Getting Started with UniSkills
UniSkills support is here to help you develop your academic skills and confidence for success at university and beyond. Whatever your subject, level of study, or route into studying with us. Here at Edge Hill University UniSkills has something to offer you.
We have a wide range of online support and guidance available for Edge Hill University students and you can find some pre-recorded presentations on our UniSkills webpages. We’ve also pulled together some useful information and tips for brand new students joining us in January below.
During your time at university you will engage with a wide range of teaching and learning opportunities. To make the most of these, it will be important to become an active learner. This involves being as prepared and proactive as possible, so you can maximise your time spent in lectures and seminars.
Before your lecture or seminar familiarise yourself with your online course area. What topics are coming up? Is there any pre-session reading? Have you checked your online reading list? You may want to think about any keywords or concepts being used and could even prepare some questions for your tutor. This will not only improve your learning experience, but your tutors will be delighted to see you enthusiastically engaging independently with your subject.
Before engaging with your lectures or seminars, it is wise to decide on your notetaking method. Handwritten or digital is fine, it’s about what works or feels most comfortable to you. There are lots of different methods, as well as a range of external apps to support you in capturing your ideas and making sense of the information made available to you. You may also wish to make note of any questions you have, remembering that doubt and even sometimes confusion is a normal part of the academic experience. Although asking questions can feel daunting, more often than not your peers will be wondering the same and they can often spark interesting discussions. As you settle into your course and get to know your peers and tutors, engaging in class discussions, asking questions and sharing your research will become much easier. You might be surprised how much you all learn from one another
After your lecture or seminar don’t be too quick to file away your notes and move on to the next task. Revisit your notes and ensure you’ve recorded any critical dates or sources of information that were discussed. This will boost your memory of the material, help you identify anything you missed or didn’t understand and give you an opportunity to review any feedback.
Academic writing should be informed by what you read, so it is important to get used to allocating time to complete the reading before you start to write. Reading helps you to broaden your knowledge on a topic, and to identify any recurring themes in the literature. Like any other skill reading develops with practice. The more you read, the more confident you will become.
Reading at university often focuses on academic texts, but it is also important to read for fun too. This may be blogs, fan sites, online articles or any non-academic texts. Once you arrive on campus you will also discover a reading for pleasure fiction section on the ground floor of Catalyst, which is available in addition to free access to eBooks and audio books via the Libby App.
You will be expected to read widely from a range of academic sources and your tutors will guide you with suggestions that can be found in your module reading lists. Once you have begun to develop your confidence in accessing theses sources you can begin to read more widely by searching for literature via Discover More. You will access a range of texts which could include books, eBooks, journal articles, websites, policy documents and government websites.
Journals are scholarly publications that share current research with the academic community. Journals are made up of a collection of articles and tend to be published on a regular basis (often quarterly). Whatever you are studying, there will be a vast range of academic journals that relate to your subject area.
Journal articles tend to be preferred as sources of evidence in academic writing because they are:
- Peer-reviewed – This means that other academics in that area have rigorously evaluated the research before it can be published.
- Timely – New research is being published all the time (journal articles will often offer you more recent research than you can access in books)
- Seen as credible academic sources because they have to offer evidence for any claims that they make.
A great place to start reading a journal article is the abstract. The abstract is a succinct summary of the complete article and usually includes key details that will help you to learn more about the features of the paper. The abstract usually includes an overview of the research undertaken (for example how, why and where), the methodologies used and the key findings and / or recommendations. From reading the abstract you should get a good idea of what the article is about and if it would be useful for your own research.
Reading academically differs from reading for pleasure. When you have your module reading list it might seem overwhelming, but remember you are not expected to read every word, or even every source. Select a few key readings to get started (your tutor may have marked them as essential on the reading list) and think strategically about how to read.
Academic reading strategies:
- Skimming – this is where you skim the text to help you get the gist of what it is about
- Scanning – allows you to pick out any key information from the text to help you decide whether to continue reading
- Comprehensive reading – once you have skimmed and scanned you will know whether it is worth reading the whole text from start to finish
Start by skimming and scanning as a strategy to decide whether to read comprehensively. This will help you save time as you can identify which sources are relevant to your assignments, without reading entire articles or chapters from start to finish
Further helpful UniSkills information:
Once you are enrolled as an Edge Hill student you will have access to thousands of resources including books, eBooks (an electronic book you can access and read online) and eJournals (an electronic journal article covering the latest research you can access and read online) via Discover More . You will also be given a reading list which will contain books, journals and digital resources that your tutors have highlighted as essential and/or recommended reading. You will find a copy of your reading list within your module handbook and can also access your reading list online when you start your course.
