Posted in Intern advice, Written by Arinola

SPOTLIGHT: University Library Workshops

Most of us only think of the library in relation to which one we prefer whether that may be by virtue of proximity, or in my case, the quality of latte I can get from the cafe. No, it’s not all the same and the IC wins. Just in case you were wondering.

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It may surprise you to know that the University Library runs workshops that can also reflect on to get the Academic Skills Certificate. They are called Information and Digital Literacy Workshops and can be great if you’re looking to develop skills beyond those covered in the academic skills workshops we run here at 301.

Having attended the Commercial Awareness workshop myself, I can attest to how helpful it was in helping me better understand a skill that is very well sought after in graduates. After the workshop, I was better informed on what I could do to improve my commercial awareness from working part time on campus. Now, I know how to demonstrate commercial awareness during a job application process.

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The other workshops on offer are quite varied and are divided into 6 categories:

  1. Discovering – useful if you are interested in finding information and images for various academic purposes
  2. Understanding – for you if you want to learn to use e-books productively
  3. Questioning – having found information, this aims to help evaluate its usefulness
  4. Referencing – suitable for those seeking to master referencing for a thesis, dissertation, coursework essay or research project
  5. Creating – will help you make better presentations
  6. Communicating – whether this means improving your commercial awareness, finding out how to make info-graphics or starting a blog!

If any of the categories I have described sound interesting to you, make sure to check out the dates and times these workshops are available and book a place to attend them!

 

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Posted in Uncategorized

Saucy, Sore and Sour Sources

Here at 301 we run a workshop on Paragraphing and Using Academic Sources. Its really good! Anybody who is unsure exactly when to paragraph, how to reference, and how to use sources, should attend! You should try it!

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But when is a source not a source? When is a source saucy? When are sources sore or sour?

This is content not in the workshop. This information is less useful if you’re struggling with how to write an essay. But if your interest runs deeper, if you are wondering about the why’s and ethics of using academic sources, I’m your guy.

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So, what kind of sources should you use? In terms of secondary sources, you should reference journal articles, academic books and/or monographs. In terms of primary, anything about the topic you are studying could be useful…

HOWEVER (this is where you should think more closely about your sources), just because you have cited a source to back up your argument, that doesn’t mean you argument is completely proven. Because that source could be SOUR!

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What is a sour source? Well, its something which you might not necessarily get marked down for using. But it is something you might be marked up for questioning!

For example, imagine you are writing a paper on public perceptions on the sweetness of different fruit. You want to know what fruits people think are the sweetest, regardless of scientific measurements of sweetness.

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You might think simply referencing a study where all participants believed that apples are the sweetest fruit might be enough. But you should question it before you reference it. You should ask some basic questions. How many participants took part in the study? Where were the participants from? What questions were they asked? Were they asked to choose from a list of fruits, or were they asked to think of a sweet fruit off the top of their heads? Were they sampling a selection of fruits in the study?

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Why is this important? Because if only 10 people participated in the study, then that’s not a very representative sample of the public. You can’t make a claim that people from the UK think that apples are the sweetest, because you have only sampled 10 people. A sample of a few hundred, and you might be able to make that claim.

But there are other factors to take into account. For instance, the area they were from. If they are from a deprived area, or an area where varied fruit is often not delivered, then they are likely to not have tried more exotic fruit. This might mean that people from the UK don’t think apples are the sweetest fruit out there, they just haven’t yet tried whatever the sweetest fruit might be. Does this change the validity of your data, or not? It depends what statement you are trying to make.

Also, if the 10 people are from a deprived/unvaried fruit-selling area, then they might not be representative of the UK either. Finally, if they were given a list of fruit to choose from, they might not voice the fruit they actually think is sweetest. But if they are thinking off the top of their head, they might not remember the sweetest fruit they have had!

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There is obviously thus a lot of things to consider. But should this matter? Well, if you question the methodology of the sources you use, you are likely to get higher marks (depending on your mark scheme!). You should find a variety of sources which support your claim if some of the other studies have better methodology.

But there is a wider ethical question. Often when starting an essay, at least as a history student, I will have an idea of what I want to argue before I start writing the essay. I will thus search out the evidence I need to make that point. In doing so, I might be avoiding evidence which states otherwise. I might include evidence which states otherwise, but the evidence might be weak, so I use it simply to prove my better point. But could I have chosen better opposing views?

When you get this meta, you have to realise that you probably only have a limited word count to say all these kind of things. If you want to prove a point in 2000 words, you don’t want 1000 words supporting your argument and 1000 words against it. That won’t allow your argument to develop if you’re only listing the pro’s and con’s. What I ask of you is to simply be aware, that just because some sources state an opinion, doesn’t mean it rights. A little bit of critical thinking about this, whether it be in support of defiance of your point, can win you a lot of marks. But just don’t be too bogged down in the ethics or metaphysics of it all. That’s for PhD students.

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Posted in All things 301, Written by Stefana

The 301 Academic Skills Certificate

The 301 Academic Skills Centre has many great workshops, resources and opportunities that University of Sheffield students can attend or use. The 301 Skills Certificate offers students who use 301 services the possibility to get their extra-curricular work acknowledged by the University. This is a great opportunity for students who want to enhance their employability skills.

The Academic Skills Certificate is a HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Report) recognisable certificate that reflects students’ efforts to improve their academic skills by attending 301 workshops.

How can you qualify for the certificate?

First, you have to attend a minimum of 4 workshops at the 301 Academic Skills Centre. There are a great variety of workshops to choose from. Some of the topics covered are: Speed Reading, Critical Thinking, Mind Mapping, Dissertation Writing, Exam Techniques, and many more. You can view the full workshop schedule and register to attend on the 301 website.

