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!

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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

Posted in All things 301, Written by Ellie

Being a 301 Intern is the Best Job I have had at Uni!

So there are currently four 301 Intern positions open for next year, and I’m sure that means that there are plenty of people looking at our blog to get some extra info about the role. Well, you have come to the right place, because I am going to share with you why this role is the best role I have undertaken during my three years at uni.

301 is a great environment.

It usually helps to like where you work and like the people that work there too! Well, I haven’t worked in a nicer place. Everybody here is friendly, driven and consequently, fantastic to work with. You can really tell that the people at 301 love what they do, which is something crucial to an environment where you enjoy working!

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Cake!

In correlation to my first point, there always seems to be cake, for all to share, in the office! Doesn’t get much better than that, eh?

You get to engage with students and staff.

Throughout this role, you engage with many different people from the university, many of whom you would likely not have contact with usually! The role gives you the satisfaction that you are a part of a department that really makes a difference to the people that use it.

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You learn skills that employers are looking for.

Whilst working here you learn: customer service, organisational, communication, and administrative skills. These skills are so helpful when looking for a full time job after graduation, and gaining experience in them whilst at uni can make you a top candidate.

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You can achieve the Academic Skills Certificate

This is a HEAR recognised award that you can achieve by attending four workshops. The 301 Academic Skills Certificate acknowledges your commitment to enhancing your academic and employability skills and personal development.

Good hours

Either taking on 2 x 3 hour shifts, or 1 x 4 hour shift per week means you are earning money, but not taking time out of your studies to do so!

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I cannot recommend highly enough applying for these positions, because there is not one negative aspect of the intern role!

Posted in All things 301, Written by Katie

British Conference of Undergraduate Research

You may have seen a lot of references to BCUR on our twitter page recently and this blog will explain why. This year, the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) is coming to Sheffield. I hadn’t heard of BCUR before this year but it is a fantastic scheme and I would encourage other students to take part. I’ve created this blog to answer the 5w’s in the hope that you will consider applying next year.

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Who can take part in BCUR?

Undergraduate students in any discipline taught in Higher Education can share their work in BCUR.

What is BCUR?

It is a conference to promote undergraduate research in all disciplines so no matter what you study, you can take part. Your course may have opportunities to develop your own research which you could use. Our 301 Intern Sophie submitted her undergraduate dissertation and you could do the same if you have a dissertation. This is also a slightly smaller commitment than the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) scheme which takes place over the summer for penultimate year students. Therefore, BCUR is a better alternative if you have an internship planned over the summer.

Where is it and where can I find out more?

The conference takes place in a different university each year. This year is Sheffield University but next year it will be at the University of South Wales. BCUR have their own website with lots of information: http://www.bcur.org/

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When is it?

BCUR takes place in April each year. This week is BCUR here in Sheffield and next year it will be 15th and 16th April.

Why should I apply?

Undergraduate research is always an interesting thing to talk about in job interviews and looks impressive on your CV. It also means you can contribute to the research in your discipline whatever that may be. It is also an opportunity to share your work on a national scale and to interact with other students.