How Do I Start Making A Study Plan

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.

Caowrites's local library

Caowrites’s local library in Pittsburgh

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.

5 thoughts on “How Do I Start Making A Study Plan

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I’m planning to register for the BA History in the fall and UoL was kind enough to provide me with the reading lists. Working my way through them now. Any study tips?

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  2. Hmmm. My strategy for managing the English Department reading lists is to use ‘down time’ like the summer months, to read as widely as I can in each course. Even if it is scanning or skimming texts, it is very helpful for me to have this broader reading accomplished before starting more focused study. And for me, following the weekly study plan outlined in our Study Guides is very, very helpful. Does that help? Happy Studies! CAO

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  3. Thanks so much for the advice. That is actually what I have been doing over the last few weeks. My plan was to have all of the reading done over the summer, then focus on intensive study (with the study guide) when I register in September.

    As a tip to others, I would suggest using EverNote for note taking. For each book or primary source I read, I take notes in EverNote. I can access them on my phone, tablet, or computer anywhere in the world. It keeps all of my notes organized for me. Additionally, you can use it to save copies of useful websites. The iPhone app is particularly useful because it has a feature that allows you to take pictures of book pages. So if you are reading a particular passage you’d like to remember, you can take a picture of it which then automatically syncs to the website. Given that you are basically teaching yourself, I’ve found it very useful to have a system that organizes my notes for me. Cheers!

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