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Critical thinking

One of the most important aspects of academic work is the ability to think critically about what you read, what you write and what you are told.

Rather than accept all information as truth, you need to test the validity of others’ standpoints in order to arrive at your own point of view.

When you think critically, you are being active; you are not passively accepting everything you read and hear, but questioning, evaluating, making judgements, finding connections and categorising. Critical thinking is necessary in order to form judgements in lectures and tutorials; when reading and when writing assignments.

Critical thinking at university

Students often ask why critical thinking is required at university and what it means to be a critical thinker.

Critical thinking has been variously defined but the following two definitions may help you to understand it better.

Critical thinking is a process, the goal of which is to make reasonable decisions about what to believe and what to do (p.xvii).

Ennis, R. H 1996, Critical thinking,  Prentice-Hall, NJ.

Critical thinking is evaluating whether we should be convinced that some claim is true or some argument is good, as well as formulating good arguments. p. 5

Critical thinking as a tool for decision making

Weighing up alternatives in order to make decisions is part of the critical thinking process. For example, think about the  following activities and ask yourself what strategies you would use to come to a decision about:

  • buying a car
  • choosing where to go for a holiday
  • selecting a university course
  • moving to a different city.

In each of the activities listed above, you probably noticed that you would  have to find information, analyse and evaluate the alternatives in relation to your aims and requirements and reach a conclusion. All of these processes are part of critical analysis; thinking critically is an activity you use in making decisions and evaluating different possibilities.

What does critical thinking involve?

Critical thinking involves active involvement. You are not passively accepting everything that you read or hear but are questioning, evaluating, categorising information and making connections within the text and comparing what the author is saying with other experts who have written on the same topic.

At university you are asked to think critically when you read academic texts, when you write academic assignments and when you present in tutorials or seminars.

Reading critically

One of the key strategies you can use when reading critically is to ask yourself a series of questions. Begin by asking questions which relate to the text overall and then look at the author’s argument and the evidence used to support it.

Examine the overall credibility of the text

The first level of reading critically

  • Who is the author and when was this written?
  • What is the author’s approach and perspective?
  • What is the author saying? (Try to sum up the argument in your own words)
  • What are the main points of this text?
  • Who/what is left out of the text?
  • On first reading, does this seem a credible argument? Why?

Examine the argument and the evidence

(These questions will help you to evaluate the validity of the argument and enable you to better understand how the argument has been developed and supported).

  • What evidence has been presented to support the argument?
  • What is the quality of the evidence?(Is the evidence anecdotal or supported by research and/or scientific study?)
  • Is the evidence referenced? (or is the author relying solely on their own research?)
  • Is the evidence recent and relevant?
  • Is there a logical development of ideas?
  • Which parts of the argument do I agree with and why?
  • Which parts of the argument do I disagree with and why?
  • What assumptions does the author make?

Analyse the style and tone of the argument

  • Is the argument clearly expressed?
  • Does the writer’s language, tone or choice of examples reveal any biases? If so do these biases reduce the credibility of the argument?
  • Does the author use emotive terms or examples to persuade the reader?
  • Do these strategies enhance or detract from the argument?

Overall assessment of the writing

  • Does the writing challenge your own biases, assumptions and beliefs?
  • Are you capable of reviewing your beliefs/assumptions in the light of the argument presented?
  • What were the strengths of the argument?
  • What were the weaknesses of the argument?
  • How convincing was this piece of writing?
  • What connections do you see between this text and other texts?
Critical thinking for academic writing

When writing at university, your aim is to convince the reader by using critical thinking to promote your argument. Ask yourself the following questions when you are planning and writing your first draft.

  • What is your purpose in writing?
  • Have you clearly formulated your thesis/argument?
  • Have you gathered the evidence to support your argument?
  • Have you provided your reader with accurate references?
  • Is your argument rational and logical?
  • Have you read widely to gain a broad perspective on the topic?
  • Have you expressed yourself clearly? Have you used examples to illustrate your point?
  • Have you been accurate in your claims?
  • Have you addressed the question?
  • Is the evidence you are using relevant?
  • Have you explored this topic in depth or have you just skimmed over the surface?
  • Have you structured your argument effectively and  provided the reader with an effective/relevant introduction and conclusion?
Critical thinking underpinning tutorial/seminar presentations

Before giving a presentation it is vital to consider your purpose, the needs of your audience and how best to research and present the topic.  These considerations will help you to structure your talk so that it is relevant (on topic) and meaningful to your audience.

