Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Studying and Parenting - It can be done!

Studying while you have young children can be done! It just requires some organisation and routine. Depending on how young your children are, I recommend using child care two days per week. These will become your study days. If money is a problem or your child/ren are too young to attend child care, focus on their sleep times to get your study completed.

Organisation is key. I recommend using a digital diary that syncs with all your devices but the ‘old fashioned’ diary is just as good. Schedule in all family events, extracurricular activities and assignment due dates. Work out the regular days you can do study and write ‘study’ on those days.  Aim to set aside two full days.

From your unit information and study schedule provided by your tertiary institution you will see what is required for the first week. So, if it is article XYZ and chapter 1 and 2 of your text for unit EDNE then write that down under your first ‘study’ day. As you complete your study, tick off what you achieve. If you don’t get it done the first day transfer the work to your next study day.

Organise study around your life. Print off and read articles before you go to bed, take your text book to the hairdresser or when you take your child to their gymnastics class. That’s an extra hour of work you can tick off your study schedule that week! Look for opportunities to do a little bit of extra study. If you have an assignment due or an examination coming up, ensure you have organised time without your children so you can get the assignment polished and you’re pre-prepared to sit your examination – even if it is online, peace and quiet is needed!

There will be days that you will think ‘this is all too hard’ but remind yourself of the final outcome and what that will provide for you and your family. Reward yourself when you finish an assignment or when you do extra study. Take regular breaks to walk the dog or do something one on one with your child. Keep yourself motivated because you can do this!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

5 steps to writing the conclusion

I have had a number of students contact me asking how to write a conclusion. So here are 5 tips to help write the closing paragraph of your next essay.
1. Try writing the conclusion first before writing the rest of the essay. You can always re-edit it later.

2.Re-iterate the focus question of the task. Refer to the task sheet.

3. State the key findings or aspects from the task, linking them together. Don't introduce new ideas. This includes quotes, however, there can be exceptions to this rule.
4. Try to avoid starting the conclusion with 'In conclusion...' or 'The purpose of this essay was to...'. Begin with a statement about the topic focus.
5. The important thing is to just write! Begin your thoughts with 'the purpose of this task is...' Write your answer down and that's your starting point. 

Which part of assignments do you find tricky?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

5 ways to beat procrastination.

There seems to be a procrastination theme happening on the StudyBreak Facebook page at the moment so here are 5 ways to beat procrastination and get whichever part of study you are avoiding done.

Here are 5 ways to beat procrastination and get your study done!

1. Set small study goals
What is the task and what do you need to do to get there?
Each day write down two smaller goals to complete. On the same list, write down others things you would like to get done too. Is there washing to do? Do you need to call back Aunty Dot? Do you need to schedule exercise in today? Study just might look like the better option!

2. Reward yourself
When you've achieved your set smaller goals, reward yourself. It might be going to the beach, watching tv or surf ing Facebook. When you've completed a task then it's time to take some time out before starting on the next assignment or exam study. This is the time to reward yourself with an organised social outing, a massage or something else you find relaxing. This will help you re -energise for the next task and reduce your stress.

3. Remind yourself how good you'll feel once it's done
You've already checked your Facebook feed five times this morning and there are no new emails, smothered no needtocheck them again for the next two hours. Mark Twain said 'the secret to getting started is to start'. Remind yourself how good you will feel once you've achieved your study goals. 

4. Talk about your study and get your motivation back
Simply sharing with someone about your study efforts and what task you're working on can clear your thoughts and motivate you to keep going. Especially if the other person gives you encouraging words. Talking out loud about your study can help you vent about any problems and make you realise how much you do know about your topic. 

5. Eat, sleep and exercise
Some people may use these tasks to avoid study but eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep and daily exercise will boost your energy levels. Try to exercise before studying and awaken your mind or change your study snack from chips to grapes. Be kind to your body!

How do you get your study started?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Where's your chair?

For years my study space was on the lounge with a small table to sit my laptop on. I thought it was great because when my neck hurt I could look up and rest by watching tv. Sure I had a desk, but it wasn't appealing. Sometimes I took my study outside and this is a great idea to get fresh air and a new surrounding can help with the writing flow.

In my final year of postgraduate study, I set up an appealing study space- at a desk with a view. I wasn't isolated and everything including my text books and printer were accessible. However, if I could sneak back to the lounge with my laptop on my knees I did. 

When my husband did a stint of working from home I decided he needed a good chair to support his back. I did my research and I tried and tested a range personally before I decided on just the right one.

