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Managing independent study

Hear from a range of students talk about their experiences of independent study at university and why it's an important skill to learn and develop.
Independent study is a very important skill. It’s not only, say it’s important for the current studies in the university, because we must show critical thinking on the reading. And we must have our own opinions. And also, it’s important in our future life because we may have to deal with problems in the work in the future. Becoming an independent learner is really challenging at the beginning, but you will get help from your tutor and workshop. As a PhD student, I spent most of my time studying on my own. But during the first year, I went to some classes. So that is about six hours a week. So recently, I have been working independently a lot.
I think one of the best strategies for me is to have a diary or planner, because you can see what you’re dealing within a week, or month, and you start to plan what you’re going to do. And the other strategy is to make a to do list the day before. Because before I go to bed, I usually list out what I’m going to do, and what I need to achieve by tomorrow, or the following week, so that I don’t get carried away. When I have big task, I will divide the task into small steps. I will try to finish the small steps one by one.
And when I finish all these steps, it shows that I’m moving forward to the finish line. I have deadlines that I agree with my supervisor, but I often finish my work a couple of days before the actual deadline so that I have time to cool down, and to look back what I have done, what I have written. So that I can come back and read what I have written with a fresh pair of eyes. Working independently doesn’t mean working alone, because if you’re struggling with something absolutely you need some help from your tutor, or from your friends, or from your colleagues. I think the universities are like the middle stage between schools and real world.
So the universities kind of prepare ourselves to be able to work independently. Unlike when we are in school, most of decisions are made by someone else, like teachers, or even parents. Communication is very important, because if you don’t really communicate, you can’t get– because PhD is a very long process. So if you don’t communicate, you can get depressed, and get stressed all the time. So it’s best to talk with your friends, and sometimes talk with your supervisor, or lecturer, so that they understand the situation even though it’s very difficult for you living alone in the UK, so yeah. I talk to my supervisor, and he helps me plan my work.
Not only with my supervisor, I also talk with someone else, like other lecturers in our department, and also my PhD colleagues. So all of them help verify what I’m doing is in the right direction, and all of them help me both mentally, emotionally, and academically.

Independent study means taking your own decisions about when, where, what and how you study. Many students, and particularly undergraduate students, are surprised at the extent to which they are expected to make such decisions, and find it difficult to adapt.

In this video four students, Yanting, Sitong, Ponjan and Yasir, talk about their experiences of independent study. One point made by three of the students is that independent study does not necessarily mean working alone all the time – the important thing is that you should take the initiative. So if you need advice, go and see your tutor, or talk to other students. Often talking about your work with another person, what you have written about and what you plan to write about, helps clarify ideas in your own mind.

We’d like to hear your thoughts on independent study.

  • When you’re studying alone, what can distract you from your work?

  • How do you deal with those distractions?

Share your responses in the comment area below.

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