USE THIS VERSION TO ADD MORE CONTENT Master Version - Success with Study Skills 26/2

Success with Study Skills is an interactive course from Notetalker Academy. It will take you on the journey towards good note writing. It will help you to make useful notes and you will learn skills that will help you in your education and beyond. 


About this course

NT Academy will support students and life learners to make effective notes.

Good note writing can be a challenge and finding a style of note making that works best for you takes practice. You might think that you have to write everything down, but actually writing lots of notes for studying isn't always the best strategy for consolidating and reviewing information.

This course will teach you the vital skill of creating notes for all learning environments. It will also guide you through different approaches to note making, enabling you to create your own note taking strategy, based on your preferences and strengths.

Part 1 and 2 of this course are available for you to complete now. These sections will help you use Notetalker to create effective notes. Further parts of the course will be added throughout October and November, so make sure you check back in so you don't miss out!

What will I learn?

By the end of the course you will: 

  • Understand the importance of listening. 
  • Know different note making strategies and be able to apply practical solutions to creating good notes.
  • Be confident in applying the note making strategy that supports you in using and reviewing taught information.

What to expect

Throughout the course there are quizzes to support taught information. 

At the start of each unit there is an indication of how long the unit may take to complete. 

You can:

  • Take as long you need to complete a section. 
  • Redo a section at any time. 
  • Skip a section at any time.
  • Leave and return to a section at any time.

Contact us

If you have a question you can email us or give us a call. 

Email us: [email protected]

Call us: +44 (0)1483 473810

Mondays to Fridays, 8.30am - 5pm (GMT)


You can activate text to speech by opening this course in Chrome and installing [...]. Follow these steps below to install the app and set up text to speech. 

Step 1:

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Author details

Laura Clark

Specialist DSE Assessor, Laura Clark Ergonomics

Email: [email protected]

Mobile: 07793 436281

Using Notetalker as a Study Support Tool


This section may take 45 - 60 minutes 

Introduction: Notetalker

Notetalker is a productivity tool that produces personalised sound and vision notes. It transforms the method of writing notes into a more efficient process, allowing more time for creativity and learning. 

Notetalker can help you create effective notes to use for revision and essay writing. 

This section will teach you how to use Notetalker app and Notetalker Edit as a productivity tool to help you study. 

Recording lectures and other talks

You can record lectures, seminars or tutorials using a couple of methods. Some educational institutions also capture lectures and make them available online. Find out more below about the ways lectures and other talks can be recorded. 


Many institutions record lectures and make them easily available for their students. These recordings are either video or just audio. 

Dictaphones and DVRs 

Dictaphones and digital voice recorders record lectures and other talks.

Notetalker app & Edit

Notetalker app and Notetalker Edit desktop software records lectures and other talks on your mobile, iPad or laptop. 

Pros and cons of using different types of recording

Pros and cons of using different types of recording

Quiz 1: Using Notetalker as a Study Support Tool

Match up the statements about the different methods of recording.

  • Saves 'key moment' during audio recordings and captures photos to help you remember the talk.
    Notetalker app
  • Portable and has a large storage capacity, but no function to capture and save images.
  • Provides good quality recordings through the student portal.
  • You can record directly into the software and type notes at the same time.
    Notetalker Edit

Notetalker app

Recording audio to support note collection is one of the best ways to ensure you are able to actively listen during a lecture and not miss any of the talk. 

Notetalker app records spoken word and quickly bookmarks key audio moments, providing more time to focus on the talk being spoken.

You can associate different types of information to a recording to suit your learning style from photos, images on your phone, scribble notes, colours and even bullet point notes. 

Recording the discussion also enables you to revisit and review that audio at any time. For example, a lecturer may use precise terminology and phrases which you can refer back to. 

Notetalker app - Benefits

Using the app to bookmark talks provides you with an effective resource on your phone which most of us have on as at all times. It provides an easy way to share and transfer information from lectures for editing. 

This method also supports you through bookmarking and taking photos to help support visual ques and trigger your memory. 

It maybe that a lecturer uses the best terminology and phrase which makes complete sense, yet you are unable to note this in time, you can rest assured that your recording will have picked this up.

Notetalker app - Creating a new note

Notetalker app gets you to select a file name for your recording and a folder location before you start recording. This helps to organise your files effectively and makes them easier to retrieve later on. This is particularly helpful if you struggle with organising your work because it makes you consider how you are going to organise your work before you start making recordings. 

Notetalker app - Creating folders

Notetalker app allows you to create and edit your own set of folders for storing and organising your audio files. 

It is a good idea to set up a file system before you start making recordings so you can easily access your work at a later date.

Notetalker app - Audio settings

Selecting audio quality

Within the settings you can select from one of four recording qualities. CD quality is the highest quality. 

Against each option you can see how much recording time in minutes is still available on your device. 

Selecting audio format

You can select to record in WAV or MP4 format. 

WAV files provide a higher quality recording and provide more flexibility for advanced editing in Notetalker Edit. 

Notetalker app - Recording basics

Record / Pause Button  (largest button in the centre of the recording screen). 

This starts or pauses the recording. You can pause a recording when things go 'off topic', which is a useful way to reduce the overall length of your recording. 

Bookmark button (book icon) 

This creates a bookmark at the point you use it, enabling you to navigate more easily around the recording on playback. Once you have created bookmarks you can edit them to add more information from that part of the talk such as photos, images, scribbles and bullet point notes. You can even colour your bookmarks to allow you to identify strands of information that run throughout the talk

Notetalker app - Bookmark trigger settings

Setting the Auto-bookmark Trigger

In the settings section of the app you can set an auto bookmark trigger. 

If you are a visual learner or learn by handwriting notes you might want to set the bookmark trigger in settings to enable open camera or open scribble every time you make a new bookmark. This will allow you to quickly take a photo or make a scribble every time you bookmark a part of the talk.

Notetalker app - Adding information to an audio recording to aid study

Adding additional information to your bookmarks

Notetalker app has been designed to enable you to add as much or as little information to each of the bookmarks (key areas) of your recording as you want to. 

You might be the kind of learner who needs to really focus on listening. The strategy for you might be: 

  • Make a bookmark at key points
  • Name the bookmarks - so you remember what the main points are
  • Colour the bookmark so that you can filter your information later on easy.

If you are a more visual learner you might choose to associate photos or images with each bookmark or use the scribble pad to create drawings which will help you remember what is being said. 

Notetalker app - Playback basics

When you have finished recording you can play the recording back through the app. During playback you can either navigate through the recording using the arrow buttons at the top of the screen or by clicking on the arrows by the side of each bookmark.  

Your bookmarks will scroll up on the screen placing the information relating to the part of the recording being played at the top  of the screen. By clicking on the right hand side of a bookmark you can review the bookmark information and add detail such as bullet point notes, scribble notes and camera images. 

Notetalker app - Improving sound on playback

Improving sound on playback

The Notetalker app has a graphic equaliser provided which will allow you to alter the way you hear the recording on playback to suit your ears. 

Notetalker app: Using your app recordings in Notetalker Edit

You can link the Notetalker app to a number of different cloud based storage platforms to transfer your files to Notetalker Edit.  By saving your files in this way you will then be able to use them within Notetalker Edit our desktop software.

Quiz 2: Using Notetalker as a Study Support Tool

Recording audio during a lecture is one of the most effective ways to help you to listen and not miss the discussion.

The app allows you to   your audio during the recording.

You can launch either your phones camera or the scribble pad automatically upon making a new bookmark you do this in the  menu. 

You can use the   on your device to take pictures during a recording. Saving images while you record can be helpful visual to support recall. 

Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox and can all be linked to the app. Saving files to cloud storage can help you to be organised with your recordings by ensuring you name them and choose a relevant   for them to be placed in prior to making a recording. Saving recordings in your cloud account will keep more storage space available on your device.


Notetalker Edit

Notetalker Edit will help you to create your own personalised and effective notes for future use. There are a number of useful features in the desktop software:

  • Audio and video recordings show up as linear view across the screen making it easy to navigate your way through the recording.
  • Text boxes under each bookmark you've made are there so you can expand your ideas and thoughts.
  • Additional bookmarks can be created when you listen back through your recording, or you can delete any unnecessary bookmarks.
  • You can import images, PowerPoint slides and PDF files to visually support your written notes. 
  • You can colour code main ideas, and use colour keys to support topics and matching terminology. These can help you export to mind maps. 
  • You can export your notes mind mapping software, or as Word and PDF documents.  

Recording directly into Notetalker Edit

You can use a directional microphone plugged into your laptop to record directly into Notetalker Edit. 

You will be able to bookmark the recording and write short notes as you listen. 

However, the technique of writing and listening at the same time is not for everyone.

Notetalker Edit: Using recordings not made in Notetalker app or Edit

If your institution provides you with mp3, wav or wma audio or mp4 video files you can save them and import them into Notetalker Edit. 

Playback the recording and use Notetalker Edit to create bookmarks at key moments. This will make reviewing the recording and writing good notes easier for you. 

You can use recordings made on Olympus digital recorders in Notetalker Edit. Index marks saved through the Olympus WMA file will be transformed into bookmarks. It is possible to import Olympus WMA files only into Notetalker. Files in any other format can be converted into WMA. 

Notetalker Edit: Basic Text Tools

Basic text tools

Tools enabling you to edit your text notes appear at the bottom of the active note area as you click into to the area to write notes. 

As you can see some of the tools look similar to those you would see in other programs on your computer with options to change the type and size of text used and select bold, italics and underline. 

Notetalker Edit: Advanced Text Tools

Advanced tools

On the right hand side of the text toolbar are the more advanced text tools. 

There is a highlighter tool which enables you to highlight words from the document. These can later be used as key words when you export to mind maps. 

There is also a maths keyboard and a spell checker. 

Highlighting tool

The highlight tool provides you with 6 bright highlighting colours which you can use to highlight your text. Making it easier to find key points again when you review your notes.

Maths Keyboard

The built in maths keyboard can help you to type maths symbols and equations into your notes by enabling you to click on the relevant symbol when in the note area. 

Spell Checker

The built in spell checker once launched will check the spelling of the words in the note area in which you are writing. It will offer you suggestions for any words that it believes you have spelt incorrectly. You can change the incorrect word for the correct one by clicking on change.  

Notetalker Edit: Playback tools

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Notetalker Edit: creating revision files

You can colour code your bookmarks and filter information based on a colour. 

