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!


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.


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?


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.







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 😉

Posted in All things 301, Written by James

My Experience of the SURE Scheme

As my colleague Stefana has already explained the what the SURE scheme is, I thought I might share my own experience of participating in the SURE scheme at a student.


I was interested in the SURE scheme for a few reasons. First, I was thinking about going into academia when I graduated, or at least further study with a research focus. It’s always good to find out if you don’t like something before you put another year of your life into it. The SURE scheme gives you a chance to really experience what working on your own research project is like. Second, I was going to be staying over the summer in Sheffield anyway. My friends were going abroad on placements, or otherwise engaging themselves with work experience or internships. I needed something to keep my busy over summer, and it didn’t hurt that they’d pay me £1,080, to complete the project. That would keep living expenses down a bit!

The application process was quite easy. The main task is finding a lecturer willing to supervise your research over the summer, so it takes a little bravery to start asking around. But most lecturers won’t bite, and those that do aren’t worth working with anyway! Once I’d found mine, I started working with them on the topic of my project. Sometimes it will be something your tutor is already planning to work on, and you’ll be helping them with an aspect of it. Otherwise, it will be something you can do on your own, with your tutor providing a guiding hand.

There are forms to fill out, but its quite simple once the SURE staff can explain it to you, and we at 301 are always willing to answer your emails on the subject! There are limited places, especially if you require extra funding for materials, hiring spaces etc. So its best to spend a little time polishing that application! If you’re anything like me, it will be the first in a long line of application forms, so its good practise!

My Project

Here is where my experience diverges from some others. I was doing my undergraduate degree in philosophy, which is a subject where research takes the form of reading books and papers, discussing ideas with colleagues, then writing your own paper on the subject. This is of course wildly different from what some other students were doing. There have been people building small robots or computer programs, people writing and performing plays or other artworks. Some even choose to do ambitious research proposals involving surveys and studies. All this is possible to do, but mine was just a dinky little research paper on the philosophy of fiction. Of course, I enjoyed it nevertheless.

It was extremely fun to research a topic that I had a serious and personal interest in, beyond what I would be taught in lectures. It gave me a taste of what research in my field was like, and I found I loved it. From pacing around muttering in frustration to myself to those eureka moments where everything suddenly made sense. It made me realise what I like about my subject. Of course, for you it might do the opposite, but better to know now than later!

I spent the six weeks I had funding for working on my paper, talking regularly with my supervisor and otherwise having fun. The SURE project doesn’t leave you totally on your own. Not only will your supervisor regularly check in or work with you on the project, there are many forums, meetings, workshops and trips available to help you out, including a trip to the British Library in London if you have some sources which are particularly hard to find!

The SURE Showcase

Once your project is over, everybody creates a poster or similar media to present at the SURE Showcase. With some frankly excellent catering (Inox Dine has the best food and wine when its free), students are invited to wander around commenting and discussing the research with their peers and present their own. I had quite a few people interested in my project and had some very engaging and productive discussions. Afterwards, there is an award ceremony where certain awards are given out for especially brilliant student research.

The same research project can be submitted to the British Conference of Undergraduate Research, which provides an excellent opportunity to continue developing and presenting your work!

I later got the essay I worked on published in Sheffield’s own Undergraduate Philosophy Journal, and presented it at a couple of conferences! Not bad for six weeks of work I got paid to do! This helped immensely with both job interviews and applications for further study. I have no doubt I wouldn’t be where I am now without it.

All in all…

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the SURE scheme. It has certainly shaped my future and bolstered by CV and applications. Nothing is more impressive that a standalone, independent project for applying for funding for a masters degree or place on a doctoral programme.

If you’re interested in applying for SURE yourself, you have until the 12th March. So get cracking!

More information can be found here.

Posted in Uni work, Written by Jun

Delivery of academic presentation

Presentation used to be dreadful nightmare to myself because I was not a good presenter… well, precisely speaking… a very bad presenter. The thing is, what I was going to say in mind was poorly organised and weakly structured, even though I was rather familiar with the content of my presentation. At the time I started thinking about doing a PhD I realised the importance of presentation skills because research outcome would not be valuable if it couldn’t be interpreted and presented in a clear way.

office presentation GIF by GIPHY Studios Originals

Therefore I started kicking off my presentation skills at the beginning of my PhD by taking some training courses, watching some useful videos with tips and taking opportunities of giving presentations. A particularly important training course I attended is the 301 academic workshop of “planning and delivering presentations”. I highly recommend this workshop for you to sharpen your presentation skills if you have not done so but you think you might do so. Below I list a few points of what I learned from this workshop which is quite valuable to you as your reference.

