Posted in Intern advice, Written by James

How to Avoid Seminar Sadness

Seminars are the marmite of the university world. You either love them or you hate them. Humanities students will most often have seminars, where you are expected to join a group discussion rather than be taught specific tasks (tutorials) in a taught environment. The seminar leader, which might be a student depending on how your course is set up, is ideally meant to do little at all. The group discussion should simply occur naturally. The tutor is meant to facilitate discussion, rather than participate. But this doesn’t always go to plan. Momentary silence can quickly become awkward, conversation jilted and discussion replaced with frosty looks and stammered points. I’d say the reason this occurs is because often, students aren’t taught how to g about discussing a complex topic or text. We’re thrown in at the deep-end, so naturally we either sink or swim. Thankfully, we at 301 are here to help with some tips about seminars to help you swim the distance!

1. Seminars are Group Work

When you think of group work, you think of large projects, a list of tasks to be divided and booking rooms in the library. Few would think of a seminar. But a seminar is probably the most common group task a humanities student will ever have to face. Except instead of producing a physical piece of work, the project is the fifty minutes of discussion and argument you’re about to have. 301’s seminar on group work and its corresponding materials are fantastic. A group discussion is not just a simple exercise of people speaking and responding. It takes a lot of work to keep that discussion going, to take a point and elevate it, rather than just acknowledge it.

With this in mind, consider taking on some of these roles from the 301 worksheet:

Facilitator Moderates team discussion, keeps the group on task, and distributes work.
Recorder Takes notes summarizing team discussions and decisions, and keeps all necessary records.
Reporter Serves as group spokesperson to the class or instructor, summarizing the group’s activities and/or conclusions.
Timekeeper Keeps the group aware of time constraints and deadlines and makes sure meetings start on time.
Devil’s Advocate Raises counter-arguments and (constructive) objections, introduces alternative explanations and solutions.
Harmonizer Strives to create a harmonious and positive team atmosphere and reach consensus (while allowing a full expression of ideas.)
Prioritizer Makes sure group focuses on most important issues and does not get caught up in details.
Innovator Encourages imagination and contributes new and alternative perspectives and ideas.
Liaison Ensures that systems are in place to ensure that group members can communicate.
Wildcard Assumes the role of any missing member and fills in wherever needed.

Your seminar leader should be the perfect Wildcard, being whatever the group needs to keep discussion going. Mainly, they will be Facilitator, but at times they’ll favour one over the other. You should too! Nobody will always fill these role, and a room full of Devil’s Advocates helps nobody.

You don’t always need to be bringing up fresh points each time you speak. Sometimes it is better to ask a person a question, to deepen the point they’ve made or your understanding of it. Sometimes its good to summarise the points so far and the group’s current conclusions. Other times its best to question the relevancy of a point a person just made. All of these are good. All of these are valuable. Treat your seminars like the group work they are and you will only do better!

2. Everybody makes mistakes

I have known some students, myself included, to say some stupid things in seminars. Everybody froze to try and grapple with what had just been said. And you better believe I remember them. However, don’t let the fear of saying something stupid put you off. Its better to say it here than in an essay, and if you treat these occurrences with good humour, then you can be sure that the laughter will be kind, rather than cruel.

3. Do the reading. No, seriously.

I know, I know. This is simple stuff, but it has to be said once more. In a lecture, the only person seriously hurt by not having done the reading is yourself, as you might not understand some of the points brought up by the lecturer, as they will assume you have already read at least the essential readings. But in a seminar, especially one of eight or ten? Everybody can tell you haven’t read anything. If you’re lucky enough that nobody has done the reading, then we might as well pack up and go home. Your tutor isn’t there to teach you, just facilitate discussion. We can hardly have a productive discussion if nobody has anything to discuss! Do the readings, at least in so far as you can. If you don’t understand something, highlight it! Bring that reading to the seminar. Avoid the embarrassment and awkward silence, while also enriching yourself and your peers! Often the best thing I’ve said in a seminar has been “I don’t understand this”. By the end of the seminar I did, and so did many of my peers to embarrassed to admit they also didn’t understand what we were discussing.

