New Undergraduate Students
Welcome to Sheffield and we hope that you find this interactive study skills resource useful as you settle into your course. Academic success involves a wide range of skills which you will need to familiarise yourself with over the coming months. Along with the subject knowledge that you will gain, you will be advancing and refining your academic skills as your studies progress. Through your previous studies, you will have already developed many of these skills, such as time management, academic writing, and teamwork skills, and you may now be wondering what will be expected of you at undergraduate level.
Whether you are new to university study, have been away from education for a while, or you are embarking on your first studies in the UK, this resource will give you a head start with transitioning to study at the University of Sheffield. It will enable you to get the most out of yourself when undertaking the learning activities and assessments on your course, and familiarise you with the academic support available throughout your time at Sheffield.
The learning objectives of this resource are as follows:
How to Use this Course
Resources are broken down into sections below. Each section contains a set of resources and activities relevant to the suggested stage of your course:
- Core resources are those that will be relevant for everyone and should be completed
- Recommended resources are those that should be completed if relevant
- Optional resources are those that may be of interest
Please use this course flexibly to dip in and out of the resources as appropriate, to help develop the skills you will need for your learning and assessments. Some resources will be useful as a refresher, while other areas may be new to you. If you wish to record your progress on the course, you can work towards the Academic Skills Certificate to gain recognition for your ongoing skills development.
Welcome to the start of your course! The first days and weeks are likely to involve an exciting mix of new experiences: meeting tutors and other students (either in-person or virtually); finding out about your course; learning about the University and the city; settling in and getting all of the logistics sorted out. In short, it can be an overwhelming and confusing time. Explore the following resources to find out more about what to expect from your course and how to get the most out of your own independent study.
Are you looking for support in developing your English language skills as you start your Sheffield journey? You can find English language support at a different University service, the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC). The ELTC offers courses, 1:1 sessions and online resources to help you develop your skills. If you would like to practice your conversational English, Global Campus run ‘Conversation Cafe’ sessions for new students at the University.
However you are feeling about your course, you are not alone! Have a go at answering the following multiple-choice questions and submit the form to record your responses (a copy will be emailed to you). You will then be able to see how other students have responded to these questions.
Please note: your responses will be anonymous.
Now that you have been introduced to Sheffield and your course, we have selected some resources that will give you the tools to study effectively. It is perfectly normal to still feel a little overwhelmed as you adjust to this new chapter in your life. Good study skills will help ease the transition and give you a strong start academically. Depending on your course, some study skills will be more applicable than others. The great thing about University learning, even at undergraduate level, is that the experience is unique for each student.
For some students, their undergraduate year will mark the first experience of academic writing, with projects being less structured and more focussed on independent study. For others, it might require working in teams to complete a project. Maybe you want to sharpen up your reading, enabling you to find vital information more quickly. As lectures and seminars begin, you might also find it helpful to look through our reading and note taking resources (choose from either the individual recorded workshops on focussed reading, speed reading, and note taking, or the ‘Reading and Note Taking Strategies’ workshop, which encompasses all of these areas).
Your project might require statistical techniques, which can be daunting if you haven’t studied mathematics since school. As well as study skills resources, you can get mathematics and statistics help, ranging from overcoming anxieties to understanding specific techniques integral to your project.
You might be feeling unsure as to where to start, and if so, it might be helpful for you to take the 301 Skills Audit before you jump into your skills development. See the link below to take the skills audit, which helps you to diagnose specific areas for your study skills development. To get kick started with that skills development, the table below contains a list of resources which are useful for all undergraduate courses, and some tailored towards maths and statistics.
Over the next few weeks, make use of the core resources below, as academic writing is an essential skill in university life. Now might be a good time to check out our time management resources, encompassing planning for the semester ahead and weekly/daily organisation. But choose from the optional and recommended sources based on your own development goals: you may already be familiar with some concepts, and therefore choose to concentrate on other skills.
