A spreadsheet showing organised to do lists for three modules.

June 19, 2024, by UoN School of English

How I Get Started With Independent Study

The biggest change when coming to university is the increased level of independent study that is expected of us. This ranges from seminar preparation, reading or completing further research. We are also expected to juggle our social calendars and find time for ourselves. This often leaves me with the question, ‘where do I start?’. However, this question can be tackled as I have found that being realistic with what works for me ultimately helps me get a handle on this higher level of independent study. 

The first thing I do to get started is to simply create a to-do list. Though an obvious step, it is vital to ensure I keep on top of things. Below is an example of how I organise the different tasks I must undertake for different modules. I find it essential to be aware of what I can realistically achieve in the time frame I have and make a list accordingly. Once I have established these tasks, I order them based on what are most time-consuming and challenging. Overcoming the most challenging at the start can help me feel more productive and ready to tackle other tasks I am required to complete. 

In starting this independent study time, I also find it essential to carve this around my contact hours. This is the easiest way to structure my time as I am already out the house and feeling ready to study. For example, if I have a lecture at 2pm, I tend to go to the library a few hours prior to get in some prep work or get ahead of any reading.  

Considering what study spaces work is also vital. I prefer campus study spaces so I can then fully switch off when I am home. I like to use the silent study spaces when I have specific deadlines I am working towards. However, for more relaxed tasks, I prefer more social spaces such as the many cafés that are available.  

Alongside this independent study, it is also important to carve out time for yourself. University is a time for self-exploration and trying new things, which can take up space in my social calendar. In realising that some weeks are busier than others I feel relieved of any undue pressure I may put on myself. Therefore, in prioritising the most urgent tasks I am able to consider where to begin with my independent study. 

When answering the question of where to start, the best things I have found to help is finding a structure that works for you and accepting that this takes time to perfect. This realisation of your own capabilities is vital in helping to get started with this level of independent study.  

— Kiran Mandair, 2nd Year BA English Language and Literature

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