A Learning Process

Having made it through the first term, you expect to find yourself looking towards the second term with a new found confidence: You’ve been taught the resilience needed to scroll through an unimaginable number of pages from a Google Scholar search; you’ve learnt that leaving a 2000-word report until the night before can only end in disaster; and you’ve found a new appreciation for the Towering Mountain of Terror- AKA the list of extra reading that is 160 pages long and needs to be read by tomorrow. Having been armed with four months of experience in the day-to-day juggling that university requires, you’d think that things would be looking easier for the months ahead, right? Well, that maybe the case for some, but unfortunately I have yet to reach that level of self-organisation. If you find yourself in the same boat as me, never fear- we can get through this! Here are 5 things I discovered last term, and that I am determined to work on over the following months:

1) The library exists during the day.

Some people may be as surprised as I was to find that the library’s sole use is not, in fact, to act as a 2am refuge to students dosed on caffeine, desperately trying to do two weeks of work in one night. Yes, as an avid reader I am ashamed to say that for most of last term, the only reason I would go to the library was when I needed a quiet space to do some last minute cramming. For some time, I considered the library a slightly daunting place; it’s such a large space that it’s hard to know where to begin to look for what you need, and having never taken a library tour, I’d given up on the library as a source of information before I’d even given it a chance. However, I have since discovered the Psychology section within the library, and I am determined to do some daylight exploration of its depths this term. If you, like me, have yet to fully utilise the library’s resources I fully recommend that you do – I have found that the library staff are all incredibly friendly and willing to help, so it’s better late than never to figure out the maze.

2) Spending money is unavoidable.

As I wrote in my last post about my book purchases, the library has multiple copies of almost all the text books you’ll ever need, and there are always ways to get specific pages for seminars or course work, so it is not always necessary to spend money. But for easy access to information nothing beats having your own copy of a text book, and I am coming to regret my ‘purchase as and when needed’ policy; after all, the School of Psychology would not have given a reading list unnecessarily, and in hindsight the packaged deal that they offered on all 5 text books probably have saved me money. So if you have yet to purchase your text books, I would suggest you give the packaged deal a second thought – it may seem like a lot of money but once you have your books, life will be that little bit less stressful! As for me, I have resigned myself to the fact that I will have to purchase the rest of my textbooks in due course; in fact, How Children Develop by Robert S. Siegler, Judy S. DeLoache and Nancy Eisenberg, is currently sat in my Amazon basket, ready and waiting for the day that I can bring myself to accept the £52.99 loss to my bank account.

3) Google Scholar is not the devil…

Google Scholar Advanced Search

Library Search Engine

I know it’s hard to believe when you find yourself staring blankly at a screen of search results which seem to have absolutely nothing to do with what you were looking for, but for a simple search engine, it does have its advantages. Other than being able to do a more complex search by using the drop down menu on the search bar, if you still aren’t getting the sorts of studies you are looking for, I’ve found that it can be helpful to use the ‘Cited by’ option underneath each search result. This takes you to a list of researchers who have cited the paper you clicked on, and can broaden your reading material and help you to find what you’re looking for. I’ve found that it’s all about finding which search engine is right for you, and if Google Scholar isn’t quite cutting it, then there is always the library search engine Library Search, which allows you to search through all the resources the University of Sussex has to offer.

4) … but Harvard Referencing most definitely is.

Okay, that may be a slightly dramatic statement, but nonetheless it does sometimes feel like referencing is impossible to get your head around, and I’m facing it more and more as the year goes on. Not only have you got to master the format in which the information must be listed in a bibliography, but it changes for each type of information source you use (e.g. referencing a book compared to an online journal)! And, as if one form of referencing wasn’t enough, doing both Psychology and Criminology means that I have to wrap my head around both Harvard and APA style referencing *calming thoughts*… However, in my quest to master referencing I have discovered a few tricks of the trade, the first of which being Microsoft Word’s referencing tool which allows you to type in all the information about the information source and then inputs the information into a bibliography for you. The other way to make references easier, goes back to Google Scholar; under most of the sources you’ll find a button which says ‘Cite’; this brings up a pop-up with a citation for the resource, and all you have to do is choose ‘Harvard referencing’ or any other type of referencing you need. Thank you, Google!

Option to Cite Google Scholar References

5) You get out what you put in.

This is definitely the most valuable thing I have learnt from my first term here at Sussex. Like any student I’ve had days where it’s seemed more important to spend time with friends, explore the town or binge-watch shows on Netflix than actually do coursework. But when the exam season arrived I felt an overwhelming sense of regret as the stress washed over me and I realised I hadn’t been nearly as dedicated to my studies as I probably should’ve. Of course, it’s easy to tell yourself to become more organised and more focused, but it is a completely different thing to put that resolve into practice. But that is what I intend to at least try and do this term, to make the most of all that this experience has to offer.

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