January 23, 2014

Update to Action Point 3 of Reading and note–making

Follow-up to First entry on Reading and note–making from David's blog

My third action point was to reduce the amount and wrote and make my notes more concise. In the last few weeks since the workshop on reading and note-making I have vastly improved my note-making.

In the last weeks leading up to term and the start of term, I have made my notes for seminars or general work shorter and to the point. I have also introduced techniques such as abbreviations and key words in order to shorten my notes so that they do not become intimidating to read over. I have also taken up the technique of using arrows as short cuts and links.

I have also found that shortening my notes has allowed more space on the page for my own thoughts in conjuction with what I have read. This has allowed me to make my notes much more effective as not only do they include the thoughts and concepts of the author but also my own thoughts on the general topic.

First entry on Introduction to Academic Writing

Workshop Tutor: Dr Emma Smith


In this workshop we were introduced to the academic writing at Master's level.

To begin with, we were given an outline of the key stages to writing any piece of academic work. From the 'understandng of a title/question' to the 'final proofreading', we were shown the key steps to an academic writing process. The structure was very easy to follow and set out the three most important parts to an academic work: Understanding the question, forming an appropriate structure and critically revising and rewriting an essay. This was particularly enlightening as it showed me perhaps where I was going wrong in some of the essays I had written in the past.

We were then introduced to the most important aspects of master's level work: the ability to critique, evaluate and analyse. Dr Emma Smith then specifically defined these terms in accordance with each other. Being critical was said to involve challenging, questioning or judging a notion, whereas to evaluate had numerical connotations such as calculating, measuring and weighing up theories. To analyse something, was a fusion of the former two: separating theories into sections, before examining and explaining them. I found the distinction between these three particularly interesting and enlightening as they had never been distinguished to me in three years of academia. This distinction also meant that I could distinguish between different types of questions more easily.

The workshop then moved onto the very particular macro structure of essays from introduction to interlinking sentences. We learnt that every inroduction should have context, and outline and most importantly a thesis statement explaining to the reader what it is that will be concluded from the essay. The thesis statement should be true to the entire essay's aim or argument and be returned to in the conclusion. Likewise the conclusion should not contradict the introduction but return the reader's interest to the main argument and also summarise what has been discussed or found out. Although I had learnt it before, the workshop also re-emphasized that every paragraph should begin with a topic sentence backed up with support and end with either a concluding or transitional sentence. The allusion to the reader's interest was also quite illuminating. As highlighted in the workshop, we should not forget that writing is a form of communication and it is therefore imperative to communicate an argument well, inform and keep the reader's interest. The workshop reiterated that at master's level we would be judged by the quality of our ideas, our evidence and our reasoning.

The workshop ended with a good analogy to good referencing. Dr Emma Smith explained that using sources well was like hosting a good dinner party. In other words, the sources you use should be treated with respect and not used for the sole purpose of putting them down.

The workshop summarised that academic writing, particularly at Master's level, should be above all formal, rational, concise, accurate and engaging.


  1. My first action point will be improving my ability to understanding a question or topic fully before the process of researching or writing (in the next 3 to 4 weeks)

    I will practice by revisiting old essays, analysing their titles before reading them to see if in the past I have understood my questions. In turn I will do my best to understand current essay questions.

  2. My second action point will be to improve my critical revising of work (in the next 4 to 5 weeks)

    I will try evaluating previous bits of work to help improve my critical revising. In turn I will try to ensure I have enough time after finishing my work to read over it and critically evaluate current pieces of work.

  3. My third action point will be to improve the overall macro structure to my work (by the end of this term)

    I will try to improve my overall body of my work by ensuring there's a topic sentence, support and a concluding or transitional sentence to every paragraph.

  4. n.a

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog

January 11, 2014

Update to Action Point 2 of Reading and note–making

Follow-up to First entry on Reading and note–making from David's blog

My second action was to review my notes after having written them and also to review them on a regular basis.