Consider the content of your presentation in terms of the questions listed in the previous section (critical thinking for academic writing) but remember that this is an oral presentation and you have to engage your audience and sustain their interest in the topic.

Using your critical thinking skills will help you to research, plan and anticipate any questions that may arise in relation to the topic.

Critical thinking is a vital aspect of academic engagement and the more you practice developing these skills, the better you will be at analysing, questioning and evaluating your own writing as well as the academic texts you encounter at university.

Reading and researching

At university, you will be required to read widely. This section provides strategies you can use to effectively read a cross-section of academic texts.

Apart from reading your texts books, you will be required to locate and read support material, such as journal articles, for every assignment you do. 

Effective reading strategies

Practically every university course will require you to do some reading as part of your study. How much reading will vary depending on the subject.

Some useful resources from the CDU Library are:

It is important to adapt how you read to suit the material and your purpose for reading. Depending on what you are reading and why, you will find some of the following strategies useful.


Skimming involves reading key parts of the text. You can use it when you need to get an overview of an author's main line of argument.

Two basic skim-reading techniques


This strategy is based on the idea that all well-written articles, essays and chapters of books are structured in the following way:

  • introduction
  • body
  • conclusion.

This means that the central ideas should be presented three times:

  • noted briefly in the introduction
  • discussed in detail in the body of the text
  • reviewed briefly in the conclusion.

The beginning and ending paragraphs of a text should provide summaries of its central ideas.

The strategy here is to carefully read:

  • the first few paragraphs of each chapter or section
  • the final paragraph or conclusion of each chapter or section.

First sentences

This strategy assumes that the first or opening sentence of each paragraph introduces the main point(s) to be discussed in that paragraph.

Reading only the opening sentence of each paragraph often gives you a clearer understanding of the author's reasoning and the structure of the argument than just relying on the introduction and conclusion.

Once you have established that the material is what you need then you can re-read it.

First sentence technique

The first sentence technique is also an effective strategy to use when note taking from books (and/or chapters of books) and articles. It can be used to create effective summaries of other people's writings - remembering, of course, that the sentences are still the author's words.

Once you have created the summaries you will still have to rewrite them in your own words. This is known as paraphrasing.


Most people use scanning to read web pages when surfing the internet. Scanning helps you establish where in a book or article specific information is located.

How do I scan?

Suppose you have found a book whose title looks very promising in terms of the information that you are seeking.

Step one

Open the book and look at the table of contents, located at the front of the book. It will list most, but not necessarily all of the following subsections:

  • a preface
  • a list of diagrams or tables or illustrations
  • an introduction
  • the various chapters in sequence from 1 to n
  • a conclusion
  • a bibliography
  • an index.

Step two

Read the chapter headings. Do they contain the information that you are looking for? If not, then go to the index at the back of the book.

Step three

Search the index for relevant topics or keywords. If this also draws a blank, then the put the book away and look for another that might be more fruitful for your topic.

Step four

When you find a relevant reference:

  • in the table of contents go to the appropriate section of the book and read the first two paragraphs. These often contain a statement about what information will be covered. This will help you to assess whether the material is relevant for your topic. If you are still uncertain about the usefulness of the material, then read the final two paragraphs of the summary
  • in the index go to the appropriate page or pages in the book. Find the paragraph in which the reference appears. Read the paragraph. If necessary, read the paragraph before and after the one specified by index entry.
Keyword spotting - key information

Looking for key information involves looking in a given paragraph of passage of words for the key words that are relevant for your topic. It is a process that can be used in conjunction with scanning.

Finding key information

Keywords and ideas are often found in the opening paragraphs of a chapter or subsection of a chapter. Pay particular attention to the opening sentence and the opening paragraph.

Look for any hints given by the author. These might include:

  • underlining
  • bolding
  • italics
  • subheadings
  • section breaks.

Reading in detail helps you to:

  • gain a full understanding of material
  • analyse and evaluate what you have read
  • follow instructions or directions
  • understand difficult terms or ideas.
Analytical reading

Analytic reading involves reading in an active and systematic way so that you gain an understanding of what you are reading.

