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

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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.

 

 

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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

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.

Audience

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.

Timing

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.

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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:

https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301/services/workshops

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:

https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301/study-skills/communication/presentation-skills

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:

https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301/services/studyskills

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

301

Jun

 

Posted in Uni work, Written by Jun

Preparation for your assignments

The first semester will nearly come to the end. You might have or will have been bombarded with a horrible number of academic assignments or exams, hence needing to start thinking about how to organise your time and energy on handling such intensive workload. I have experienced the same situation as you do where I had to submit five or six different assignments at almost the same time. Today, I will give you some useful tips that you might think useful to your study in your case as well.

  • Time management

Effectively managing your time is absolutely of paramount importance, particularly as you are facing quite a lot tasks to do at the meantime. Firstly, I strongly recommend you to note all your tasks down on your computer and get them highly prioritised at different levels. The best way to do this is to use the system-embedded software on your computer, the most efficient ones of which probably is the ‘To-do’ applications or ‘Calendar’ combined with the ‘reminding’ function of your device, listing all the assignments you have, dissecting each assignment into different tasks and prioritising these tasks based on how important and urgent they are.

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Secondly, please bear in mind that it is critical for you to reflect upon the potential associations between your assignments, so that you can have a better clue in your mind what tasks (that might be from different modules) can be highly prioritised together and what can be less. For example, you may realise that there is something overlapped across different modules at some point of the knowledge. You can then consider addressing this point of the knowledge first before doing the rest of the tasks even if this point may have different requirements in different modules.

Thirdly, take the actions and get them completed as soon as possible. Please never drag on your action to the last minute, i.e. the deadline. In order to guarantee the quality of your assignment, you should leave sufficient time for yourself to self-diagnose what you have done so far and think over how you make further progress. I suggest you leaving around a week time away to your completion before your submit for each module.

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If you would like to have more advice and tips to for your time management skills, I highly recommend you to have a look at the 301 academic study skills workshop ‘Managing your time and avoiding distractions’ where you will learn some skills about enhancing your efficiency, beating procrastination and managing your time effectively. You can click on the link below to book your position. As the Christmas Holiday is approaching, a lot of workshops are already closed. As such, you may wanna come to one in the next semester.

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Booking your workshop here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301/services/workshops

Apart from face-to-face workshops, 301 also provide students with online study skills resources. Please click on the link below to get more information about time management:  https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301/study-skills/everyday-skills/time-management

  • Reading techniques

I believe you must have been bombarded with many tasks in your study which involve intensive reading practices, or you might face with a situation where reading is absolutely necessary at the first place before taking an action on your actual assignments or essays. If you need to do a lot reading, you must need to think about how you speed up your reading speed; otherwise, your efficiency cannot be guaranteed. I was recommended with an approach of empowering my reading techniques when I was facing to many assignments at the same time. Not only did this approach help speed up my reading pace, but also allowed me to root what I had learned in my mind.

The first step is to get your reading materials ready in your hands. You should make clear in your mind exactly what you are going to read beforehand. If you like reading paper-based documents, print all of them out and categorise them into different file stacks. If you prefer reading on a device, you can create different folders and download the documents you need into the folders. Your categorisation of the reading materials might be based upon different themes of a particular topic or upon exactly different tasks you need to fulfil. Whatever way it is, you should also figure out the potential relationships between them as their might be some overlapping knowledge coverage.

Then you will need to think about your reading technique. For some reading materials, I believe you should read all the text particularly when the material is very important. Whereas for some other materials, you might just need to extract some useful points of knowledge as reference without needing to read through the entire material. For the former, I believe a good way is to constantly direct yourself back to the introduction or background part of the document as you read because this part typically talks about the aim and objectives of the document, so that you won’t lose the main focus of what this document really tells. Regarding the latter, be sure you definitely do not ignore the sections that explicitly tell about the exclusive outcome that is regarded as the true value of this document; this typically takes place at the abstract, the end of introduction or the conclusion sections.

You then need to write down some notes from your reading. Do not just simply read without taking any notes down to get yourself more familiar with the knowledge. This also helps you develop a ‘big picture’ in your mind to network the knowledge you have acquired, especially when you do a lot relevant readings. I recommend you Microsoft OneNote as a tool to take your notes down in company with a mind-mapping tool. On the Microsoft OneNote you can create your own notebooks with as many sections as you need. You can further type what you want to note and use various types of symbols to label your texts when needed (see the image below). Use your own language to write something down according to your understanding of the reading material. Then you can attach the corresponding original texts beside your own words to help you easily refer to as evidence. When you have done a lot readings which are focused on the same theme or topic, you can then consider creating a mind-map to compare your notes that are extracted from difference sources and find out the associations, relationships or links across each other.