With .wav format recordings you can also trim the audio from your original recording based on the filtered bookmark selection. 

Notetalker Edit: making voice notes

In Notetalker Edit you can make quick voice notes which can be played back later on. These can help you if you are in the middle of writing a note and have an idea but don't want to get distracted from your creative flow. 

Notetalker Edit: importing images, PDF and PowerPoint files + hyperlink (other references)

You can use PowerPoint files or PDF documents, imported as images to support your written notes. 

Each slide of a PowerPoint or page of a PDF document becomes a new image and this can be placed against any of the bookmarks you have made.

Notetalker Edit: using video

Video provides a rich source for learning as it combines both visual information and aural information. 

However, while watching the clip you may get so engrossed in what is happening and you may forget to take notes at the relevant points. This is especially appropriate when reviewing a video of a lecture which could be as long as 2 hours. 

Many students use YouTube or other video content to gain a good understanding of core topics. 

Notetalker Edit: working with video content


In Notetalker Edit you can import mp4 video content and bookmark the important points.

It maybe that you have created your own video and wish to view and critique it as you go. It could be that your wishing to watch a video, which has been suggested by your tutor, and you need to take collective notes. 

What does using video in Notetalker achieve

Notetalker and working with video

Through the use of bookmarking and making notes about videos as you go, with the added ability to be able to stop and pause the recording enables you to.

1. Note down your personal response to video material

2. Critiques from visuals

3. Triggers memory based on what you have seen and not just on what you have heard

4. Supports active listening - helping you to become involved with the material 

5. Enables you to save your notes alongside video content, and any voice notes you've made all in one place

Studying with the use of video helps to trigger your memory, not just from what you have heard but through seeing and hearing at the same time.

Notetalker Edit: exporting your notes

You can easily export your notes from Notetalker Edit in a number of different formats. 

In this video we cover exporting to PDF and Microsoft Word formats. However, you can also export to MindView to create a mind map which we shall cover in the studies skills section of this course on mind maps. 

Quiz 3: Using Notetalker as a Study Support Tool

Read each statement and then decide whether it is true or false. 

  • Notetalker Edit supports you to create effective notes that can be used for revision or essay planning.
  • This makes it more difficult to recall the information you are studying.
  • Notetalker Edit provides export options to Word, PDF or mind mapping software.
  • You cannot colour code core topic information.
  • Notetalker Edit can help me to be more dis-organised. It is inflexible so notes cannot be personalised in a way that suits me.
  • Notetalker Edit supports different learning styles, including visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.
  • Notetalker Edit brings all my content together and keeps the original notes intact for me to revisit whenever I need to.
  • I can edit the original recording in as many ways as I want to create useful resources for my studies.

Study Skills and Notetalker


This section may take 30 - 45 minutes

Introduction to study skills

This section on study skills will demonstrate how Notetalker can be used in conjunction with two very distinct note writing techniques. The Cornell technique is an established systematic method for condensing and organising notes. Whereas the mind mapping technique provides a 360° view of a subject.

The Cornell technique

The Cornell technique is a method of note making for condensing and organising your notes. 

The Cornell technique is a useful skill to adopt if you benefit from using a process to gather ideas quickly, without using too much text, and you prefer to take the time to listen during a lecture rather than write lots of notes.

How to divide your page

Split your page (ideally A4 ruled) into three sections:

  1. Left hand column: main points: for main ideas and key questions 
  2. Right hand column: expansions of main points for all other notes
  3. Area at the bottom of the page: summary section for you to write a summary in your own words.

The right hand column is typically double the size of the questions/key word column.

Leave around five to seven lines for the summary section at the bottom of the page. 


Quiz 1: Study Skills and Notetalker

How many columns should you divide your page into when using Cornell Technique?

  • 2
  • 5
  • 7

Quiz 2: Study Skills and Notetalker

What should you put in the left hand column?

  • Diagrams and pictures
  • Main ideas and key questions

Using the Cornell technique in Notetalker

Notetalker supports the Cornell note technique. 

In Notetalker Edit you can use: 

  • Bookmark titles for your main ideas and key questions - "left hand column". 
  • The note writing are area for your note collection - "right hand column". 

You can create bookmarks/ tags in Notetalker app while recording a lecture to mark out key moments, and note down main ideas and key questions. 

The audio recording and any supporting imagery captured during lecture will also help you make more sense of your written notes.


  • Divide up a notebook page into three sections.
  • Write your main ideas/ key questions in the left column.
  • In the right column write key words, dates, other important information, ideas or further research details.
  • After you have made your notes for a lecture you use the space at the bottom of the page to summarise your notes.


  • During a lecture use bookmarks to separate out your main ideas/ key questions.
  • After a lecture, in the text box under the bookmark title, write up detailed ideas, key information or further research details. You can create hyperlinks to external web documents.
  • Create a 'Summary' bookmark at the end of your notes to bring all your ideas together. It can be colour coded so that you can filter and export just the summary information.

Skills you'll develop using the Cornell technique in Notetalker

Using the Cornell note technique in Notetalker will help you to:

  • Develop your ability to work methodically.
  • Practise your active listening skills, by providing a way to capture the key content from spoken information. 
  • Improve skills to condense your notes. 
  • Build your knowledge of how to produce effective notes which can be shared, printed or even used as revision aids.
  • Practise your linear note writing skills.
  • Save time and be more productive.

Quiz 3: Study Skills and Notetalker

Thinking about using the Cornell technique in conjunction with Notetalker Edit, mark in the image below where you would write full detailed notes.

Quiz 4: Study Skills and Notetalker

Thinking about using the Cornell technique in conjunction with Notetalker Edit, mark in the image below where would you put your key ideas?

Quiz 5: Study Skills and Notetalker

To complete this section on the Cornell technique fill in the missing words to create a summary of why it is effective. 

technique helps to ideas and supports study in enabling a learner to make formatted notes.

Notetalker uses for Cornell key/main ideas and the bookmark text area to expand these key/main ideas.

Mind maps technique

The way your brain behaves when thinking creatively can be described as 'Radiant Thinking'. This means your thoughts expand out in a number of directions, almost at random, rather than progressing from one stage to another in a single series of sequential steps.

The term 'Radiant Thinking' originates from a leading expert on the brain and thinking, Tony Buzun. 

Creating mind maps allows you to plan ideas along paths (or branches and sub-branches) in a number of directions. You can map out information using links and triggers to expand your thoughts and create further ideas. This is meant to be similar to the way your thoughts stem out from a central idea. 

Using mind maps is a useful technique if you prefer to explore new ideas in a visually rich format using images and spider diagrams.


Quiz 6: Study Skills and Notetalker

Using mind maps creates a  way of your information. 

Mind mapping works in the same way our does by expanding ideas in a way.

Mind mapping is great to see a of a new idea and see it showing how you have come to your findings.


Mind maps and Notetalker

You can create mind maps through the export function of your notes from Notetalker Edit. 

Notetalker Edit exports to MindView mind mapping software, as well as MindGenius and Mind Manager.

Watch the video to learn how you can use your key words and colour coded bookmarks to build a mind map.

  1. Take the time to go through your notes and highlight key information. 
  2. Save your notes.
  3. Choose the export to Word function. Select 'yes' when asked if you would like to format these to use as a mind map. 
  4. Save the Word document. 
  5. Open MindView or another mind mapping program.
  6. Import your saved Word document.
  7. Edit your mind map as appropriate. 
  8. Save or print.

Quiz 7: Study Skills and Notetalker

Arrange this list of instructions on how to export your notes to a mind map in the right order. 

  • Colour code bookmarks or key ideas using the highlighter tool
  • Save notes in Notetalker Edit
  • Select export to Word
  • Select 'Yes' when asked if you want to format your notes for use in a mind map
  • Open MindView, or another similar mind mapping program
  • Find the import button in MindView
  • Select import and search for your saved Word document
  • Edit your mind map
  • Save, print or share your mind map

Benefits of using mind maps

By using the mind maps strategy in conjunction with Notetalker Edit, you can create a mind map that incorporates images taken from your bookmarks. 

Creating mind maps:

  • Helps you plan your ideas in a visual way.
  • Reduces the need for using lots of text.
  • Develops your thoughts and build your own connections to the course/ subject material.
  • Easily highlights main ideas and key questions.

Exporting and sharing

One of the reasons Notetalker Edit enables you to send your notes to MindView is to open up lots of other ways for you to share your ideas.  

Through MindView you can create many accessible formats of your information. 

You can always reference your mind map back into your original notes by importing a PDF, PowerPoint or jpeg image into the images pane of Notetalker.

Quiz 8: Study Skills and Notetalker

In this section you have learnt about the technique and the technique. These two techniques are very from each other.

The Cornell technique is a good method to use if you prefer to to what is being and you like to collate ideas quickly, without a lot of writing.

Using the mind mapping technique is a useful method to adopt if you prefer to your ideas and build connections to course material in a visual format using images and diagrams.



Ergonomics – A Student’s Perspective



Ergonomics is the study of the relationship between a person, or people, and their environment. It concerns itself with creating the best fit between the tasks that someone needs to do and the comfort and well being of that person. 

Ergonomics is an area, which if it’s improved, can increase work productivity and improve morale and concentration, not to mention improve stress levels.

In this unit you will learn: 

  • How to set up a suitable study environment.
  • How to avoid injury.
  • Good practice to maintain your wellbeing and comfort.

Ergonomics and you

As a student you may have a heavy work schedule with lectures to attend, coursework to submit and revision to do. These can often all happen at once and you may find yourself working unsociable hours to get the work done!

Whether you are a student whose course requires more written work and studying at a desk, or you are on a course where you take part in more physical learning, it is important to take the right precautions to safeguard your health. 

[Illustration of student hunched over working from laptop at a table with lots of paperwork and clutter.]

Ergonomic issues

As a student you might be affected by different ergonomic issues. It is a good idea to understand best practice in ergonomics because it can help with productivity (and minimise risk of injury). 

Read the statements below. If any of the following are true then read the rest of the section to learn how to help yourself,  and improve your comfort and wellbeing.

  • My backpack is weighed down with heavy books, folders and equipment. 
  • On campus, I frequently change classroom and I don't get much of an opportunity to set up a designated space in a way that suits me best.  
  • At home, I don't have a set space to study which means I sometimes end up studying on the sofa, on my bed or at the dinner table.