Two approaches to understanding what you read are:

  1. the SQ3R technique
  2. thinking through reading.

The SQ3R technique

S - Survey

  • Glance through the whole chapter, section, or article
  • Read the introduction
  • Read the headings and subheadings (How is the text organised?)
  • Read any content overview, chapter summary or ...
  • Skim for key questions, key information

Q - Question

For each section ask:

  • What is the main point?
  • What evidence is there to support that point?
  • What examples explain the main point?
  • How does this section fit in with the rest of the text?

R1 - Read

Begin to read the material section by section. Actively search for the answer to the questions you have asked yourself. Make notes about important points.

Link the information with what you already know and use this to help evaluate the author’s statements.

R2 - Recite

After reading each section, recall the important points – say these aloud and write them down in the margins of the text. Make your notes in short phrases rather than full sentences. You may also highlight key information.

R3 - Review

Look back over the whole chapter or article at the way the information fitted together and how it addressed each of your questions. Think about what you have understood from the reading. Summarise the main ideas of the text in writing. Rewrite the notes you have taken (or paraphrase underlined sections) for easy review/reference later.

Thinking through reading

This technique involves enhancing your understanding of what you read by recognising the level of information that it contains. This involves three levels of recognition:

  • What does the writer say?
    • This is literal recognition. It is concerned with the surface information conveyed by the writer's words.
  • What does the writer mean?
    • This is interpretive recognition. We infer meaning from what the writer says. This is what is usually meant when we talk about reading between the lines.
  • How do I connect this with what I already know or need to know?
  • This is connective recognition. We look for connections between the literal and interpretive meanings with what we already know or need to know. In this way, we can:
    • find new solutions for problems
    • reach a new understanding
    • change our view.
Critical reading

Critical reading involves exercising your judgement about what you are reading. It involves you evaluating the arguments or positions presented by the writer. You ask questions of the claims or statements made by the author, and then seek to provide answers for those questions.

Common questions include:

  • What is the evidence for this argument?
  • Do I agree with it?
    • If so, what is my evidence for agreement?
    • If not, what is my evidence to counter the author's argument?
  • What alternative perspectives are possible here?

Make a note of your answers and any other relevant questions and challenges that you think of.

Reading and thinking critically involves more than claiming that some idea, argument, or piece of writing is faulty. It involves presenting a reasoned argument that analyses what you are reading. Being critical, in a scholarly sense, is concerned with advancing our understanding, not closing it off.

Reading difficult texts

The most effective way to read a difficult text is to break the task into parts, and only work on one section of the text at a time.

For each section:

  1. scan the section checking headings and subheadings and look at how the text is organised
  2. read the introductory and concluding paragraphs to get a general idea of what is in that part of the text
  3. read the text, shorter sections at a time. As you read, Look up any key words that you don’t understand and can’t guess from the context;
    at the end of each part:
    • look away and try to restate what you think the text is saying
    • write down a few notes
    • mark any parts that you do not understand and come back to them later.
  4. even if you don’t understand very well what you are reading, keep on going as the ideas may become clearer later in the text
  5. reread parts of the text that are still not clear to you
  6. if you are still finding the text difficult, leave it for 24 hours and come back to it. You may find that a second or third reading will give you a better understanding of the text.

Effective (re)searching

Assignments are designed to allow you to demonstrate your understanding of the concepts and theories that are the content of your unit. They should also assist in your development as researchers, that is, "seekers and users of information".

Being a seeker of information means more than web surfing. It means employing a structured, systematic process that can be summarised in seven steps.

Brainstorm the topic

A useful tool for this is a mind map. This will help you to clarify and understand the key concepts of the topic

Don’t forget to include any readings or lecture/tutorial content that fit this topic.

Find keywords

Looking for key information involves looking in a given paragraph or passage of words for the keywords that are relevant for your topic. It is a process that can be used in conjunction with scanning.

Keywords and ideas are often found in the opening paragraphs of a chapter or subsection of a chapter. Pay particular attention to the opening sentence and the opening paragraph.

Look for any hints given by the author. These might include:

  • underlining
  • bolding
  • italics
  • subheadings
  • section breaks.

