Study Strategies: We’re Open for the Summer!
Congratulations! You made it through the Spring semester. For some, Summer classes will be starting up in a few weeks. For others, class is a distant memory until the Fall semester begins in August. Regardless of your course situation, we wanted to let you know that we are open for the summer! The Weingarten Learning Resources Center is staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday all summer long and we’re able to meet in person or over the Bluejeans online platform if you are not on campus. While your next set of courses may seem far away, we are always here for you to get a head start on planning or to help tie up any loose ends from the semester. Here are some ways we can support you this summer:
- Resolve incompletes:
Work with a learning instructor to create a plan to finish any incompletes you may have. We can make a schedule with realistic, manageable goals that you can accomplish during your summer vacation. We can also discuss how to communicate your action plan with professors.
- Time management/exam preparation strategies for summer courses:
Summer courses are unique because they meet several times a week for many hours at a time. Midterms and finals are also closer together due to the short timeframe of the summer session. Because of the time demands for each summer course, it is helpful to set up a study/work schedule in order to get everything accomplished. We have summer planning calendars available at the office!
- Prepare for the upcoming Fall semester:
Spend some time reflecting on what went well during this past semester while setting goals for the upcoming semester. You can also discuss new study strategies that you hope to try, or new time management tools that may work for you.
Once you’re back on campus in the Fall, be sure to reach out to us for an appointment ASAP. We are excited to help you prepare for the new academic year. Have a great summer!
Staff Writer: Cassie Lo
Time Management: The Tomato Method
With readings days fast approaching and finals week close behind, we are all struggling at the end of the semester to find motivation for this last push before the summer break. Ugh, why can’t it be here already? If you’re like me right now, who is so close to feeling burned out, finding the patience and determination to stay focused on small or large tasks seem daunting and unrealistic. One method that I have heard and used as a great strategy for those with short attention spans or low drive would include The Pomodoro Technique, also more simply and commonly known as The Tomato Method.
This time management technique was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. It’s super easy to implement and can increase productivity when doing tasks. Look at it this way: it’s like you have to run miles and miles to get to your destination, but with the Tomato Method, you accomplish this by doing many sprints with short breaks in between. That way you don’t just procrastinate and give up at the beginning of the line. There are tasks when we can just fly through them, but others times, its just such a drag. In a way, this technique is a lot like chunking your time and task. Check out this short 2 minute video that explains how to get started. Here is a quick summary on how to it all works:
If you want to use some other websites or other apps on your tech besides a simple time keeper, here’s a list from LifeHacker.com that might be useful as well:
- Marinara Timer (Web) is a webapp we’ve highlighted before that you can keep open in a pinned tab. You can select your timer alerts so you know when to take a break, or reconfigure the work times and break times to suit you. It’s remarkably flexible, and you don’t have to install anything.
- Tomighty (Win/Mac/Linux) is a cross-platform desktop Pomodoro timer that you can fire and forget, following the traditional Pomodoro rules, or use to customize your own work and break periods.
- Pomodorable (OS X) is a combination Pomodoro timer and to-do app. It offers more visual cues when your tasks are complete and what you have coming up next, and it integrates nicely with OS X’s Reminders app. Plus, you can estimate how many pomodoros you’ll need to complete a task, and then track your progress.
- Simple Pomodoro (Android) is a free, open-source timer with a minimal aesthetic. Tap to start the timer and get to work, and take your breaks when your phone’s alarm goes off. You can’t do a lot of tweaking to the work and break periods, but you get notifications when to take your breaks and when to go back to work, and you can go back over your day to see how many Pomodoros you’ve accomplished over the day. It even integrates with Google Tasks.
- Focus Timer (iOS) used to be calledPomodoroPro , and is a pretty feature-rich timer for iPhone and iPad. You can customize work and break durations, review your work history to see how your focus is improving, easily see how much time is left in your work session, and the app even offers a star-based rating system to keep you motivated. You can even customize the sounds, and hear the clock ticking when you lock your phone so you stay on task.
Say “bye bye procrastination!” with this technique. Try it out! Or come into Weingarten to try it out with a Learning Instructor.