[Illustration of student really struggling with VERY HEAVY backpack on back and being hunched over]


Improving ergonomics for you

Do you study hunched over your laptop with poor lighting?

Is you chair uncomfortable?

Do you sit for ages without getting up and taking a break?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you may find that while you study you become easily distracted and experience discomfort. That could mean your work is not as good as it could be! 

Benefits of improving ergonomics

In recent times there has been a significant increase in the amount of students showing signs of musculoskeletal issues, with many requiring medication and treatment. 

This is probably caused by an increased amount of time working with digital devices, such as laptop, desktop computers and tablets. 

The good news is there are easy precautions you can take to help avoid injury and discomfort. 

Read our guide of Dos and Don’ts and try to follow it.

It will help you get the best out of yourself!

Your desk

You might often find yourself studying on your bed, sat on your sofa, or in low seating areas such as coffee shops.

This can create unnatural and unsupported postures, especially if you study in any of these places for prolonged periods of time. 

If you do need to study in any of these spaces make sure that you get up from your seat to move regularly.  

Tip #1

Ideally, you would sit in a designated work space at a standard height desk. A table will be fine instead of a desk, as long as it allows you to adopt a good posture. 

Tip #2

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Tip #3

The tidiness of your working area can impact how effectively you work. A messy, cluttered study area can have a detrimental effect on your mood and tolerance.

Ideal set up for your study space

Your chair

The design of most sofas or dining chairs don't offer adequate back support for maintaining a good posture over a long period of time. This could lead to back ache and discomfort.

Without the correct support, you are likely to sit in a slumped posture. This can put pressure on your spine and lead to your body overcompensating in various muscle groups, which can cause injury. 

Tip #1

Ideally, you should try and use a chair that has been designed for supporting good posture when studying such as an ergonomic office chair. A chair like this allows good back support from the lumbar curve up to the neck and shoulders. 

Tip #2

Armrests on the chair can also be useful if they are positioned in such a way that they don't prevent you from sitting close to the desk as this allows good upper limb support, with your arms and shoulders relaxed at a 90 degree angle. 

[Image to illustrate - shown from above same image as previous but from above]

Your study environment

Your study area is important to get right in order for you to maximise work productivity.

If there are any possible distractions, this could lead to poor working habits.

Tip #1

Try to ensure you have good lighting, for example from a desk lamp. 

Poor lighting can result in unnecessary eye strain, headaches, blurred vision and poor quality work.  

Tip #2

Try to work in a quiet environment with as little conflicting background noise as possible. 

If listening to music or audio helps you concentrate, then have it on in the background. But remember, this can be distracting if there are multiple sound sources in the area, like other people talking or playing their music. 

Tip #3

You might use headphones to listen to music. Avoid doing this to drown out background music! You will turn up the volume too loud which will be just as much of a distraction as the background noise. Remember as well that over time listening to loud music for prolonged periods can damage your hearing.

Your study environment


The importance of taking breaks cannot be stressed highly enough.

If you work work for long periods of time without taking a break, you can risk straining your eyes and putting unnecessary pressure on your body. 

Taking regular breaks is actually much more beneficial to the body and for work efficiency.

Tip #1

Try to take regular breaks. Your body needs movement and your eyes need regular breaks away from the screen and your books. So, even if it is just for a few minutes, this will give your eyes a necessary rest. 

In addition, frequent postural breaks encourage better blood flow around the muscles in the body and increase oxygen levels to the brain, which helps with maintaining concentration. 

Tip #2

Don't create work or study spaces where everything is within easy reach. Try to create a situation where you need to get up and move in order to do parts of your tasks. For example, keep a small glass of water rather than a bottle of drinking water next to you whilst you study, so you keep hydrated but you still need to get up regularly and move to refill your glass. 


Although they are a great tool, laptops in their current setup, are not designed to be used for prolonged periods of time. Unlike desktop computers, they are designed to be used for on the go and for short amounts of time. 

The great news is that with a few simple and affordable modifications you can make laptops more like a desktop computer. 

Note, when purchasing any additional equipment to use with your laptop, consider their weight and size. If they are small and portable you will be able to carry them in your bag and use them around campus easily.

Studying using a laptop

Tip #1

Try to avoid using your laptop placed flat on a table because it allows an exaggerated downward angle of the neck. The head is a very heavy object and this downward facing position causes additional strain on the neck and shoulder muscles.

Tip #2

Where possible use a laptop stand. This raises the screen level and allows the head to look directly at the screen, therefore reducing the strain on the neck and shoulders.

Tip #3

As well as placing your laptop on a stand, try to use an external mouse and suitable keyboard. If you don't, then you will type using the laptop keyboard which will cause poor posture and could lead to muscularskeletal issues, such as neck or wrist pain.

Image of laptop modifications

Keyboard and mouse setup

Remember that whether a laptop or desktop is used, the position of your keyboard and mouse is important.

Tip #1

The ideal setup for your keyboard is to have a suitable space in front, which will enable your wrists to be supported whilst typing. 

Tip #2

Your mouse should be in close proximity to the edge of the keyboard thus minimising the reach each time the mouse is handled and therefore reducing the ‘reach’ movement.


Experts have been advising on the dangers of carrying heavy backpacks for years.

The musculoskeletal damage heavy backpacks can cause is enormous. It can lead to rounded backs and neck pain.

By following a few simple adjustments you can avoid potential injury.

Tip #1

Always ensure you use a backpack (rather than one strap shoulder bags) and adjust your backpack to fit your body properly i.e. with the straps over both shoulders. 

Tip #2

Where possible you may be able to get digital versions of printed materials to reduce the weight in your backpack.

Quiz: tbc

Learning to Listen 100%


This section may take 30 - 45 minutes

What is listening?

By listening to someone speaking we receive and process information through the ears.

Through listening to someone talk, we identify sounds, stresses, letters, rhythms and pauses, all of which help us to identify important and non-important information.

Let’s briefly look at the anatomy of the ear and how it plays a vital part in listening.

The anatomy of the ear

The anatomy of the ear is made up of three parts - the outer, middle and inner ear.

  1. The outer ear consists of the pinna, the ear canal and ear drum.
  2. The middle ear contains three small bones – the ossicles – the malleus, the incus or anvil, and the stapes.
  3. The inner ear is made up of the cochlea, the auditory (hearing) nerve and the brain.

Take a look at the image below and revise the names of each part of the ear.

How the ear works

Sound waves enter the ear canal and make the ear drum vibrate. This action moves the tiny chain of bones (ossicles – malleus, incus, stapes) in the middle ear. The last bone in this chain ‘knocks’ on the membrane window of the cochlea and makes the fluid in the cochlea move. The fluid movement then triggers a response in the hearing nerve.

Study Skills and Notetalker

Mark where the cochlea is in the picture below. 

Quiz 1: Learning to Listen

Mark where the ear canal is in the picture below. 

Barriers to listening

At times you may encounters some barriers to listening that can affect your ability to assimilate information. 


Hearing impairment

Some people may have a physical barrier which affects their ability to listen, such as deafness or hearing loss. 

When your hearing isn’t working normally, information is not being passed through the different parts of the ear to the brain effectively. 

The type of hearing impairment a person has depends on which part of their ear is not responding well.


In a large open space like a lecture hall, it can be difficult to listen because of poor room acoustics. This might be especially true if you are sat further away from the speaker. 

In smaller spaces, like a coffee shop, it can be difficult to listen because of background noise, like other people's conversations.

Quiz 2: Learning to Listen

In this quiz, you will hear two people talking to each other in a quiet room. Listen carefully to the conversation and then answer the following question:

Which author wrote the book that Caleb is recommending to Jim? 

  • John Richardson
  • John Moore
  • Janette Moore

Quiz 3: Learning to Listen

In this quiz you will hear a lecturer discussing the topic of liberalism in a lecture theatre. Listen carefully to the conversation and then answer the following question: 

John Locke argued that every man has a natural right to...

  • ... life, the universe and everything in it.
  • ... life, food and happiness.
  • ... life, liberty and poverty.

Listening as an activity

We have learnt that the physical ability of our ears is important in listening. The way we engage in listening as an activity is also important.

Different listening scenarios require different listening strategies. Whether we are making a list or writing down feedback, it’s a good idea to think about the best strategy to use.

Listening for specific or detailed information

One strategy when listening is to make brief notes, using words that are the key components of the discussion.  

You do not need to write down full sentences. For example, connective words, such as 'and so' or 'but' are not necessary. 

Quiz 4: Learning to Listen

Match the notes on the right hand side to the key words on the left hand side.

  • Photosynthesis
    carbon dioxide + water (+ light energy) → glucose + oxygen
  • The ear
    Outer - canal, middle - ossicles, inner - auditory nerve
  • John Locke argued...
    Life. Liberty. Poverty.

Who? What? Where? Why? How?

Another strategy you can use when listening to information is to think about 'open questions'. 

Open questions require a detailed answer rather than just a 'yes' or 'no' and therefore lead us to making proper associations between facts. 

As you listen consider the words 'who', 'what', 'where', 'why' and 'how' to formulate questions about the subject that is being taught. 

Using this technique also helps you to understand concepts that require you to visualise and contextualise them, for example understanding how someone must have felt in a particular situation. 

Listening for instructions

Another strategy you can adopt while listening to your tutor or lecturer, is to focus on detail that instructs you to carry out an activity. For example, you may be asked to "write an essay", or you may be told what you need to include in your essay.  

Listening for key terms

These are some key terms you should listen out for when writing notes. Listening out for these will help you to focus on what is important. It will also help you become more organised in your study and meet deadlines.

Example 1: your tutor might say: "It is vital to register your application in order to attend this course."

Vital or important - something that is absolutely essential or necessary.

Example 2: a lecturer may remind you: "Don't forget to bring in your core topic text book for next session as we will be working from this."

Don’t forget or remember - used to remind someone to do something.

Listening for action words

When you are listening to information the person speaking will sometimes use action words that require you to do something. For example, you may hear the following:

  • "Research" 
  • "Summarise" 
  • "Discuss with your group" 
  • "Find out more"

Example 1: you might be set an activity to complete a PowerPoint slide for a group presentation and you will have to do some research beforehand.

Example 2: you may be asked to research a subject and produce a summary for a group discussion. 

Quiz 5: Learning to Listen

Tick all the words that are action words. 

  • Read
  • Recognise
  • Notice
  • Summarise
  • Essay
  • Prepare
  • Research

Top tips when listening

If you don't understand what you hear

If you hear something that you don’t understand make a note and research it later.

