There is some charm in a few weeks off, but for me the best way to accomplish the things I want to do is to have a plan, a schedule, and then stick to it. That might not sound much like a person studying a creative process like literature, but structure is a very important word in English Studies! After a few years in our program I find it uncomfortable to work out a productive schedule then set it aside for a few months. Considering that our upcoming term will also require me to complete four courses, will be the year I complete my degree, and my professional calendar looks extremely busy, I want to take full advantage of the summer idyll to begin an effective plan for the 2013 – 2014 term.
After two weeks off from any critical reading or research for the first time in months I feel ready to have a go at some new texts. It is time to review courses and identify those that best suit my needs and interests, begin primary reading, and think about what should change about last year’s program. The first two steps for me are reading Study Guides and visiting my local libraries. Study Guides for all of the English and Comparative Literature courses are posted on-line in our VLE so I can browse through any that interest me. Having them available for review makes choosing courses more efficient and helps me start reading primary texts right away. I need to complete four more courses to fulfill my degree requirements but I really, really want to study five or six courses, so that is a big dilemma. I started reviewing my larger goals and thinking about how each course fits into that big picture. Hopefully it will not come down to ‘one potato, two potato’ when deciding between them.
After downloading Study Guides for several courses, I printed pages of suggested primary and secondary reading for my library week visits. In my community we have several universities with good academic libraries, an excellent community library, and a state-wide digital library that is dedicated to scholarly texts. It is helpful to visit the local libraries I use and talk with reference librarians to best understand what secondary materials are available and how to access them.
When studying in a distance learning program identifying secondary reading sources is one crucial aspect of high performance. We have online resources through the very helpful team and portal at the University of London Athens Library in addition to other online resources. For me it is best to supplement this resource with wider research. For example, finding adequate secondary materials about Henry Fielding’s novel ‘Amelia’ was challenging this year and I think resulted in my weakest essay in all four of my exams.
Tomorrow I will be off to several libraries armed with my lists of recommended reading for several courses available in the upcoming term. Then it just might be time to settle in with some leisurely summer reading.
Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes.