Here’s 5 Ways To Effectively Study English Literature and Creative Writing
As my final essay for first year has been handed in, I have been reflecting on my studies at Warwick. Over the past three terms, I have definitely adapted how I work. At A-Level, I studied Biology, Chemistry and English (which required a mixture of flashcards and memorisation, as well as lots of analysing and essay plans). In the shift to studying English Literature and Creative Writing at university, I have picked up some tips along the way which have made studying a whole lot easier! Below are my top five study tips:
1) Walk away from your work (yes, really!)
I thought I would start with the most unconventional of study tips, which simply is to stop studying. Let me break it down: a lot of time, especially when writing an essay, your mind will go blank. It is so difficult to continually write at a high standard for long periods of time – concentration will dwindle, your analytical points will become weaker and generally, your standard of work will begin to slip. That’s why one of the best things you can do if you’re feeling stuck with your work (after you’ve worked on it for a while) is to simply walk away.
Take half an hour to an hour to do another piece of work, to read or to just take a break. I often find that when I come back to an essay or creative piece, my mind feels clearer and I can look at my work in a different way. This is especially useful for creative work where writers block can creep in.
2) Keep check of all your secondary sources
When you are writing an essay, make sure you don’t lose track of any secondary sources you make reference to. Either put them in a list at the end of your essay, or create a separate document to place where you’ve found a quote from. Nothing is more frustrating than coming to reference an essay and wondering where a quote came from!
3) Leave enough time to edit your work
It’s crucial to give yourself chance to edit an essay or creative piece once you’ve finished your first draft. Editing doesn’t just mean spell-checking though: a few other checks you can make include ensuring your thesis statement matches the argument in the body of your essay (i.e: you don’t go off-topic), you haven’t gone over or under the word count and that all of your quotes are properly referenced in your essay and in your bibliography. In the case of creative writing, this could be trawling through each sentence at a word level to make sure you’ve conveyed your ideas clearly, as well as spell-checking.
4) Make notes and find key quotes in your readings as you go along
This is especially true when reading critical theories – when you have been given a set text to read for the week by your tutor, make a document where you jot down key quotes (as well as their page numbers!) Another way of consolidating your understanding of a text is to make a brief summary of each chapter in your own words. It it is great to look back at when writing essays as you can quickly skim your notes instead of re-reading hundreds of pages, and key quotes that you can place in your essay can be found in a few seconds.
5) Break down essays and creative pieces into to-do lists
I like to create a to-do list which breaks down what I want to achieve each day in the run-up to deadlines. For example, I’ll give myself a certain number of days for planning the essay or creative piece. Here, I’ll create a rough outline of the points I want to make, or the plot which I want to follow. Then, I will work upon writing my first draft, breaking it down into daily word-counts that I want to reach (or specific checkpoints in the essay plan/plot that I want to reach). Don’t expect yourself to blast through an entire piece of work in a day; set manageable and small goals.
These are just some of the tips which I use to study English Literature and Creative Writing at university. Studying can be difficult at times, but it is always the most rewarding feeling when you click ‘submit’ to that piece of work you’ve been working on for weeks!
Let me know if you decide to try any out and which ones work the best for you. And as always, if you have any questions about anything Warwick-related, feel free to send me a message.