Once you have established what the key information is, you will need to read it in detail.

Reading in detail helps you to:

  • gain a full understanding of material
  • analyse and evaluate what you have read
  • follow instructions or directions
  • understand difficult terms or ideas.
Boolean search

You need to get a broader understanding of the task by testing your key words in a Boolean search.

Look for information in:

  • books
  • journals (databases)
  • online dictionaries and encyclopaedias.
Evaluate your search results

Have you found too much information? Have you found too little information? Review your research results and decide if you need to narrow or widen your search terms. It might be necessary to repeat steps 2 and 3.

The researching skills (CDU Library) workshop explains periodicals (journals) databases, Boolean search strategies and ways of reviewing your search.

Skim and scan

When you find information, it won’t all be suitable. Use skimming and scanning techniques to decide which items you will use and which you will discard.

Make notes

Active readers make notes.

Your notes should include:

  • title (book/ chapter, article/ journal, website)
  • author(s)/editors
  • date published.

Always note page numbers against individual notes. This will save you a lot of time when you are actually writing your paper.

Learn how to transform a journal reference to an APA 7th referencing style.

Need help? 

If you need help, ask:

Note making

One of the most valuable skills you need to develop at university is the ability to make notes effectively.

Good skills in taking and making notes will help you, as an active learner, to organise, categorise and recall information you can use when completing assignments or revising for exams. You can experiment with different strategies to find those which best suit your purpose and learning style.

You will find information here about taking notes during lectures and making notes after lectures, as well as from written texts. You will also learn about different techniques such as paraphrasing, annotation and diagrams. Some examples of different layouts you can use to organise your notes are available for you to explore.

Effective note making

Effective note makers are efficient learners. Effective note making is a skill that each person develops over time and with practice to suit their own style of working.

You will find some ideas to help you start on this path in this section.

What effective note makers do

Effective note makers:

  • can recognise the main ideas
  • know which information is relevant to their purpose
  • have developed a system that works for them
  • can keep it brief and may also use visual diagrams/mindmaps/flowcharts
  • mostly use their own words (as well as specialist words)
  • record details of the source (bibliographic information such as author, date etc.)
  • capture the ideas and thoughts that come to mind as they listen or read. This could be how it relates to an assignment and how they might use it, questions to follow up, or critical comments.
Helpful tips for note making


  • Practice! Try taking brief notes from a television show you are watching, (e.g. a news item; short documentary), or from a short magazine article.
  • Translate information into your own words (paraphrase) and summarise
  • Record the bibliographic details of the source
  • Organise notes in some form (it could be as outlines, flowcharts, diagrams, lists, column styles)
  • Review your notes while the text or lecture is still fresh in your memory. Fill in any gaps you see or further thoughts.
  • Try other methods to record your notes such as recording your voice or typing on a laptop
  • Research note taking skills and experiment to develop a system that works for you!


  • Don’t try to write every word – select the major points and important information (especially if you are taking notes in a lecture)
  • Don’t write complete sentences, streamline with abbreviations and symbols, organise – leave out the small connecting words (such as was, the, this).

How to take notes from...


During the lecture

What you decide to note, and in how much detail, will depend to some extent, on your subject and what you need the notes for.

If the information in the lecture is not available anywhere else, or very difficult to obtain from other sources, then your notes will need to be as detailed as possible.

However if the information is readily available in books or journals (especially a set textbook for the subject), then you should focus on the points or issues that are highlighted by the lecturer.

There are some common features that you might need to note down:

  • main points as emphasised by the lecturer
  • topic specific terms, phrases and key words
  • definitions
  • examples
  • diagrams
  • formulae (and their derivations if appropriate)
  • calculations
  • relevant questions and answers.

After the lecture

Immediately after the lecture (or as soon as possible and certainly within twenty-four hours) review your notes. This will enable you to:

  • identify any gaps in the information and add in any new information that you might have thought of since the lecture
  • formulate questions that need further research
  • highlight key points
  • add relevant references and link them to the main points of the lecture.

Storing your notes

Store your notes in a loose-leaf folder, or a ring binder, so that you can move the pages around as well as add any new material such as handouts and other reference matter.

Regular revision

It is a good idea to revise your notes on a regular, ongoing basis, say for five to ten minutes once a week. Each time you skim through your notes the material will become a little more firmly embedded in your memory.


