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Making the most of lectures
Author: ADMIN (ukstudent at gmail dot com)
Published: Mon, 24-Apr-2006
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Making the most of lectures. Article by Martin Greenhow

2.0 Lectures make it possible for you to learn efficiently; there are other ways, e.g. books, but you do need to attend lecturers - all of them, not just when you feel like it! OK? Staff will not take kindly to repeating material from lectures you have missed!

2.1 Lectures are to :
give the logical structure of the module. (Include a copy of the syllabus in your notes.)
give detail and proofs. This will provide a solid base for the module so that methods are not just a series of recipes. Study this material, even if it is not going to be examined explicitly ; it will greatly aid your understanding.
communicate the interest of the subject.
give explanations and examples.

Lectures are not entertainment requiring little effort from you! Pay attention. Thinking and formulating questions about the concepts involved will greatly aid your understanding and enjoyment of lectures.

2.2 Get to lectures and seminars on time and with your notes. Pay attention to the lecture's introduction. In lectures staff will not mind being asked to slow down, write larger, summarise the main points again etc. especially if they know you are a committed student. Make sure you participate fully in the seminars and don't be afraid to ask "silly" questions they are often the best ones to ask.

2.3 Sit where you can see and hear properly. Contrary to popular belief, you will not catch anything from the lecturer by sitting in the first two rows!

2.4 In mathematics, and probably all science and technology subject modules, write down everything the lecturer writes on the board verbatim! Maths is a very succinct language and every bracket and comma means something. Write down some of what the lecturer says in shortened form alongside the formal notes copied from the board. Ask in seminars about anything which is not clear.

2.5 In more subjective modules, very little may be written down on the board and it will be necessary to summarise the spoken lecture in shortened note form; you do not need to write complete sentences for this - phrases or diagrams may be better. Tidy up and annotate these notes later with comments on e.g. what is going on in a proof or process; you will not have time to completely rewrite them but you should highlight the main results and arguments. Seek help with anything you do not understand from either the lecturer or friends. Add the date and page numbers when filing your notes.

2.6 Make sure you understand and can quote formal definitions of all mathematical and scientific terms.

2.7 Read your last lecture notes thoroughly before each lecture, so that you can understand the subsequent material better. Lecturers are unimpressed with students seeking explanations when they have not even read their previous lecture notes. Do so!

Put question marks in the margins in pencil against anything you do not understand.
Read the notes again, and you'll be able to rub out some of the earlier ?'s.
Make sure you ask about any remaining ?'s in the seminars or lecturers.

As a last resort, and only after you have attended the seminars and lectures, you can ask to see the lecturer and/or your tutor (but we will not be impressed if you haven't been attending and want private help as a substitute - most lecturers will then say no!).

2.8 Show the sequence of the points and their relationship. Do this diagramatically as a
classification tree showing classes, subclasses etc.,
spray diagram with the main topic in the centre and consequences spreading out in all directions from it. This is good for showing what leads on to what.
skills tree, with inner topics depending on outer ones.
flow chart. This is very useful for describing logical sequences and is essential for writing computer programs of any complexity.

Click here to view an example of a FlowChart.

2.9 Take the trouble to learn the lecturer's and your tutor's name and title. "Sir" or, worse still "Miss" is not appropriate at university lecturers are not schoolteachers and are not responsible for your studies. Until you are invited to do so, stick to "Dr Death" or "Professor Strangefeatures" rather than first names. Staff are busy and teach a lot of students so don't expect them to know who you are at first. When seeing staff, state you name, course, year and what you want as precisely as possible, especially if you are emailing, phoning or faxing them.


Copyright for this article belongs to Martin Greenhow

This document was extracted from 'Study Skills Online' and re-printed with the kind permission of Dr Martin Greenhow. The original source of the article (and 11 other sections on study skills) is located here: http://people.brunel.ac.uk/~mastmmg/ssguide/sshome.htm



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