Study on the go

by Sara (Student Blogger: BA Hons Linguistics)

It’s getting to that time in the term when some of us are planning to venture home to visit parents, nans, boyfriends and cats. You’ve been at university for 5 weeks and you’re starting to feel homesick or maybe you’re planning a trip to visit a friend for a weekend in a different city (I just hope it’s not York you’re betraying us with). If the idea of a couple of days away from studying worries you then have a look at these tips for making the most of your available study time even when you’re away from Lancaster.

  1. Trains and coaches – depending on your destination, you could be facing several hours on a train or coach. If the idea of that makes you groan, look at it instead as a golden opportunity to catch up on some reading or lectures. Requesting a seat in the quiet carriage of a train can mean you get hours of quiet study time and if you opt for a seat by a table and a charging socket, the possibilities are endless! You’ll come back from your trip feeling ahead instead of behind and you won’t feel guilty for spending some time away from the library (as lovely as it is).
  2. Snacks – study snacks in general are always a good idea. Take some little things with you on a long journey to keep you awake and focused if you’re planning on some hard-core uni work. Food and drinks on trains can be super expensive so opt for healthy and filling snacks from home. My personal favourites are dried mango and Eat Natural bars.
  3. Split up your time – it’s still important to take breaks. If you’re changing trains, allocate one train to things like listening to music or catching up on Stranger Things so that you don’t feel you have to keep working during every second of your weekend off.
  4. Audiobooks – if you are travelling via some mode of transportation that doesn’t allow you to lay all your colour-coded folders out, opt for listening instead of reading. There are some brilliant books out there that could help prop up your knowledge of what you’ve been working on in a more relaxing way. These usually belong to the pop-science genre, so they are aimed at a general audience and you won’t have to concentrate too hard. Hearing a difficult concept explained to a layman may help to clarify things you’re struggling with.
  5. If you are driving home and can’t make use of the journey, try to get ahead in the week before your trip so you aren’t stressed at the weekend.

Remember, life is about balance. You can keep on top of your work on the way to and from fun distractions even if the prospect doesn’t seem very appealing because you would rather just sleep on the train instead. If you’re on the 5:38 to London Euston, this is understandable, but trying to utilise this time can really help you out with regards to your state of mind, stress and enjoying your time away. Come Monday morning you won’t feel like you’re going off the rails. You’ll feel right on track.

Tips and Tricks for Essay Writing

by Ruth (Student Blogger: BA Hons History)

Writing essays are never easy. And unfortunately it’s not something you can just master overnight.

Writing essays takes time, practice and a lot of persistence. (Plus, caffeine administered in large dosages). Essays are a scary mix of references, structure and technique, which often changes from department to subject to lecturer.

In the first term, especially, essays can seem like this mystical skill only a few chosen ones seem to possess. It does take a while, as even in my second year I’m still figuring the whole treacherous path of essays out.

But my aim here is to break down some murky areas of essays writing that confused me when I first started.

  1. There is no such thing as starting too early.

Many problems start because of one simple thing. A lack of time. Although I’m aware I am repeating the advice given to me countless times through school and now uni. I now get it. The biggest favour you could do yourself and your essay is starting early. It gives you enough time to plan and figure out not just your essay but the paragraphs and its structure. Planning is key to giving all your different ideas a chance to formulate and specifically order them, so your essay doesn’t just become a stream of consciousness. Try a mind map or brain dump to get your first ideas flowing. Then move on to a more structured plan of what will be in your introduction, main body and conclusion. Starting early lets deadlines and sources not overwhelm you, in turn making your essay better.

2. Referencing

Now this word might not strike fear into you now, but give it a few months and referencing could become the bane of your life. BUT, it shouldn’t be. Getting over that fear of referencing and what it means when using source material in your essay is something that can be learned. Also, check with your department on what specific referencing system they use such as Harvard systems. After this, you can then move on to creating examples of how books, journals and sources need to be structured in the referencing list. Also as I’m writing an essay I have my list of references and then when I cite them in my writing I can refer to the information that I need to include, for example the surname and the year. It means you are reducing the mistakes you could make, as you know the first one is accurate.