When he finished his stint of working from home, I thought it looked a lot nicer than my shabby, unsupportive and generally ugly office chair, and pushed his chair over to 'my' side of the study space.

I haven't looked back and I have now claimed this chair as my own. Since using a good, supportive and comfortable chair, long gone are the days of sitting on the lounge with my laptop. I'm more productive as it's not so tempting to watch the tv and I'm more comfortable so less aches and pains from sitting with bad posture.

So, what are you sitting on as you read this post?

Email etiquette: 5 things to remember

There's not a common agreement governing email correspondence. There are too many contexts and purposes to consider.
However, here are five email etiquette tips to remember next time you contact your lecturer or tutor via email. 

1. Address the email recipient. Use the name you usually address them with, for example: 'Hi David'. 

2. Check your spelling. If unsure, look it up!

3. Use a subject line - two to three words to summarise the email and keep the body of the email concise.

4. Don't send an email when you are full of negative emotion especially during study stress. It's easy to click the 'send' button without double checking what you've written.

5. Email is not confidential. Don't write anything you wouldn't want someone else reading.

A good example:
Subject: edu101 criterion 2

Hi David

Is it okay to use a table to display our results for criterion 2?

Thanks in advance,

Time to re-think pressing the send button example 
Subject: question

Can I use a tabel to show results? Everyone keeps saying different things and I'm just not sure anymore. I'm getting concflicting info about this task.
Can you help me?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

5 ways to finish the final assignment for the year

Most of us can relate to the end of the year slump especially if it's your final year. But assignments are still due and they need to be submitted.  You may be thinking, ' I've had enough, I just need to get a pass'. Now it's okay to think this because you've been studying hard all year and need a well- earned break, especially after all the ups and downs that life has thrown in, but keep this thought in your head. 
When your lecturer offers a re-submit don't reply to the email with 'will I get enough marks to pass the unit without the re-submit? I've managed to scrape through in my other subjects.'  If they specifically list the amendments that could be done in a few hours, it is easier to do them and get the assignment out of the way.

Here are five tips to get through that final assignment before your exams, prac or break:

1. Check off the marking rubric- look at the 'credit' column if you are just wanting to get this assignment out of the way.

2. Include an introduction and conclusion: tell them what you're going to tell them (intro), tell them (body), tell them what you've told them (conclusion).

3. Use the spell checker in your word processor - although it doesn't find all mistakes, you would be surprised the number of students that don't use this tool at all! 

4. Check referencing - don't lose marks for incorrect formatting of the reference list -references are a simple fix.

5. When you think you've completed the assignment, leave it until the next day to submit (if there's enough time before the due date). This allows time for one final read through and you might be surprised to find little things to fix that were missed the day before.

How do you get through writing the last assignment of the year?

Monday, 30 September 2013

5 ways to get your study motivation back

Lost you motivation to study? It's nearly the end of the year and you've probably only have a few assignments to go and possible an exam or two. Here are some ways to find your motivation and get going again with your study.

1. Take a studybreak and get some fresh air.
Take time out to think about what you've achieved already in your studies and what you still need to achieve this year. Break down the time you have left until end of year by the number of assignments or the number of weeks until holidays.

2. Talk about your study
Chat to others who are studying- this could be in person or on a forum.
This can re-inspire you especially when you get to talk about your own studies.

3. Get some exercise
This is a great way to get the blood rushing and oxygen to the brain. You'll feel more alert and ready to tackle your study.

4. Set a small goal
 A small goal could be read 1 page of your text book or write one paragraph 

5. Reward yourself when you achieve a goal.
The bigger the goal the bigger the reward. Set yourself small, achievable goals first and build on them. It's up to you to work out a fair reward system.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Didn't get the mark you wanted? 5 things to help you bounce back

We've all been there at some stage- we've received a mark and thought 'wtf!'

Whether it's an undergrad assignment mark, a postgrad assignment mark, a thesis report or article feedback, here are 5 ways to bounce back from an unexpected 'bad' mark:

1.Re-read the comments.
Usually the feedback doesn't seem so bad reading it the second time around.

2. Ask yourself, is the mark really that bad?
Just because you received a lower mark than expected, it doesn't mean you won't do better on the next assignment. It's not how much effort that's put in, it's how well the criteria was addressed. If you really bombed, make it up on your next assignment, or even contact your tutor for help on the next assignment.

3. Accept - that it's a one off, lower than expected mark. Write it off as an assignment that doesn't count. We all have bad hair days- put this assignment in that box.

