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Module 8: Reading, Research and Composition (study skills)

What do we mean by reading, research and composition?

Independent studstudy skills are the key skills required by students in meeting assessment tasks while at university. Students will need to use a wide range of skills and they will develop appropriate learning strategies to apply these in different aspects of their studies. These are independent skills as students will have far less input and direction in these areas than they may have experienced at school and college.

Male student reading a book, sitting at a desk with a laptop

In brief, the key skills or competencies involved are:

Organisational skills

Getting organised is key to effective study for students and is often an area that is overlooked. This might involve a student deciding where they will undertake reading or composition tasks; ensuring that they have the right tools and equipment to hand, time management of different tasks and knowing where and how to access additional support.

Time Management

Finding the time to study and motivating themselves to do so, is a key skill for students. Poor time management leads to delays, less efficient working and potentially lower grades. It can also cause stress and anxiety, as students fail to achieve the progress they wish, or find themselves with looming deadlines.

Sources of Information for Study

Understanding the importance of different sources of information and how and where to access them, is again a key skill for students. The use of effective reading and research strategies and constructing references and bibliographies as they go can ensure students gain maximum benefit from the resources available to them.

Effective Reading

Students will develop their reading skills as they progress through their university study. Good critical reading skills and strategies will enable students to maximise their effectiveness and make most efficient use of time. This also impacts on the quality of their note taking during reading and research.


Learning to take notes effectively is vital to effective recording of reading and research and lecture and group work activities.  


Careful planning of essays, reports, projects, presentations and other activities is key to producing good quality work. It is also more efficient and saves time. This might include lists, mind maps, structure charts and other methods.

Writing skills

Developing an effective writing style, whether it be for a thesis, essay or an assessed blog for example, can be one of the biggest challenges for students. This might include choosing which method to use to compose work, deciding on a structure for arguments, referencing different types of materials and review and proof reading. Consideration of what writing style to use is an additional study skill and this may vary within and between disciplines.  

Reflecting on feedback

Getting beyond consideration of the awarded grade and reflecting on the feedback that has been given is a key skill in driving future improvements to student’s work. This depends on constructive and effective feedback of course.  

Revision Skills

Revising for examinations and other assessments is a challenge for many students. Revision planning, time management and effective use of notes and other resources are just some of the vital skills in ensuring more effective revision, leading to reduced anxiety and better results during exams and tests.

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