Skills Hub

Student perspectives - Milan

Milan Jayasuriya

Second year History and and film studies



My name is Milan and I'm currently in my second year of doing History and Film Studies.

How do you manage your time at university?

I manage my time at university by always thinking I have to keep a strict balance of what I do at university and what I don't do at university, i.e. the social life. So, firstly I always refer to my teaching timetable, everything during university term time revolves around that. I try and allocate myself hours of studying either before a lecture or after a lecture and try to keep a balance and not do too much work and over tire myself.

Do you have any strategies for effective reading and research at university?

The strategies I have for effective reading are to look at the text once, without highlighting or making any notes, to get the feel of reading and then I go over it a second time and highlight and make any notes but as long as it's in reference to the topic of discussion that I've be given whilst trying to look at these readings. Any terms or definitions I don't understand I automatically refer to the dictionary immediately and keep a vocab at the back of my notebook because it's likely those terms and definitions are going to keep reappearing now and again.

How do you use the library to help with your research?

In particular, with the reading and research, if I'm going to do research for an essay or presentation first of all I have to know what the question is about. There are plenty of electronic resources online and in the history department you have access to JSTOR and EEBO [Early English Books Online] where pretty much all the resources are online from old medieval texts etc. In terms of approaching the question and actually finding the research through the books, obviously the readings that they've selected for the particular topic of discussion are all already there. So the onus is on me to go to the library and find the relevant books. Now, obviously, the question won't always be in the book , in terms of it won't be the name of the chapter or the title of the book, so what I do is I go to the index, find any of the keywords that reference the question and then try and find it there.

How do you use your skills in critical thinking?

In terms of developing my critical thinking, I look at the subject or topic matter and then I try to understand the basic background first. When I go to the reading I have to keep reminding myself whilst reading what the angle is of the author who has written this. Why have they said this? What are they attempting to make us question while reading it? Are they right in what they say ? Are they wrong in what they say? And at the end of the reading you should be able to have kept those things at the back of your mind and have developed your own critical thinking which may agree with what the author has said or completely the opposite but it really depends on looking at the angles of the text, the subject matter and what the subject matter means to you.

How do you approach writing your essays?

For preparing my essays, I have to know that I understand the question first. I look at the question, highlight the key words; so what is it asking me? what is the context ? and I highlight keywords, expand on them a little bit with a little mind map, writing the first things that come into my head in terms of word associations, and then, using that mind map, I come up with a structure. Structure is the most important thing, well before getting stuck into the essay.
I have to know where I'm going, where the direction is taking me first, so I make sure I have a good introduction. I tell the reader of the essay what I will be looking at and what questions I hope to have answered by the end of the essay. I then go into the main body of the argument where I split it into three or four major paragraphs, think of my topic sentences to help me get into the flow of the essay, then pick out the right evidence I need to back up my points and end with a good conclusion sentence which should automatically lead into the next body of the argument. You need to make sure that the essay is constantly in flow so that it's easy to read and it's easy to understand the argument. I then come up with a conclusion where you're not regurgitating any of the main points that you've said, you are basically summarising your findings out.

How do you get feedback on how you're doing with your course?

Examples of feedback that I get at the moment are obviously the feedback I get from an essay, from the coversheets that we all have to fill out before handing in the essay, they usually provide some very good points. There are comments for your strengths and for weaknesses and it's always the weaknesses I tend to focus on so that I can use that as areas for improvement . So the cover sheets provide essential feedback. However, my best port of call for feedback is having a one- to-one with a tutor.

How do you prepare for giving oral presentations?

Usually I try and prepare for delivering a presentation by making some quick notes on what I'm going to say, so it gives me a sense of the structure of the presentation. I go through the presentation to an empty room or to friends or family so they can give me feedback on any points I'm either repeating or sound too hesitant on. I like to prepare myself properly so as not to stand there and think ‘what is it I'm trying to say here?' or ‘Oh, I have forgotten what I was going to say' so I always keep notes handy.

How do you prepare for exams?

When revising for exams I prefer using mind maps where I start with something small and then extend it. So, for instance, if I had a topic about "Absolutism and the Monarchy", I would start with four different sections around the word which will be in big letters and then I would expand on those further and further and further, so that I am prepared in the exam with a good range of different areas on that topic. I also get my peers or flatmates who are doing the same subject, to meet up and then we do group revision. I find this extremely helpful because we are constantly bouncing ideas off each other (ideas or notions that someone else knows that you don't know and vice versa) and it's always more fun doing revision with someone else rather than on your own.


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