There are lots of guides, toolkits and videos available to help you access and make the most of these resources on our Finding Academic Information webpages. These pages are primarily used by our current students, who are already working within their subject discipline, so don’t worry if they don’t quite make sense to you right now.
Effective note taking is a good skill to develop at university as it will help you to make sense of what you are learning and help you to remember it later. However, it is important to remember that it is a skill that develops with practice. There are no set rules for how you make your notes, other than they need to work for you.
Try out some of the methods below:
- Lists can work well if you are someone who prefers a linear bulleted list of key points.
- You may want to consider a more structured notetaking approach, such as the Cornell method.
- A mind map can allow you to visualise your ideas, identify links and most importantly recognise the gaps in your knowledge.
- You can even try using a note taking app such as Evernote or OneNote.
Whichever method you choose make your notes actively, rather than highlighting text or copying information out word for word, so it sticks in your mind and you can check your own understanding. Think about the points being raised, what are they telling you? The more questions you ask, the more it will impact on the quality of the notes you make. If you would like to know more about note taking you can also visit our UniSkills Getting Organised webpages for more tips.
Writing at university will probably feel different to other writing experiences you have had however it is important to realise that writing at university is a skill you will develop over time. Your tutors understand this, and you are not expected to be a fully formed academic writer at the start of your course.
The information and resources available on our Academic Reading and Writing webpages will help you to develop and enhance your own style of writing, whatever your subject or level of study. Again, these pages are used by our current students, who have experience of writing at university, so do not worry if there appears a lot to think about when it comes to your academic writing. You can explore the different stages of the academic writing process in our Planning Your Assignment online toolkit.
At university you will become part of a learning community where you will develop, discuss and share new or long-standing ideas – this is what studying is all about. However, when sharing or presenting these ideas, it is important you acknowledge where they have come from through a practice called ‘referencing’.
Referencing is the acknowledgment of all the original sources of information that have been used in your work. Whether you have quoted academic sources directly or paraphrased (summarised in your own words) you will need to learn how to cite each source according to the referencing style used on your course. These sources can include books, journal articles and webpages. Referencing is a skill you will develop throughout your time at university, no one is expecting you to be a referencing pro just yet.
As well as accurately acknowledging where information comes from, referencing is also a way to demonstrate all the reading and research you’ve carried out on your topic, which in turn may boost your marks.
There are various referencing styles, and your tutor will let you know which one they want you to use and give you plenty of help. At Edge Hill, Harvard is the most commonly used referencing style, so if you would like to know more about this style (and referencing in general) why not work your way through our Harvard Referencing online toolkit or visit our referencing webpages?
We would love to reassure you that university is an easy breezy academic experience, but the truth is to develop your knowledge, skills and be able to face new challenges, there will be times when you encounter setbacks or disappointments. This is all an important part of learning – we grow through what we go through.
Nurturing your academic resilience can help you to face the challenges you encounter. From receiving a disappointing mark to feeling out of place in your seminars, recognising that you have the potential to succeed despite the adversity you face is paramount.
We have created an Academic Resilience online toolkit for you to work through at your own time and pace, to discover more about how you can improve and enhance your own academic resilience.
Once you are enrolled at Edge Hill University our experienced Academic Skills Advisers can help you to develop your academic skills. UniSkills support is available all year round and accessible both on and off campus:
- One-to-one appointments are available on a wide range of topics including academic reading, writing and referencing, developing an effective search strategy, finding high quality information and preparing your assignment for submission. Once you are enrolled, all our appointments are available to self-book online.
- UniSkills workshops are an opportunity to dive more deeply into a specific skill that will support you on your academic journey. They provide an informal and safe space where you will be supported alongside other students, from a variety of subjects and years, in a small group setting. There are no limits on how many workshops you attend and they too can all be booked online.
- Ask Us – we have lots of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) available to search within the online knowledge base Ask Us, and if you do have a question that no one has asked before you can click straight through to the Catalyst Helpdesk who will either provide you with an answer or refer you on to UniSkills for further support.
- UniSkills Webpages are aimed at our existing students, who are currently studying within their academic disciplines, but there is lots of information, including guides, videos and toolkits you can freely look through to further prepare your academic skills for studying at Edge Hill University.
Reach your potential with UniSkills
UniSkills provide a wide range of face-to-face and virtual support designed to help you develop your academic skills and confidence at university and beyond.