In most subjects, books and scholarly journals will provide the largest source of material for your notes.

What you decide to note, and the amount of detail will depend, to some extent, on your purpose for taking notes. However, there are some common features that you might wish to include:

  • main points and relevant supporting details
  • topic specific terms, phrases and key words
  • definitions
  • diagrams
  • formulae (and their derivations if appropriate)
  • calculations
  • quotes.

Note making strategies

Planning how to go about taking and making notes involves thinking about techniques, tools, layouts and how you will use your notes. There are also some issues to consider such as permission to make audio recordings of lectures or to photograph slide presentations.

There are many different ways to take and make notes and some tools you may want to try, bearing in mind copyright issues. Thinking about how your notes can be used for revision and for writing your assignments is also important. Using abbreviations for common words will save you time so you can focus on essential ideas and information.



 This involves you adding comments to a text that explain or critique what you have read. These can be written in the margins and may accompany words you have highlighted to identify key information. Of course, this would not be on borrowed texts!


They are a more visual form of taking notes. They could be mind-maps, charts, tables, graphs, or perhaps a drawing to capture a process or cycle for example.


This means expressing the ideas and information of others in your own words. Transforming the original source material helps you to understand it.


And finally, summaries are focused on the main points of the source material so they are a shorter overview.


Pens, pencils, coloured highlighters and paper note pads are familiar tools for hand written notes. However, there are other effective tools for recording lecture material and for making notes electronically on a computer, tablet, iPad or smartphone for example. A variety of note-taking software and mobile applications are also available.

It can be useful to audio record lectures for later review and follow-up note making. Digital recorders are increasingly affordable and files can be transferred to a computer. Many mobile phones also enable audio recording. Mobile devices such as iPads and other tablets and smartpens are becoming popular options.  

Note that you have sought the permission of the lecturer to make such digital recordings.


Intellectual copyright is a crucial issue to consider when recording audio or photographing presentation slides in lectures.

You must have the permission of the lecturer to record these. Some lecturers may provide students with a copy of their lecture and/or presentation slides on their unit site or by request.

Using notes for revision

Your notes are a key part of your revision strategies when preparing for exams, or indeed, for preparing for active, informed participation in tutorials and when researching for and writing your assignments. Organising and reviewing your notes can also help you make connections between individual ideas and gain an overview of the whole subject.

You will need to revisit and work on the notes you have taken throughout the semester.

  • Organise notes in a logical way so you can find important information quickly.
  • Read them again, highlighting key words and ideas.
  • Summarise your notes to help remember ideas and information – your goal now is to minimise them to serve as a memory aid.
  • Consider creating mindmaps or brief outlines to summarise.

Remember, revision is best done throughout the semester, not just when exams are scheduled. Time management is very important as your semester plan should include exam preparation and dates, supported by specific weekly plans for the week leading up to and during your exams.

Abbreviations for making notes

Whichever note-making layout you choose to use, you may find it useful to use abbreviations and shortened versions of commonly used words. This will help you save time with writing so that you can concentrate on noting the essential points or ideas. Some common abbreviations are listed below.

About, regarding, concerningre
Against, opposite, versusvs
And&, +
And otherset al
And so on, so forthetc
Approximately, roughly, round about
Can't, couldn'tcx
Confused, clarify?
Confused totally???!!!
Don't, does notdx
Down, declining, decreasing
Each way
Equal to or greater than
Equal to or less than
Greater than>
Infinity, forever, always
Less than<
Man/men, male(s)
Member of
Negative, bad, not
Necessary, necessarily
Notnx or —
Not a member of
Not the same as, does not equal
Plus or minus±
Positive, good, plus, in addition+
Possibly, possible
Same as, equals, identical=
Should bes/b
Sum of, collectively
That isie
Unequal, not the same as
Up, rising, increasing
Very important**
Withw/ or c
Woman/women, female(s)

Note layouts

There are many ways you can lay out your notes. Some common approaches are demonstrated in this section: linear notes, key word trees, mind maps, networks and the herringbone technique. Links to other ideas for layouts, including the Cornell Method, are also provided.