Staff Writer: Victoria Singh Gill
Bigger Pictures: Make a Note
“I don’t know what I think until I’ve written about it.” ~ Various Attributions
Of all the things I talk about here at your learning center, the one I always feel a little bit guilty about is notetaking. I always feel like the subject is like a benignly neglected child in a big family, the kid who basically raises herself in a household that is far too stretched and busy to worry about someone who is more or less okay. That’s notetaking.
Academic notetaking has been largely conscribed by one thing: the lecture. And historically, this makes sense. Back in the mists of time, professors would intone and, well, profess, and students would scratch away, trying to get down every word. It wasn’t uncommon for “serious” students to learn how to take shorthand in order to get down every word. This technique can be described as truly Mediaeval, with its roots planted firmly in the monastic scriptorium, where sacred text was read aloud while Brother Scribes took down copy. What a gig.
Academia has embraced a few technological advances since the Monastic era, most notably the slide deck. Ah, yes. PowerPoint. Our frenemy. No matter where you come down on the ubiquitous deployment of PowerPoint in the higher ed classroom, there is one undeniable plus: the mad rush to get down every word has been alleviated, at least somewhat. So long as the slides are made available, you don’t have to worry about copying out the entire slide during class. All you really have to worry about is what is said off slide.
But there is another part of notes that gets routinely neglected, and that is the notes you make to yourself, and if you don’t do that now, I’d encourage you to give it a go, especially if you are currently in the type of humanities or social science courses that require you to come up with your own paper topics. These notes capture what you think about the lecture topics or reading material. Think of these kinds of notes as the record of what you think.
And one more thing: these types of notes don’t have to be declarative. Solid questions arising from the reading material count as notes too.
Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor
Study Spots: David Pottruck Health and Fitness Center
The Spring semester is progressing, and by now you are becoming increasingly aware of your own learning style. You may ask yourself, “How do I learn best, at which pace (or variation thereof), and under what conditions?”
In terms of study spaces – dorms, individual schools, libraries and even neighborhood cafes – are well utilized, and many offer a variety resources, such as lounges, study rooms (reservation required for most), tables, cubicles, cafes, kitchens, and restrooms.
Depending on your preferred study style, you may decide to mix things up a bit and alternate study spaces. For example, some people work best with a little activity and/or background noise around them. When considering alternative study spaces, you may consider factors such as familiarity, convenience, and proximity, including building time efficiencies, and fostering wellness and/or fitness.
If you are a member of the David Pottruck Health and Fitness Center, which is conveniently located at 3701 Walnut Street, you may have noticed that there is new furniture in the atrium space, as soon as you pass through the main entrance. For students who prefer to study and exercise right after or vice versa, the Penn fitness center (or your local gym) may provide an ideal alternative study-and-fitness hybrid space. Per Sarah Sarnocinski, Director of Programs, Penn Recreation, students are welcome to utilize the tables, chairs, and leather sofas to study, eat, relax and/or socialize.
In addition, the Energy Zone café provides healthy nourishment:
Located in the atrium of the Pottruck Health and Fitness Center, the Energy Zone features a full selection of smoothies, sports drinks, energy bars, and fresh fruit. Our shakes are 100% natural with no preservatives, no refined sugars, no fat, and completely lactose free. The Energy Zone also sells locks for $5 that can be used with any day use locker at the Pottruck Center (PennRec website).
In addition to the pre- or post-study fitness options (e.g., fitness machines, rock climbing) available at the Penn fitness center (or your preferred fitness space), there is a multi-purpose room, which is used for other fitness and wellness related functions that students can also take advantage of when available.
What is your favorite alternative study space? We would love to hear your ideas in the comments section!
Staff Writer: Min Derry
Wellness: 3 Tips for Studying While Sick
It’s that time of the year again, the semester starts, you’re getting the hang of your course load, and them BOOM! You get sick. Below are 3 tips to help you get through your illness while ensuring you don’t fall behind on coursework.
- Get organized and prioritize: When you’re sick you don’t have time to waste on tasks that are not adding value. Write down all your assignments and readings and rank them in order of importance. You may not be able to fully read everything, so consider choosing certain readings to skim.
- Pace yourself: While completing the important items on your list, make sure you leave enough time to rest in between. Sometimes this means working for 30 minutes and resting for 30 minutes. Find a pace that works for you and do not get discouraged if you cannot study for long periods of time. If you take this disciplined approach, you will get through your list and stay on the road to recovery! If you find that you cannot complete your assignments due to your illness, reach out to your professors and request extensions.