In summary…

There you have it, my three big tips for success in seminars. First, realise seminars are group work and you don’t have to fill only one role. Not every role in a discussion is coming up with new points. Second, don’t let the fact that you might say something stupid hold you back. Its better to speak up and have a laugh in a supportive environment, than still be wrong when you write it down a few weeks later. Third, do your reading, for your sake and that of everybody else! At least as much as to answer the questions.

Posted in All things 301, Uni work, Written by Jun

Do back up your work in your study!

Have you ever lost your data on your computer because of hardware damage or a glitch? I have, yes, just two weeks ago. It made me so depressed. The sudden breakdown of my laptop made my uni work significantly delayed, and the most terrible thing is that I data GIF by Ryan Seslow to redo quite a few because I had not taken a time to back them up before it crashed. Having learned a big lesson from this experience, I would like to share you with some tips of data backup throughout your study.

At the first place, I would like to repeat three times what I am going to say:


Data backup is not a big hassle; so, do it every single time after your work!

Data backup is not a big hassle; so, do it every single time after your work!

Data backup is not a big hassle; so, do it every single time after your work!

Okay then, let me talk about what exactly happened to my laptop and data.

My laptop is 2016 MacBook Pro. This model is a bit different from other MacBook models. The SSD (hard drive) is completely soldered to the logic board, which means that there is a risk of data loss if the logic board is damaged. However, there is a data transfer port on the logic board, from which data can be rescued via a special data transfer tool that Apple has. Two weeks ago, I was working on my laptop. All of sudden, the battery was gone and it could no longer be charged and finally it was not turned on anymore.

broken computer GIF

[When this happened, I knew a nightmare was coming up to me. Can you imagine how I was feeling? Like this monkey in the GIF.] 

I sent it to Apple Store to get them diagnose what exactly happened. They told me the logic board got damaged and I needed to replace it if I would like to continue using it. They did the replacement for me and tried to recover my data. Unfortunately, when I picked up my laptop they told me that they tried many times but my data was gone because the logic board was terribly damaged.

I had no alternatives but reworked on my lost work. It was not too bad as what I lost was about two weeks work. But, it could have avoided if I had backed it up. It was not because I did not usually backup data. It was only the work I lost that was not backed up as I did not expect that a problem would fall down to my laptop. Anyway, I am going to share with you some important tips about how to save your data every now and then when you work.

  • Cloud storage

I highly suggest you saving your data on a cloud platform, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCould, etc. The advantage of cloud storage is that you can access to your data on any device at any place at any time. This gives you more flexibility to do your work. Most of these cloud platforms are free to use and have both versions for computers and for mobile devices.

  • External hard drive

The second way to protect your data from accident is to back up your data through your external hard drive. If you think your data really important ad you are very sensitive to data security, then an extra hard drive is necessary to you. If you do need one, I recommend Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba.

  • Emails

Probably email is the securest way of data backup. Unless you delete them, the emails are always in your inbox. So it would be useful to have two different email accounts and share your work between them every time when you complete your work.

On top of these, the best way of data protection is to back your data up to these three places at the same time. This is particularly helpful when you make a breakthrough, for example a dissertation, a thesis, an article to be published, and so on.

Another good habit of data protection is creating your account and logging yourself in every time when you use the software that you work on. Do not forget to use the cloud service of the software so that your work can be automatically saved and synchronised to another device if it does have this function. For example, if you use Microsoft OneNote with via login mode, you will find all the notes you have made are automatically linked to your Microsoft account. It means you can access to your data wherever you are on whatever devices, as long as you log in to your own account.

301 Workshops

Image result for 301 academic skills centre

Okay, let me give you some extra more tips, which I believe is of paramount importance on top of all those I have underlined above.

That is, the 301 Workshop of Independent Study. “Although at university you will need to make use of a wide range of core skills that are essential in a variety of different situations, it’s important for you to develop effective independent learning strategies. In an environment in which nobody will hold your hand, or tell you precisely what you should be doing and when, the art of managing and meeting personal deadlines – both social and academic – must be mastered sooner rather than later.” (301: Academic Skills Centre)

By attending this workshop, you will learn a set of skills of working independently, with the focus on the way in which you manage your study from across various aspects of self-learning. I believe that, with the skills you will learn from 301, plus the data protection tips I mentioned above, you will feel more comfortable in your study.



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.


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.


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!


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!


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.


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!


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.


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?


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!


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.


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.