Skills Hub

Research your subject

As you research your subject, you will develop lines of inquiry. You will not be able to include them all but read generally and widely first – enjoy the reading, be curious. Then begin to narrow. Write lists of questions for yourself about what you are reading (see Questioning as you read).

Begin to organise and structure ideas and material that help you select what you read.

Some material will come easily but you will have gaps. Make a list of what you need to know, commentators you need to find, evidence you’re missing.

Critical thinking skills and the ability to question ideas and evidence are relevant to all aspects of your study. To develop these skills use these links: Critical thinking and Evaluating arguments 

Before starting any assessed work look at the assessment criteria or instructions you have been given about how your work will be graded.

Make notes 

Be concise. You are taking notes so you have relevant evidence, are well informed, have the quotations you need and accurate sources. Too many notes will confuse you.

Have a copy of your referencing guide when you’re taking notes. Record sources in the right style and save yourself time later.

There are different approaches to note taking. The Cornell system uses the six Rs – record, reduce, recite, reflect, review, recapitulate (more information on the Cornell system). Note-making styles outlines other approaches.

photograph of student making notes

A successful essay will not only present the ideas of others, but will discuss them, explore them; and critically analyse them. (Luke Martell, Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Sussex).

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