4. Think about what you can do to avoid this again- if you haven't thrown the assignment in the 'bad hair day' box. Put a plan into action. Such as 'next assignment, I will have someone proof read it' or ' I will check off the criteria sheet' or ' if I need to clarify something,I will ask the question'. No harm in asking!

5. If you still think you have been hard done by on your mark (except in the case of article feedback, where you would either take on board the feedback and chuck it or take on board the feedback and act on it), ask the course coordinator for clarification or a re-mark. But first ask yourself, 'is a re-mark really crucial in the scheme of things?'. Especially as in the end it may only gain you a mark or two.

What do you do to get over an unexpected 'bad' mark?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Orwell's 6 rules for writing - which ones do you break?

Many students are now writing their final assignment for the year. Some students are studying for their upcoming exams and some students are crazy enough to be enrolling in Summer units!

Here are some writing tips from George Orwell's 1946 article on Politics and the English Language.

The key points from this article:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active. (click here for explanation)
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous (in other words, use common sense when applying these rules)
I'm guilty of breaking all of them and I have found that to not break them, I need to continually practise what I call the Art of Writing.

What 'rules' do you break when writing an assignment?

Friday, 20 September 2013

5 things NOT to ask your University tutor!

I love being a tutor. I love being able to encourage students in their studies but there are 5 things that students just shouldn't ask their tutor.

1. 'I put in so much effort - can I get a re-mark?'
That's great you are putting so much effort into your study but this really isn't a good enough argument to try and get a better grade! Marks are given according to how well you address the set criteria.

2. 'What did you say? I wasn't listening.'
Calling this out in a tutorial is really quite rude and it doesn't say much for your maturity -along with your actions, playing your iPhone and gossiping to your neighbour about something irrelevant. The tutorial is less than two hours-my 7 year old has a better attention span.

3. 'So, how do I write this assignment?
After going through with the tutorial group, the assignment outline (also explicitly written on the discussion board, the title headings and what is required within each section),  the marking rubric and providing time in two tutorials for the first step of the assignment, asking the tutor how to begin writing this assignment without attempting to write anything is just plain lazy. At least have a go.

4. 'Do you think I will get a good mark?'
As a tutor, I'm happy to provide feedback on drafts but when you ask this question on a half written draft without any references to the literature, this question is especially inappropriate.

5. Why do we even have to do this assignment?
Asking this question with your nose turned up and following it up with, 'I'll just write anything and you won't know that I've copied it or made it up,' only casts a suspicious eye on your work. And I might add it is unprofessional - I can't imagine this question would go down very well with your next employer when they ask you to fulfil a task that you don't see as worthy! Assignments are given to assess your knowledge and understanding of a topic.

I encourage my students to ask me questions and clarify their thoughts. Tutors want their students to do well but we also want you to be self-learners too. Tutors are their to assist and guide you through your study journey, not to hold your hand and do your assignments for you.

What does your study space look like?

Many of you would have seen my cover photo on eDegree's Facebook page. This has been my 2013 pinboard of motivation. It includes;

- a picture of my family including my gorgeous nieces and nephew
Who else is better to motivate you to achieve than the ones you love most!

- my thesis structure
Although I have finished my Masters thesis - I still keep this up as a reminder of how many 'mini' assignments there are in a thesis. It will stay there until my next research project! For an undergrad degree, this focus could be an assignment outline, either your own summary or one from the course outline.
- my study support page name
This is a great reminder that I am on a journey shared by many others seeking to further their education too!

- writing style guide
There are so many different types of text to write. This one helped me focus on the way I want to write my journal article.

-my semester timeline
This really kept my goals in check. It had what I wanted to achieve each week so that I could stay focussed - and it worked!

-a bull clip
This has all my sons papers with things like his reading eggs username and password. Can't all be about me!

What else do I want and probably should include - a motivational quote. There are just so many great ones it is hard to choose. However, my motto is: Keep It Simple!
Next is my desk space.
My desk space is mostly paper free. Although I still love a notebook to scribble ideas and notes. 

My desk has on it;

-my notebook PC

-a pic of my grad

-a mini trophy I won when I was on prac as a pre-service teacher

-a notebook, APA reference book, book of certificates in a book holder

- my gold pen (my husband bought me this as he knows how much I love to write!)

-a comfy chair -although I confess, I stole this from my husband's side of the study! I really think its time I invested in my own comfy chair!

So, what does your study space say about you? Do you even have one? Although I do work from other study spaces such as my back patio, the University lounge or mum's house, I still like my own study space surrounded by things that motivate me. And I love that it is relatively clutter and paper free.