- Rest and care for yourself: The goal is to get back to full health as soon as possible. Do not overexert yourself by trying to keep the same pace you would otherwise have if you weren’t sick- this will only prolong your sickness. Think about other commitments that are not as pertinent, such as social and extracurricular activities, and minimize these until you are back to normal. Visit the Penn Health and Wellness site to see the options for medical care and to learn more about ways to stay healthy.
No one likes being sick, but prioritizing tasks, pacing yourself, and ensuring you get back to full health are three ways to mitigate falling behind in coursework.
Staff writer: Victoria Gill
Tech Tuesday: Zotero
This Tech Tuesday we are highlighting Zotero which is a browser extension and stand-alone desktop application for Windows and MacOS. Zotero is most commonly known as a citation manager similar to EasyBib or Mendeley. While Zotero is excellent at managing citations, it is capable of so much more. This article will provide an overview of its most useful features. Future blog posts will expand on Zotero with in-depth how-to guides. I like Zotero because it is feature rich and can help students keep readings and citations well organized. Another huge perk is that Zotero is open source software. Not only is it free, but it also has a number of useful plug-ins and add-ons.
Managing Citations and Outputting References:
As mentioned, Zotero is an excellent citation manager. The base install of the desktop application comes with a variety of standard citation styles including MLA, APA, Chicago and others. Have an obscure citation style only used by a specific discipline, don’t fret, chances are you can find it in the Zotero style repository here.
Outputting in-text citations in Zotero couldn’t be easier. Select the reference or references you want a citation for, right-click and select “Create bibliography from item” choose in-text citation, your chosen style, and copy to clipboard. Then, simply past the citation where needed in your document. You can create full reference pages in much the same way. Simply choose bibliography in the output section.
Add, Organize and Manage Citations
Zotero has feature rich folder options to keep your citations organized. You can create a folder for a given class or project and then store all your citations in the folder. Adding citations is easy. If you’re using Google Scholar, you can simply download an RIS file (RefMan) using cite function in Google Scholar and open it with Zotero. Books can be added using the wand button () and then adding the ISBN for the book. Zotero will handle the rest. Using add-ons Zotero can even scan PDF’s of journal articles and collect all the citation and metadata info directly from the article. A how-to blog outlining just how to do this will be available soon.
Have a class with a heavy reading load? Zotero is great for keeping all your readings organized. Add them all to a folder for that specific class and then you can write summaries or outlines for each with the built-in note taking function.
Alternatively, or in-addition, you can also add any attachment you want to a given reference. For STEM students, this could be particularly useful if you draw diagrams in your notes and you want to keep them together with a specific reading. As mentioned, Zotero is free you can download it here. Check back soon for specific how-to guides that will expand in-depth on the various features and options Zotero has to offer.
Staff Writer: Randall Perez
Tech Tuesday: Duolingo
A great app that’s been deemed “fun and addictive” when it comes to learning a new language would be Duolingo. Here is a quick breakdown of the app:
If you have any experinces with this app, let us know your thoughts on it in the comment section below!
Staff Writer: Victoria Gill
Getting Started on Final Papers
So it’s that time of the semester that we all forgot about-final papers/project season. You know, because we were surviving it week by week, midterm by midterm, page by page of mostly monotonous readings? It can be daunting to begin tackling a huge and cumulative assignment when you have no idea where to even begin. Here are some strategies to get started:
- Chunking: Ever get this feeling that you are so overwhelmed by the task that no matter how much time you devote to sitting down at your desk, you just are too paralyzed to start? Don’t start off thinking you are going to do it all in one sitting. Begin by breaking down the assignment into different stages and assign yourself goals. Perhaps start off with re-reading major concepts of the course since that might inspire a certain topic or focus for your paper. Then, on another day or week, move on to researching and making connections to texts covered in the class. The point is to establish tasks that are realistic bite-sized chunks.
- Concept Mapping: Having a whiteboard (or blank paper) and some different colored markers (different color= different theme/connection) help to get all your ideas out there without the pressure of writing full on paragraphs or pages. Brainstorm with drawing if you have to! Jot down ideas and key concepts and this way, you can also work towards clarifying your arguments.