If you are not sure what workshops to attend, you can take the 301 skills audit. This is a tool that can help you identify your strengths and will give you a personalised plan for improving your skills including recommended services and opportunities around the University that you could attend. You can find the audit on the 301 homepage.

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After attending the workshop, you will have to submit a 2500 reflective writing: 500 words for each attended workshop and  500 for an overall summary. Each piece of writing should contain what you learnt from the workshop, what skills you have developed and how will these help you in your personal and professional life.

And that’s it! You are now ready to submit your application!

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If you want to apply for a Certificate this academic year, there is still plenty of time! The deadline for submitting the application is 26 May 2019 for undergraduates, and 30 June for postgraduates.

 

Posted in All things 301, Extracurricular, Intern advice, Written by Tom

How not to make an argument

Do you struggle to think of an argument when you’re writing an essay or reviewing your research?  Has your tutor told you that your work hasn’t involved enough critical thinking about your topic? Then you should consider coming to our workshops on Critical Thinking and Writing, and Developing an Academic Argument which you can book on our website now!

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But as a philosophy student, I make arguments all the time. I won’t go into all the ins and outs of these topics because you’ll find out all about them in the workshop. Rather, I’ll give you a taste of some of the stuff involved. I’ll give you a couple of examples of how not to make an argument. Even if you don’t use this kind of reasoning in your subject, hopefully this will give you some food for thought, and you might be able to apply this to when other people make arguments in real life.

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So, you need a statement to support your argument. You will thus actively search for a source or think about something which will prove it.

But are you also ignoring sources and argument which reject your claims? You might include a source or two which does show the other side, only to easily reject it with additions to your original argument.

But is this oversimplifying the other argument?

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There is an official term for when you oversimplify another person’s argument. It is called ‘reduction ad absurdum’.

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It’s a bit of a mouthful I know, but its a Latin term for oversimplifying an argument, to ignore the reasoning behind an argument because you have exaggerated it beyond it’s original meaning. It is a rhetorical device, meaning people use it in their arguments to convince them despite it having no logical basis. If you’re a philosophy student you have to be careful not to do this, or else you will be deducted marks.

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Let’s give an example.

If somebody were to argue that the government should better redistribute wealth between the rich and poor, but you were to denounce that statement as that sounds like communism which has historically lead to the deaths of millions of people, that would be using reductio ad absurdum.

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This is because the other person was not saying that communism should be implemented, but simply that there should be a greater redistribution of wealth. This could simply mean more social funding or increasing wages. It does not automatically mean the person is advocating communism, which is an extreme redistribution. But you have made it so that it seems like they are, which can be easily attacked.

Another similar thing to do is to make a straw man argument. This is very similar to reductio ad absurdum, apart from the fact that you make an argument which is set up to fail, rather than responding to another person’s argument.

For example, you believe communism is bad and so no one will want it. So you set up an argument which denounces what you believe to be a communist agenda – the redistribution of wealth. You make the argument “We should not redistribute wealth because that will only lead to communism”. You have framed your argument so that it follows the narrative of communism being bad. But redistribution of wealth does not entail communism. You have set up your argument to fail on a bad premise, therefore you have created a straw man argument.

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There are many other rhetorical devices which I will not go into here. You might find out a few more in our workshops, but they are more focused on the theory behind arguments as a whole. It is worth looking into rhetorical devices because they are used a lot in everyday life, and when you can point them out, it means you will never be fooled!

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Overall, have a second think about what your overall argument is saying. But, as a final thought, don’t think that you must be constantly presenting strong arguments or sources which question your own. You of course only have a set word count and want your own argument to seem as strong as possible. Just show that you have critically thought about your own argument and other arguments too – you aren’t just presenting a simplified conclusion.

Go forth and prosper my argumentative Padawans.

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Posted in student life, Written by Arinola

Revising With Friends

The number one con of revising with friends is time wasted on segues about what you’re having for lunch, your weekend plans and the new TV show that will absolutely change all your lives.

That said, it can greatly influence your approach to learning new things and how you think about your module topics. The root of its effectiveness lies in the fact that we take in information in different ways but if you feel like your styles will clash, these tips can help you avoid that while maximising the opportunity to consolidate your learning:

  • Do some lone studying beforehand. The aim is to revise with your friends not learn new material that you’ve just been introduced to in a lecture last week.
  • Make sure to plan meeting times for studying so that it’s different from you usual meetups and and can be treated as such. Vaguely mentioning to your friend that you will discuss something you haven’t understood on your course may be motivated by good intentions. However, if you don’t explicitly plan to revise together, you may end up prioritising your social plans and forgetting all about it.
  • Agree on what topics you’ll be going over together. It is well worth having a planning session where you decide the order in which you’ll be revising topics or parts of your module(s). So that every week, when you meet at say 12 pm on Wednesdays, it is a natural progression from the last week and you can be as efficient as possible.
  • Choose a place you feel is best for your group study style. You can book group study spaces at The Diamond, IC or Western Bank and see how that goes. Depending on the module type, you may need to project slides or write your solution on a whiteboard which would narrow down your options. However, if your revision can be done properly by discussing with some notes handy or you’d prefer not to do it in the library, you may consider any of the cafes around. The downside is that you’ll have to at least buy a drink but from personal experience, Steam Yard, Tamper and 200 Degrees serve really good coffee. I have also heard good reviews about Ink & Water. Just be careful not to turn it into a full on brunch date that doesn’t involve any revision as the menus can be quite tempting.

 

Of course, there are other ways to benefit from having friends to discuss university work with besides revising together. Maybe you’d simply prefer asking your friends about questions you’ve struggled with or comparing solutions to problems. That’s equally great. We are all different so explore some options but in the end stick with what works best for you 😉