Study week has arrived! Time for a well needed breather no doubt. But also – as the name implies – a chance to catch up on some study. Lectures are just one part of a University education. They can provide an overview of key ideas covered in the course and a series of examples that help to explain them. But in order to really get to grips with the topic of any module, you will need to augment lectures with study.
This can, and most often does, mean reading, but there are also a whole host of other study resources now available that you can draw on. These can include youtube videos on different topics, documentary films, newspaper articles, novels set in countries that you are studying or dealing with topics that you are covering in class. There’s a lot of material no doubt – but how do you find your way through it?
Following on from Alistair Fraser’s previous post on tips for reading, I want to point out some ways that you can start to use and make sense of these other resources. To do so I am going to highlight a new resource made available by the University of Manchester: the Animated Urbanism series, which offers a set of short animated videos on a range of topics relating to cities. They are between two and five minute clips which pair a short talk with animated visuals. And they essentially offer a short introduction to a topic of study.
These videos can be quite informative and the visual component can be a great study aid for helping us to take in the information. But obviously they can only communicate so much in a short space of time. So you are not going to get the same level of detail that you will get from books. You will have to do more work. So starting with a resource like this, how might it help you to draw study resources together? Here’s a couple of quick tips:
1. What is the topic?: Is the topic of the video something that relates to what has been covered in the module. If so, in what way? There might be aspects of the video that are familiar from lectures. How are these aspects fitted into the other themes the video is exploring? This will help you see the bigger picture of what you cover in class.
2. What’s the question?: Similar to when reading for study, you should use these types of resources in a way that focused – what question are you looking to answer by watching this video? Following from this, how do they answer it?
3. What kind of video is this?: This is an important question to ask in terms of deciding how authoritative a resource is. For instance, these set of videos have been produced by Geographers and other researchers in the University of Manchester, so we can have some confidence in what they are saying because academic research has to go through a process of validation. A video produced by a random youtube user might not have the same stringent standards – this does not necessarily mean that it is inaccurate, but it might require a bit more testing.
4. Follow up on it: Videos like these generally work best as a launching pad for exploring further ideas. They might open up pathways for you to further reading and research. Use them in this way. This can be a way of confirming how accurate a resource is. But more importantly, it will provide the added detail you need to really understand an issue or a topic. The good thing about starting with a video resource is that you will have a basic overview understanding of the topic before starting your reading – this will help you to focus your reading for more effective study.
5. How to follow up: There are a number of ways to follow up on resources into further study. One simple way is to check who the ‘author’ of the video is. For instance, the video here on the urban age is by Kevin Ward. Maybe you can look up what else he has written on this topic in order to expand your knowledge. Another option is to pick out key terms or concepts that are mentioned. Find articles on books on these topics. See what they say.
Importantly, in approaching study you need a combination of exploration and focus. There is a lot to learn and many ways to go about it. Having a set of key questions will help to gather together your ideas and see the connections between different areas of study. The more often you do it the easier it gets.
Enjoy the break.