Open College of the Arts Student Support

Study skills

This booklet is one of a series of guides for students studying with the OCA. Others in the series are: • Keeping sketchbooks and learning logs • Assessment and how to get qualified • Looking at other artists You can either download a pdf copy from our website www.oca-uk.com or ring the office on 0800 731 2116 for a paper copy.

Illustrations: Caroline Firenza

you must think about things like time management. These are as crucial to your development as the practical side. You control your learning environment. You may also have to refresh your knowledge on essay planning and you may be new to using the web as a learning resource. . Your most significant considerations will be time and space to dedicate to your learning. and pacing yourself through a new learning experience. painting or any other practical subject as a directly academic course such as Visual Studies or Art History for example. goal setting. especially if that was at school. Many of OCA’s courses have written assignments at some point in them. have professional and/or personal motivation for studying and you will have to fit your study activities around other responsibilities. Even the art courses have written elements to them. OCA’s courses are both practical and academic. That’s why taking a look at this study skills booklet is just as important if you are studying sculpture. You can choose what you want to study. As a result. However. As an adult learner your approach to learning may be different from the last time you studied.Study skills What are study skills? Because you are studying a creative subject you may imagine you will not have much writing to do.

OCA tuition is on a one-toone basis and so it is possible for our tutors to angle their advice to meet individual needs. If you feel you need a little longer. contact the tutor and give an anticipated new date for the submission of your assignment. . you can begin to start your first project. When you submit an assignment your tutor will comment and advise on your work and answer any questions relating to the course. they will write to you. there is going to be a big delay. Once you have looked through the course and sent off your student profile. that’s fine too. then do. If. your reasons for exploring this subject and what you expect to achieve from taking the course. and suggest a date for the submission of your first assignment in line with your timetable. Make a note of any questions you might have and consider a rough timetable you can work from to complete the course. This is your first link with your tutor and gives you the chance to introduce yourself. Give your tutor as much information as you can about your previous experience.Starting out What to do when you start your course Read the introduction and then look through the whole course. however. If you feel you can complete the section earlier. When the tutor receives your Student Profile. Fill in your Student Profile. but only if these are defined in the Student Profile. Use this to tell your tutor a little about any past experience you have and how confident you feel about learning some of the skills.

Time management Managing your time You are responsible for managing your own study time. In order for you to do this well: • be aware of your own time management • be aware of how much time each type of task takes you to complete • allow time for unexpected events • schedule an appropriate amount of time for things like library and museum visits • specify practical targets in your time-planning. Ask yourself the following questions: • do I usually meet deadlines? • do I keep most appointments? • do I find that I often have to rush things at the last minute? • does it take me some time to get started? • do I panic if I know that I am wasting time? • how IT literate am I? Do you need to make allowances for using a computer? Do you need to make changes to some of your thinking about time in order to manage your studies well? .

Time saving suggestions • when note taking use headings and keywords – avoid full sentences • leave lots of space so that you can add more information as you find it • if two writers are making the same point.Improving time management You may find that you have lots of competing deadlines and not enough time to do all of the set tasks. and label or colour code them by subject in the top outer corner. Use the following priority setting checklist to help you: • write a list of all of the tasks that you have to do • divide the list into the essential tasks and then the tasks that can wait • identify the most urgent task on the list • work out the best way to do things • work out how long you can spend on each task • enter each essential task into your timetable and diary. . note in the margin a crossreference to your earlier notes – do not write out same information twice • keep all of your notes in one place or one folder if on a computer • file notes as you go along • number your pages. so that you can arrange and find information easily • read only what is relevant to your set module • note the page reference from the book and write the initials of the book title so that you can easily refer back to it • carry a small notebook or sketchbook with you so that you can write down or draw any new ideas that you might get • use OCA’s online forum to contact other students to share research methods and ideas.

microfiche and slides. Make notes whichever way suits you best. However more and more people are now just as happy making notes on their computer. Notes can aid understanding and summing things up briefly can help your long term memory. and help you get organised in order to get started. CDs.Developing research skills Use your local library Visit your local library early on and find out about the range of services that it provides. which has the added benefit of making web referencing easy. Even if you are a regular computer user it can still be helpful to make notes on paper. . Taking notes Notes are a useful record of important points for future use and they can help the flow of your writing. for example: • handouts on how to use library facilities • use of the internet and help in developing internet search skills • academic journals • specialist collections • specialist magazines/newspapers/back editions • photocopy services • videos.

in chronological order • think before you write and keep your notes brief – always use your own words unless you are quoting directly • if writing on paper leave space or a wide margin so that you can add notes as you need to • note down key words and main ideas but avoid writing whole sentences • make use of any abbreviations and number different points – link these points by using arrows. making brief notes to explain what each web link refers to. boxes or dotted lines • make a note of the exact source of the information but write it in such a way that it is useful to you • don’t copy out whole chunks of information or quotations and avoid writing out more notes than you can actually use • never re-write notes to make them clearer – this can be a real time waster • link different pieces of information by colour coding and draw rings around specific information in order to make it stand out on the page • if you prefer to keep notes on your computer save web links to valuable references.Note taking checklist • make notes as you find information. .

