Study Skills: Academic writing

Study SkillsThe path into a GLAMR profession isn’t always straightforward and it can be daunting to return to study after a few years spent working in another industry, raising a family or experiencing all life has to offer. Here are a few simple tips around academic writing to prepare for next semester.

  1. Clarity over complexity: Always convey your ideas in a clear, concise way to your reader. It can be tempting in academia to write overly sophisticated sentences and get lost in theories. Ultimately, it won’t do you any favours if your writing irritates or confuses assessors. It’s your job to make their life as easy as possible by guiding your reader through your ideas and not making them work too hard to understand what you are talking about.
  2. Explain terms: Following on from the previous tip, it’s always best to avoid academic jargon wherever possible. If you do have to introduce a new term explain it. For example, don’t assume your reader knows what information literacy means, provide a definition. One of the conventions of academic writing is that it should be understandable to everyone not just experts in the field. This also goes for acronyms. Always write acronyms like ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association) or IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) out in full the first time you list them.
  3. Read the rubric: The devil is always in the detail when it comes to assignments and assessors rely on rubrics to evaluate students’ work. Always adhere to any guidelines provided. The most exciting, original essay won’t do very well if you haven’t followed instructions. Remember that often you are being assessed on your ability to excel at a certain type of writing. A personal anecdote might be appropriate for a reflective journal but it has no place in a literature review of existing academic research.
  4. Plan and revise: Regardless of how confident you feel writing about a certain topic its always best to write out a quick plan for the assignment to ensure your writing flows logically. Even though you might feel like you are back in high school it will improve your writing dramatically. Always reread what you have written as well. What might have seemed like a perfectly crafted phrase when you wrote it can, on second inspection, turn out to be a nightmare sentence filled with grammatical or spelling mistakes. It’s always best to review an assignment a few hours or a day after you have finished writing so you can approach editing it with a level head.
  5. Have an opinion: Assessors like to know what interests you and why you are writing about a certain topic. While its crucial to adhere to the conventions of academic writing –see tip 3 – you should convey excitement and enthusiasm in your writing by choosing a topic that you will enjoy studying. It’s not always possible to choose what to write about but when you do have the opportunity make sure to take it. .
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Study Skills: Successful study for parents

I’m Liz, I’m currently completing a Masters degree, and have five children (6-15) and one husband.  Here I offer the top tips that I have found vital for succeeding in study while raising a family.

  1. Have support. My number one tip is to make sure you have at least your top supporter on board – your spouse, partner, parent, best friend, whoever your number one supporter in life is. I could not be studying if I didn’t have my husband’s full support; this support has meant he has helped more with the housework, accommodated his work schedule to allow me to attend events, and not gotten upset about the occasional rush out the door as he came home from work.  One of the best things we did was talk in advance to set some limits.  For my husband and I, they were things like a maximum number of times per week I could skip family meal times (important in our house) without either of us feeling like I was neglecting our family.  For you, it might be how many hours a week they are willing to babysit your children so you can study, or negotiating for your partner to be the taxi driver for weekend sports.
  2. Find your “third space”.  A third space is basically a space that is neither your home nor your workplace.  For me, local libraries were the places I could go to get some uni work done without the distraction of children or housework.  Other options can be cafes with good coffee and wifi, a friend’s house; I’ve even gone to McDonalds on a public holiday when nothing else with wifi was open.
  3. Recognise that you cannot do it all and will have to cut back on other things in your life.  You can’t just add study into your already busy life and expect it to work.  For me, I stepped back from a committee I had been a part of, my youngest child started school meaning I no longer had a preschooler to entertain in school hours and, if I’m honest, I cut back on exercise.  You need to get rid of FOMO and know that your study is worthwhile.
  4. Plan ahead.  Let people know that you won’t be as available for a while.  Let work know that it’s not a great time for you to take on extra projects.  Investigate whether your workplace offers study leave on top of your normal holiday and sick leave.  Batch cook meals that freeze well for nights when there’s no time to cook. I knew several years in advance that I was going to study and spent time beforehand teaching my older children to cook.  My three eldest children (15, 13 and 11) each cook at least once a week, meaning there’s one less thing that I have to do.  Which leads to my final tip.
  5. Delegate. Delegation can be hard when you don’t think others will do as good a job as you, but drop your standards and accept that the kitchen floor swept by a 6 year old is better than not swept at all, and much better than not handing your assignment in on time because you want to get the housework done perfectly.  Delegation is vital for getting through uni, especially crunch time when assignments are due.  Ask someone to drive the kids to dance class (and return the favour in semester break). Online shopping is your friend!  

Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different and the way we manage our study looks different, so please feel free to adapt, change or ignore as it suits you and your situation. And if you have any of your own tips or studying-while-parenting hacks to share, your thoughts are most welcome, so please comment below.

Enrolling in a summer subject: Be wise and strategise

by Rebecca Lee

If you’re keen to punch out your LIS degree as quickly as possible, then in all likelihood you’ve considered doing a subject over the summer. After recently completing my first ever summer session, I have 5 observations to share which may help you decide if you’re contemplating enrolling for 2019. Continue reading

Decisions, decisions! Where should I study?

Following a recent discussion on Twitter and Facebook about the best institution to study Library Science at, we thought we would highlight a few of the available options for studying and beginning your LIS career.

First, we have Paula from Ultimo TAFE tells us about her experience:

In 2017 I decided I wanted a career change and I saw the certificate 4 in Library and information services at Ultimo TAFE as a quick easy way to get a taste of what libraries were about.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the TAFE environment and I would recommend it as a great first step on a new career path to anyone thinking about working in a library.

The curriculum is focused on skills that are applicable to the real world and there is a useful mix of face to face classes and online learning that meant I could adjust my attendance to suit my other commitments. Classes were never too large and the really fabulous teachers always had time to answer questions and have a chat about the course. The TAFE program requires students to be assessed regularly during the term and I found this not only kept you very focused on the topic, it also meant you knew how you were performing in a subject at all times.

This year I have continued at TAFE and completed the Diploma in Library and Information Services. I feel confident that this course has equipped me to enter the work force with a skill set that will be useful to employers in the modern library space.

The past eighteen months spent at TAFE have been challenging but also really rewarding. I have met some really fabulous people, both staff and students, I have improved and added to my technology skills, I have learnt how to catalogue (!!!!) and I have a new career focus that combines my interest in literature and history with my previous career in customer service.  This is so more than I expected when I went to the TAFE information day in 2017.

Liz, who is currently studying a Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) at Charles Sturt University had this to say.

Studying through Charles Sturt was the ideal option for me as it is all by distance education, meaning I can study at a time that suits me.  This is vital as I am a mother of five children (6-15) and have a lot of other things on my plate.

The lecturers are all supportive and understanding, as most people complete this degree while working and often while raising a family as well.  While some subjects have webinars scheduled for specific times, these are recorded for viewing later if the time doesn’t suit.

If you study by distance education I would strongly suggest participating in the discussion forums and maybe even creating your own small study group for advice and support.

We would love to hear more about other people’s experiences with studying LIS.  Please comment here or contribute to our Facebook or Twitter discussions.