Study skills development

The purpose of this assignment is to show the way I have explored different ways of learning. To do this I will expand my knowledge in one of the major groups of mental health illnesses `psychosis` and also reflect upon my study skills development. I was first introduced to the effects of Psychosis whilst working in a mental health unit, I have also since starting this course received lectures on the subject. This essay will discuss in detail the various methods used when researching for more information on my chosen subject.

I started by going to the library and using the internet, examining how these are the key in facilitating the search process. Secondly, I will look into other contributing factors, such as study space, time management, note taking and the importance of reading. I started my research traditionally in the library, where I can go and study in a quiet area away from my hectic family environment, the library gave me access to books, articles and informative DVD’s on my chosen subject, and therefore allowing me to research and complete my assignments at home.

The University’s library uses a computerized bibliographical information system, called an on-line catalogue, which can be accessed using the keyboards and the screens provided, Sotiriou (2002) explained an advantage of using computerized system, because you get an up-to-date listing of all library material that has been checked out, or purchased. Usually, as soon as a new publication is purchased it is automatically added to the on-line catalogue.

However, I found the on-line system to be a complete labyrinth, and searching for a subject by entering a title or the author to be confusing and difficult for me to find the location of what I’m looking for, the book is either missing or had been booked out to another student. On the other side Cottrell (2003) suggested, how useful electronic materials are and easy to access and are readily available, by either downloading it to a computer or memory stick.

I found this very useful and the electronic publications allowed me to save time and I do not need to renew a book or worry about a loan, or that the weekend is coming and the library will be closed. I agree with Tracy (2006) who states that if you want to learn without stress, don’t use libraries. Having discussed the use of the library, I would like to develop an understanding of how to gain effective research from the internet.

I found the internet very helpful as I could research it in the comfort of my own home and this also allowed me to have the background noise, which is not acceptable in libraries, I also have the advantage of being able to copy and save interesting paragraphs, e-books or e-journals by using online databases, which I can read later or I can save them as web pages in my “favourites”.

However Maslin-Prothero (2005) warns that retrieving information from the internet can be without assurance of accuracy, value and reliability. This can be improved by using University databases as stated by Cotrell (2003), who recommends using a more reliable source of information, i. e. University databases like British Nursing Info, ATHENS or CINAHL.

I have learnt not to trust all the information that I have found, as the level of quality information has sometimes proved to be incorrect and out of date, however it has encouraged me to use search engines such as Google and databases that are accessible from my university, thus helping to ensure that the information I was researching was of a high standard, I also used wikedpedia to help with the explanation of words that I was unfamiliar with, when using the internet and search engines the results can be very daunting so to reduce and narrow the search I found it necessary to ensure information is nationwide and not worldwide.

I soon began to realise how much time I was now spending in the library and on the internet, time that was producing many good results, however this was raising a concern over my ability to manage time effectively, therefore I have identified the need to learn this skill. As it is a long time since I was studying at University I realised that I needed to focus more on my study and invest more time into it.

Cotrell (2003) suggests study time can be easily wasted if there is not a balance between study time and social activities. I tried to combine my study and leisure time and I realised how much of my time is wasted and disorganised. Chambers and Northedge (2005) strongly advised to set up time table, where the week should be planned ahead by using time effectively and by doing work of a different nature at the most suitable times.

To use my time more effectively I established my main priorities and set them up in the weekly planner, where I reserved time for walking and playing with my dogs as a relaxing time and allocated mornings as my study time, and the rest for my family responsibilities, I tried this technique for 3 weeks but I could not maintain the time table, I was spending more time on planning and deciding what I could move around. In the past I have used a diary to run my daily activities which I always had found to be very effective, so I decided to utilize this way for my study plan and see if this would improve my time management.

Cottrell (2003) advises using colour codes and symbols to identify different activities. This helped me to incorporate my study requirements more effectively, and has proved to be a useful tool in my study techniques. Even though I tried to stay motivated, I found myself sitting above the books with a lack of concentration. Paine and Whittaker (2006) explain the importance of recognising time, when your energy is rising and when your energy is low, these stages of energy are called “circadian rhythms”, and will help to assess and schedule your learning time effectively.

