Posted in Taste of work, Uncategorized, Uni work, Written by Jun

How do you do a social science research?

Hello everyone. I am Jun, a new member of 301 intern team for 2018/2019. I am currently a third-year PhD student working in Information School. My PhD research is a socio-technical study of Chinese smart transportation system initiatives from various stakeholder perspectives in a social science point of view. Is it looking to be quite complicated? Yes, it is, so are most other social science researches I believe. But complicatedness does not mean it is difficult to do. Today, I am gonna give you some tips of doing a social science research, which requires you to do from the very beginning of your study.

Social study language skills

Academic writing and speaking skills are significantly important to your research. If you are an English speaker, you probably just need to think about how to use the correct words and expressions in social science particular in both writing and speaking. But if you are a non-English speaker, I suggest you getting some academic writing trainings from wherever you know. In the university of Sheffield, there are many places where you can develop your writing and speaking skills; some of them are open to some particular departments only or students in a particular level of study while some of others are open to everyone in the uni. In 301, you can get this greatly improved by taking 301 academic workshops. e.g. Academic Writing Self-diagnostic Session and Critical Thinking and Writing. Here you can also make an appointment with a particular tutor to learn some suggestions and useful tips from them.

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Meanwhile, reading academic materials is also a helpful approach to develop your language skills. Spend a bit more of your spare time reading through some research-related text books, papers, articles etc. to A) get your language skills improved, and B) get yourself familiar with your research field. Once you have read a substantial amount of resources, you will be able to use right words and expressions within various circumstances. If you want to know how to efficiently work with yourself in learning this, a good choice is to come to 301 academic workshop – Independent Study – where you can get more useful tips to studying independently.

 

Familiarisation with existing related studies

Being unique and valuable is very important to a research. Especially for a social science research, you should identify a gap of the current literature and existing studies so that you can raise your own research aim to fill that gap. At the initial stage of your research, a key step is to do a significant range of review of literature with regard to what similar topics have been already studied, what research methods they use in their studies, and what the current trend is in the field of your research, and so on. Digging up these questions will help you accurately navigate yourself towards the correct direction of your research.

However, if you are very inefficient in reading materials, you shouldn’t spend a lot of time wasting on this. Now you might want to consider how to enhance your reading speed. You might want to quickly capture the point without using so much time. In 301, they provide everyone with a Speeding Reading workshop session from which you definitely will be able to acquire many tips of reading quickly without loosing main points. I attended this at the beginning of my PhD, it helped me a lot. I was really grateful to this workshop.

 

Critical thinking and argument development

Doing an academic research is different from writing a school-level composition. It requires you to see everything critically and use strong arguments to uphold your statements. Particularly when you do a literature review, you can’t just list whatever you have found from the literature. You should instead critically analyse the existing studies by pointing out their limitations and when possible state how they are useful to your research argument development. When writing your own argument against the current literature, you should be able to make it as concrete as possible. In terms of how to get these two skills improved, again, I am still recommending 301 academic workshops for you – Academic Writing and Developing Your Argument.

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Well done! These skills are quite important and I believe you will have had these skills greatly developed by following the above points based on my own experience. 301 academic workshops are really good resource for your own academic development. Don’t hesitate anymore, just come!

Hope above tips are helpful.

Hope to see you soon.

Jun

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Posted in All things 301, Intern advice, student life, Written by Tom

What if I struggle at university?

Hello everybody! My name is Tom and I’m also part of the 301 team. I am a final year History and Philosophy student. Sounds pretty deep and difficult right?

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult. A lot of people can come to university, having worked tooth and nails to get into one, and yet find their friends seeming to breeze through work which they struggle with. This can be incredibly off-putting: why are they so good at this? Are they just extremely clever? Am I not cut out for uni?

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But if you got into this university, then you deserve to stay here and get your degree. Some people do seem to be just naturally smart. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t train yourself to be just as good as them. And the fact that you had to work harder to be as good as them, if not better? Don’t tell anyone, but it kinda means you earned it more.