If you don't understand the subject, write a question to guide you to research it yourself and if you still don't understand it you can ask your tutor or lecturer about it later.

Prepare, relax and listen!

Allow yourself to be relaxed, prepared and organised. You can ask for a copy of course material prior to attending a session. This way you will be focused on listening to key information. You will also feel more prepared to learn; and, if you are relaxed in your environment, you will be able to remember and retrieve information more easily 

Quiz 6: Learning to Listen

Match the corresponding questions and answers. 

  • What are the chain of bones in the ear called?
    The malleus, incus and stapes.
  • What does "vital" or "important" mean?
    It is absolutely essential or necessary.
  • Find the list of action words:
    Research; discuss; find out more.
  • What is one of the recommended approaches you can apply to talks?
    Prepare, relax and listen.

Learning Styles 100%


This section may take 15- 30 minutes.

What are learning styles

Learning styles are research led theories about the way different people learn. There are several theories with different opinions. 

The useful thing about these theories is that they can provide a better understanding of ourselves and why we approach learning in a particular way. 

Identifying what type of learner you are can help you make useful decisions about how you focus during your studies and what activities will help you achieve the best results.

Learning styles

One theory categorises learners mainly by the way the brain deals with different senses. 

You may find that you learn more effectively from listening to information, whereas other people may learn easily from visual cues.

Visual learners

Visual learners study better by reading or seeing pictures. Visualising what they are learning is the key to success. If you are a visual learner, you can also improve your learning by:

  • Using flashcards to learn new words.
  • Visualising in your mind what you hear or read.
  • Writing down instructions.
  • Writing down ideas and keywords.
  • Using colour.
  • Drawing pictures to explain concepts.

Auditory learners

Auditory learners learn best by hearing and listening. They find it easy to remember and understand spoken instructions. If you find it easier to learn aurally, the following strategies are useful to implement.

  • Listen during lectures rather than taking notes.
  • Record lectures to listen back to them. 
  • Read out loud what you want to learn.
  • Discuss concepts with peers.
  • Use mnemonics to remember information.
  • Turn reading material into an audio file and listen to it.

Kinaesthetic/ physical learners

Kinaesthetic learners learn best by doing, as opposed to hearing, seeing and reading. This type of learner finds it easier to remember and understand by taking things apart and putting them back together again.  

If this style sounds like your preferred approach to studying, remember that you can do the following to help:

  • Implement a hands on approach.
  • Take notes in lectures and using different coloured pens to swap between themes and topics. 
  • Take part in activities (like tests and quizzes) to learn from trial and error.
  • Copy out your notes over and over again.
  • Use all the senses to engage with the learning.
  • Take regular breaks.

Quiz 1: Learning Styles

Match up the statements below. This quiz illustrates the kind of activity that really suits a kinaesthetic learner. 

  • Kinaesthetic learners learn best by doing...
    ... and find it easier to remember and understand by taking a hands on approach to learning.
  • Improve learning by taking notes in class...
    ... and using different coloured pens to colour code your notes but themes and topics.
  • Improve learning by copying your notes...
    ... many times over.
  • Improve learning by using all the senses...
    ... to engage with learning.
  • Improve learning by taking activities (like quizzes!)...
    ... to learn from trial and error.

Verbal learners

Verbal style learners will enjoy reading, writing and speaking.  They do well with learning through the spoken word and assimilate lectures and instructions easily. If you are a verbal learner, you will do best by adopting the following strategies.

  • Talking and reading out loud.
  • Using rhymes to remember key points.
  • Using mnemonics to remember a sequence.
  • Recording yourself speaking what you need to remember and listening back to it.
  • Forming study groups with your course mates.
  • Using dictation software, because you may prefer to speak about a subject rather than write it down.

Logical learners

Logical learners work well with numbers and recognise patterns and connections easily.  They need to understand what they are learning so they can memorise it. The following tips will help logical learners:

  • Make lists and extract key points from your information.
  • Work through problems in a systematic way.
  • Use diagrams and mind maps so that you can keep track of things and see how they fit together.
  • Write down notes to help you remember.

Solitary learners

Solitary learners prefer to work alone and are independent. You are good at concentrating on the topic you are focused on and are aware of your own thinking.

If you are a solitary learner, there are many ways you can improve your learning. Start with these suggestions: 

  • Ensure you have a personal interest in the topic you are studying.
  • Set yourself goals, objectives and plans and make sure they match your personal beliefs otherwise you may struggle with motivation.
  • Do not let issues get in the way - put a problem to one side and discuss it with others later.
  • Use visualisation to practice a procedure or skill.

Social learners

On the flip side to solitary learners, social learners are excellent at communicating with people. They are sensitive to other people's feelings and they are good listeners.   

Social learners learn more effectively by:

  • Learning in groups and classes, using other people to bounce ideas around.
  • Working in groups to learn procedures and learn from other people's experiences. 
  • Using mind maps and diagrams in group practice.
  • Discussing ideas with friends and family. 
  • Implementing role play in groups learning environments. 

Types of learner


  • Learn by experience and doing.
  • Find solutions to problems.
  • Are open minded and involve themselves fully.
  • Learn by brainstorming, problem solving, completing puzzles and competitions, taking part in role play and group discussions.


  • Observe and reflect.
  • Stand back and view experiences from different perspectives.
  • Prefer paired discussions.


  • Understand the theory behind the actions.
  • Need facts, models, conceptions to engage in learning process.
  • Learn by planning.
  • Use learning models.


  • Understand how the learning fits into the real world.
  • Experiment, and try out new ideas and theories.
  • Use case studies, problem solve, discuss and apply knowledge to reality.

Concrete information or abstract thinking (KEEP THIS CONTENT BUT DO NOT INCLUDE IN FINAL CUT)

There are many learning style theories which demonstrate different models.

One well-known theory is Kolb's Learning Cycle. In this theory, there are four stages which stem from the proposition that we learn by life experiences, including those we encounter day to day. He believes there are four cycles of learning (experiences) and we learn at each stage in the cycle. 

1. Concrete Experience

Doing/ having an experience

2. Reflective Observation 

of the new experience. Of particular importance are any inconsistencies between experience and understanding

3. Abstract Conceptualisation 

Reflection gives rise to a new idea, or a modification of an existing abstract concept

4. Active Experimentation

The learner applies them to the world around them to see what results

Quiz 2: Learning Styles

Match the type of learner to the correct statement.

  • Visual learner
    Learns best by reading or seeing pictures.
  • auditory learner
    Learn best by hearing and listening.
  • Kinaesthetic learner
    Finds it easier to remember and understand by taking things apart and putting them back together again.
  • Verbal learner
    Enjoys reading, writing and speaking.
  • Logical learner
    Work well with numbers and recognise patterns and connections easily.
  • Solitary learner
    Prefers to work alone and are independent.
  • Social learner
    Excellent at communicating with people.

Preparing for Lectures 100%


This section may take 30 - 45 minutes


In this section you will learn how to get the most out of your lectures.  It will outline how to:

  • Prepare for a lecture before you attend it.
  • Be an active listener during lectures.
  • Retain what you have learnt.

Generally, lectures will cover the key points and give you an overview of the subject.  This means that you are then expected to do further reading and research around the subject so that you have a more comprehensive understanding. 

Before going to a lecture

This flow diagram demonstrates the essential preparation you should do before attending a lecture. Start with the question 'Do I know the subject of the lecture?' and follow where it leads you. 

Key points for preparatory reading

The following action points are essential preparatory work when reading through subject material. 

These are important to do, so that when you are in a lecture your brain is not hearing new information for the first time. Instead, you are building on information you have already read and this aids memory recall.

  • As you read relevant information highlight or make a note of key points.
  • Look for headings, themes, technical terms and their meanings, and write them down.
  • Underline key points and words.
  • Write down any concepts you are unsure of.
  • Jot down questions you need to find an answer to.

During a lecture

When you are attending a lecture practise being an active listener. The following tips will help you! 

During a lecture: tip 1

Listen to what is being said - it will save you revision time!

During a lecture: tip 2

Maintain your interest by asking yourself “What is my point of view on this topic?"

During a lecture: tip 3

Make notes in your own words so you understand the information more easily.

During a lecture: tIp 4

Ask questions! If the lecturer says something that's unclear, make a note of it and get clarity from the lecturer at the end. Also, be prepared to ask questions which may emerge from any preparatory reading you do before the lecture.

During a lecture: tip 5

Link what you are hearing to previous lectures, readings or personal experiences. This will help build connections in your brain and make it easier to remember the information being shared.

During a lecture: tip 6

Record the lecture (using a mobile, an app, a laptop or a digital voice recorder) so that you can go over it later. That way you won’t panic if you can’t keep up when taking notes.


The most important strategy to use in lectures is active listening. Being an active listener will help you concentrate in lectures.

The following suggestions are other ways you can help keep your focus in lectures...

Read up around the subject beforehand, so the information will be more familiar and help you keep up with new ideas or terminology used during the lecture. 

Eat a healthy breakfast, lunch or snack and take some water in with you.

Use different coloured pens to take notes. 

Draw pictures or cartoons to illustrate a concept.

Stop looking at your phone or surfing the internet! You'll lose focus!  

Challenge yourself on the topic that the lecturer is discussing by asking yourself questions.


After the lecture

The most important thing to do after your lecture is to review your notes - anything else you do is a bonus! 

Tips for improving your learning after a lecture

The following suggestions are all the things you can do after a lecture to improve your learning.

  • Review….Review….Review!
  • Read through your notes and fill in any gaps.
  • Email your tutor if you are unclear about anything or ask a friend.
  • Re-word your notes to clarify understanding.
  • Ensure you research any questions you noted down during your lecture to find out the answers and add the information to your notes.
  • Create a mind map based on your lecture notes to help revision. 
  • Organise your notes into the correct folder.

Reviewing your notes

Each time you review your notes it takes less time for your long-term memory to retrieve the information, which is why you should review your notes a few times after the lecture. This is how you ensure what you learn stays in your long-term memory for easy information retrieval!

Quiz 1: Preparing for Lectures

Read the following statements and choose whether each one is true or false. 

  • It is helpful to read the suggested readings before attending the lecture.
  • If something is unclear during a lecture, do not ask any questions.
  • An active listener is someone that fully concentrates, understand, asks questions and remembers more of what is being said.
  • 24 hours after a lecture you lose 10% of the information that you learnt in a one hour lecture.
  • Reviewing your notes within 24 hours, 7 days and a month means it takes less time for the long-term memory to retrieve the information.