Whether you’re coming into higher education (HE) fresh from secondary education, or coming back into it after a while away, the step up to university level can feel large. Rest assured that these four weeks are a perfect time to develop good habits that will stay with you up to graduation and beyond!
Now that your studies are really underway, the autumn semester may feel intense. Challenges of different shapes and sizes are likely to present themselves. You are likely to encounter your first deadlines and receive your first feedback on your academic work. Now that you’re putting your skills into practice and gaining feedback, you might encounter some specific issues you would like to discuss. Remember to make use of our 1:1 tutorial service if you would like to speak individually with a study skills tutor, online or in-person.
Courses with low contact time may require a lot of self-motivation and discipline, whereas full diaries can feel draining and relentless. It is important to balance university studies with plenty of ‘down time’. Taking breaks for exercise, socialising and relaxation will help you study effectively. Hopefully with time and practice, you will find your rhythm, but the wellbeing resource below can point you in the direction of any mental health or wellbeing services you may need.
Below are some recommended study skills resources to complement your first semester, as you start to work on credit-bearing assessment. If you have been away from education for a while, or would like a refresher on the expectations involved in university essay writing, the resources on essay structure and planning, developing an academic argument, and using academic sources might be especially helpful for you. If you are getting to grips with referencing, see the library referencing guide, which includes links to their workshops and online tutorials on referencing for beginners.
All students can benefit from accessing the core resource below on critical reading and writing, especially those who have had a break from studying, who are new to higher education, or have been used to the academic conventions of a different country. In assessments you have undertaken in the earlier stages of your education, there may have been an emphasis on memorising and replicating existing information, but at university level in the UK, students are often assessed for their ability to think critically about the information they have researched and presented (see this resource for more information on how assessments are designed around critical thinking).
For some students, writing critically (or expressing critical thought in seminars) can feel intimidating, as you may feel that you aren’t qualified to evaluate the information you are learning about. This is not true! You are a part of the academic life of the university in your own right, and university study is designed to help you adopt this mindset, fostering your own critical voice. You will critically question the information around you, developing your own perspectives, which you will express through your own academic arguments. See underneath the table for more information and resources about critical thinking.
After you have watched the ‘Critical Thinking and Writing’ workshop, in the buttons below, there are further online resources which you can use to ease yourself into the art of critical writing. The ‘Critical vs Descriptive Writing’ worksheet shows you the difference between describing pre-existing information, and using your own critical voice to evaluate that information. It shows that critical thinking isn’t always intended in a negative sense, and that much of the time, critical thinking is about relating your ideas back to your argument and showing why those ideas are important.
Use the glossary of essay terms below to check the meaning of the action words in your assignment descriptions, e.g. analyse, evaluate, to familiarise yourself with the critical thinking skills you are being asked to use. These terms have their own specific meanings, which can also give you a hint as to the essay structure you should use in your answer. (For more on this, see the ‘Essay structure and planning’ resources above). The Manchester Academic Phrasebank contains sentence starters for writing critically in your essays.
Please share your experiences so far. Have a go at answering the following questions and submit the form to record your responses (a copy will be emailed to you). You will then be able to see how other students have responded to these questions.
(Please note: your responses will be anonymous.)
You are likely to be entering a busy period in the semester where you may have upcoming deadlines for assignments and the possibility of January exams on the horizon. 301 has a range of support and guidance available to support you in your assessments, whatever form they may take.
At this stage it would be useful to refresh your awareness of the guidance provided by your department regarding the structure and format of your assessments. This will help you to prepare most effectively and place you in a strong position to identify areas where you would like to develop your skills and the 301 resources that may help you to achieve this.
You may be encountering different forms of assessment for the first time. We have therefore developed our assessment resources to help you aim for the highest marks across a range of different assessment types.