3. Technique

Technique is often mostly found in structure. Getting the key structure in your paragraph is key. Look at the question, and answer it. Make your point, then provide the evidence, often through paraphrasing source ideas or including the occasional quote and offer some explanation or comments. It’s the classic point, evidence, explanation. However, I have to point out here that there are times when this doesn’t work, and there are many exceptions to this rule. But if you are really stuck at where to begin this a good basic structure to start with. You can then move on to make sure you are analysing the sources in a critical way, using it to support and push your point on further.

This blog post could go on a lot further exploring different essays structures and the key, crucial tips for each department. But that would be an endless post, especially as there are books written by experts tackling the specific issues. They can be found all over the library, so if you need more help head there, as well as your learning developers who are there to support you. Also, keep your eyes peeled for writing workshops that are aimed towards ironing out any problems you have with your essay!


Making notes [with style]

by Melissa (Student Blogger: MA English Literature)

Now, I am sure that any student practising university level study will be fully aware of the importance of approaching texts critically, and that memory is an imperfect accomplice when it comes to recording valuable thoughts, so for this post I have spoken to students about how they like to accessorize their reading with notes.


[pretty post-it notes, coloured biros, bookmarks, highlighter pens]

If you’re style-sensitive and looking to make an impact, you might want to use your motivation as an opportunity to colour co-ordinate your thoughts.

Pretty post-it notes will add colour to boring black-white pages, but also look neat, scholarly, and catch your attention when flicking for the correct page mid-seminar. Post-it notes will also prevent you from damaging your book if you plan to resell when your course is finished, or if you’ve been borrowing from the library.

If you’re not planning to resell/ return your book, you may want to invest in some coloured biros or highlighters. I use red, green, blue and black biros to help me categorize my thoughts. For example, black underline reminds me of impending doom, red reminds me of war and harm, blue is an emotional colour, and green is for nature and happiness. I’m a literature student, but students from any subject can adapt colour coding to their advantage; one colour for quotes you find interesting, and another for quotes you want to use in an upcoming essay.


[dog ears, biros, accompanying note book]

Perhaps you’re a student who is too busy for bits of paper and multi-coloured pens. The ‘student on the go’ can emulate the eye-grabbing quirks of post-it notes by folding the corners of pages to point to particular lines or passages, and scribble their thoughts on said corners or margins. Folding corners makes a clear indent in the book to remind you there is something interesting there, and is much quicker than post-its. The student on the go may want to carry around an accompanying note book in case their thoughts exceed the margins.


[digital notes, ctrl+F alternative to page numbers]

If you’re using digital texts such as kindles or online pdfs, you will have a slightly harder time annotating your texts directly unless you sink money into a printer. On the other hand, setting up a word document for making digital notes will make them harder to lose, and you’ll never worry about failing to read your own handwriting. For searching through digital texts, it is imperative that you locate the ‘find’ function on whatever device you’re using (‘ctrl+F’ for Windows PCs) so that you can find the context of any quotes you’ve recorded at a moment’s notice.


[single sided A4, working on condensing, highlighter pens]

If you’ve got exams coming up, you might want to adopt an alternative method of note making, such as writing your notes out on single sided paper with the intention of sticking them on your walls. If you struggle condensing your notes into a reasonable amount, highlighter pens are an essential tool for marking out what you need to focus on. Don’t forget the underline and highlighter tools on Microsoft Word if your typing your notes.


I use a variety of these methods to help streamline my own learning process, so don’t be afraid to try out new things to find what works best for you! If you’re not sure what exactly you should be making notes on, you might find what you’re looking for here –


Close reading

by Melissa (Student Blogger: MA English Literature)

Reading as a student, or as a scholar, is not necessarily as obvious a skill as we might first think. It certainly doesn’t mean reading lots of difficult texts, or peppering said texts with highlighters and post-it notes (though these are often involved in the process). Scholarly reading is about making sure that you are getting the most out of your learning.


Firstly, I’m going to look at how we read the text.

This often starts with creating an environment that is right for you. Different students will tackle this in different ways; I like to stay at home where I have quick access to a tea pot and kettle, however, some people will find the temptation to slack off a little too intensely when working alone. If this sounds like you, you may benefit from studying in the library. Working at the library has the benefits of providing you with a work friendly atmosphere as well as significant resources. If, like me, you worry about spending money on snacks while studying away from home, you may want to pack a banana or energy bar to keep you going.

