I like “how to study” guides. I don’t mean syllabus synopses, useful for cramming though these might be, but general counsel for academic
Imperial produces its own materials for students. There is Learning to Learn, a booklet distributed to new undergraduate students during their first year. Written in an informal and friendly style, its advice encompasses reassuring quotes from previous undergraduate students. I remember
Even with good A level results I felt I was at the bottom of the pile compared to those around me.
ringing particularly true for me.
Such snippets are combined with practicalities. The tips for how to get the most out of lectures gave me some food for thought.
My undergraduate degree was a return to study after a two-year break. During the first term, having been disappointed by the feedback on my first essay, I was determined to make a better job of the second. However, I was perplexed as to how one was supposed to hand in 1500 words on a topic that had only briefly been touched upon in lectures. I sought some support, and found it in the form of the reassuringly titled “Write Great Essays!” (note the jubilant exclamation mark!) and its cheery series partner “Sail Through Exams!”.
From the promotional sticker on the cover, I surmise that Waterstones Gower Street was attempting to entice anxious students such as myself.
I turned to the plain English, common sense and practical advice in these texts time and time again throughout my degree. A friend of mine commented that she never found these books helpful – “Don’t they just tell you what you already know?” – but I find the step-by-step suggestions stopped me floundering, and the tips that didn’t seem relevant, I discarded.
Moving on from undergraduate study, Learning to Master was produced by a group of Masters students who were frustrated that there was nothing similar to Learning to Learn available to them. The booklet itself points out that it does not repeat the material in Learning to Learn. It is much shorter, and the central tenet seems to be “Work hard. From the beginning. Hit the ground running, and be organised.”
Another book I have referred to in recent months has been How to get a PhD by Phillips and Pugh. I read the advice on applying for postgraduate study over a year ago, and as my course is a four-year program, I now turn to the section on choosing a supervisor. The book is replete with worrying case studies detailing the many and varied reasons for students’ failure to complete the PhD or to pass the viva, some of them due to problems with supervision.
It seems to me that good communication between the student and the supervisor is a crucial aspect of a successful supervision.
Do Nature Networkers, many of whom have completed PhDs or worked in research, have any advice for me and others in my position?