5 tips to help

Doing your first university assignment: 5 things to remember

Between moving away from home, meeting your new best friends and getting far too drunk at Freshers’, it can be easy to forget that you’re at university for three years of hard studying. Your first university assignment can be daunting, so take a look at our 5 tips to get you started:

1. Learn how to reference

Referencing will be completely new to almost all students, but it is an essential part of most courses. The majority of tutors will introduce referencing early, as the longer you leave it the harder your second and third years will be. There are different referencing systems, so make sure you know which is preferred by your tutor/university. You can buy referencing guides, loan them from the library, or use online guides. Referencing can be tricky at first, so make sure you ask your tutor or fellow students and get all the help you can.

2. Learn how to use academic journals

Forget Sparknotes and Wikipedia, attaining good grades at university will depend on you using peer-reviewed journals, as well as tonnes of books. Journals are available in libraries, usually as both hard and digital copies, and in digital libraries such as Jstor. Make sure you get to grips with how to use digital catalogues, and receive advice from your tutors on the journals most relevant to your subject.

3. Try to attend everything!

This is perhaps the hardest task, particularly after two weeks of Freshers’. Despite most students living just minutes away from their classes, hangovers/laziness/Netflix are serious threats to your attendance. However, you won’t get the grades you want if you don’t put the effort in. So set an alarm, brew some coffee and get to class. Tutors are generally very supportive, so if you know in advance that you’re going to miss a lecture or seminar drop them an email and they will help you catch up. Also, check if any of your lectures are recorded, as this can be a great resource to use when writing your assignment.

4. Use it as a marker

For the majority of courses and universities, students only have to pass the first year as it does not count towards the degree. However, this is not a free pass! Many students who put minimal effort into their first year realise that they actually have no idea what level they are at once it gets to crunch time. To avoid this, try you best with your first assignments, and if you can, use it to challenge yourself. That way, you can go into your second and third years knowing your strengths and weaknesses and how much you need to improve.

5. Get involved in seminars

People can avoid contributing to discussions in seminars and lectures for different reasons, from shyness to not having completed the reading. University classes are much more relaxed than at school, so it’s important you make sure you get involved. Discussing your ideas with your classmates and tutors is a great way to develop your knowledge and add insights to the assignment you’re writing. It’s also a nice break away from books and will help you get to know people on your course, so get stuck in!