Firstly lets note that Lecture Halls are not the same and vary in size, shape and layout. Lecture halls are much larger in size than a typically classroom and at times can be expected to fit hundred of students!

Most lecture halls have a pitched floor so that students sitting from the rear can see the speaker the same as those sitting towards the front by a tiered seating design.

The design of the lecture is room is based on a focal point and is excellent for focusing attention on a instructor or visual presentation front the platform situated at the very front.


Lecture rooms commonly will have audio equipment set up such as loud speakers and microphones for the speaker to project across the room along with projector screen for visual aid support.

The acoustic properties of the lecture hall have been meticulously designed to best support the projection of sound.


This diagram highlights the main features of a lecture room/hall.


How to remain involved in a lecture (KEEP THIS CONTENT BUT DO NOT INCLUDE IN FINAL CUT)

What do I need to know about attending a lecture (KEEP THIS CONTENT BUT DO NOT INCLUDE IN FINAL CUT)


  • Put your answer option here
  • Put your answer option here



  • Type your statement here...
  • Type your statement here...


Note Writing: Flow and Mind Mapping Techniques 100%


This section may take 15-30 minutes.

Flow-based note writing technique

The flow-based writing technique works by writing down key words and ideas and linking them together using arrows.  This helps you map out your notes and connections that make sense to you, however it may not make sense to someone else.

Benefits of flow-based note writing technique

Flow based note writing is a great method to use if you struggle to take notes and listen at the same time. 

Creating this type of note means that you will have a more robust resource to use for referencing at a later date.

Using this technique:

  • Encourages you to be an 'active' listener whilst taking notes. 
  • Allows you to connect news ideas that relates to previous notes.
  • Works well if you add drawings or shapes so that the notes are more meaningful.

Introduction to mind maps

The mind maps technique was developed to mimic the way the brain processes thoughts and formulates ideas.

It is ideal for exploring new ideas using few words but in a visually rich format.

Mind maps technique

The way your brain behaves when thinking creatively can be described as 'Radiant Thinking'. This phrase was coined by a leading expert on the brain and thinking, Tony Buzun. 

It is used to describe the way in which your thoughts formulate outwards in a number of directions, almost at random, rather than progressing from one stage to another in a single series of sequential steps.. 

Creating mind maps allows you to plan ideas along paths (or branches and sub-branches) in a number of directions. You can map out information using links and triggers to expand your thoughts and create further ideas.


Student perspective: why is mind mapping useful? (KEEP THIS IN MASTER VERSION)

Who can it benefit?

The mind map technique works well for a number of different learners and learning styles, including: 

  • Visual learners who enjoy colour coding and the use of visual links and connections.
  • Kinaesthetic/physical learners who learn through the creative process of producing a mind map. 
  • Verbal learners and auditory learners for students that are able to use software to create links to audio files and text documents.

Quiz 1: Flow and Mind Mapping Techniques

Why does the mind map technique work well as a note collection strategy? Select two answers. 

  • It connects key ideas.
  • It produces a linear list of ideas.
  • You are able to listen to the audio again.
  • It works for many different types of learner.

Note Writing: Using Audio Recordings 100%


This section may take 15-30 minutes.

Introduction to recording audio

Digital voice recorders (DVRs) are used to record lectures, seminars, meetings and more. 

There are downloadable apps available for your smartphone and tablet which gives you no reason to forget to record as you always have your phone with you!  

Some apps allow you to take photos of important information drawn on a whiteboard or flipchart and match it up to the audio recording.

Recording audio

By recording your lecture/seminar/workshop you can really concentrate and comprehend what the lecturer is saying rather than trying to write it all down.  There are many other benefits to recording audio: 

  • It enables you to listen again and write down your own main points after the lecture.
  • It provides excellent revision material that you can use to revise for exams later on.
  • It gives you an opportunity to create a mind map on the lecture and reinforce the links in your memory.
  • It is a great strategy to adopt when using the Cornell technique as described in an earlier unit.

Student perspective: why is recording audio useful? (KEEP IN MASTER VERSION)

Who will it benefit?

Using audio recordings as a strategy will work well for you if you: 

  • like to listen over and over again to the recording to remember and understand the information.
  • are anxious about missing information while taking notes.
  • struggle to take notes and listen at the same time.
  • pick up on key themes and messages by the way the lecturer uses tone and pitch as they talk or how they emphasise words.  This can help assess the importance of the information.
  • miss information given to you during a feedback or one to one session.

Quiz 1: Using Audio Recordings

  • Recording audio is great for practising active listening?
  • You must invest in a dictaphone to use the recording strategy.

Note Writing: Cornell Technique 100%


This section may take 15-30 minutes.

Introduction to the Cornell technique NO CHANGE

The Cornell method of taking notes was created in the 1950’s by Walter Pauk who was a professor at Cornell University. 

Pauk found students spent too long writing down his ideas while he was lecturing rather than learning through listening to what was being said. 

So, he encouraged his students to write short notes during the lecture and then expand on these points and do independent study after the lecture. 

The Cornell technique

The Cornell technique is a method of note making for condensing and organising your notes. 

The Cornell technique is a useful skill to adopt if you benefit from using a process to gather ideas quickly, without using too much text, and you prefer to take the time to listen during a lecture rather than write lots of notes.

How to divide your page

Split your page (ideally A4 ruled) into three sections:

  1. Left hand column: main points: for main ideas and key questions 
  2. Right hand column: expansions of main points for all other notes
  3. Area at the bottom of the page: summary section for you to write a summary in your own words.

The right hand column is typically double the size of the questions/key word column.

Leave around five to seven lines for the summary section at the bottom of the page. 

Top tips for using the Cornell technique

  • Take your time to work out the best layout of the 3 sections to suit you. 
  • Add drawings to your notes to help you recall information. You can leave more room in the right hand column if you like to include images.  
  • Cover the main ideas section and try to answer the questions in the left column in your own words. 

Who will it benefit?

If you struggle to concentrate then this method encourages ‘active’ listening. 

This technique also supports: 

  • Visual and auditory learners who find it a challenge to write a lot of notes quickly.
  • Learners who want a snapshot of information rather than a transcription of a lecture.
  • Learners who struggle to keep their notes organised.

Quiz 1: Cornell Technique

Click on the area where you would add your summary. 

Note Writing: Chart Technique 100%


This section may take 15-30 minutes.

Introduction to the chart technique

This method of taking notes can be useful if you wish to compare relationships between different ideas or need to divide up information into different categories.

When would this be useful?

Using this technique is useful if there is a lot of content being presented quickly, or if you want to reduce the time spent reviewing and editing your work when it comes to exam time.

The chart technique is also useful for some subjects, such as:

  • History
    • To break down dates, events, people and places.
  • Science
    • To divide up people, theories, dates and proposals.
  • Maths
    • To organise equations, purposes and examples.

How to set up the chart method

  1. Identify the categories to be covered during the lecture to determine the number of columns in your chart.
  2. Draw a table or create a table in Microsoft Word.
  3. Insert the category names at the top of each column.
  4. Insert information (words, phrases, main ideas) into the correct column.


How will the chart technique benefit you

  • Helps identify all relevant information.
  • Easy to review and memorise facts.
  • Reduces the time spent writing.

  • Clearly illustrates comparisons and relationships.
  • Ideal if you learn well by recognising patterns.
  • Gives you an overview on one sheet of paper.

Quiz 1: Chart Technique

In order to use the chart technique I first need to create a  by hand or on a computer. 

I then need to write/type the category headings along the .

This technique will .

This technique is a good way to review and  facts.

Note Writing: Writing on Handouts 100%


This section may take 15-30 minutes.


Lecturers quite often upload handouts, including PowerPoint slides, before the lecture so you can review them. You can adapt and add to them during the lecture which will help you produce ready-made revision notes.

How to use this technique: strategy 1

Print out a copy of the slides with the notes. Do this by selecting '3 slides on a handout' option under the print layout setting in the print options. You can write your notes/key points alongside the slide and highlight key information on the slide.

How to use this technique: strategy 2

Take your laptop into the lecture and open the PowerPoint lecture material. You can write notes/key points in the notes section under each slide.  

How to use this technique: strategy 3

Upload the PowerPoint presentation into software such as Notetalker. You can add your slides against your lecture recording and include typed notes in your bookmarks area. 

How to use this technique: strategy 4

Use an app on your tablet that allows you to upload the PowerPoint presentation and then either type notes or write using the stylus. Some apps actually convert the written text to typed text.

How to use this technique: strategy 5

Microsoft OneNote also allows you to insert PowerPoint slides into OneNote. 

You can then type underneath the slide or even insert a table that you can drag anywhere on the slide.

For guidance on how to do this, visit Microsoft support.

How will this technique benefit learners?

This technique has a number of benefits!

  • Slides and notes are all in one place.
  • Notes are ready-made and can be printed or reviewed on a computer for further study.
  • Learning material can be visualised. 
  • It speeds up revision time.
  • It improves organisation.

Quiz 1: Writing on Handouts

Read each statement and choose whether it is true or false. 

  • PowerPoint allows you to type your notes into a notes section for you to easily review your notes.
  • A PowerPoint presentation can be printed out with 3 slides on one page with a section for you to make notes at the side.
  • Software, including Notetalker, allows you to import PowerPoint and PDF documents to match up with with your audio recording and bookmarks.
  • OneNote cannot be used to import slides and take notes.

Reviewing Your Notes


This section may take 15 - 30 minutes.

Introduction to reviewing your notes

In this section, you will learn how outline and summary paragraphs can assist you in reviewing your notes. Whether you are reviewing notes from a lecture, collecting notes for a research piece or creating revision notes, it is important to use a technique which works best for you.

Reviewing your notes regularly in a systematic way will:

  • Save you time when it comes to revision.
  • Reinforce your previous learning from a lecture.
  • Improve your information recall from your long-term memory.

Study materials that work well to create an outline

All you need to create an outline is: 

  • Your lecture notes.
  • Research resources relevant to the topic.
  • Work for a group assignment.

How to create a structured outline

  • Think about the overall purpose of the notes you wish to create and use a title.
  • Write down 4 to 5 main points with 5 to 6 lines left under each main point.
  • Use bullet points, numbering or alphabetical systems for labelling main points.
  • Add more detailed sub points to each main point if you feel limited by the number of main points.
  • Use visual images under the main points if this enhances your learning.