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Let’s be real. Uni has only just started. It’s a crazy new experience you want to make the most of. You’re probably more bothered about partying, getting to know your housemates, and joining societies right now. And that’s fine – that’s what university is all about! But as your course continues and the party lifestyle dies down, you might feel a bit lost without it if you start struggling with your course.

So if you’re finding you’re course difficult within these first few weeks, start getting help with your course soon before deadline season arrives. Talk with your course tutors and your personal tutor as well. Practice in your own time. And you know another good way to get the skills to deal with your university course? Come along to the 301 Workshops and book 1:1’s with our tutors.

But working hard doesn’t exactly sound like having fun at university.

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But just because you work a bit extra than others in your spare time doesn’t forfeit your social life. In fact, working hard from the start means that, come deadline and exam season, you’ve already worked hard enough and developed skills to deal with the difficulties that everyone faces during that time. Doing a bit of extra work throughout the year means that you’re not having 3am library sessions the week before your project is due.

But how do I get better? You might not know what areas to improve on. In fact, me going on about spending extra time working and maintaining a social life might seem impossible to you! Who is this guy talking about hard work and extracurricular workshops as soon as uni starts? A crazy person no doubt.

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But that’s exactly what 301 specialises in. We have workshops about Time Management, so you know exactly how to improve academic ability alongside being able to play for your sports team, or making that society bar crawl. Just sacrifice a couple of hours to a workshop or 1:1s now,  and you won’t be sacrificing valuable hours of socialising or doing loads of extra work at a later date.

Time is very important as a student. You’re only at university once. So you want to create the best possible academic work you can do, but you also want to do it in as less time as possible. For my course, I have to do a lot of reading. I don’t mind it, but the issue is that I’m a slow reader. I can take hours and hours to read a couple of articles for a seminar if they’re pretty long. And when my flatmates are going to Corp in an hour and I’m not even halfway through a chapter I’m meant to read by tomorrow, I feel torn about what to do and stressed out that this could be a recurring problem.

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But 301 also offers a workshop on Speed Reading, so reading for your course doesn’t became a chore that you dread, or a barrier to doing other stuff in your life. Not only this, but a separate service runs at 301 known as MASH – Maths and Statistics Help. If you have problems knowing how exactly to solve certain problems or create the right algorithms, then the 301 building has got you. We offer so many workshops, relevant to each aspect of every course and aspect of academic life, that it’ll be foolish to at least not give our website our look and see if you’d benefit from anything that we offer. Our workshops run all year round and are bookable through our website here.

Universities is about giving stuff you’ve never done or considered before (like living with fellow students, try American Football, and so on), so why not give us a try? Especially as we can help balance your university life and make your time here easier! No one studying in Sheffield should feel like they unable to complete their course or to balance a social life. So we are here to help.

Hope to see you soon!

Tom

Posted in All things 301, Intern advice, student life, Written by Arinola

Making the Transition Back to University After a Placement Year

Since completing my year-long placement in July, I have gone through a roller-coaster of emotions with regards to returning for my final year. In July, I was more interested in enjoying my summer. Seeing some of my friends’ graduation pictures did make me look forward to mine but just a little bit. In August, I was looking forward to my parents’ visit and now, having seen my timetable I am both anxious and excited. Anxious is winning.

not ready for this

Regardless, there a couple of things I’ll be doing or have done to ease myself back into university life. The first is creating a routine. I was anticipating the release of my timetable specifically because of this and now, I am planning my schedule for each day of the work week so that I can fit work and everything else around my studies. I’m trying to avoid falling into the habit of waking up 1 hour before my first lecture of the day and going right back to bed when I’m done with lectures for the day. No judgement here if that is your style but I’ve been there and it didn’t work out great for me. If like me, having your days planned out in advance is how you get the best out of yourself, it is worth attending the 301’s Managing Your Time and Avoiding Distractions workshop.

The second thing I will be doing is making use of all the free resources around, as and when I need it. This could take the shape of attending the Consultation and Feedback hours that lecturers provide, using online materials provided by the University Library to refresh my memory on Harvard referencing or booking an appointment to see a Careers Service adviser with my CV via Career Connect. These resources are for us students so why not use them, huh?

