How to study (advanced)
Photo: Michelle Muus
A good way to get an idea of how we (the EUR staff) expect you to study is by studying a useful collection of Skill Sheets by Rob van Tulder. These give lots of advice on how to design and conduct research, how to read texts, how to get the most out of lectures and many other things.
In general terms, our students are expected to be active learners who will behave in a professional manner. This denotes, for example, being an active learner implies that:
- You will read and listen in a focused, organized way, making notes, asking questions, jotting down things you don’t understand so as to follow them up later. If you just sit there, passively, and expect books or lecturers to give you all the answers, then you have missed the point of studies at this level.
- Your overall approach to both reading and writing will be analytical. Your job is not to learn exactly what your professors say, or what the book says, and then repeat it. Your job is to take what the professors say and what the books tell you and transform and reshape it to fit your purposes.
- You do not simply do the minimum, but rather keep your eyes and ears open for new sources of information outside and beyond the core course materials. If you find a good source – e.g., a magazine article, a TV documentary, you include it in your work as well, thus making a connection between the program and the world outside (and also enriching the experience for your teachers and fellow students).
Behaving in a professional manner implies that:
- You will read these guidelines and other rules and regulations pertaining to your studies
- You will be on time for appointments and classes or – if something hinders you – you will do your best to notify the relevant professor in advance, and explain your absence
- You will keep your own notes and records of your studies in a well-ordered way, with back-up of electronic records, so that you can study effectively and recall relevant material when you need to.
Finally, a brief word about examinations. On the courses where there are examinations, you will usually receive specific guidance about how to handle them. Looking back at exams in the past, however, it is easy to see that certain weaknesses are quite common. Most of these are relatively easy to correct, so we will list them here:
- Not answering the question set, but writing an answer to what you think the question is, or would have liked it to be! This is very common. The solution is to read the question carefully before you start writing. Make sure you have understood its meaning.
- Writing all you know about X. As indicated above, as an ESSB student you are expected to be analytic. Just writing down a long list of facts will seldom be enough to get you a pass. Good answers need an analysis and an argument.
- Failing to show that you have been on the course. You might be surprised how many students try to write ‘common sense’ general answers that make very little reference to the course materials (set book, lecture notes, etc.). That just is not good enough – we expect you to use the theories, concepts, evidence and examples which the course has provided you with.
- Poor time management. It can be heart-breaking for examiners reading an exam script which has three questions but only one or two answers – perhaps rather good answers. Sometimes shortage may happen because the student just knew nothing about the other questions. But more often it is because they ran out of time. Make sure you do not spend too much time on one question, so that you do not have time to complete all the answers. The maximum grade you can get for a question you have not answered is zero!