Linear notes

Taking notes in a linear or sequential fashion is probably the most common way of laying out your notes. A wide left-hand margin is used so that you can add material to your notes at a later date.

Details of lecture, book or article.


Wide left hand margin.

Approximately one third of your page.

This allows you to add material either

  • during the lecture.
  • when reviewing your notes.
  • when doing other research.


  1. Key point
    • supporting point.
    • supporting point.
    • supporting point.


  2. Key Point
    • supporting point.
    • supporting point.
    • supporting point.


Keyword tree
Keyword tree graphic
Mind map

In this style of notetaking the information is represented in a diagrammatical form. Many different types of diagrams can be used such as key word trees, networks, and herringbone techniques.

As a general rule the main idea or topic is written in the centre of the page (or in a prominent position) with key points added around it in a cluster fashion branching out from the central idea.

Mind map

Mind maps are extremely useful ways of organising ideas. However, you are restricted to using key words. This requires you to be concise but it can be difficult if there is a large bulk of information and it cannot easily be condensed.

Mind maps are also very effective in helping you organise material when you are planning an essay outline.


This basically makes use of a slash pattern to organise ideas. It is especially useful if you are trying to map out the ideas in a debate or controversy. It enable opposing ideas to be mapped e.g. pros/cons, costs/benefits, advantages/disadvantages, and so on.

Network graphic


Herringbone technique

The herringbone technique, so-named because it resembles a fish skeleton, is useful for analysing a single idea.

You ask of the main idea Who?, What?, When?, Where?, Why?, and How? In so doing you are able to represent the key idea and aspects of its supporting data.

Herringbone technique graphic
Three column approach

This example comes from Monash University, Language and Learning Online, and is part of an excellent interactive resource on note making.

three column approach

Organising notes

How to organise your notes

You may have explored some note layouts you can use to record, review and annotate what you read and hear as part of your learning, but it is also important to organise and store your notes effectively for easy access.

Useful tips

  • Use a separate file for each subject area
  • Use file dividers to separate major topics
  • Use a separate page for each minor topic
  • Label files and dividers clearly
  • Number and label pages so you can find and re-file them quickly
  • Keep an updated contents page at the front of each file.

If you are making notes electronically, either by creating documents or audio recordings for example, you also need to manage your digital media.

  • Create a separate digital folder for each subject area
  • Create separate folders within the subject folder for major topics
  • Create separate documents saved in the appropriate folder for each minor topic
  • Name your folders and files meaningfully and logically
  • Include page numbers and document labels in headers and/or footers.

Find more information about managing and protecting your work in below.

Managing your studies

Successfully completing a university degree does not happen by accident.  You need to manage three particular aspects of life to be successful at university – time, everyday life and all its demands, and the physical and digital environment in which you study. 

Time management is important because part of your responsibility at university is to read, to research and to write independently. You will need to plan carefully to ensure that you submit all of your assignments on time and attend all lectures and tutorials whether on campus or online. 

In addition, you need to balance university commitments with family and work commitments. Included in this is maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy body by taking time away from study for recreation and developing social relationships as well as eating a well-balanced diet. 

You will need to find a physical place to study and store your materials in a logical and neat fashion.

Finally, you need to know and understand how to operate in a computer environment, especially saving, protecting and storing your digital files.

Time management

Time management is an integral part of any major project, including studying for a degree. Therefore, you need to manage your time effectively in order to sustain a balance between study, work and other life commitments.

Planning your time increases your chances of enjoying life as a student and helps to reduce stress about assignment deadlines and exams.

Good time management requires that you take a pro-active approach – know yourself, your goals, strengths and weaknesses – know how you are currently using your time and how you need to reorganise it.

Try using the weekly and semester planners provided below and once completed, display them in a prominent place at home where everyone who needs to can see them.

Time management tips

Your time inventory

Complete this inventory to work out where your time goes. Be as honest as possible to find out how many hours per week you have for study.

Plan a weekly timetable

Use this weekly planner to schedule your activities. It will need to be revised at regular intervals to adjust for changes such as different work hours and family commitments. The five or six weeks before and during exams may particularly require adjustment.

Create a semester plan

Use this semester planner to mark in minor and major assignment due dates and/or exams. Refer to your Unit Information guides. Don’t forget about other important commitments. These could be family and work events or even a major sporting or cultural event you are interested in.