How does creating an outline help when reviewing notes?

Creating an outline when reviewing your notes helps you to: 

  • Focus your ideas.
  • Manage your time more effectively.
  • Create organised and structured notes.
  • Quickly and easily read over the information whilst revising or reviewing.
  • Add visual images to the outline which can help trigger your memory and make reviewing your notes more effective.

Student perspective: why is creating an outline useful?

Who will it benefit?

This style is great if you: 

  • Prefer to learn in a more processed and formatted way.
  • Enjoy routine and organisation.
  • Struggle to structure your work.
  • Find it challenging to organise sets of ideas such as students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) such as dyspraxia and students on the autistic spectrum.
  • Find reading and writing helps you learn information.
  • Are an auditory learner, because you can write small amounts of information and link the ideas to relevant sections in the audio recording.
  • Want to focus on concepts of information and extract pre-planned ideas into a prepared format.

Quiz: reviewing your notes

How many lines between main topics should you leave? 

  • 3-4 lines on A4 lined paper
  • 5- 6 lines on A4 lined paper

Summary paragraphs (KEEP IN MASTER VERSION)

Summary paragraphs are a useful tool to review your work. 

Rather than rewriting your original notes, the aim of using a summary paragraph is to create a condensed outline of what you have learnt. It is a great way to summarise and assimilate information.  

Writing a summary paragraph forces you to think about the main purpose of the original piece, by interrogating the information with open questions such as 'Who...?', 'What...?', 'Where...?', 'Why...?', 'How...?' and your own answers.   

A summary paragraph should be easy to read and digest. It can finish off a page of notes and should be between 4 to 6 lines long on a4 lined page.

Student perspective: why is a summary paragraph useful? (KEEP IN MASTER VERSION)

An example of how to summarise effectively (KEEP IN MASTER VERSION)

Take a look at this example of how to write a summary paragraph. We've used a synopsis of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare to illustrate it. 

Your notes could be in long-hand like this:

Romeo and Juliet is a play written by William Shakespeare around the late 1590’s. The play is based around two ‘star-crossed lovers’ and a tale of how a long family feud between the Montagues and the Capulets creates a tragic end to the lives of Romeo and Juliet. The story is set in the city of Verona.

Shakespeare uses conflict and contrast to create suspense.  It is a story of revenge, love and secret marriage which fuels Shakespeare's reflection on society at that time, creating a masterpiece which is still renowned today.

Here we have summarised the play using 

The main idea and open questions.

MAIN IDEA : The play is based around two ‘star crossed lovers’ 

a long family feud creates a tragic end to the lives of Romeo and Juliet.

WHAT? : A play written by William Shakespeare around the late 1590’s. 

WHO? : Montagues and Capulets  

WHERE? : City of Verona

HOW? : Shakespeare uses conflict and contrast to create suspense.

WHY? : A story of revenge, love and secret marriage fuel Shakespeare's reflection on society at that time, creating a masterpiece which is still renowned today.

Showing within a few lines a whole play text can be summarised more effectively in terms of remembering the information. 

Who will it benefit? (KEEP IN MASTER VERSION)

This strategy will suit you if you learn best from reading and writing information. You may find that you enjoy writing a summary paragraph as it helps you to connect with the text. 

The condensed format of a summary paragraph will help trigger your long term memory. It supports the recall and the recognition of important phrases, key words, data, places and names in a structured format. It is useful for bite size revision leading up to an exam or as a covering note in front of a topic folder.  

Summarising Your Notes


This section may take 15 - 30 minutes.


To ensure that you are ‘active’ reader and understand what you have read it is important to summarise your findings in your own words.  If you do this then it helps you remember key points. 

How to create a summary (SC REVIEWING)

  1. Skim through the text you are summarising and look out for headings and subheadings to indicate themes, topics and ideas. 
  2. Read through the whole text again, more slowly, so that you understand the main ideas
    • Underline or make a note of key facts and topic sentences.
    • Identify information you don’t understand and look it up.
  3. Start writing your summary
    • Write down the main idea of each section in one sentence. 
  4. Create an introduction 
    • Review your sentences and write down clearly what the whole text was trying to achieve.
    • This  form part of the introduction to the summary.
  5. You now have your introduction, the other sentences can make up the body, use transition words to make your piece flow.

Hints and tips

  • Include the author and title of work.
  • Keep it brief! A summary should be 4/6 lines therefore should be concise.
  • Create a condensed outline of what you have learnt to help you assimilate information.
  • Use a conclusion to bring together all the ideas.
  • To guide your summary, ask the following questions: What? Why? When? Where? How?
  • Think about how you would explain this information to somebody else.

Quiz 1: summarising your notes

Select the missing words to complete this section about the advantages of summarising your notes. 

This technique helps you understand and with the text.

The  format of a summary paragraph will help trigger your long-term memory.

Summarising your notes supports your memory recall and helps you recognise important phrases, key words, places, names and data in a  format.

This technique is useful for creating bite-size revision resources leading up to an or as a covering note in front of a topic folder.

If you learn effectively from reading and writing information, your notes will make you a more effective learner

Recalling and revising information using index cards


This section may take 15 - 30 minutes.


In order to to solidify learning and create long-term memories, you need to develop ways of repeating and rehearsing the information from your notes. 

Rehearsal and repetition is the active practice of recalling of information and is one of the fundamental ways of personalising your learning experience.

Introduction to index cards

Using index cards encourages you to write down small amounts of key information that you can focus on and revisit, until it has worked its way into your long-term memory.  

  • Unique to you
  • Easy to order by topic
  • Use them to quiz yourself

  • Colour code by theme, subject, etc
  • Use as flashcards for bite-size information to read over and over and support memory recall
  • Write key vocabulary and buzzwords

If you hate writing out notes by hand, you can download free index card/ flashcard apps. 

Useful tips

Your index cards will be different to everybody else's, which is fine; your index cards are unique to you! 

You can take advantage of the different colours available to categorise different subject areas within a unit of your course. Colour code your cards in a way that makes sense to you.

There are plenty of ways you can use index cards to quiz yourself. For example, you can write terminology on one side and the definitions on the other side, or write questions on one side with key points in an answer on the other. 

What are the advantages to using index cards?

There are many benefits to using index cards, but two key advantages are as follows. 

  1. You can practise rehearsal and repetition anywhere you go i.e. on the bus, train, café or at home.
  2. Learners with poor working memory, can learn small amounts of data and information which supports recall.

Quiz 1: recalling and revising information using index cards

Select the two statements which are true.

  • Index cards can be hand written or you can use an app.
  • Index cards are big pieces of paper with lots of detailed writing.
  • You can use index cards to quiz yourself, writing questions and answers on different sides.
  • Index cards are difficult to carry around as they are so big
  • Only people who like lots to read and write will benefit from using index cards

15 Planning an Assignment


This section may take 20-35 minutes.

Assignments: Plagiarism



In this unit you will learn

  1. What plagiarism means 
  2. When to reference 
  3. Tips to avoid plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

  • Plagiarism is the use of another person’s work without using a reference to name the original source.
  • Plagiarism can be intentional (you were aware you were doing it) or unintentional (you didn’t mean to do it)
  • It is vital that you understand exactly what needs to be referenced so that you are not accused of plagiarism and cheating.
  • Plagiarism can be copying the exact words from a source, changing a couple of them, paraphrasing or summing up the information in your own words without acknowledging the original.

Why is it important in academic writing?

  • In academic writing you will be required to complete a number of different assignments. Within this work (essay, report, presentation etc.) you will use your research to back up your arguments and the points you want to make. If you do not acknowledge and correctly reference the source of this information, you will be accused of plagiarism. This situation is taken very seriously and can result in disqualification.
  • In academic writing you will need to refer to sources of information within your writing. This is called citing or using in-text citations.
  • These citations are then linked to the reference list at the end of your work so that the reader can find the original source and read it in full.

Understanding referencing terms

During your studies lecturers may use a number of different referencing terms, like these below.

  • To cite a reference = to include/acknowledge the source of the information in your written work
  • In-text citation = a reference made in the written part of your work. This normally includes a surname and year.
  • Reference = The full details of the source used.
  • Reference list = A list (at the end of your assignment) which includes the full details of all the citations you have included in your work.

What can be plagiarised?

  • Words from an article, book, chapter, website, lecture etc.
  • Images, tables, diagrams etc.
  • Ideas or thoughts that are not your own
  • Music or videos
  • Work that a friend has done for the same assignment. You would both be guilty of plagiarism.
  • You can even plagiarise your own work if you use material from an earlier assignment without acknowledging it.

Quiz: what requires a citation?

  • Put your answer option here
  • Put your answer option here

Examples of plagiarised work (link to external sources?)

How to avoid plagiarising

  • Plan your time so that you are not rushing.
  • Avoid copying and pasting directly from a source.
  • Make your notes clear to understand – what is your own work and what is summarised from somewhere else? What is a direct quotation? (You could write in different colours/highlight/underline).
  • Keep a good record of all sources you access for your research – check what details you must include in the Reference List.
  • Add page numbers when you make notes rather than trying to go back afterwards and find where that excellent quote was.
  • Proofread your work.


Add image of bullet 3 here.

Tools for proofreading

There are a number of tools available to help you with proofreading your work. How you proofread will depend on what type of learner you are and whether you struggle with taking in information if it presented in a particular way. For example, if you find it difficult to maintain concentration or you miss mistakes when you read back your work in your head then this is not a strategy that will work for you. 

Text to speech programs or apps can be useful if you find listening to your writing being read back to you helps you to concentrate on the content. It can also help you pick up on grammatical errors and areas like poor flow or repetition. 

Focused reading tools which keep your eyes focused on the optimal recognition point and decrease the number of times your eyes pass over the words can help you to absorb larger amounts of text-based information. more effectively. 

Link to Spritz? 

use a human proofreader! 

Questions to ask yourself (interactive?)

  • Is this common knowledge? If yes, no need to cite it.
  • Are these my own thoughts? If yes, no need to cite it.
  • Is this a direct quotation? If yes, place speech marks around the quotation, cite it and include a page number.
  • Is this paraphrased/summed up in my own words? If yes, cite it. You may need to include page numbers: check with your referencing system.