Being able to concentrate on your work is fairly important if you want to connect with your text. One good way to check you have understood is to try to summarise what each paragraph has tried to communicate to you, and maybe make a note in the margins to remind you later.

Your tutor may have set you some focused questions. These questions are a good way of helping you to engage with the text, and it’s a technique you can apply to yourself. You can question a text based on its themes, or even your own expectations.

The next step is to see whether the text agrees with or challenges you. You don’t need to write a formal response, running these questions through your mind will be enough to form good habits.

One good question to ask yourself is where does this text exist in lieu of other discourses. This can be relating to texts on your course, the past decade, or just in relation to anything you have read that you think has relevance.

This exercise is all about considering the text as more than just a standalone thought, but as a response, and part of a greater whole in literature.

Another good question; how reliable is this text. What is the context of it, and how will this have affected the author? Could the author be biased, and how will this affect your ability to use this source? For example, when in need of a word definition, the Oxford English Dictionary is far more reliable than a quick Google search, but as a scholar, you should also be asking yourself what version of the OED you are using, and whether it is up to date.

Sticking to the topic of bias, you will also have your own biases. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, we all have them, but they are things we should be aware of. Keeping check of your own biases will help you to maintain an open mind when encountering a theory you are unfamiliar with, and help you to avoid forcing a theoretical perspective that may not lend itself to the text you are currently studying. This gives you the opportunity to consider other (potentially better) alternatives.


Understanding methodology, or knowing how to read as a student, will be extremely useful to your university studies. It is not something that comes easily and is unlikely to score you A’s immediately. What it will do, however, is help you employ good working habits to gradually achieve a stronger connection with your course than you might have otherwise.Good luck, and comment your own experiences below!

Start as you mean to go on

by Catherine (Student Blogger: BA Hons Advertising and Marketing)

Hey fellow students!

As third week is in full swing, and the un-avoidable stress starts to linger, here’s just some advice on how to make sure you’re on top of your game (and on top of those deadlines), whilst still looking after yourself and keeping those stress levels as low as possible.

Organise Organise Organise.

The first and probably best thing you can do at the start of any year is to organise your upcoming term. Usually I find that making a list of exactly what modules I have each term is the best way to get started. Under each module, I write a list of each assignment I have, that way I know exactly what I’m up against this term. I write these types of lists on an app called Wunderlist- downloading it makes all the difference to my organisation levels.

Here’s what my Wunderlist looks like, adding a list called ‘This Week’ with ‘to do’s’ in for that week helps me stay productive throughout the week

Move Around.

I find one of the worst things about being bogged down with coursework all week long is being shut inside the library for what seems a lifetime. I often find that staying in the same place for a long period of time to do work may seem productive, but can actually have a really negative effect on my concentration levels. Every time you study in a different place, I think you are forcing your brain to form different associations (in the real world) with your study material. Although they are great, there are also a bunch of other places to study other than the library and the Learning Zone. Here’s a few I like to study at:

Costa, Pizzetta, Starbucks (in Cartmel, although it’s a trek it’s usually really quiet), Atkinson’s, Bowland bar is usually pretty quiet too, and they have plugs. Juicafe in town is also usually quiet and creates quite a chilled atmosphere for a bit of researching/reading.

If you go behind the Environmental Sciences building, there’s a quiet seating area with plugs and vending machines.

Eat Healthy.

I used to be awful at this, and until a friend pointed out that I don’t eat often enough, and when I do, it’s all unhealthy, I never understood the huge benefits of eating often, and healthily. Within just a few days of trying, I saw the positive effects it had on my productivity immediately! I had much more energy, and felt more upbeat about my day ahead. I also found myself being able to memorise and concentrate much more throughout the day. I’d say eating more healthy made me 10% more productive, and in a much better mood/mindset about my work throughout the day.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here’s some great places to look!

  • Pinterest
  • BBC Good Food
  • Time Health.
  • WH
  • Tasty (Youtube)

Hopefully some of this is useful and helps you make first term as productive (and enjoyable) as possible!

Enjoy x x x




Recipes for learning

by Nevena (Student Blogger: BSc Hons Business Studies (Industry))

Learning is a constant process in one’s life. The reason why I can refer to anyone with the pronoun “student” is namely because no matter in what stage one is, before or after university, they keep learning. But knowing how to learn is essential to making pieces of information or set of skills enter your mind permanently. Being at university, finding your own way of learning is fundamental for your success.

