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Academic Skills: A guide for staff 2017

Services and support we provide

The Academic Skills team can  provide help and expertise with any of the areas listed.  If you need a hand with a topic we haven't listed just get in touch.

Follow the links where appropriate for more information on that service, or contact us on academicskills@staffs.ac.uk or ring either  01782 294317 or 294560.

A-Z of services for staff

Academic Language

Need a brief guide to help your students to develop their written work? This link is to a brief explanation of some of the basic techniques which can be employed to improve written style:  Academic Language Fact Sheet.

Academic Reading

University students are required to evidence ideas, views and opinions through their reading. The ability to research and read effectively is crucial to the success. The focus of your reading will be on the subjects you are studying but students need to learn to read efficiently and to develop skills which will enable them to locate relevant information. This guide may help: Academic Reading Fact Sheet.

Academic Writing

Academic English is very different from everyday written English and academic writing is a skill which can be developed. If you feel you need to support your students in this way look at our Academic Writing Fact Sheet guide.

Backing up and saving your work

OneDrive which is part of Office 365 provides a large storage area for students and staff who use Office 365.  In addition, students have an H: drive where they can save their work which they can access from all university computers. They can also use USB drives or online providers such as Dropbox. We recommend students have at least two copies of important work on different types of storage as backups. They need to be aware that losing the only copy will not count as extenuating circumstances if they miss an assignment deadline!

Coping with exam stress

You may need to give students advice on how to prepare for the exam season - a time many of them find stressful. You may find it helpful to refer to the Exam Preparation Fact Sheet for some tips to help them cope.

Critical thinking

In order to write critically, it is important for students to support their thinking and justify their assertions with reliable research. This will enable them to give balanced and structured responses when writing essays and assignments. If you need to access our guide on this topic, please see the Critical Thinking Fact Sheet.

Delivering an effective presentation

Students often have to deliver presentations in the context of their assessment. There are two aspects they might need to think about - how to use the features in PowerPoint effectively and how to actually present. If you find that your students need some helpful hints on calming the nerves and doing this well look at our Presentation Skills Fact Sheet.

Digital Capabilities

Improving the digital capabilities for all staff and students is a strategic priority for the university. The Library, in partnership with the Academic Development Unit and Digital Services, delivers the Digital U digital skills programme of continuing professional development and support for all staff across Staffs Uni to develop their digital capabilities.  More detail is available on the Digital U section of Iris.

If your students need to develop specific digital skills the Academic Skills team may be able to help. We can offer training sessions within a module, or as an optional extra.Contact us on academicskills@staffs.ac.uk to discuss this. 

Essay terms explained

Students are often confused by essay terms like “critically evaluate”, “discuss”, “analyse” Refer them to the Instruction Words Guide or the Terms and Definitions Fact Sheet.

Essay writing

Making the transition to writing essays at University is often a daunting task for students. Help students to get the flow and structure correct and effectively demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and analysis. Use the Essay Writing Fact Sheet for useful tips.

Exam success

Help your students to prepare themselves for the exams. We have Fact Sheets on Exam Revision and Stress Management that cover some of the areas that can stress them the most.

Finding images

You may want your students to illustrate their work with pictures or images, especially if you are teaching an arts subject. You may wish them to photocopy or scan illustrations from journals or magazines or use images from the Internet. Remember many images are protected by copyright and so you must remind them to check whether permission is needed before downloading or copying images into their assignments. Images from a number of sites now have Creative Commons licences so these can be used if credit is given.. You can find further information and guidance in the Students’ Guide to copyright section of the Staffordshire University website.

A guide for students on finding images on the Internet is available. If you are interested in learning more about finding and using free-to-use images yourself we offer a training course.

Finding and evaluating web based resources

How can you help students find good quality material on the web? You could ask the Academic Skills team to come over and run a session for your students explaining how to find the best resources for their information needs (look at our meet the team guide to see who is your most appropriate contact). 

Gaining a good degree

Students are constantly worried about how they can ensure they achieve the best grades possible. In addition to hints and tips about studying their discipline they might need more generic support. Try referring them to the guide at Gaining a good degree.

Improving your reading skills

University students are required to evidence ideas, views and opinions through their reading. The ability to research and read effectively is crucial to success. The focus of their reading will be on the subjects being studied but students need to learn to read efficiently and to develop skills which will enable them to locate relevant information within books and journal articles. This guide may help. Academic Reading Fact Sheets.

Library Research

Subject librarians can help students and staff with research support at all levels from undergraduate to postdoctoral. We can give guidance in booked 121s to students handling dissertations for the first time or to academic colleagues handling literature reviews to support their own research. We can also give more generic guidance to cohorts of students undertaking research in relation to particular modules. See our Meet the Team page for a list of key contacts.

