Using some sort of software, trick or technology to make your studies easier can be dangerous if it is used for the wrong reasons. Why? Because the people who look for it are often doing so because they are too lazy to do the actual work (they are looking for short cuts).
Here are ten ways you can make your studies easier, but before you look them over, ask yourself if you are using them to plug a hole in your motivation. These tools and tips are drinking energy drinks at work, so ask yourself, are you drinking the energy drink because you want to squeeze more work and effort into your job. Or, are you drinking the energy drink because you are tired and cannot be bothered to continue.
- A PDF and e-Book reader
This is going to help with your studies for the simple reason that the cheapest books are all in e-book/PDF form these days, and you do not have to wait for the book to be delivered. It is a shame that the paper-based book is disappearing into oblivion, but they had a good run.
- Learn to love the sound of silence
Many students will work with their TV on or their radio/music on. You may think that you are better at working with it on, but this is not true. You are a better worker when you are plunged into silence. The fact is that you have been conditioned to need noise around you, and you feel uncomfortable without it. You need to break this condition immediately and you will quickly see just how much your productivity skyrockets.
- An online thesaurus and dictionary
Use the online ones, because the ones you can buy as programs are okay, but they are never as up to date. In addition, with online tools you can check numerous sources in order to find the best one for you. You may also be able to check how to use it in a sentence whilst you are at it. Some words are easy to figure out (grammatically) and some are not (such as lie or lay). Plus, if you use the same words too frequently, it is always a nice idea to check the thesaurus to see if there are any alternatives you can use. For example, the word “great” or “good” can be substituted for lots of different words.
- Software that arranges your references and citations
Professors tell you not to use these, but that is because they are sadists who hate the fact that they didn’t have these programs when they were studying. If you use a good reference arranger from the beginning, then your reference list will have an unquenchable uniformity. Check your fellow students reference lists (who don’t use a reference arranger) and you will see full stops and commas missing in every direction.
- The Internet to research other sources of information
Don’t use it too much for just referencing and research. Look up the texts that other students have used, and then research into those. Look at the reference lists of other people online and then find and order the relevant books online. Or better still, compile a list of sources (with page numbers from other people’s reference lists) and hit the libraries to pick up the ones for you.
- Google Alerts
This is a long shot, but it happens more often that professors would like. Some student will be so proud of his or her essay or work that he or she will publish it online, or publish its notes, or write a blog post about it. Obviously, stealing their work will get you in trouble, but you can pick up on some of their points and reference material. Google Alerts will allow you to keep up with current events in your field too, so that you can hand in the most current and up to date essays in your year.
- Spelling, grammar, syntax and style checkers
These types of programs are good and have made proofreading a lot easier. They have also made the talent of spelling obsolete. You should use them, but you should never rely on them because they can be wrong, and they do not often recognize typos.
Somewhere in your text is a “dangling participle” where the sentence seems to make sense when you read it, but if taken literally is completely incorrect. For example, “After growing in the greenhouse, Barry brought in the tomatoes.” You read the sentence thinking that the tomatoes were growing in the greenhouse, but the sentence is actually saying that Barry was the one growing in the greenhouse. This is the sort of thing that very few programmatic spelling, grammar, syntax and style checkers are going to pick up on.
- A timer and alert program on your PC/laptop
Why would you use such a device? Some students have a really hard time maintaining their focus. Set the timer go off every few minutes (ten or fifteen if you must) and change tasks slightly when it does. By changing tasks, you are allowing yourself to re-focus on something that engages you. You can use the timer/alerts to remind you to keep working, but after a while, you will tune out the noise and it will become ineffective.
- Make friends with comfort when studying
Have a comfortable chair, with a comfortable desk. Place your PC monitor at different distances to help with straining your eyes. Use the zoom function on your web browser and on your documents to help you see more easily. Put some sort of material between your wrists and the table, because you will find that your wrists are always touching the cold tabletop when you are working.
Budget your time by being organized or using scheduling programs
This is a really big gun if you are the sort of person who struggles to maintain their workload. You should use this tool to schedule what work you are going to do, and when you are going to do it. Even setting up reading routines is better that setting up none at all. Maybe you could schedule an hour of reading at 9pm every night. Do not read in bed, because some students condition themselves to read in bed and fall asleep with their books. Their brain then associates reading with sleep and the student will start to feel sleepy when they begin to read during the day.
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