With assessments, deadlines and exams, these final weeks of the semester may be an especially busy period for you. The first step needed to get the ball rolling with organising your time is to note down your key deadline and exam dates as soon as you receive them (for exam dates and information, see the SSiD exam pages). This way, you can plan ahead based on the amount of time you have left.
The Exam Revision Planning workshop below gives recommendations for how you can go about this planning process. It may also be a good time to revisit the resources on time management and avoiding distractions that were covered in weeks 1-4 of the course.
Many students react to the pressure of assignments and revision by procrastinating (putting off tasks until a later date). If you are beginning to procrastinate, see the workshop below for tips on beating procrastination and getting the ball rolling with your assignments. Underneath the table, you can find some more information on the Pomodoro Technique, an effective time management strategy that would be especially helpful for managing your time and beating procrastination during the assessment period.
Below is a range of recommended study skills resources that you may find useful when preparing for and undertaking your assessments. You are likely to be familiar with some of the concepts covered below, but you may want to refresh your knowledge. Remember that you can book for a 1:1 study skills tutorial to discuss any further questions you may have.
The start of the spring semester marks a significant milestone. You are likely to have now submitted and received feedback on your first work at university. It is a good time to reflect on your studies: what has gone well? What have been your biggest challenges? Which academic skills should you focus on developing?
Feedback on your semester one work can help you identify your strengths and areas for improvement. One of the best ways to learn is by hearing others’ reflections and thoughts on our own understanding. Put simply, feedback is any kind of response you get to the work you do: as such, we get feedback all the time, in many different forms.
Now is a great time to familiarise yourself with the resources on offer at the university to record and develop your skills. You can use the university’s Feedback Portal to record and reflect on any academic feedback you receive. You can also use the Careers Service’s new mySkills resource to keep a record of your broader skills development, e.g. any extracurricular skills you have developed over the last semester.
To assist you in reflecting on your feedback and your progress to date, we would recommend that you make use of the resources below:
Circle of Learning
Having worked through these resources, you will probably have begun to identify a circle of development that occurs as your skills progress. Once you learn and develop new skills, you will use them in everyday life (not just within academia), reflect upon them and then build on them further. No matter what age you are, you never stop developing/honing in on the skills you have and reflecting on your work and practice. The following may help to consolidate and gain recognition for this developmental process:
This marks the end of this programme. Congratulations on making it to the end! We hope that you have found it useful and we would very much value any comments or feedback (see it is used frequently in all aspects of life!) you may have. Please complete our evaluation survey to share your experiences of this resource with us, helping us to develop the programme for the future.
Please note: your responses will be anonymous.
Please explore the tabs below for further information on these key aspects of your learning experience:
Level Up Your Academic Skills focuses on the key academic skills that will support you in your studies, however, during your time at the University of Sheffield you will have the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills and attributes through your course, your work experience and extracurricular activities. You can reflect on and record these using mySkills, an innovative new way for you to assess, record, build and reflect on your own skills profile.
This short video introduces MySkills and highlights how you may want to use it to build a portfolio of skills development and experience to use for future employment opportunities.
Although most of your course will involve face-to-face activities such as lectures, seminars, lab classes and practicals, you are likely to experience some online elements to your course as well. Online learning allows you to access your course materials remotely and in a flexible way, developing your ability to learn independently. However, it may also be a new and unfamiliar experience that requires new skills and study strategies. These resources provide a starting point for understanding the practicalities and challenges of online learning:
Below are some of our suggestions for online tools that can help you to organise yourself, manage your time, and block out digital distractions for online learning. For further suggestions, see this guide to using digital learning tools.
|Academic Skills for Wellbeing||
Making the transition to a new level of study can be a challenging experience. It may involve moving to a completely new environment and it may involve working with a greater level of independence. Whilst this can be exciting and present lots of new opportunities, it can also be daunting and take some getting used to. The resources below explore the connection between your study skills and your wellbeing, and highlight the wellbeing support services on offer at the university:
Below are some other services that you might find helpful if you need any further support or advice: