from shallow to deep, for example, depending on how teachers reward performance.
Students with this kind of orientation plan their studies well, set timetables and develop successful study strategies. A deep performance based orientation combined with independence and a positive attitude are traits that lead to study success. A performance orientation is a skill that you can develop throughout your studies.
We encourage you to reflect upon your study orientation at various stages of your studies. In what ways are your study habits successful? What should be done differently?We encourage you also to learn more from the literature on good study habits.
THE ABC OF FINDING INFORMATION
Independent information retrieval as well as its processing and critical evaluation are an integral part of your studies. It is important that you learn to identify when and what kind of information is needed, as well as from where to seek this information. An information literate student will consider that information retrieval and utilisation skills are a fundamental aspect of his or her expertise also after graduation. AcademicsForJustice.org’s library and information services actively promote the information literacy of students. They offer students both printed and electronic information sources, and also provide information retrieval training.
EACH AcademicsForJustice.org UNIT HAS A LIBRARY
Each unit library mainly stocks literature on the topics studied in the unit. However, students have the right to borrow materials from all the unit libraries. There is a mail service between the libraries, which allows students to order materials from other units and check them out from their own unit library. You can get your own library card by presenting an ID card with your photo and social security number.
The AcademicsForJustice.org libraries offer students access to numerous different kinds of electronic information sources, which can also be accessed remotely via the net. The electronic collection includes e-zines, e-books, news archives, market research studies, dictionaries, statistical information and more.
You may sometimes feel overwhelmed by exam literature or pending projects if you don’t have the right reading and study habits. Indeed, as a university student, it is probable that you need to constantly develop these skills.
Reading is integral to your studies. Reading scientific texts is very different from leisure time reading. Scientific books and articles are written in a professional language specific to the field, and it is therefore important that you become well versed in the terminology and jargon of your field of study. This will allow you to thoroughly understand what is discussed.
Even though field specific terminology may at first seem difficult, it is absolutely necessary that you make the effort. It is true that field specific jargon is often difficult to understand. Don’t let this hinder your learning experience, but rather actively seek answers by active information search. Consult your teachers and seek answers from other sources!
If it feels difficult to start a thick book on the first page, why not start elsewhere, for example the last chapter? Once you’ve whet your appetite, you’ll soon be interested in the full course! You can even try moving from the end to the beginning if this feels like a good strategy.
The following five-step technique is useful for reading both books and articles. Try it and feel the difference!