November 03, 2016

How To Make the Most of Your Reading Week

Looking forward to Fall Reading Week? The Student Success Centre team shares their ideas on how to make the most of it. 

Fall Reading Week is only one year old and could not be more popular among students. Reading weeks are typically a time for catching up, planning ahead, and taking a break. All of us at the Student Success Centre want to remind you of how far you have come and offer some advice to make the most of this short break.

Take a minute to reflect on your semester so far.
September 1 - November 4 is 65 days. That is 66% of the semester, or nine weeks and two days, or 1560 hours. Take away one-third of those 65 days for sleep, and the remainder has been occupied with academics, work, family, socializing, and anything else you value. You have attended, listened, noted, reviewed, prepared, read, reflected, persevered, failed, succeeded, rebounded, tested, experimented, and practiced. And, you have arrived at Reading Week: nine days without classes (or 9% of the term).

Over the last 65 days, you have created your most powerful tool for this week: your momentum. Let’s look at some ways to maintain and build on that momentum for the 216 hours ahead.

Meet the new Dean of Students

As thousands of new students adjust to life at the U of A, the recently appointed Dean of Students, Dr. André Costopoulos, is also settling into his new role and life in Alberta. Born and raised in Montreal, where he was most recently the Dean of Students at McGill University, Dr. Costopoulos holds a BA (Hons) in anthropology from McGill, an MSc in anthropology from the Université de Montréal and a PhD in archeology from the University of Oulu, Finland. 

In our quick Q & A, Dr. Costopoulos shares plans for his role, advice for students, and insight into some of his favourite things (spoiler alert: music is a big deal).

You’re originally from Montreal  what interested you in the U of A?
The sense of local as well as global mission of the institution. The chance to make a difference. The integration between research and teaching, which I have never seen as separate endeavours. Those would be the main things.

What are your visions and plans for your role as Dean of Students?
Right now, I am listening and learning. And there is still a lot of that to be done. I want to make sure that students, the University community as a whole, and society in general, are well served by U of A. The question is not the what, the question is the how.

Making Your Computer Work For You: The FIND Function

In the 'Making your computer work for you' series, Stephen Kuntz, Associate Director of Writing Resources at the Student Success Centre, shares the features of your computer that can make writing and studying easier.

The FIND function, put simply, finds things for you by highlighting them in your document and can be extremely useful during the final editing/revision of your document. Be aware of your weaknesses or problems in your writing, then let the FIND function point out possible problems.

For example, if you think you are using the same word too often, put that word in the FIND function search box and you will quickly see how many times and where you are using that word.  Then, change the word in some of those places, especially if you are using it close together. Below are more examples of how you might use the FIND function to improve your writing.

to Search for issues with  
‘ (apostrophe)
apostrophe / possessive problems
contractions (generally academic writing doesn’t use them)
quotation integration: have you integrated your quotations smoothly, grammatically, and logically
check for comma use and comma splices around this challenging word
“,  or  “.
placement of commas/periods in quotations/references
word confusion/typo
check clarity of pronoun reference
it  is / there are
expletives (wordy sentence structure)

How To Get Through All Your Reading

Struggling to get through your class readings? Mebbie Bell, Mebbie Bell, Director of the Student Success Centre, shares her strategies to help tackle any amount of reading.

Many students feel overwhelmed by the readings they have to finish for each class. They become easily frustrated — and bored — by aimless reading that seems to go on for hours without any clear purpose. And, in fact, we are less efficient and more distracted when we are not sure why we are reading. Thinking strategically about what, when, how, and why you read can help to maximize your efficiency.

WHAT & WHY: Define your reading goals.
Thinking about why you are reading and which components you need to learn helps you to make much better use of your time. To get focused, answer the following questions for each of your courses: What do I need to read? And, why am I reading?
  • Take your cue from your instructor. What exactly does the instructor want you to know? Sometimes your textbook is a reference source in which you look up missed information, while at other times you need detailed knowledge. So, do you need to know your text in detail, or just have an overall understanding? Or, should you focus solely on specific components, such as examples, sidebars, or definitions? Is the material "testable"? Do you need to contribute to a class discussion or incorporate the material into an assignment?
  • Itemize your tasks. Make a list of all readings that you need to complete for all of your courses. Without a clear sense of what you have to read, your reading sessions will be aimless — and seem endless. 
  • Ask for guidance. If you are not sure of your reading goal(s), talk to your instructor or TA for advice.