You need to use it carefully and demonstrate that you understand the shortfall in the information (such as the missing argument. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use information from any of these categories in your work. . make sure you set up time to use the internet at the library or at a friend’s house. Be aware of: • propaganda or biased information that doesn’t provide a balanced argument • advertising and press releases • personal opinion • research that has been published by the researcher without peer review. The internet should be your key research tool.Using the internet The internet has a huge range of information and allows you to browse across an enormous range of sources. or biased viewpoint). If you don’t have a computer with internet access at home. or by trade associations that have a vested interest (check whether the information is balanced) • news information (as you know. Via the internet you can have access to the following: • newspapers • magazines • gallery and museum collections • OCA website • library catalogues and information • relevant TV and radio programmes • government papers • access to specialist providers. different parts of the press present the same story in very different ways).

You will need to consider an issue from all perspectives and possibly do this more than once. it may be worth looking on the web for tips on developing your reading skills. energy and persistence! . or position. Together with this you will be evaluating this evidence in support of a particular text and also be looking at the implication of the conclusions made by the writer. It’s very useful to learn how to skim read to get the main points so that you can judge whether it is worth your time setting to for a more detailed read. This should provide you with a sense of the text which may be all you need. Developing reading skills If you are not used to doing a lot of reading. All book publications are in print at the time of the course materials being published but of course this can change from year to year – OCA will attempt to republish booklists when possible. The key to successful skim reading is to take note of headings. Take a look at the suggested web links for more detail on important reading techniques such as skimming and scanning text. Developing critical thinking skills This involves you weighing up arguments and evidence for and against a particular text.Using booklists Booklists can be daunting even if you recognise some of the titles on the list. During the course you will be provided with various booklists and you will need to assess the importance of some books over and above other books – you cannot read everything! Your tutors (and in some cases the course material) will let you know which books are ‘essential’ for you to read and which are of a more general nature. introductory sentences of paragraphs and summaries. All of this takes a lot of time.

.. Include the surname of the author and the year of publication. Taylor (1999). Quoting others In the body of your writing... for example a case study or statistical data. argument or point of view • for direct quotations • for texts that you paraphrase rather than quote • for specific information. Use quotation marks when quoting from someone verbatim and remember that you may only quote up to 10% of an author’s work without breaching their copyright. either directly or indirectly.Checklist • stand back from the information and examine it in detail and from as many angles as you can think of • find out how accurate the material is and check for any mistakes • compare the material that you are reading with what other theorists are saying – how does their perspective differ from what your writer is saying? • look out for any assumptions that the writer is making and be critical of the ways in which the writer has used data in order to persuade the reader to agree with their particular theory. 1998). whenever you refer to someone else’s work. who stated that… Or • two art historians (Buck and Dodd. for example: • as noted by R. When do you need to give a reference? You must give the reference whenever you draw on a source of information: • as the source behind a particular theory. you must indicate whose work this is. noted that.

the reference will help you find it again more easily • the reader of your writing will have more confidence in what you are writing • thoroughness in your referencing suggests that you will also have been thorough in your checking of the facts.Using references In academic writing. it is essential to state the sources of ideas and information. . Information that needs to be included in a reference The following information is ordinarily provided: • the name of the author(s) • the full title of the work • for journal articles. There are some key reasons for providing references: • acknowledging a source is a courtesy to the person whose idea or words you have used or referred to • by giving a source you are making it clear that you are not trying to pretend somebody else’s work is your own • if you need to check something later. Such references allow the reader to refer back to the sources. the name of the journal and the number of the volume • the edition (if relevant) • the name of the publisher • the location of the publisher • the publication date • relevant page numbers.

2002 • S. 2000 Do not include any publications that you have not directly referred to in your assignment. Matthews. Cassell & Co.. Complete Guide to Photography. A World History of Art. 2002 • S. B and D wrote that … • in an article entitled Textile Art Now.. HarperCollins. Cassell & Co. UK. for example: • Michael Freeman. A World History of Art. 2000 . Laurence King Publishing. London. Complete Guide to Photography. London. Laurence King Publishing. E wrote that … • writing in 1999. It will include everything that you have read for your report whether you referred to it in your writing or not.Presenting your work Finishing your report You must write out full details in a list of References that must be in alphabetical order. Gardens of Illusion. 1995 • Honour & Fleming. Maitland and P. … • according to B … • as C … • to quote from D. UK. HarperCollins. London. but do include television programmes. Some helpful phrases to introduce references are: • as A points out. London. 1995 • Honour & Fleming. … • in ‘Relative Values’. Always use the same style to the one outlined in the above information about references. Matthews. Gardens of Illusion. websites and videos used. Maitland and P. F argued that … • referring to G says that … Bibliographies A bibliography is a separate page to your writing and the reference will go at the end of your report. for example: • Michael Freeman.