Image result for Microsoft OneNote

User interface of Microsoft OneNote

Good mind-map software I can recommend to you include: XMind. iThoughts (sample mind-mapping demonstration shown below), iMindMap. Lucidchart. These are not only my recommendations but also recommended on the internet.

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Sample mind-mapping demonstration of iThoughts

If you want to have some reading trainings, please come to the 301 Academic Skills Centre. The above-mentioned workshops and online resources have quite a few reading-related training sessions, such as Focused Reading Techniques, Speed Reading Techniques, Note Taking Strategies: Organisation and Management, Mind Mapping, etc. Please use the first link above to book your position for the next semester and click the link below to acquire the online resources: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301/study-skills/index

At the end, I really hope your assignments and your study next semester will go well. I believe you will be able to tackle all the problems you have now by carefully taking into account the techniques we are talking about today.

Good luck on your assignments!

Jun

Posted in Uni work, Written by Jun

What can you learn from the Manchester University Academic Phrasebank?

overwork GIF by Carlotta Notaro

When I just came to the UK to study, I was very confused about the standard academic writing in social science subjects. I was worried because I was bad in this and I knew this was very important that no one of us can afford to be without. I am quite sure that some of you might also struggle with academic writing for your study as well. I was recommended the Manchester University Academic Phrasebank. It is absolutely a useful resource you can make use of to help your study, particularly when you need to improve your academic writing significantly. Today, I would like to give my comments of this resource such as its effectiveness, advantages and disadvantages combined with my advice.

First of all, let me share the link of this resource with you: http://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/

 

User navigation

Although the page does not look ‘amazing’, it is comprehensive enough already to give users a simple but clear direction towards the information they are seeking for. First, the pop-up menus at both the top and left-hand side are constantly displayed; this brings you convenience to find particular information when you are on different pages. Second, this resource is downloadable in both PDF and Kindle format; the icons of PDF download and Kindle are always there available for you to download. Third, every single piece of academic guidance is displayed as a superlink under a clear hierarchical structure from the top level of the classification through to the lowest. I believe these three advantages with regards to user navigation will keep you accurately navigated without confusion of where you are on the site.

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Menu

The menu on the top of the page follows the structure of a typical and standard academic paper in a majority of academic disciplines. This structure usually begins with introduction and background of the topic, followed by its supporting review of literature by drawing on the evidence from existing studies. Methods/methodology will be the third step in this structure where the way of conducting the study is described including research design, research data collection and data analysis. Following the methods is the presentation of findings and results emerged from the study, which should be discussed with arguments later in the ‘discussion’ section. The final step is to give your conclusion. This resource provides you with a huge number of standard academic expressions and phrases in each section under the above structure. What you should do is just to click on the items on this menu. Then you will be able to see a brief introduction and key points of the section. At the bottom of the page, you will see a lot superlinks in relation to different situations where you need to express a particular statement. What you can do is to paraphrase your writing by these standard academic writing expressions suggested for you. For example, if you want to include a reference about what other researchers do in their text, a good way to express so is “Smith (2000) questions whether mainstream schools are the best environment for …” This is one of the ‘off-the-peg’ templates provided on the site available for you to use.

Similar to this is the menu on your left-hand side where a range of general language functions are provided for you within various contexts of your writing, such as ‘being cautious’, ‘defining terms’ and ‘giving examples’. What you can do is also to click on the links inside each of these functions and refer to yourself specific use of these functions.

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Content

The most important section of my evaluation is the content of this resource. From my personal experience point of view, this is a very useful resource for non-English speakers particularly when you are not so confident in academic writing. Basically, I believe that this resource has three main advantages to your study.

Firstly, by using the suggested writing expressions, your writing will no longer look cumbersome or run-of-the-mill. A good writing in academic context should avoid repeatedly using the same kind of expression. Either you can change the structure of the sentence and paragraph, or, you can replace some key words with the ones you have not been using. For example, when you make an argument in a literature review, you may encounter the situation where you need to cite previous studies. An awkward way to do so is to keep using the expression like “Many researches (citations) have shown that….”. Instead, you can change the way of your articulating by saying “Traditionally, it has been argued that … (citations)”, or saying “There is a consensus among scholars/researchers… (citations)”, or even saying “Several lines of evidence suggest that … (citations)”. See? Do use different expressions for the same type of arguments. Your writing will then look more ‘good-looking’.