Quiz: what is plagiarism

  • 1. Ideas that you have summed up from another source do not need to be cited.
  • 2. If you use your own work from an earlier assignment you must cite yourself.
  • 3. Information that is common knowledge does not need to be referenced.
  • 4. Plagiarism is ok if you are really pushed for time and only have 24 hours to complete an assignment.
  • 5. You need to use speech marks around the words which are taken directly from the source and also provide a citation, including a page number.
  • 6. The ONLY time you need to provide a reference to the source of information is when you copy the exact words.

Assignments: Referencing


In this unit you will look at:

  • What referencing is and why it is important
  • How to use references in your work
  • How to write a reference list

What is referencing?

When writing an academic piece of work you will need to back up your points/ explanations with research and evidence.

To include the evidence correctly within your work you need to refer to the original source of information (book, journal article, website, chapter, lecture etc.). This is called a citation.

Citations show where information has come from and they link to the references in your ‘Reference List’ or ‘Bibliography’.


  • Reference list - this is a list of everything you have cited within your work in alphabetical order. 
  • Bibliography - this is a list of all material used to write your assignment, but not necessarily cited.
  • (Your institution/department will tell you whether to include a Reference List, Bibliography or both).
  • Citation - a reference made in the written part of your work. This includes a surname and year and sometimes a page number.

Why is referencing important?

Referencing allows the reader to find the original texts/material/sources you have used and read the information for themselves..

Providing references prevents plagiarism. It shows the reader that you are not claiming that the evidence is your own.

In-text citations

  • When you refer to the original work within your writing, you must include the author’s name and the year of publication:
    • Surname (year) states that…..
    • The study supports this claim (Surname, year).
  • You may also need to include a page number: check with your referencing style to confirm when this is necessary.
  • You do not need to include the initial of the author.


Using the author’s name within the sentence:

Buzan (2011) looks at the importance of keeping both sides of your brain active.


Not using the author’s name within the sentence:

It is important to keep both sides of your brain active (Buzan, 2011).


TIP: if you remove the information from the brackets and the sentence doesn’t make sense then something is wrong:

It is important to keep both sides of your brain active Buzan (2011).

(Buzan, 2011) looks at the importance of keeping both sides of your brain active.

Further examples of in-text citations

Moody (2007) stresses the importance of good organisational skills.

Price and Maier (2007) stress the importance of good organisational skills.

Study skills books stress the importance of good organisation skills (Moody, 2007; Price and Maier, 2007; Hargreaves and Crabb, 2016).

Moody (2007) looks at some of the difficulties faced by people with dyspraxia. 

People with dyspraxia can face a number of difficulties (Moody, 2007).

! Notice how the verb changes depending on whether it is one author (Moody (2007) stresses ….) or more than one author (Price and Maier (2007) stress….)

! Notice how you can include more than one reference to back up a point: (surname, year; surname, year)

! Notice how all of these sentences would make sense if you  took away the information in the brackets.

What information is needed in a Reference List?

There are different referencing systems and it is important that you use the one specified by your department. One of the most common is the Harvard system.

In the reference list or bibliography you will need to provide slightly different information depending on the source being used. The following pages give examples of how to write out some of this information.

Look carefully at the punctuation and the information you must put in italics.

Referencing a book

Referencing a chapter in a book (an edited book)

Referencing a journal article

Alphabetical order

The reference list must always be in alphabetical order (using the surname for each source to arrange the list). The A-Z Sort function in Word can be helpful for doing this. 

Do not list the sources in the order they have been used. 

Correct example:

Elliott, J. and Gibbs, S. (2008) ‘Does Dyslexia Exist?’, Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(3-4), pp. 475-491. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9752.2008.00653.x.

Meehan, M. (2010) ‘Dyslexia-friendly higher education’, in Pavey, B., Meehan, M. and Waugh, A. (Eds.) Dyslexia-Friendly Further and Higher Education. London: Sage Publications Ltd., pp.25-35.

Peer, L. and Reid, G. (2003) Introduction to dyslexia. London: David Fulton

Quiz: in-text citations

Quiz: in-text citations

Match the incorrect examples on the left with the correct examples of how to reference on the right. 

  • Moody stresses the importance of good organisational skills.
    Moody (2007) stresses the importance of good organisational skills.
  • (Price and Maier, 2007) stress the importance of good organisational skills.
    Price and Maier (2007) stress the importance of good organisational skills.
  • Study skills books stress the importance of good organisation skills Moody, (2007), Price and Maier, (2007), Hargreaves and Crabb, (2016).
    Study skills books stress the importance of good organisation skills (Moody, 2007; Price and Maier, 2007; Hargreaves and Crabb, 2016).
  • Moody looks at some of the difficulties faced by people with dyspraxia (2007) .
    Moody (2007) looks at some of the difficulties faced by people with dyspraxia.
  • People with dyspraxia can face a number of difficulties Moody, (2007).
    People with dyspraxia can face a number of difficulties (Moody, 2007).

Quiz: in-text citations

Direct quotations

  • When you take the exact words, phrase or sentence that an author has used, this is called a direct quote/quotation. 
  • Try not to use too many direct quotations within your work. Ask yourself: “Is there any other way of saying this?” If the author sums up perfectly what you want to say, then make sure the quote is referenced correctly and flows within the sentence. 
  • A direct quote will need ‘speech marks’ around the words used. 
  • When you use a direct quote in your work, you will need to give the page number as well as the author’s name and the year of publication.

Example of direct quotation

Correct example

Buzan (2011, p.20) suggests that ‘the two sides of your brain do not operate separately from one another’. 

This is correct because:

  • The words taken from the book are within speech marks. 
  • If you take away the information in the brackets the sentence still makes sense. 
  • The page number is given. 
  • The sentence flows (imagine if the speech marks were removed….it would read like a normal sentence).

Incorrect example of direct quotation

Incorrect example

Buzan 2011 claims that both sides of the brain ‘they need to work together to be at their most effective’ (p.104) 

This is incorrect because:

  • If you take away the information in the brackets the sentence does not make complete sense. 
  • A year is never given outside of brackets. 
  • The page number is given at the end of the sentence rather than after the year. 
  • The sentence does not flow (imagine if the speech marks were removed).

Tips for referencing

As you cite a source in your work, highlight the author(s). This helps when checking through your reference list at the end to ensure all sources are listed. You can clear the highlighting as you check each one off.

Get into the habit of adding the source to your reference list when you first refer to it.

Develop good habits of recording all source details when making notes. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to remember where you found that excellent piece of evidence or perfect quote!

Quiz: Overview of everything

  • 1. The author’s name is always within brackets in the sentence.
  • 2. In-text citations require the author’s initial and surname.
  • 3. A Reference List includes every source which has been used, in the order it appears in the assignment.
  • You must include a Reference List and a Bibliography in your work.
  • All citations require a page number.
  • To reference a book, you need: Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) Title (in italics). Edition. Place of publication: Publisher.
  • Everybody uses Harvard style referencing.
  • The year of publication always comes at the end of the sentence.

Reference List

Buzan, T. and Harrison, J. (2011) Buzan's study skills: mind maps, memory techniques, speed reading. Harlow: BBC Active

Hargreaves, S. and Crabb, J. (2016) Study Skills for Students with Dyslexia 3rd Ed. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Moody, S. (2007) Dyslexia: Surviving and succeeding at college. Abingdon: Routledge

Price, G. and Maier, P. (2007) Effective study skills. Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd

9 Consolidating Your Notes (SC REVIEWING. REQUIRES IMAGES + VIDEO)


This section may take 20 - 35 minutes. 


One of the best methods to help you process your notes into a format to use for revision is to create ‘preview’ questions. In this section, you will discover how you can use questions to strengthen your learning. 

  • To find out how many different theories there are.
  • To remember milestone dates and events.
  • To critique your lecture notes to develop your academic skills.
  • To prepare revision notes.
  • To write an essay.

Why do you need to look at your notes?

You should look at your notes for a number of reasons:

Asking questions

Think about your topic and ask questions about the subject to put all you are learning into context. 

By asking yourself questions, you will create an opportunity to summarise your ideas in an organised way.  

Ask yourself questions such as "Who?", "What?", "When?", "Why?", "How?", "What if?", "What next?", etc. 

What are the advantages of consolidating your notes?

  • Less time is spent on reading and gathering lengthy documents.
  • Less time is spent on thinking and writing notes as they are focused on pinpointing the answers to the questions.
  • Helps identify key questions and areas of learning.
  • Helps you become a critical thinker.
  • Helps you become organised and ready to revise.

The table below sums up the sorts of questions and answers that support consolidation of your notes.

How and who will it benefit?

This technique will benefit:

  • Learners who struggle to read a lot of notes.
  • Verbal learners can write more detailed answers.
  • Visual learners can use diagrams and pictures.
  • Auditory learners can repeat the question out loud while looking for the answers.


Read each statement and choose whether it is true or false. 

  • I should think about what information needs to be found in the text before you start reading.
  • I should write lots of detailed notes, then look back over them to find bits which sections are most helpful.
  • I should spend time thinking of the main idea and word this in the shortest way possible.
  • I should use preview questions at the end of reading a long piece of text.

Organising your notes

As mentioned at the start of this section, it's sometimes hard to look back and find or even remember core topics. 

Consolidating your notes is a great way to help support recall. So what is meant by consolidating you notes? 

This is where once a week you gather all your notes and file them, or even index them. 

This way you get to revisit your notes and sort through them. Doing this will help you to learn and will support your long term memory.

Organising your notes can be done in a couple of ways. 

1. File management on your computer with each core topic having a set folder, and within the folder have the weeks of study materials saved. 

2. An alternative way is through mind mapping core topics. Setting up week by week, with the activities which you may attend, adding your notes as attachments.

Useful tips...

You may even make your notes straight into a revision aid at the end of the week, while it is fresh in your mind. Doing this will consolidate what you know. Remember you can do this by using these study skills strategies. 

- Index cards

- Summary paragraphs 

- Mindmaps

- Outlines 

The more you look back at your notes the better your recall will become. 

If you do not have a file management system this task being increasing difficult as more time will be spent on locating your notes than looking back through them. Lets start next term by storing your notes efficiently, this will help your brain to store your memories effectively!

Why is it useful? - Video


Match the term on the left its corresponding statement on the right. 

  • File management.
    Organising all your notes in order and in the right place to save you time and support recall.
  • Study skills strategy.
    Finding a way to make study more unique to support effective study.
  • Consolidation.
    Looking back over content to aid memory recall.