A university environment is very specific when it comes to the different ways in which information is delivered. Lancaster University works on the principle of combining lectures, seminars, and workshops in order to expose students to various situations and learning conditions. Coming to university can be rather challenging, especially when all of the above-mentioned are still unfamiliar for first year students. Two lectures on Monday, a seminar on Tuesday and some sort of workshop on a late Friday; and they all have different expectations and requirements. So how do you deal with that?

There is no specific recipe for coping with that. Everyone has a different style of learning and coping with university chores. And until you find what works best for you, you should EXPERIMENT. Trying different techniques is crucial in order to reach the perfect one. Observing others and taking advice can also be helpful. It is important to note that there is no one single learning manner that can be applied for every subject because they are very diverse. Some people take notes by writing in notebooks, others type everything down on their laptops, some others don’t make a single movement – they just sit there and listen. It depends on YOU. You are the main character in this and you should decide for yourself what makes you concentrate the most and understand the information.

When it comes to preparing for tests and exams, students also use different approaches. I know students for whom visualizing the information is very important, so they make colourful mind maps for each topic learnt. Others write down loooong study guides with the information needed along with examples which prove a specific idea/theory in order to remember it. Flashcards are also helpful for many subjects because they give you the opportunity to test yourself. What I want to highlight is that there are so many ways to understand and remember certain information that you should not restrict yourself to one specific thing.

The more creative approaches take the list to a whole new level. I have heard of people who write down songs in order to remember definitions or make videos (just because that’s how they feel). Just listen to your intuition and it will tell you how to go about a certain task. And of course, experiment.

Something else to explore is when exactly you try to study. Usually people have an individual set of particular hours throughout the day when they can memorize the largest amounts of information. Try studying in different hours to see what works best for you. Sitting down after a lecture or waking up very early in the morning to do some additional research – it is all in your hands. Additionally, the surrounding environment also affects some people’s efficiency in learning. If you find out that you can’t focus in our room, try going to the Library or the Learning zone. Or if you are more of an alternative learner, go to some of the bars on campus and put your headphones in. If anything comes to mind, just try it and share in the comments if it worked for you.



Making the transition to university

by Hannah (Student Blogger: BSc Biological Sciences)

When you first arrive at University you’ll probably be bombarded by statements from older students like, “oh I wish I was still in first year” and “ah first year’s the best year at uni”, and it is, in so many ways. That doesn’t mean that second and third, or even fourth, if you’re staying longer, aren’t great. Going into my third year now feels both incredibly daunting as well as comforting and somewhat exciting. Although first year is the best year socially and in terms of your new surroundings, it can also be notoriously difficult if you have feelings of anxiety.

It’s completely natural to feel anxious about starting university and even to feel anxious whilst you’re here. There’s a variety of changes to go through and a lot of pressures you may never even have dealt with before. Finding the perfect balance when you’re thrust into this adult world whilst still feeling like a teenager can be very difficult. Only now going into my final year do I personally feel like I’ve settled into Lancaster and know how to tackle the challenges of the coming year. Truthfully, everyone is different – you may seamlessly transition into life here, or you may find it difficult to adjust to your new-found surroundings.

There’s one thing for certain though, there’s always help available. Looking back, I wish that someone had convinced me to get help sooner rather than later. Whether it’s confidentially talking to a freshers rep, your academic advisor or a counsellor at the Base, talking to someone can always brighten things up. It’s a challenge opening up about certain things, I know, but thankfully you’ll realise that you won’t be going through this alone. Part of the journey of going to university is discovering how you work and what’s best for you. It’s been a hard two years, but I can firmly say that I’ve finally cracked it, academically and socially. Sometimes it really does feel like a rollercoaster of emotions, but the satisfaction of pulling through the other end is great.

From finding ‘friends for life’ to getting that top degree, or even just managing to do your laundry and cook for yourself, there can be a lot of high expectations built on coming to university. My best advice to you would be to not have any when you first come here. Lancaster is a truly fantastic place, but with any university experience, it’s easy to feel the pressure. Take each day as it comes, and don’t get hung up on finding any of the things you thought you would. Lancaster is built on a fantastically eclectic group of people, from a variety of different backgrounds, interested in a multitude of activities. As cliché as it sounds, being yourself really is the best way to be. You’ll find a group of people just like you, who make you happy and have the same interests, helping to make your transition here as smooth as possible.

