Student perspectives - Veronika
Second Year Psychology
My name is Veronika I am a second year Psychology student.
What do you enjoy most about studying Psychology at Sussex?
Range of subjects. So you've got statistics (which is all Maths), you've got biological and social Psychology - so I think that's really good.
What is a typical week like studying on your course?
In a typical week I would have about 12 lessons. So that would be 8 lectures and 2 seminars and 2 practicals. In a practical we will do an experiment that we will have to write about later and the rest of the time is spent in the library or at home doing work. I always go to the library because I find it easier to focus there.
What are Psychology lectures like?
A typical lecture gives you a broad overview of the topic that you then have to read up about in more detail later on by yourself and usually they'll have lecture slides and you can access them on the internet later on if you want to revisit the material or recently they've started to do Sounds Direct which will be on Study Direct which is really useful for revision and just if you miss a lecture or anything like that it's good to be able to hear it again.
What are practicals and seminars like?
We have seminars like most other courses but unique to Psychology we do practicals. In a practical we'll just do experiments that are usually designed by faculty members but that we later write up in a lab report. So, for example, we'll do about how pictures can influence your mood and the effect of that on memory. I mean in every course we have practicals so it will be quite varied but it's good to see Psychology in practice and what an experiment would actually be like both from the point of view of the participant and that of the experimenter.
What is it like doing statistics in Psychology?
Statistics is definitely an important part of Psychology. It's a course that we have every term in every year. A lot of people find it scary but I think that that's the main problem with it is people see it as like maths and think "Oh they couldn't do it at school so they won' be able to do it". But if you think of it as a tool for analysing your data and you can actually see how it is being used then I find it easier to actually learn and understand than I did in school. And also we have tutorials every week where they actually take you through it step by step and you have a lot of help available if you really do struggle with it.
What online resources are there at Sussex to help you with your learning?
Study Direct is used as an online support page. It will have the lecture slides, the recordings, some readings for seminars or general readings that your lecturers want you to see. For every course there is an open forum that everyone on the course can access. People can post questions, for example, a specific essay question or more general things or things to do with the organisation of the course. It is quite useful because everyone can see it and your peers answer the questions but also the course convenors check the forums and see if there are any unanswered questions or wrongly answered questions and then they will answer them. If I am writing an essay I will check the forum and see if there is anything that I might not have understood or something someone has mentioned which might be really important.
Do you have any strategies for effective reading and research at University?
We will usually be doing research for an essay, for example, so it's important to use a wide variety of sources. Usually you'll have different theories and usually you'll read up on all of them and then maybe later focus on one but you'll need to know them all. When you're reading it's really important to take notes because otherwise it might just go completely past you. I think making notes helps you. I summarise or I'll put an extra point for something important or an idea I've had upon reading it and I think it's important because firstly you kind of concentrate more on the text because you're reading it more in depth and secondly if you're preparing for a seminar you can, just before the seminar, look at your notes and have a quick summary rather than having to read the entire thing again. Also for revision as well, it's quite good to have that.
How do you use the library to help with your research?
The main sources we use in Psychology are journal articles so I think all the important journal articles are subscribed to by the University so they're all online so it's important that you learn how to access those sources fairly early on. To access the journals you can either use the library website which has a specific electronic resource list and there's also, in the first year at the beginning, you can take a library tour and they'll explain how to use the online resources as well or you can use Google Scholar which is quite useful and if you still don't understand you can always ask your tutor or something and they're always happy to help.
What is it like writing lab reports for Psychology?
Later on if you do go into Psychology you will be writing a report about every study that will be published in a paper. So the point of a report is firstly to inform others, so they can gain the knowledge that you have discovered or so people can replicate your study. So that's why one of the most important things in a lab report is to be really precise and specific about everything that you did. That is the main thing about how to do well, be quite precise in your own writing. You've always got a clear structure so some people find it easier to write than essays because you have your introduction, method, results, discussion and so forth.
What is it like writing an essay?
Essays are less structured so you'll have one general question. At the moment I'm writing one about whether non-maternal care in the first year of life affects your relationship with your mother. I'll be looking at different theories and what people have said about it, so they're kind of more focussed on critical thinking about what the people might have done wrong in their study or wrong conclusions that they made. Essays are kind of more about your own thoughts whereas lab reports are just stating what you did and what the implications are of it.
How do you use your skills in critical thinking?
I think critical thinking is about, even though they're scientific journals, not to take them as an authority. For example, when you're looking at a paper and criticising it you can ask questions like: ‘Are the conclusions from the statistics valid?' (obviously we're not going to have that high a level of statistics but we do know some things and we can look it up and see if the conclusions drawn are valid) or ‘Did they use enough participants?' and ‘Did they all have the same conditions?'
How do you approach revising for exams?
I think the most important thing, especially for Psychology because all your exams are in the summer, is to really go along with the reading and looking at lecture notes and everything so you don't have everything to revise at the end because I think a lot of people (including me) made that mistake in the first year that you thought, "Oh, it's not until summer," and then suddenly you're there.
How do you get feedback on how you're doing with your course?
With feedback on essays you'll get it back and then on the cover sheet there'll be a general comment and it's quite varied but the marker will have specific sections, for example, the style or originality. The different sections that they'll mark you on will make up your overall mark. They also comment on your writing throughout the text, not just on the coversheet. In some schools the feedback is now all meant to go online so that you can follow your feedback throughout your course and see if there's one mistake that you keep making and change that- so that's quite useful, I think.
How do you use your feedback?
With feedback on essays, for it to be really useful for the future, you have to keep looking through it and especially search for things that you've done again and again. For example, if you haven't referenced properly that's an easy way to lose marks but also an easy way to gain marks because it really is quite simple once you learn how to do it. And in Psychology it is really important we have specific guidelines but once you learn it, which is not hard, then you get those marks every time.
Have you been involved in any societies at Sussex?
There's a Psychology Society. They put on socials which is good because you get to know other people on your course. Also they organise talks from people which is an interesting addition to your lecture material. I'm an international student from Germany and most of my friends are English because I didn't live in the international flats but if you do want to get to know people from your own country or other international students the International Society puts on a lot of good events, for example, trips to other parts of England or an international food night where everyone brings a dish from their country and they have a lot of really, really good events and also just to get to know people and maybe feel more at home.