Literature Review

Subject librarians can help students and staff with research support at all levels from undergraduate to postdoctoral. We can give guidance in booked 121s to students handling dissertations for the first time or to academic colleagues handling literature reviews to support their own research. Check our Meet the team tab and contact the subject specialist for your area to make an appointment for yourself or one of your students. We also have a Literature Review Fact Sheet.

Making the most of your lectures

Students sometimes don't make effective use of lectures. Encourage them to prepare properly using the Lecture Preparation guide. Taking the right sort of notes can sometimes be an issue too. Refer them to our guide on Note Taking.

Managing Study Stress

Students often fail to achieve the highest grades because they can't cope with the level of stress which higher education entails. They may also have to juggle many commitments as well as their academic work. You can help them with the useful guide Managing study stress.

Mind Mapping

Students sometimes need to be introduced to new study techniques. Mind mapping uses a mapping process so you make connections with lines rather than sticking to a hierarchical form. You start with your central topic in the middle of a large blank sheet of paper and you make connections. There is mind mapping software installed on all student and staff PCs. Follow this link for a short tutorial on mind mapping

Note taking

Effective note-taking is an important skill for students to master - whether this is from lectures or their own reading. Good note-taking will help them avoid unintentional plagiarism, focus on the important points in what they are hearing or reading, help them understand the material and build connections and structure assignments. Some students can find this a difficult skill and therefore may not make the best use of their study time. Try referring students to our fact sheet on Note Taking.

Organising your work

Students have many calls on their time. As well as academic work they will have other commitments inside and outside the University, so it is important that they learn how to manage the conflicting demands for study, leisure and, for many, earning. Spreading the workload, prioritising tasks and setting achievable targets are all important aspects of organising their time. The ASK team have a number of tools and guides to help support students improve their organisational skills. The Assignment Survival Kit (http://www.staffs.ac.uk/ask) is a useful tool that will help them to plan their time and the steps they might need to follow to produce assignments. We also have a Fact Sheet on Time Management which you can refer them to.

Partnerships

We will work with you to evaluate partner colleges/institutions’ library facilities. We can attend pre- validation meetings and advise on resources needed and the best methods of making these available. Librarians can prepare the groundwork on learning resources, for example, locating the most suitable e-resources to support the course. It is worth remembering that even some electronic resources are accessible only on campus and also that licensing issues may impact on which resources are available overseas. Contact your subject librarian for more information.

Partnerships - affiliated colleges

If staff at UK partner institutions need to gain access to resources at Staffordshire University then they need to become an affiliated staff member. In order to do this, a colleague in the partner School needs to ask 3800 for an affiliated staff status for the colleague at the partner institution. Contact us at 3800@staffs.ac.uk  We will need to know the name and official college email address plus an indication of which services are required:

  • A Staffs Uni email account
  • Eresources access
  • Blackboard access

Planning a dissertation research project

Starting work on a dissertation may mean students need to use a wider range of resources than they have previously or improve their searching skills. Subject librarians can help students with research support and locating appropriate resources through booked 121s. They may also need some support with time management for planning this major piece of work or advice on academic writing. The Study Skills members of our team can help with these aspects. Some students may also need to use features within Word or Excel that they have not previously used and our IT Skills consultants can help with this. Our Meet the team page has contact information for all of the team.

Presentation Skills

Students often have to deliver presentations in the context of their assessment. There are two aspects they might need to think about - how to use the features in PowerPoint effectively and how to actually present. If you find that your students need some helpful hints on calming the nerves and doing this well look at the Presentation Skills fact sheet

Quality Assurance

Subject librarians with specialist knowledge of the resources needed to run successful modules and courses can assist you in the validation and re-validation process and help you find the best profile of resources to support learning at SU campuses as well as at partner colleges in the UK and beyond. Contact your subject librarian for more information.

Qualtrics online survey software

We have a license for all staff and students to use Qualtrics, a web-based survey software too.  This allows you to create online surveys using a wide range of question types, distribute these by web links, email or social media and produce reports to analyse results.

Qualtrics is accessed using your University username and password at http://staffordshire.qualtrics.com

Rebus (Reading Lists online)

Reading lists online enable you to have all your modular reading online with one click access to full text electronic journal articles, ebooks, journals, websites and blogs, plus live book holdings information from our library catalogue and a reserve items feature. We offer you free list set up and bespoke 1-2-1 training to help you compile your lists.

The web address for Reading Lists Online is http://staffs.rebuslist.com

Sign up at www.staffs.ac.uk/readinglists

Referencing and plagiarism

Learning how and why to reference and cite correctly is something that many students find challenging. To help students understand what is required we have developed RefZone website. This has information on why referencing correctly matters and guidance in specific referencing styles. The University’s officially adopted referencing system for most students is Harvard. Exceptions to this are Law (who use Oscola) and Psychology and Sport and Exercise modules (who use APA).