Over the last few weeks I have tried to review my notes just after writing them in order to freshen my ideas. Although I struggled to take as many notes as I wanted to over the holidays, I always reviewed my notes before putting them away in my folder. I found it very useful reviewing my notes immediately after writing as it allowed me to think over what I had just written and what I found important about my reading.

Likewise, reviewing notes allowed me to process information for a second or third time in turn making it a lot easier to recall later what I had learned. Reviewing my notes also helped me point out mistakes in my note-making such as spelling or bad structuring of sentences - errosI would have otherwise looked over the first time.

If I could change anything I would have also reviewed my notes more regulary in the evenings in order to process information an additional time. The instances where I overlooked my notes during the evening, helped me to remember my notes a lot more than on the occasions where I did not. Unfortunately, during the Christmas holidays there were far too many occasions where I was out or unable to look over my notes during the evening and thus my retention for information suffered slightly.

That said, now that I know that reviewing notes does indeed help me to remember important facts, I will plan to review my notes even more regularly. I plan to review my notes not only after every note taking session but also during the evenings.

January 09, 2014

Update to Action Point 1 of Reading and note–making

Follow-up to First entry on Reading and note–making from David's blog

  1. My First Action Point was to try and read quicker than my usual reading speed in opening 2 to 3 weeks of the Christmas holiday.

During my Christmas holidays I read not only within my field of study but also surrounding it and outside it. Although I planned to use the finger pointing technique, which did work, I quickly found that I could read just as quickly without it. Like the finger technique I simply did not allow myself to stop reading and continued without halt. Known as scanning, I found that using this technique allowed me to get through much more reading than usual and at a much quicker pace.

Once I used this technique with work-related reading, I found it easier to read for pleasure too even though I usually take more time. Since starting back at Warwick, I have found that scanning has been particularly useful for seminar reading in which you need to get the core information from multiple readings. I plan to use scanning as well as skimming (an even quicker reading technique) for future work during this term.

Final Entry on opening Workshop

Follow-up to First entry on Getting started on skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio from David's blog

In this entry I will sum up what I have achieved since the opening workshop on getting started with the Warwick Skills Porfolio Award.

Over the last three months or so, I have set out and tried to achieve three actions points from the opening workshop. Having learned from the opening workshop that I was a reflector learner rather than an activist or a theorist learner, I specifically tailored my three action points to improve in the latter two areas. The three action points were:

1. Get more involved in new activities:

As a new postgraduate student to Warwick, everything from the university was new to me in a sense. That said, I immediately got involved in the student newspaper, the five a side football society, the warwick sport gym and even went along to some guest lectures and free bee indoor football sessions.

Although I did not manage to join Warwick TV as I originally planned, I still may by the end of this term. That aside, filling my time at warwick by doing activities, some of which I had never done before has been a very fulfilling experience. I am very pleased so far with what I have been involved with and plan to continue all these activities and perhaps more.

2. Be more talkative and come up with more ideas in discussion environments:

As a reflector learner it was sometimes hard for me to adjust to a different learning technique. However, during the second half of the first term I found that the more confident I was in discussions environments the easier it was to get something more out of debates.

Quite often I found myself not only speaking up when others did not but also leading topical debates during seminars. I learned that as long as I had done my reading for seminars, being more assertive was not that hard and was in fact enjoyable. Having more assertive ideas in seminars enhanced my confidence, self-expression and even helped others bring ideas to the table.

3. Stick to a routine/timetable:

In my last university I found it hard to stick to a good routine. However, with the use of a diary over the last couple months, I have found it a lot easier. With a diary I have been able to successfully structure my week around seminars and lectures, library hours, football, the gym, extra-curricular work (such as this blog) and leisure time.

Although not always exactly the same each week, I always try to do the same amount of hours for each activity. Hence a structured yet flexible timetable is key as it means I am more likely to complete all my tasks and enjoy my leisure time.

To conclude, by completing these three actions points over the past couple of months I have found that I am for more organised than I used to be. Not only have I tried new approaches, but I have found these approaches work well. By getting involved, being more assertive and having a planned out schedule, I am learning and maturing more and more and in turn I am more likely to accomplish difficult tasks in the future.

