Unlike school, when revision for exams involved reading over classroom assignments and learning information given to me by my teacher, university exams involve a great deal more independence.
When our exams are marked, to achieve a high grade, lecturers expect to see evidence of wider reading. One area I have been taught about this year, for example, is social comparison, part of our ‘Social Behaviour and Development’ module. This topic considers why we engage in social comparison, who we select to compare ourselves with, individual differences in social comparison and emotional consequences of it. Lectures cover the background to such questions but it is up to us to research these further.
When I first started University, extra reading seemed a bit daunting and I wasn’t really sure how to access such information and so I thought I would write a few ideas down on here.
Firstly, i will start with the obvious: the library. The library at Leicester uni is huge and filled with practically any book that you will be required to read for your course. Often you will be given a list of essential and recommended reading by your lecturer and you can search for these by typing in keys words at the university’s online library http://www2.le.ac.uk/library which will show you where in the library the books are. Some are also Ebooks which allow you to make notes from the comfort of your own
However, I have to admit (slightly shamefully) that I have only ever taken a book out from the library once in the last 3 years. Instead I massively prefer to read online journals and articles that can also be accessed on the university website. These tend to be shorter and focus on more specific aspects of a topic. For psychology in particular, these are really useful, with many outlining experiments or reviewing past research on areas we are taught about. Also, these can help you for when you write your own reports about an experiment (which all psychology students have to do) as the structure of most journal articles are similar, consisting of an abstract, introduction, method, results section and discussion.
On the online library system, to the right is a column marked databases which can provide you with articles/journals specific to your subject area. For instance, if you click on P and scroll down, there is one called PsycARTICLES and one called PsycEXTRA, which filters out journals and articles from other departments. For example, if you searched something like ‘how the mind has evolved’ in the general library search engine, articles relevant to geography students but not psychology students may come up, so using a database can help you find information that is tailored to your specific degree.
Whilst you can browse websites or newspaper articles, for psychology I wouldn’t recommend using such information in an exam and certainly not in a piece of coursework. Instead, Google Scholar is useful for typing in key words and finding credible articles, journals and discussions.
Finally, it’s really beneficial to have group discussions with others on your course. I remember last year really struggling with a module on Biological Psychology and about ten of us met up a couple of times before exams and went through the lectures, each contributing with extra reading that we had done. This made things so much clearer and was less time consuming than trying to research all that information on our own.
Anyway, these are a few ideas which i have found useful for both writing essays and reading around a topic for revision. Hope this helps, particularly for any first-years (presently or to be) who may find the transition from school to university a bit bewildering. Any questions, fire away 🙂