From September 2017 we have adopted the use of Cite Them Right Online (CTRO) Harvard, which provides a comprehensive online guide to referencing a wide range of sources, plus additional referencing support material. Students should be referred to this site to support them in referencing correctly. We still have a Harvard Quick Guide PDF document which covers the most common types of sources. This has been updated for CTRO Harvard.

Reflection

Reflection is an important skill for students to master. It is key to the Staffordshire Graduate ePortfolio and learning to question what they did, how they did it and what they learnt from doing it will help your students improve their marks and able to act on the feedback you supply. Reflection is not easy! To help students get started and get better at reflection point them to our Reflective Writing Fact Sheet.

Report Writing

Writing a report may be a new concept for students who are more used to writing essays. Help students to understand the differences between an essay and a report and get the format, style and structure correct with our Report Writing Fact Sheet.

Revision and exam skills

Help your students to prepare themselves for the exams. We have Fact Sheets on Exam PreparationExam Revision and Exam Techniques which may help them through what can be stressful times.

Social Media

We use a number of Social Media tools to help us communicate with students - through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/staffsunilibrary or @staffsunilib on Twitter. If you would like to know more about using Social Media yourself, please contact us. We can help point you in the right direction to get started and share some of our experiences

Successful group projects

Most students will need to undertake group work at some point. Not all students will feel confident doing this and working effectively in a group is likely to require skills that not all students will have. We can provide support with group work through our Group Work Fact Sheet, or we can run an embedded session for you to introduce some of the key concepts of group work.

Time management

Students have many calls on their time. As well as academic work there will be other commitments inside and outside the University, so it is important they learn how to manage the conflicting demands for study, leisure and, for many, earning. Spreading the workload, prioritising tasks and setting achievable targets are all important aspects of organising their time. The ASK team have a number of tools and guides to help support students improve their time management. The Assignment Survival Kit (http://www.staffs.ac.uk/ask) is a useful tool that will help them to plan their time and the steps they might need to follow to produce assignments. We also have Fact Sheets on Time Management which you can refer them to.

Using Excel

Some courses may require students to make use of Excel, which may be a new application for some of them, or they may not be very confident in using this. Whilst using some statistical features may be taught as part of a module, we can help students who need to improve their basic skills and confidence in using Excel.

The Lynda.com site has video tutorials on all of the Microsoft Office package programmes. If you would like to improve your own skills there are a number of digital capability training courses available on Microsoft Excel. These sessions cover topics such as using functions and formulas, using charts, working with data and using pivot tables. Dates are advertised on Iris under Digital U.

Using PowerPoint

Students often have to deliver presentations in the context of their assessment and it is likely that they will use Microsoft PowerPoint for this. Not all students may be aware of how to use this effectively or know the features available which can help them create a better presentation. Increasingly students are being asked to create academic posters as part of an assessment and PowerPoint is an effective tool for this. This may again require them to use features of the software they have not needed to use previously.

We can provide support to students in a number of ways. The Lynda.com site has video tutorials on all of the Microsoft Office package programmes.

If you would like to improve your own skills there are a number of digital capability training courses available on Microsoft PowerPoint. These sessions cover a general introduction as well as topics such as using sound and video and using images and SmartArt.  Dates are advertised on Iris under Digital U

Using Word

Although many students are likely to have used Word previously, they may not be very confident in using this or may not be aware of some of the features which could be particularly helpful. In particular students who are starting work on longer documents such as dissertations may need help with using heading styles, creating a table of contents, creating sections etc.

We can provide support to students in a number of ways. Lynda.com site has video tutorials on all of the Microsoft Office package programmes.

If you would like to improve your own skills there are a number of digital capabilities training courses available on Microsoft Word. These sessions cover topics such as using styles, reviewing and sharing documents and using images/SmartArt.  Dates are advertised on Iris under Digital U

Validation

We can attend pre-validation meetings and advise on resources needed and the best methods of making these available. Librarians can prepare the groundwork on learning resources, for example, locating the best and most suitable e-resources to support the course. Contact your subject librarian for more information.

We have also prepared suggested generic content which you can use in module handbooks.

Writing a dissertation  

Writing a major piece of work such as a dissertation can be a daunting challenge. Once students have undertaken their research knowing how to structure and write this up appropriately can be difficult - especially knowing how to get started and meet the School/Faculty requirements. Members of the ASK team can help students with time management or advice on academic writing. Some students may also need to use features within Word or Excel that they have not previously used and our IT Skills consultants can help with this. Our Meet the team page has contact information for all of the team.

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