December 17, 2013

Update to Action Point 3 of Opening Blog

Follow-up to First entry on Getting started on skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio from David's blog

My third action point of the Opening Blog was to stick to a structured yet flexible timetable for the remainder of the first term (around 6 weeks).

Since my opening blog, I have stuck to a structured yet flexible timetable consisting of academic work, sport and exercise, extra-curricular activities and leisure time.

Using my diary, I have stuck to a set number of hours of work every day and participated in different university activities around those hours. Other than working sessions in the library, lectures or seminars, I have also attended guest seminars and lectures. Outside of academia or work I have routinely played football at least once a week and gone to the gym at least twice a week.

Flexibility was also important for even when I started a working day later than originally planned, I still accomplished a solid session of work of between 4 and 6 hours each day before any other activities. Furthermore, I have always managed to fit leisure time with fellow postgraduates (e.g having a drink at the pub) around studies and exercise.

I feel that my routine, helped by the use of a diary for the first time since school, has allowed me to structure not only my weeks but also my term and year. With a structured but flexible timetable, I am now more prepared to plan further in the future.

If I could change anything, I would have looked at my diary more often: perhaps every other day as opposed to every three days. If I had set out what I was going to do on every odd night of the week, it would have reminded me of what my timetable was for each day. That said, looking at a diary too often in my experience can also hinder a routine for it can just as easily put one off work.

Update to Action Point 2 of Opening Blog.

Follow-up to First entry on Getting started on skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio from David's blog

My second action was to be more direct and suggest more ideas in discussion environments.

Since my first entry to the Warwick blog, I have tried to assert activist strengths into my discussions and seminar debates. For the five to six weeks after my first blog, I found that I successfully led many of the seminar debates within my classes. Not only have I fully engaged in seminars, I believe I have also initiated many discussions as well as speak up when others have failed to do so.

Bringing ideas to the table not only boosted my confidence but also helped me in my self expression. The more talkative you are and the more ideas you bring to the table, can only help you express your ideas more. Being more assertive also added to the seminar discussions and the group dynamic. Once I had spoken up I found that others were more confident in joining in and the discussions went from there.

However, on certain occasions I found some of my ideas lacked depth. If I could change anything, I would have prepared more potential questions before the seminars in order to be fully prepared for in depth discussions.

December 04, 2013

First entry on Reading and note–making

Workshop Tutor: Dr Amanda Randall


In the reading and notemaking seminar we discussed reading and notemaking techniques which can help in different situations. We discussed what the purpose of notes were and in what ways we could improve both reading speed and notemaking effiiciency.

We explored various techniques of notemaking such as linear notes, the cornell system, spider diagrams and mind maps. We then explored the differences scanning, skimming and close reading and how we can benefit from reading strategically for whatever purpose we have.

We were then given an exercise which involved reading and notemaking in order to help us improve our technique. We were encouraged to use another approach than normal in order to benefit from different techniques. As a person who usually writes too many notes and reads very slowly, I believe I was successful in reading the article quickly and getting brief but concise information from it.

Having considered the seminar as a whole, I was surprised but encouraged by the different techniques there are. I will now set out my action points for the coming weeks to improve my reading and notemaking.


  1. My First Action Point will be to try to read quicker than my usual reading speed in the next 2 to 3 weeks during my holidays.

    I plan to use the pointer or finger technique in order to read concisely but quickly. I will also try both skim reading and scanning in order to find potentially important information for my courses.

  2. My Second Action point is to review the notes I make on a regular basis for the next 4 to 5 weeks (in the run up to next term).

    After a notemaking session, I plan to look over my page of notes in order that I can process and think through my notes for a second time. I will then look back and read them over after making new notes.

  3. My Third Action Point will be to take brief and concise notes for the next 6 weeks in the run up to and the start of next term.

    I aim to avoid writing examples in my notes unless I see them as absolutely necessary. I will also try to use abbreviations and shorter sentences.