10 Active Reading and Critical Thinking


This section may take 20-35 minutes.

11 Learning New Information


This section may take 20-35 minutes.

12 Preparing for Presentations


This section may take 20-35 minutes.

13 Study Tips


This section may take 20-35 minutes.

14 Reducing Stress and Anxiety


This section may take 20-35 minutes.

16 Dissertation Planning


This section may take 20-35 minutes.

Assignment Writing

Introduction to Assignment Writing

In this unit you will learn…

•How to plan an assignment

•The importance of doing your research before you start writing

•How to make notes from your reading

•How to proofread your work

Why is planning so important?

•It helps you to develop an argument and demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the topic.

•It allows you to structure your work in a logical way.

•It allows you to work out exactly what you want to say beforehand, rather than trying to work out your direction as you go along.

•It enables you to address all of the areas you will be assessed on.

•If you tend to ‘waffle’, planning can help you to stick to the point.

How do you plan an assignment?

The main structure to tackling an assignment is:


•Understand exactly what the question means

•Brainstorm your ideas to see what you already know and create a rough plan

•Work out where the gaps in your knowledge are

•Research, read and make notes to fill these gaps

•Revise your rough plan

•Write a draft of your work, then redraft and edit if necessary

Proofread your work

Tip for managing your time

•It can be useful to work backwards from the hand-in date and set yourself smaller goals and deadlines:



•Finish final draft

•Start first draft

•Begin reading

•Brainstorm and create an early plan

•Check the understanding of the assignment question

Quiz: planning an assignment

•Understand exactly what the question means

•Brainstorm your ideas to see what you already know and create a rough plan

•Work out where the gaps in your knowledge are

•Research, read and make notes to fill these gaps

•Revise your rough plan

•Write a draft of your work, then redraft and edit if necessary

•Proofread your work

Step 1: What does the question/title mean?

Try using the BUG technique (Price and Maier, 2007)

•Box – draw a box around the question word/words e.g. Evaluate, Critically analyse

•Underline – underline all of the key words. This will define the main content and any specific details e.g. an event, a theory, a time period

•Glance back – read over the question again to see if you have missed any vital information


•Try breaking the question down into sub-questions so that you can work out how to answer it.

•Can you reword the question so that it is easier to understand? (without losing the correct meaning)

What are the different types of assignment?

You may be given formative and summative assignments to submit.

  formative = usually unmarked. You will receive   feedback so that you   can improve your work.

  summative = a marked piece of work which contributes to your final   module grade


•Different courses require different types of assignments. For example, you may be asked to write an essay, a lab report, a critical analysis of a case study, a reflective account or give a group or individual presentation.

•You should be given more information by your tutors about what they will be expecting for each of these.

Step 2: Brainstorming the topic

When you have fully understood your question, brainstorm everything you know about the topic: write down words, phrases, questions…anything which you can think of. You could use:

•A sheet of A4 paper (and different coloured pens)

•Post-it notes for individual ideas*

•Mind-mapping software*

*These allow you to move your ideas around and help to build your structure.

Brainstorming will show you what you already know. You can then identify any gaps in your knowledge which will help to focus your reading.

Step 3: Making a rough plan

•From your brainstorming, identify the points which will answer the question

•Try to arrange these points into a logical structure

•Work out where the gaps in your knowledge are. This will focus your research and reading

Don’t forget to:

•Look at lecture slides and handouts

•Check through your own notes

•Use Reading Lists and other resources provided by the tutor

Why is further reading important?

•Your lectures will only provide you with some of the information you need for your course.

•Further reading is vital to demonstrate that you are an independent learner.

•It enables you to further your own understanding and allows you to find evidence to back up your argument.

•Writing an assignment requires you to find the evidence of experts in the field to back up the points you are making.

Quiz: True or false

•Planning is a waste of time because it takes so long to do the reading.

•Research and reading will help to develop your ideas and improve the content of your assignment.

•Using post-it notes or mind-mapping software is a useful way of moving your ideas around to restructure them.

•Working backwards from the hand-in date to set your own personal mini-goals is a useful technique in managing your time.

•You do not need to do any reading to write an assignment; everything you need will be given to you during lectures.

Step 4: Research, read and make notes

•It can be helpful to brainstorm some search terms before you get to a computer so that you don’t get stuck on the same words. Try to think broadly around the topic.

•Use “inverted commas” when searching for a phrase. Searching for learning differences will find results of learning, differences and learning differences.  Searching for “learning differences” will only bring up instances of both words together.

Use AND / OR / NOT to make your search more or less specific. Searching for dyslexia AND autism will find fewer results than searching for dyslexia OR autism

Tackling the reading

•Get on overview of the book by looking at the contents page and search through the index for key terms.

•The Abstract of a journal article will help you to decide whether you need to read it all.

•When you find a relevant chapter or article, look through it first to see what the headings and sub-headings tell you. Also look at any tables, charts and images.

•Some books have introductory sections in their chapters to tell you the focus of the chapter. Summaries are also useful to help you decide whether you should read in more depth.

•The first line of each paragraph should tell you what the paragraph is about. You will then see explanations, examples and further evidence.

•You may not need to read every single word of the book or article!

Read actively

•Do not start reading and hope that useful information will jump out at you. Have questions to which you need to find answers. By doing this you will be actively looking for specific information.

•For example, if you are writing an essay about study skills, you may have questions such as:

•Why is organisation an important skill?

•What are the steps involved in planning an assignment?

•Why should you leave time between finishing writing and proofreading?

•This will prevent you reading lots of information which is not relevant to your answer.


•You do not need to read every word of every text that you find. Learn how to choose your reading material carefully and discard texts which will not help you to answer the question.


•Keep a copy of the question with you when searching and reading to help focus on relevance. Something may be really interesting but will not get you marks if it does not answer the question!


•When you find a book in the library, look at its neighbors to find other books on the same topic.

How to make notes

•When you make notes from a text, record the full details of the source so that it can be added correctly to your Reference List.

•Try to make notes in your own words. If you copy and paste directly from the text, you run the risk of plagiarising.

•Make it clear when you have written down a direct quote. You could highlight it or write it in a different colour. Don’t forget to record the page number!

•Understand each paragraph before you move on to the next and sum it up in one line. This helps to build up your knowledge and link things together.

•A good way to check understanding is to put the literature to one side for 5 minutes. Then see if you can sum it all up without looking at it again.

•Find a method which works for you – everybody is different!

Step 5: Revising your plan

•When you have completed your reading, look back at your initial plan and revise it.

•Try to bring everything together on one page. You could use a mind-map for this or create a table to bring all of your notes together.

•Your initial thoughts about your answer may have changed slightly in light of the reading you have done.

•You may need to add your new findings but also decide which are the most important points to include in your essay. You will not be able to write about everything.

Step 6: Writing a draft

•It can be difficult to start writing and you may find yourself staring at a blank page. Try writing a summary of the essay in a few sentences.

•REMEMBER: A draft does not have to be perfect and it does not matter what mistakes there may be.

•Try to ignore any mistakes as this can interrupt your flow of writing.

•If you get stuck on an idea/sentence/paragraph, move on to another idea/sentence/paragraph.

•TIP: understand how long you can work for effectively. This may be 20 minutes or an hour. Make sure you take a regular (short) break so that your mind is refreshed to concentrate again for another period.

Word counts

•It is important to break down the word count so that you know how much to include in which area.

•A good guide to follow is:

•10% - introduction

•80% - body

•10% - conclusion

•For an essay of 2000 words, you would have 200 words in the introduction and 200 in the conclusion. This would leave 1600 words to divide equally between the number of main topics you will have: 4 topics of 400 words or 5 topics of 320 words.

What do you include in an introduction?

•The introduction explains what the essay is setting out to do and the main points it will cover.

•You may be able to reword the essay question/title in the introduction.

•The introduction is written in the future tense, explaining what the work is going to do.

•You may often be advised to write the introduction after you have written the main body. This is because you will then know every point that you have included in your assignment.

Structuring a paragraph

•Each paragraph should have one point (you should have noticed this from the reading you will have done). This will make it easier for you to write and is helpful for the person reading it. Each paragraph can be viewed as a small essay with an introduction, main body and conclusion.

•Think of PEEL (Hargreaves & Crabb, 2016) every time you write a paragraph:

•Point – what is the point you are making?

•Explain – you will need to explain the point further and possibly give an example

•Evidence – every point needs to be supported by evidence

•Link – you can evaluate what you have written and link it to the next paragraph so that your work flows

What do you include in a conclusion?

•The conclusion is written in the past tense, summing up what the assignment has done.

•You should not include any new information in the conclusion. All of your points should have been covered in the main body.

•Summarise the key ideas. You may need to say why the key points are important/significant.

•Try to link your conclusion back to the question/title to show that you have answered it.

Quiz 2: true or false?

•Having questions to answer helps to make reading more focused.

•It is important to make sure everything is perfect the first time you write it.

•Reading lists are not useful when doing research for an assignment.

•Reading may mean that your original plan will need to change a little.

•The body of the essay normally accounts for about 80% of the word count.

•You should add new information in the conclusion.

Step 7: Proofread

•Try to leave at least a day between completing your writing and proofreading. This will help you to spot mistakes more easily.

•Don’t read through your work only once and hope to find all mistakes.

•Focus on something different each time.

•Build up your own list of things to check for, based on your individual difficulties.

•Using your assistive technology can help. When  you listen to your work read aloud you can hear mistakes you might not spot when reading.

Examples of things to check for:

•Is there one point per paragraph and evidence to back up your arguments?

•Have you written in the third person (or first person if specified)?

•Do your points flow logically from one paragraph to the next?

•Have you checked for spellings and contractions (e.g. do not rather than don’t)

•Do you have any really long sentences which could be restructured?

•Have you answered the question?

Quiz 3: multi-choice


•The structure of a paragraph is similar to: the structure of an essay/an introduction/a reference list.

•If you get stuck when you are writing you should: wait until it becomes clear/move onto something else/give up and do nothing.

•When making notes from a text you should not: copy and paste the exact words/sum it up in your own words/try to understand what you have read.

•Proofreading is something you should do: if you have time/when it’s a long piece of work/for every assignment.

Reference List

•Hargreaves, S. and Crabb, J. (2016) Study Skills for Students with Dyslexia 3rd Ed. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

•Price, G. & Maier, P. (2007) Effective study skills. Pearson Longman, Harlow.