- Come into Weingarten: Learning instructors here at Weingarten have various academic backgrounds including and ranging from doctoral students, research assistants, social scientists, and academics. Having another person to help you “talk through” your scholarly ideas is a great way to learn. What it comes down to is really cliche but hey, it works: “Two heads are better than one!”
Staff writer: Victoria Gill
Working with Penn Tutoring
The Tutoring Center at the University of Pennsylvania offers undergraduate students a variety of options to supplement their learning experiences. As the tutors employed by the Center demonstrate a diverse array of knowledge and skills, they are also continually looking for ways to maximize the impact of their engagement with students in terms of learning outcomes for tutees. As part of that effort, Donna Brown, the Center’s director, has developed an ongoing working relationship with the Weingarten Learning Resources Center to facilitate collaboration across fields and areas of expertise, particularly in helping tutors to appreciate students’ learning styles and how to respond to them accordingly. She recently contacted Dr. Rashmi Kumar and James Arrington for a workshop for the tutors to help deepen their understandings for tutoring in the STEM fields.
Dr. Rashmi Kumar asks the tutors about their learning styles
The workshop was designed to engage the tutors’ knowledge of learning the STEM subjects. After recalling various experiences and challenges encountered by students and tutors, Dr. Kumar connected these narratives to Bloom’s Taxonomy of knowledge, focusing in particular on instances of declarative, procedural, and critical knowledge work. This demonstrated what one tutor described as moving “from basic understanding to higher level understanding.” The two WLRC staff then reviewed what one tutor called a “variety of strategies that can be used to help students,” including concept mapping, constructing hypothetical test questions, and syllabus analysis. Overall, the tutors found the workshop “engaging and useful” for their work, and the activity further deepened the ongoing collaboration between the Tutoring Center and the WLRC.
Staff Writers/STEM Workshop Facilitators: Dr. Rashmi Kumar and James Arrington
Got Writer’s Block?
Have you ever received a writing assignment and felt “frozen”? Have you known you need to write but gotten stuck staring at a blank screen? You’re not alone—everyone has experienced writer’s block, from John Steinbeck to J.K. Rowling to leading scholars in many fields. Fortunately, there are techniques for overcoming writer’s block that will help you submit that term paper or finish your dissertation.
Causes of Writer’s Block: One of the most commonly held beliefs about writer’s block is that it’s a sign of laziness or lack of preparation. Nothing could be further from the truth;
writer’s block often affects students who have high expectations for themselves. According to Keith Hjortshoj, author of Understanding Writing Blocks (2001), it is very common in people making transitions and adjusting to new writing formats. This category includes first-year college students, new graduate students, undergraduates moving to more advanced levels of study, and writers completing high-stakes projects.
Strategies for Moving Past Blocks
1. Free Writing: One of the biggest things you can do to combat writer’s block is freewriting. Freewriting means you sit down and write what comes to mind about your topic without stopping to read what you’ve written. Simply keep going—nobody will see your writing yet, and you will have a chance to revise later. Freewriting will allow you to write and think more fluidly, help you process information, and get text onto the page that you can shape into your finished product. Many students find it useful to brainstorm by writing what comes to mind in the form of a list or diagram. You might even find that you can generate text by pretending you’re writing about your topic in an email to a friend.
2. Free Form: Don’t feel like you have to write from the beginning of your paper to the end; you can choose the section you’re most confident with and start there. Bracket things you’d like to change and come back to them during revision.
3. Writing Groups: Lastly, avoid isolation with the task of writing. Seek out connections with other writers, whether they’re in your class or fellow graduate students in the grad student center.
Analyzing Your Writer’s Block: Here are some of the questions that Hjortshoj recommends for better understanding your writer’s block:
- What kind of writing are you trying to do?
- At what point does progress end?
- What do you do up to that point?
- When you reach it, what do you do next, and why?
Note the answers to these questions, determine the changes you need to make, and ask which strategies will help you write through the block. You may have to try several strategies before finding one that works, just like you might in a science experiment. Deliberately keep yourself from doing things that you suspect are causing your writer’s block. No matter what, don’t give up! For more support and strategies for writing, come into Weingarten!
Staff writer: Brenna Swift