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While it doesn’t exactly help with my university life, the third thing I plan to do is keep my work connections alive. Of course, this is easier said than done but after getting a university degree (or more than one), the plan for most of us is to secure a job. So, it would follow that having done a placement or some work experience over the summer, keeping in touch with the people you worked with it is a smart thing to do. Not just because you want them to give you a job, but so that you can continue to gain insight into the industry and hopefully have an experienced professional willing to review your CV when you are applying for internships or graduate jobs.

Placement or not, I am sure some of these will be useful to you all as well. If you are new to the University of Sheffield, welcome! I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time here!

Posted in All things 301, Written by Stefana

Welcome: a brief 301 overview!

Hello! My name is Stefana and this is my second year of being a 301 intern. I want to welcome all students to University of Sheffield and give you a brief overview about 301 and how our services could help you with your studies.

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The 301 Student Skills and Development Centre offers workshops and 1:1 Tutorials available to all University of Sheffield students.

The workshops have topics such as: Time Management, Note Taking, Speed Reading, Independent Study, Dissertation Planning. They include information and techniques that aim to teach students new useful skills that are essential for academic studies. If you are a first year student and want to learn how you can manage and organise all your Uni work and assignments you could take the Managing Your Time and Avoiding Distractions Workshop. Note Taking and Speed Reading could also help you with learning and organising your lecture notes more efficiently. If you want to attend a workshop you can book it here on the 301 website.

The 1:1 Tutorials are 30 minutes long meetings with a special study skills tutor. The meetings can cover any issues related to your university studies, learning and research. Tutors can give you advice on how to plan and organise your work, how to get started on essays or dissertation, or how to conduct research. However, tutors will not correct your work or give advice to subject specific issues. 1:1 Tutorials can be booked by accessing the 301 website. Both workshops and 1:1 Tutorials are available starting 25th September.

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I find that the workshops are very useful to learn new techniques that will help you study and organise your workload better. Also, 1:1 tutorials are a great way to get help for more specific issues that are not covered by the workshops. I hope you found this article useful!

Posted in All things 301, Intern advice, student life, Uni work, Written by James

How to Do a Dissertation and Not Go Mad in the Process

It was a long haul, but my dissertation has been finished, bound and delivered to the long suffering administrators of the uni philosophy department. There have been miles worth of pacing, beaten and hurt keyboards, as well as one or two sleepless nights; but in the end I did it.

Were I a sane human being, this would be the end of my university career. Three years on an undergraduate degree and one year of masters. Of course, if that were the case, I wouldn’t still be here, regaling  you with stories of my success. You have to be a student to be a 301 intern. I am not a sane human being, so I will be beginning my PhD in a few days. Three more years of academic blood sweat and tears, this time with more part time work since degrees ain’t cheap. Four more years if I hit a sore spot and my progress stalls.

Since I’m here for the long haul, I thought I’d dispense some of the wisdom granted to me through four years of experience. The dissertation and general academic tips are things I think all students should bare in mind, at least to extent their humanities or social science papers. I can’t give much advice about doing experiments!

1. Plan, plan and plan again.

With a dissertation its easy to get complacent. Sure, its a big paper, but you have months to do it in! Yet your time is still extremely limited, and must be spent wisely, especially if you actually want a top mark. For Philosophers, we have to be original to get top marks, in arguments or analysis. This requires reading, and a lot of it, to get a grasp on what’s already been said and what themes you’ll need to touch on. Nobody expects you to do everything, but you do need to at least mention things that others in your field find important, even if its just to dismiss them.

Managing your time requires planning what to do each day, week and month. Set deadlines for yourself and keep them. Otherwise, its too easy to let work pile up, and that’s where your mental health begins to suffer. Delegate all that stress to the master plan, let present you take care of future you. It can always be changed, but doing this will make the entire experience easier. I set myself some clear targets. I wanted to have read a bunch of books in the first two weeks, enough to have a grasp on the arguments. Then, I made sure I’d have the basics of the core essay structure and explanation topics ready by week four. With the end of the first month, I should be ready to write everything up, and know what I wanted to write. The next month was just for writing, at least one section per week. The last month was for editing, trying to get my drafts through.