  4. NA

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog

November 29, 2013

Update to Action Point 1 of Opening Blog

Follow-up to First entry on Getting started on skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio from David's blog

My first action point was to get involved and join in more in univeristy life in the five to six weeks following the seminar. Since attending the first introductory seminar of the Warwick Student Portfolio Award, I have joined a couple societies such as the student newspaper (the Boar) and the University of Warwick's 5 a side league (UW5). I have just recently had an article released in the newspaper and on the Boar online and I have played several times for my 5 a side team. Furthermore I have gone to a couple guest lectures and joined in some free football sessions around the campus. However, I have not joined Warwick TV as I originally planned due to miscommunication with the society president.

What I have learned from this experience so far is that joing societies such as the Boar and the UW5 a side, and attending events has been very enjoyable and enhanced my stay at the university. It feels very fulfilling to join in other activities other than your studies. Writing my article in particular not only helped my academic writing but has also made me feel good to have a say in political issues and communicate those through a newspaper.

If I could change anything over the past 5 weeks, I would have been more active in joining Warwick TV and perhaps written an additional artuicle (mainly due to the delay of the editor). However, I plan to join Warwick TV particulary for the Varsity sports event at the end of next term. I also plan to write more articles for the Boar and continue my weekly football.

October 24, 2013

First entry on Getting started on skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio

Workshop Tutor: Lisa Faulkner


In this seminar we were introduced to the Student Careers & Skills program and the wealth of seminars they have on offer throughout the academic year. This seminar acted as an introductory guide to the Warwick Skills Portfolio Award (WSPA) and the ways in which other workshops can improve our skills in academic and professional life.

To begin with, the seminar highlighted the importance of reflection and reflective writing and how these processes can help improve our skills, decision-making and performances. We discovered that learning and self-development were continual and ongoing processes, highlighted by Kolb’s Learning Cycle (i.e Experiencing, Reviewing, Concluding and Planning). We then took a 40-item Learning Style Questionnaire which showed what kind of learner we were and our preferred learning environment. The questionnaire’s results also quite importantly showed in which fields of learning we could improve. We where then encouraged to write specific and achievable action plans to help us improve on what we lacked.

What I learned from the seminar is that I am predominantly a reflector learner as opposed to an activist, theorist or pragmatist. I learned that reflectors are generally good at observing, listening and working within a team but that they lack spontaneity, adaptability and leadership skills. Although the results did not shock me, this realisation has nonetheless allowed me to reflect deeply on the ways I can learn effectively and in other ways I could improve my learning style. As a whole, the questionnaire also allowed me to reflect on other people’s ways of thinking, showing that not all of us have the same learning methods. Having seen in which areas I could improve, I will now take the steps in formulating three specific action points to be achieved in the next four to five weeks. I will then update my blog over the next few weeks to show my progress. I also plan to attend other Student Careers & Skills workshops in order to improve in other academic or professional areas.


  1. First Action Point: Be more outgoing, join in and do new things.

    I plan to join in university's societies such as the Boar and Warwick TV in order to improve my confidence by being part of a new environment within the university.

  2. Second Action Point: Be more talkative and direct and come up with more ideas in discussion environments.

    I plan to add even more to discussions such as my seminar participation in order to improve my oral communication skills.

  3. Third Action Point: Stick to a routine/timetable for the rest of the term.

    I plan to stick to a structured yet flexible timetable every week which includes academic work (reading, notetaking and seminar preparation), sporting activities (football, gym), extra-curricular activities (the Boar, Warwick TV, guest lectures) as well as social activities (going for a meal, having a drink). With a more balanced timetable I hope to improve my self-discipline.

  4. aaaa

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog

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  • Hello David, Thanks for writing such a reflective final entry for the WSPA – what a pleasure to read… by Lisa Faulkner on this entry
  • David, Considering the lack of presentation opportunities that you have had over the past few weeks,… by Nathalie Dalton-King on this entry
  • Excellent extrapolation of the technique, David. I am pleased that you have continued to use it in t… by Nathalie Dalton-King on this entry
  • David, What a good way to practice when you don't have a presentation any time soon. And then of cou… by Nathalie Dalton-King on this entry
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