including the date. or ‘see illustration to figure 4’. Using illustrations Always try to use illustrations where relevant. Don’t forget to put a caption under the illustration clearly stating what it is. so where possible try to have the image as close to where it is being discussed as is possible – do not lump all of the illustrations at the back of your written assignments or learning logs. You must always number your illustrations and refer to them within the body of your writing – do not make the mistake of expecting the illustrations to ‘speak for themselves’. Taylor. 1999. whether a book. If you are unsure about whether to use a direct quotation or to paraphrase then always go for the first option. . then the date and page number in brackets after the quotation or reference in the main text. R. article or interview. and the name of the originator. The following two systems are both acceptable as long as you are consistent in your usage throughout. For example. Remember that the purpose of an illustration is to support your writing. The full reference details are then given in the bibliography. For example. 1.Footnotes Use these when you are quoting directly and give the precise details of the source. p22. and the reference is then given either at the bottom of the page or at the end of the critical review. If you are quoting from a printed source also include the page number. Understanding and Investigating Art. You can also include your own drawings and photographs where relevant – often illustrations can be particularly effective if you are trying to convey a great deal of visual information. where it is from. Author-date system This is where you give the name of the author. you would write ‘refer to figure 2’. Title system This is where a number is given above the line and after the quotations.

and in which order. Introduction – this is where you say what you are going to do. Structuring your assignments Title – every assignment title has an implied or actual question within it. . and references. your first sentence will introduce the main idea of the paragraph. so for example. Writing assignments • clarify the task • collect and record information (research) • organise and plan • reflect and evaluate • write an outline plan and first draft (if possible show this to your tutor) • work on your first draft • review it • then build your final draft. If you are unsure about what constitutes plagiarism speak to your tutor. Your entire assignment must focus on the title and address that question. quotations.Plagiarism Plagiarism is when a student uses the words of another writer but does not credit that writer as a source. You will then lead into the next paragraph. This can be done by mistake or on purpose but in either case it is an offence and can result in failure of the course. evidence. Give a brief outline of how you will deal with each issue. You must show your understanding of the assignment title and identify the issues that you are going to explore. Other sentences will develop the topic of the paragraph and you can include relevant examples. Develop your argument or line of reasoning – in paragraph one you cover everything that your introduction said that you would address. details.

Presenting your written work It is an OCA requirement that all assignments are typed so this may involve you planning ahead if you do not own a computer. It is also preferable to email written work to your tutor if possible. ‘I’ or ‘we’? • reference page • bibliography page. Conclusion – summarise your argument and the main themes. You may also want to consider the following more general points: • paper format (usually A4) • use one side or both? • number pages • include your name and student number on each page • use double spacing • write as ‘one’. or opening sentences.Paragraph two and the other paragraphs – the first sentence. . State your general conclusions and make it clear why those conclusions are important. Make sure you are consistent throughout. This is usually one tenth of the written assignment. Other sentences will now develop the paragraph’s topic. link the paragraph to the previous paragraphs. then introduce the main idea of the paragraph. Bibliography – list all of the books and other sources that you have referred to.

More help Suggested further reading Barnet. T. England. T.howtostudy. Ellie and Northedge.uk/acad/management/external/els/pdf/ timemanagement. London. 1991 Useful websites on self study • www.uk/goodstudyguide/ • www. Kogan Press. A Short Guide to Writing About Art.com • www. Milton Keynes: Open University Press 1997 Miles. Press. London. 1995 Chambers. Tony. How to Win as a Mature Student.org.ouw. Study Skills. Press.Chadwick and Eagle. Andrew. The Arts Good Study Guide. Routledge Press.co. 1995 Richards. and Gilroy.support4learning.ac.how-to-study. K. Dyslexia at College.org/ • www. S.oca-uk.com/ • www. London. London. 1996 Buzan.R.uk • www.brad. Use your head. 1995 Williams.pdf .

Notes .

share tips on techniques and processes. advice and tips from tutors and other learners. discuss the state of contemporary art or the music industry. upload a picture if you like.com is your first stop for information about courses. support. . plus access to help. and get chatting to other students via the forum.OCA's website www. Register on the website. Find out about exhibitions and books recommended by fellow students.oca-uk. and share your thoughts on studying from home.

com 0800 731 2116 www.Open College of the Arts Michael Young Arts Centre Redbrook Business Park Wilthorpe Road Barnsley S75 1JN enquiries@oca-uk.com .oca-uk.

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