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Super quick advice

Super Quick Skills provide the essential building blocks you need to succeed at university - fast. 

Written by experienced SAGE study skills and research methods authors Super Quick Skills deliver tried and tested advice. Here are some of the authors' top tips to help you on your university journey. Super Quick Skills are here to the rescue! 

 

Plan Your Essay: tips from Phillip C. Shon 

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Why is planning your essay an important skill for students to master? 

Planning your essay is an important skill for students to master because they often struggle unnecessarily while writing papers. Before students write anything, they should have a clear idea of the structure, argument, and an outline of what they will write in their paper - plan in advance! 

What's the most common mistake students make in this area? 

The most common mistake students make when planning or writing an essay is merely repeating the claims of others, thereby summarizing the work of others. Students should be able to articulate a point of critique that leads to the warrant behind a claim they are putting forth in their papers. 

What top tip would you give to students wanting to improve their essay planning?

I would say that students should learn how to read social science texts and emulate the argumentative structure of the readings they have found most persuasive and compelling. Students should rehearse their writing by reading through sound arguments and plausible claims. 

 

Think Critically: tips from Tom Chatfield 

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Why is critical thinking an important skill for students to master?

We're constantly deluged by ideas and information, today, as well as by other people's arguments and beliefs. Critical thinking is vital in this context - because it offers tools for evaluating claims, seeing through bad arguments, and building up our own understanding with confidence. 

What's the most common mistake students make in this area?

It's easy to feel rushed and pressured by the sheer weight of information that's out there - and to assume that you should always be working through mountains of material, fast. Students can end up feeling overwhelmed, distracted and bewildered at the same time. 

What top tip would you give to students wanting to improve their critical thinking?

Slow down. Engage with work selectively and strategically. Don't try to read everything: focus on understanding over information. Try to create a calm, uncultured workspace - and some calm, uncluttered time in each day when you're not multitasking and can think clearly. 

 

Take Great Notes: tips from Mal Leicester and Denise Taylor

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Why is taking great notes an important skill for students to master?

Taking great notes is an important skill because great notes help you to understand, organise and remember your studies and to produce better assignments and to do efficient revision. 

What's the most common mistake students make in this area? 

The most common mistake students make is not to redo their notes each time they take some. When you return to your notes you need to find they are clear, easy to read and organised. Another mistake is not to record the source of the notes - for example, the lecture title or the details of the bookmark or paper being referred to. 

What top tip would you give to students wanting to improve how they take notes?

The top tip is to remember three purposes of your notetaking. You need to produce a record of your learning, good material for your assignments and an aid memoir for your revision. 

 

Cite Your Source: tips from Phillip C. Shon

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Why is citing sources an important skill for students to master?

Citing sources is an important skill for students to master because it is good practice to give credit to scholars whose ideas have been used in order to complete one's paper. Not citing sources appropriately also has the potential to lead to charges of academic misconduct.

What's the most common mistake students make in this area?

The most common mistake students make in this area is not knowing what to cite. Students must learn the difference between a summary and a findings/argument before they cite their sources using the respective conventions of their disciplines. 

What top tip would you give to students wanting to improve how they cite sources? 

I would say that students should learn how to read social science texts first, and then organise their reading into accessible and visual formats so that they do not waste time looking through what they have already read. 

 

Manage Your Money: tips from Bob Smale 

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Why is managing money an important skill for students to master? 

Your money is almost certainly going to be limited, so it's important to make and monitor a budget, including all your income and expenditure plus a contingency for emergencies. 

What's the most common mistake students make in this area? 

Not asking for help when they get into financial problems. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can start to resolve the situation and avoid racking up further interest and charges.

What top tip would you give to students wanting to improve how they manage money?

Avoid the temptation of spending too much money too soon by sticking to a weekly budget. If you overspend one week make sure you economise the next. 

 

Find Your Source: tips from Gary Thomas 

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Why is finding sources an important skill for students to master?

Much of your work will be assessed on the basis of the breadth and depth of your reading, so it’s important to know where to find the best literature on your subject. You need to be able to find relevant sources quickly and to assess their quality. Work that demonstrates wide reading gets good marks.

What’s the most common mistake students make in this area?

The most common mistake is to rely on just two or three sources – usually those provided by the course tutor. Doing this shows that you haven’t really bothered to read more widely and gather different opinions on a topic. Only when you get a rounded view from many sources will you be able to demonstrate the criticality so valued by tutors.

What top tip would you give to students wanting to improve how they find sources?

Top tip: Be brave. Start with Google Scholar (which is very simple to use), and then move on to the databases that you’ll find on your university library website.

 

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