As soon as you can, head down to the freshers fair and sign up to as many things as possible. Even if you don’t join them officially, attend the taster sessions and meet new people. Get out there as much as you can. Remember to take some time for yourself and to not let everything pile up on top of you at once – you don’t want to feel like you’re drowning. Your Lancaster experience will be what you make it; don’t waste it.


Shopping for academic success

by Melissa (Student Blogger: MA English Literature)

Whether you are just starting, or a confident student approaching your next year of study, purchasing academic materials can often feel like a chore.Nonetheless, it’s a necessary part of most subjects.

What is a reading list?

A reading list is a list of all the books that you might need during your course. You don’t necessarily need to buy all of them, and you might not even need to read all of them! If you are experiencing any confusion over which books you are expected to buy, and those which you can avoid emptying your wallet over, please check out this article on CORE, PRIMARY, and SECONDARY texts – Getting to grips with reading lists

Why is it important to purchase texts over Summer?

Purchasing early in Summer will give you plenty of time to read ahead of your course, thus giving you more time to study at a relaxed pace later, or a few extra nights on the town during term. Early reading also means that you have more time to thoughtfully consider the texts which you will later be expected to argue, explain, and reference. It can be useful to leave reminders in the margins when reading ahead of your course, this way, you won’t forget any essay ideas or questions you have for your seminars.

The First Step to preparing for the next academic year is to find out what texts you will need. The method for achieving this differs between tutors and courses, as some modules do not finalise their chosen texts until the start of the year. If this your case, I advise sending an email inquiring your tutor(s) about which texts you will be safe to buy without worry of them being swapped out by October. Asking about texts shows enthusiasm in your studies, which is sure to please your tutors as well as benefit you.

If you are lucky enough to be in a course which details its reading list in the course description (such as most Literature modules), then congratulations; you have already completed step one!

The Second Step, once you have acquired your list of materials, is time to purchase your texts. Academic books can be expensive and sometimes tutors will ask for specific editions of certain texts, so it is important to spend some time researching your texts.

It is important to note the wealth of free resources available to you as a Lancaster University student before you start buying books. You can login to the student portal to access OneSearch (at the top right of the Moodle home page) which allows you to search for texts you can read for free online through the library, or it will direct you to services such as JSTOR and EBSCO which contain various academic journals for you to peruse. Be wary that you may not need to buy all of your books, and that some older texts may even be available as royalty free pdfs accessible via popular search engines.

High street book shops can be expensive, but useful in a hurry. Our campus bookshop stocks a range of books specifically requested by tutors from the university, so if you find yourself in a tizzy because you left your primary texts by the beach, it might be worth stopping by.

Online stores are good alternatives, especially when buying second hand. Books described as containing notes often function as an echo of seminars gone by, and help me to consider particular passages from new angles outside of university seminars.

Student managed Facebook groups may also be worth searching for, as older students wanting to offload last year’s books may have materials that you can haggle for cheaper prices.

The Final Step is to start reading! Don’t push yourself too hard as it is your summer break. You might choose to leave the heavier texts for later, but any reading is a success and a chance to get ahead of your peers. I advise a cup of tea and a cookie with every chapter!

Getting to grips with reading lists

by Melissa (Student Blogger: MA English Literature)

When approaching your reading list at the beginning of the academic year, you might find yourself in some difficulty comprehending which texts you will be expected to have read completely, and those which only require you to glance over a chapter or two. Of course, all academic reading is good for broadening your mind, but prioritising your reading will help you to manage your time effectively.

To begin with, you need to differentiate which texts are CORE, PRIMARY, and SECONDARY. This is an essential task to complete before buying any of your texts, as these boundaries will determine whether a book is necessary for you to own, or whether you can get by on extracts provided by your tutors.

A CORE TEXT is a text that is deemed essential to your learning. You will probably be expected to write essays on it and will need to read it thoroughly. You should own a copy of any core texts that you will need so that you can make efficient notes on them, and have them ready to reference in seminars. ‘Owning’ a copy of a text counts as either a physical or a virtual copy. You can identify a ‘core text’ as a text which will be used in multiple weeks throughout your course.