Assignment scheduler

Enter the date your assignment is due to get a plan for the time you have available.

Access the assignment scheduler.

Time management calculator

Use this interactive time management tool to see a breakdown of your hours per week available for study and everyday activities.

Access the time management calculator.

Creating a study space

Creating a study environment that works for you will help you to focus on your learning and enjoy your studies.

Checking the personal resources available to you at home, at university and other places, as well as within yourself, can reveal any aspects you need to focus on. These resources could include a space to work, equipment, support people and your own skills, attitudes and study habits.

This section shares ideas on creating your work space, organising resources and doing your best to ensure you don’t lose your work by backing it up and using anti-virus software.

Creating your work space

It’s important to claim a space which you can identify as your study space. Many students use their bedroom for study; however, your bedroom may be associated with the idea of rest and sleep, which doesn’t make it ideal for study. Nonetheless, it may be possible to screen off a corner of your bedroom or of some other room in your house which you can make into a study space.

The space you prefer may not be completely silent as there may be family noise in the background; however, that won’t necessarily disturb you. It may indeed comfort you.

Ask your family or your flat mates to respect the place you have created as your study space.

Stock up with the necessary tools and equipment such as pens, staples, folders etc, and know that they won’t be disturbed by others. Have a desk that is big enough for the job, and a chair that comfortably fits it. Make it your space; an inviting place; one that means learning and creating and being challenged and stimulated.

Organising your resources

Managing your studies includes considering the resources available to support you. These can be at home, university and elsewhere. Consider too the personal resources and attributes that you bring to your studies.

Work through this checklist to help you identify the resources you already have. If you can see some gaps, give these areas some thought or discuss them with friends or fellow students who may be able to provide some helpful tips.

My Resources
PlacesExperience in
  • A separate study area
  • A shelf for folders, books etc.
  • ...
  • Library
  • Computer lab
  • ...
  • Local library
  • Internet cafe
  • ...
  • Organising events/family
  • Formal study
  • ...
ThingsAbility in
  • A computer
  • A reading lamp
  • ...
  • Student ID
  • A computer
  • ...
  • Transport (own car, public)
  • USB (memory) stick
  • Headset/microphone
  • ...
  • Making friends
  • Completing tasks
  • Perserverance
  • ...
  • A babysitter
  • Friends
  • People who support your studies
  • ...
  • Tutor
  • Indigenous support person
  • Library staff
  • Counsellor
  • Learnline support
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...
  • Motivated
  • Willing to try
  • Like learning
  • ...

Adapted from: Cottrell, S 2003, The Study Skills Handbook, 2nd edition, Palgrave MacMillan Ltd

Don't lose your work

Back up your work

Studying in the twenty-first century means knowing how to operate in a computer environment. Word processing, internet and file management skills are essential. However, learning how to save, store and protect your digital files is especially important.

Lecturers expect students to ensure they have backup copies of their assignments so that if a technical or other problem arises, they are still able to submit their work. Digital (electronic) files can easily be backed up to avoid the distress of losing your work.

Some helpful tips

  • Always save a copy of your latest version of an assignment in at least two locations, such as on your computer’s hard drive, on a removable flash (or thumb) drive, on a writable CD, or on larger removable media such as an external hard drive.
  • Email yourself a copy of the latest draft so that you can access it easily.
  • While writing successive drafts of an assignment, try naming the file with the date in it for version control, or with a version number. For example:

MyName_XYZ123_Assignment-1_v2.docx or MyName_XYZ123_Assignment-1_17Apr12.docx

  • Your lecturer may ask you to name a file a specific way before you submit it. Check your assignment instructions.

Protect your computer from viruses

Virus protection for your computer and files is also essential. Computer viruses are a common threat that can not only damage or destroy your files, but also spread easily to other computers through USB drives for example.

We recommend you have a current and up-to-date anti-virus program installed on your personal computer. These programs are usually set to regularly check for and download updates so that the most recent viruses can be recognised and managed.

Many new computers come with an anti-virus program which will eventually need to be renewed to ensure it stays current and effective.  There is also a small number of basic free anti-virus programs available for personal use from reputable companies.

Memory tools

Improve your ability to learn and recall information for your studies and everyday life. Find out more

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