Secondly, this resource will bring you a habit of thinking and expressing really in academic terms, using academic logics. You may encounter quite a lot writing occasions in your daily life, e.g. emails, letters, short messages, social media posts etc. You may have been inclined to informal writing without considering the appropriateness of language usage. If you regularly spend some time reading this resource, you will be able to convert your writing style towards academic writing every time when you start knocking at your keyboard. This will bring you comfort when you finally accomplish your essay.

Thirdly, this recourse is useful to almost all academic subjects no matter what study you do. The resource also can be used to a large range of types of writing; for example, writing for the description of an experiment, the findings of social investigation, and the citation of a particular existing research, etc. To put it simply, this resource is able to facilitate your writing at any point from the beginning to the end of your essay whatever the type of the essay is.

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You have now found out how useful this resource is. However, you also need to pay attention to the disadvantages of this resource. The main disadvantage is that you might be completely relied on this resource whenever you start writing. This is absolutely not the purpose of this resource. Even though you really think the writing tips and templates provided by this resource are helpful to your own writing, you should utilise it in a smart way. Instead of looking up which suggested expression is the most appropriate, you ought to think it over first by yourself. If you are still struggled, then you can have a look at these expressions to decide which might be the best for you. After this, you should keep it in your mind for your future reference rather than just forget it and come back again next time when you encounter the same issue.

Secondly, do not always use the exact suggested key phrases on this guidance. In order to ensure your expression best fits with the context of your writing, you need to think about the most suitable key words or phrases you use. This means that you can still follow the template of the expressions, but it is not good to always use the same word suggested there for your writing without considering your writing context.

If you are an undergraduate student now you can consider improving your academic writing skills; if you are a postgraduate taught student, you should start strengthening your writing to a more in-depth level; if you now are doing a PhD, you should definitely arm yourself with pretty decent academic writing skills and develop your own writing style.

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I believe this resource is useful to most of you who are not confident in academic writing. But this is not the only good resource. If you want to significantly improve your academic writing, you may also want to attend some academic writing workshops or classes alongside your reference to this resource. That will be much better!

Hope this resource can give you a hand to your writing. Good luck!

Posted in Intern advice, Uni work, Written by Tom

Juggling a Joint Honours Degree

So you’re doing a combined degree. I too combine History and Philosophy, and let me tell you that a dual honour is certainly an honour. You’ve had your first few weeks of lectures, and deadline season will be soon. You’ve maybe got into the hang of how different subjects are taught, but have you gotten the hang of how to deal with your deadlines or workload?

I mainly talk from experience of Humanities or Social Science dual honours, and so I can’t tell you too much about the differences in science-related dual honours (although our MASH service certainly can!). However, I hope that my experience will prove useful nonetheless.

First thing’s first: don’t fret. You haven’t made a terrible mistake in doing a joint honours. You don’t have the workload of two different courses on top of each other – you still have 120 credits to complete, same as everyone else. You’d also be surprised how many people do dual honours. When I joined philosophy in first year, nearly half of the course studied a different subject as well.

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Joint honours are great. You learn a larger variety of knowledge and skills, and get to know many different teaching styles (and people on your course)! Switching from doing lots of History reading to going to a Philosophy lecture is a nice refresher which helps one course break up the other. I’m looking to do a masters in History, but  if I did nothing but History reading in my three years here, I’d definitely be put off! (Hopefully this paragraph isn’t read in my application).

However, to have a truly positive experience of both, you need to know that you’re doing well in them. The key thing to remember about doing a dual is that your work will be marked differently within each subject.

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If you’re worried about writing an essay for a different department, the Departmental Study Guide is your bible.  You should usually be able to find this on your subject or module’s MOLE page. This will tell in what way to write for your course, and also your referencing system (which is incredibly important!).

Secondly, there is a large amount of support available for dual students. You will have a personal tutor for each subject. If you have anxieties about doing two different subjects, consult them (its what you pay 9 grand a year for)! And finally, if you’re still feeling a bit out of your depth…there’s someone else you can turn to. Your knight in shining armour – 301 Glossop Road!

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How? If your second subject is philosophy, a difference might be that you might need more training in developing your argument or critical thinking skills. Well, we have workshops on just those things! Does one of your subjects require much more group work? We’ve got you covered. Is the reading for History colossal? Check out our speed reading course! All these things are available to book on our website.

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At the end of the day, just know that you’re not alone doing a dual honours, and that both your department and 301 are here to help. Have a good one!