I hardly stressed, although there were a few emergencies where I had to re-write or re-structure part of the essay. My planning paid off and when others were spending all day, every day in the library, I was whistling my way to the bus stop, finished paper in hand.

2. Make your life easier by using relevant software

A good piece of software can change the way you work and make yourself a million times more productive. I found that I struggled to remember exactly what I had read, where relevant quotes were and where these papers were located. Some would prefer to record all of this in a notebook, but tis old-school method is hardly foolproof. Making the trip all the way to the IC only to forget your bibliography notebook is heart-breaking. The same can be said for traditional digital methods like USB sticks. You should always have backups, but the heart racing moments of losing a USB with your dissertation or other crucial notes is an all too common tale.

Instead, for essay heavy topics I recommend a piece of software called Mendeley. This is a free software which is already installed on the majority of university computers, and is available in the software suite otherwise. Essentially, it acts like cloud storage, a PDF editor and referencing system all-in-one. I created my reading list and no matter where I went, all I’d have to do is log-in and there it was. Looking for references and quotes was a doddle thanks to the fact that you can highlight sections of the PDF in-app. I’m absolutely amazed how few people know about this software, because it you have one hundred papers this sort of thing could save your literally days worth of labour-hours which could better be spent elsewhere. Learn to use this sort of software, whatever your preference, and when it comes to the dissertation you won’t waste time shuffling bits of paper around your already crowded desk.

3. Take advantage of what 301 has to offer

Its too easy to feel you’re all alone when doing something like this. Your academic career hinges on the right words coming to your mind, the right connections being drawn. It feels like a solitary task, and in many ways it is. But you’re paying money to come to this place, and we wouldn’t be one of the best universities in the country/world if we didn’t spend some of that money on services to make completing these tasks easier. Remember, the university does not want you to fail. Their reputation hinges on your success. So take advantage!

The 301 centre offers time management workshops to help you plan, advice on effective research methods, critical thinking, report writing, referencing etc. If you’re doing politics and find yourself looking through page after page of government statistics, we have people to help you understand them. These are all free, and all of them helpful. Do enough of them and you even get another qualification to add to the ol’ CV. How’s that for multi-tasking.

4. Writing anything is better than writing nothing. Perfection is a lie.

Its quite easy to get lost in pursuit of perfection. But nothing is perfect on first draft, everything needs editing, redrafting and rethinking. Sometimes its best to just write what you’re thinking, in a different word document if need be, and work on the problem through doing. Maybe you’ll wake up the next day and things will be clearer, with that argument or point becoming something more cohesive. Even if its worthless in the end, it was part of the process, so still had value which it contributed to the overall project. Looking at a blank screen gets you nowhere, whereas looking at a lot of words allows the visual part of the brain to start working on solving the problem.

But the pursuit of perfection isn’t just a barrier to progress, but also to your finished project as well. Even as the highest levels of academia, no book is perfect. There will always be a topic not addressed, a point not quite made as well as I could have been, or a typo near the end. This doesn’t spoil the work, far from it, it just proves we’re only human. I’ve seen friends struggling up until the last hour before the hand-in deadline making last minute changes. Often, this doesn’t help the work at all, only hinders it by making it less precise or cohesive. Something which tries to be totally perfect ens up being mediocre at everything. A paper can be precise and in depth or broad and shallow. Both are useful in their own right depending on your goals, but both can be criticised for not being the other.

Once you have something you’re happy with, keep it. In the bigger picture, the marker probably won’t even notice those minor errors you’re worried about. Your time is better spent on something other than nitpicking and worrying.


 

So, that about covers the lessons I’ve learnt writing my dissertation and from the other four years of academics. I hope that some of this information helps you in your own work. We at 301 are always here to support you, as is the rest of the university’s staff and your peers. You’ll make your way through this!

– James