I found it very helpful to establish this and re-organise my study and activity plan to suit. I certainly find my energy peak time between 21:00hrs and 01:00hrs and also with the television on. I find that choosing a suitable study space and managing my own time as an important factor in the success of my studies. I always found it difficult to sit down in my office to do my studies, where I have a plenty of space, enough light, access to my laptop with internet connection, adequate supply of stationary and silence.

Northedge (2005) stated that a kitchen table with the television on is not a suitable study space, where I will not be able to concentrate intently and recommended to set up study place somewhere quiet. I tried to use my office many times, because it always took me a lot of time to transfer all my study material to the kitchen, but I always found it to be comfortable to do my studying with background TV noise, as it cuts me off from all distractions.

Having discussed the effective use of time management and study space, I would like to concentrate now on the development and understanding of the reading process. As English is not my first language I had avoided reading in English as I found it to be very difficult, I also knew that one of the best ways to learn a foreign language is to read books, when I started to read I hardly understood the words, so I would frequently stop and translate them, this constant interruption led to me loosing the main points of what the author was trying to make in the paragraph.

With time I improved my reading skills, but often I would feel frustrated as I had never experienced difficulty in reading quickly in my own language, it would take me much longer to read than the other students and I would feel embarrassed when the others had to wait for me to finish. Fairbairn (2001) suggests that students are mistaken if they think fast reading will produce better work or will improve their performance.

Reading would take me a while, but I would be able to remember lots of facts and information, Marton, Hounsell and Entwistle (1997) recognise two different groups of readers, that can be identified as a deep or surface reader, where the “deep readers” are described as seeing knowledge as an improved understanding of reality through the abstraction of meaning, on the other hand “surface readers” receive knowledge as a fact and memorize it.

In this I would class myself as a surface reader in my own language, and also a surface reader in English, this would be a first impression but with more thought applied, it could be argued that I need to read slower and look for the meaning of some words, this would cause me to become a deep reader. Northedge (2002) finds using Kolb’s reflective learning cycle helpful, where it is easier to remember information of your interest and reflect on it.

I found it very helpful to be able to read and reflect on my experiences, which I have done at my placement, I read about audio-visual hallucinations regarding psychosis and could actually see and compare my knowledge with the practice side. Whilst in a lecture I was introduced to a well known reading technique called SQ3R – Survey – Question – Read – Recite and Review, I believe it could make a big difference in my reading, but it was discussed in the lecture quickly and without handouts, so by taking my own notes I tried to understand what the lecture tried to say, at the same time I did not have time to ask any questions.

Cottrell (2003) advice is to challenge what the lecturer says in your mind and it will help you keep your attention. I was totally lost, because when I tried it, the lecturer would be talking about something different and I missed the point. Looking into how note taking and reading interact with each other, this will help me to develop an effective relationship between reading and note taking, where I will be then able to analyze the received facts and transfer them into short messages, which would be organized with my thoughts.

Tracy (2006) suggests that the use of mind mapping can be used to great effect instead of traditional note-taking, as mind mapping is supposed to stimulate the right side of the brain and helps make the information on the page easier to remember. On the other side Northedge (2005) states that note-taking by using abbreviations and symbols can help you to write quicker without loosing the meaning. Payne and Whittaker (2006) recommended reading the text at first and ensuring you understand what are you reading and highlight only sufficient text, known as annotation instead of highlighting the whole paragraph or text.

I found it helpful using highlights and colour pens in my notes, as it shows importance and facts to remember and also abbreviations saved my time in the lecture. But when I tested “mind maps”, I found this technique very complicated to analyze text, lecture and draw map. However I am now taking notes in most lectures. When I started this assignment I was worried about how I would manage to write my first assignment in English. But this assignment has helped me to learn and develop my study skills which I will now use for my effective study. Now I’m not avoiding the use of the libraries or the on-line system with the digital reading material.

I am also exploring the advantages of University databases, as this gives me the required information that I can rely on, I see using the internet as a good source for my study in the future. I have now got over my biggest barrier in my study activities as I am now able to organise my time better in my diary, so I’m less stressed about my studies, this allows me to have more time for relaxing, I have now made significant improvements in my reading and note taking skills, where I have realised how minor things like highlight pens and abbreviation with symbols have made a huge difference in my study activity.