Believe me, no outstanding presentation succeeds without good preparation, even those done by the world’s best successful presenters. Well, the preparation here I mean is not equal to memorisation (e.g. mnemonics) or rote learning of what you are going to say sentence by sentence. A good preparation, instead, refers to your well-planned timing, content and structure of your presentation. Please bear in mind that the more you plan your presentation, the more confidence you will have in the information you are delivering. To achieve this, basically, you only need to keep the following three points into your account:


Topic is what your presentation is about. You can’t get lost in your topic anytime during the presentation. You might feel it quite easy to lose the clarity of your presentation. This is mostly because of your stress and nervousness of speaking in front of people, or your passion of interpreting knowledge that is relevant but not directly related to the topic of your presentation. season 19 nod GIFBut anyway, you should absolutely avoid this happening. A good way to avoid this in your presentation is to do a mock presentation in the, ideally, same place where your formal presentation takes place, or a similar place with similar settings and equipment. You can invite your friends, your acquaintances, etc. to give you some useful comments or suggestions. By doing so, you will feel much more confident and will not lose your track when the formal presentation takes place.


Some of people who you present to may have no knowledge at all about the content of your presentation, while there might be also some audience there who are in a higher position than you are in the expertise you have. Obviously you should take care of the way you deliver your presentation, i.e. your interpretation of jargons, your appropriate use of body language, your utilisation of technology and so on. obama GIFOn the one hand, you can’t confuse those who are not familiar with the content with a myriad of professional expressions without explanation, while on the other, you should also do your best to draw attention from those who are experts via clear structure and highlights on the main points.


This is really important! And this does not simply refer to your control-ability of time going. More precisely speaking, firstly, this means the timing of different sections of your presentation, each of which should be delivered in time as originally planned. Secondly, this determines how the information you deliver is presented to the audience. If it is a short presentation with strict time limit, you shouldn’t waste so much time on background information. If it is meant to be a relatively long-haul presentation which sounds easily to get people fall asleep, you should clearly illustrate the purpose, background information, outcomes and potential contributions of your presentation at the first place, especially to those who are not familiar with the topic. By effectively organising your presentation, you will be able to draw their attention from the start to the end.

Image result for 301 academic skills

Again, as aforementioned, please come to 301 to take one of the ‘presentation skills’ workshops which take place quite a few times in a semester. I have shared the link below to book your place:

Apart from going to the workshop, you can also find online resources on the 301 webpage about presentation skills and delivery. Just help yourself! The link of online resources is shared below:

Finally, in 301, you can also book a 1:1 tutorial with our study skills tutors to develop your presentation skills if you prefer a more ‘customised service’. Again, book your place here:

I hope one day in future I can be one of your audience who are fascinated by your presenting!




Posted in Written by Stefana

What is SURE?

SURE (Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience) is an annual opportunity for University of Sheffield undergraduate students to take part in a real-life research project. Students can apply for a project in their areas of interest and work together with academic staff.

The SURE scheme welcomes applications from University of Sheffield undergraduate students (must not be in their first or final year). It is a great opportunity to deepen your knowledge about a subject you are interested in and gain experience in that area. You will also strengthen other skills such as communication, planning, reading, writing, and time management. During the summer vacation, after the exams period, students will begin working on their research projects, while also attending training workshops and social events where you can meet other SURE participants.

Before applying you need to have an academic supervisor. They will be the one to mentor and help you throughout the project. The supervisor must be an academic or research associate employed by the University of Sheffield.

A brief timeline of SURE

Applications open in February and end 12pm, 12th March 2019. Successful students will receive funding for their projects. Information about the bursaries will be distributed in April. After the end of the exam period in June, SURE students will start working on their projects. During the 6 week period they will attend training sessions and meet other SURE participants. Projects end in July and students have time until August to write their abstract and evaluation. By November, students must submit a Dissemination (poster, video, book, website or other formats). The end of SURE is marked by the SURE Showcase next year in February where students get to present their work.

Applications are now open! Visit the SURE website for the application forms.

You can find out more about this and meet SURE students researchers at the SURE showcase that will take place at 5pm – 7pm 12th February 2019 in the Octagon.