A PRIMARY TEXT is similar to a core text, but slightly less important. Where you will almost definitely be expected to write about a core text, you have the option to choose which of your primary texts you will discuss in detail. Your primary texts can be identified as texts that you will likely spend one week on during your course. You are expected to own all primary texts, but you won’t be writing essays on every suggested book, so it’s okay to forego the odd book if you are struggling scheduling your reading time.

A SECONDARY TEXT is rarely necessary to own, and is often as little as a chapter or journal article. Secondary texts can be identified as academic critiques which you will reference in essays to explain, reinforce, or add flavour to your own ideas. They will rarely be the main focus of any week in a course, but often appear at the end of reading lists as suggestions to compliment your primary and core texts. Secondary texts tend to be on the more expensive side of university reading lists, so in most cases, it is best to wait to see if your tutor will provide you with the necessary extracts, or whether the library has any spare copies. Secondary texts are suggestions, and while you will need them, you have more freedom over which ones you decide use in your essays.

DON’T WORRY! Not all courses (Maths) have lengthy reading lists. Some courses, like Philosophy, focus on academic journals and articles rather than reading entire books cover-to-cover. If you do have a long reading list, however, it can be useful to apply these terms to your buying and reading habits. Good luck!



Dear new student…

by Nevena (Student Blogger: BSc Hons Business Studies (Industry))

Welcome on Board! I presume everyone around you is excited about your new journey and asks questions about your feelings on the issue. Yes, it is a change, indeed. But don’t worry if you can’t find the right words to describe how you are feeling. Immerse yourself in the summer and the freedom you have now in order to give yourself the opportunity to gain strength for the colder weather that awaits you in Lancaster. Here are a few things to help you prepare:

Lesson #1

The weather is not as bad as you might think. There may be more rain than you have been used to, especially if you are coming from a sunny country like Spain or Italy. Don’t let the fog and wind discourage you and steal away from your enthusiasm. After all, the weather is only a small detail from the larger picture and October will be pretty sunny, I’ve checked the forecast for you J

Lesson #2

Prepare to be organised. Once you come to university, you will feel the weight of so many more responsibilities, having to live on your own and cope with your studies. It won’t be easy, but it’s something everyone has the ability to master. Once you arrive in England if you are coming from a different country, or once your parents drive you to the campus of the university in early October with a car full of belongings, you will be given the keys to a room that is supposed to become your new home. You will open the door at some of the floors of the university accommodation and you will see this small space that will look pretty plain. However, you have the power to transform it! Empty your suitcase and decide what other objects will make this space feel more comfy (*pillows, rugs, photos, lights, posters are just the first ideas that come to my mind). Any place can feel like home so just use your creativity!

Lesson #3

After you arrive, you will have one week to get yourself introduced to the new place and many of the new people. Or in other words, during Fresher’s week, you’ll be occupied with activities all the time and you won’t be able to remember half of the names of new people you meet. But what’s important is that you will have time to settle down.

Lesson #4

The real dilemma most students go through in their first week is what societies and activities to join. There is an event at the end of Fresher’s week, called Fresher’s Fair where all the societies try to gain new members. If you are a very proactive person or if you have a lot of enthusiasm to try something new, there are high chances you end up signing up for 6,7 or even 10 different societies. The truth is, you won’t have time for all of them. Societies are a way to meet like-minded people with identical interests as you, but you need to sit down and prioritize what really brings you joy. It is unrealistic to think that you are Superman or Superwoman and can manage doing everything, so choose 2 or 3 that really stand out to you.

(*you can get a glimpse on all the societies here  where all of them have a brief description; however, wait until the fair until you make a decision)

Lesson #5

ASK. ASK. ASK! Asking questions can be scary to some people, but it can be the shortest way to making a decision in many cases, especially in the beginning when everything will be new to you. Ask older students, ask fresher reps, ask university staff: everyone is there to help you. Forget any fears you may have and step out of your comfort zone to get someone else’s impression who has already been through that.


It’s still summer, but university time is slowly approaching. Until then, enjoy yourself, your family and friends, and come fresh, energetic, and open for the new experiences to come in October. And don’t forget about the #lessons as they might save you some nerve breakages in the beginning of your school year.