Welcome

Uni life can be complicated at first, so this site will help make it a little easier to navigate your first semester at Monash. The weeks listed here represent the twelve teaching weeks of semester. Just start scrolling to browse topics to see important deadlines to help you manage your studies each week. 

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Study matters: getting off to a good start

Make the most of your unit guide

Check Moodle for a unit guide for each of your units. They should be available by week one.

Some unit guides are more detailed than others, but many will include:

  • an overview of the unit and what you can expect to learn
  • topics for each lecture, and sometimes each tutorial
  • readings for each topic
  • assignment topics and due dates
  • assessment details - what assignments, tests or exams are involved and what each task contributes to your final mark.

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The unit guide will also give you an idea of the amount of time you need to commit to reading, going to classes, working on assignments and preparing for exams.

Don't just skim through the guide and put it aside. Use it to:

  • guide your weekly reading so you're prepared for lectures and other classes
  • plan for your assignments
  • provide a structure for exam revision.

Your unit guide will also list the teaching staff for the unit and the 'chief examiner' (the lecturer in charge). Don't hesitate to ask for their help if you have problems with classes, reading or assignments.

Make a study plan

Planning might sound boring, but don't underestimate the importance of being organised. Without some kind of plan you're likely to fall behind. You'll feel less stressed if you've set yourself a timetable to manage study, work and other commitments right from the start of semester.

Semester planning

Semester planning

Your semester plan is your broad timetable based around your fixed commitments.

Use your Google calendar or a printed weekly or monthly calendar to help you plan your semester-long timetable.

Start by adding all your lectures, tutorials or other classes to the calendar. Then add:

  • paid work or volunteering commitments
  • any other fixed commitments
  • travel time and meal breaks
  • private study time (roughly two hours for every hour of class time)
  • time for household chores and shopping
  • time for relaxation, sports, socialising and family.

If you're doing a course with placements, add these to your calendar.

Assignments

An important part of semester planning is scheduling time for assignments. Check your unit guides and note:

  • Assignment due dates. Add these to your student calendar.
  • What each assignment is worth. You'll need more time for assignments that carry more weight.
  • Dates to start working on each assignment. 

To work more effectively on assignments, remember to:

  1. Break assignment work into manageable steps. For example:
    • Analyse the question
    • Do some background reading
    • Rethink the question
    • Brainstorm a list of ideas, issues, concepts, connections
    • Search library databases for relevant reading materials
    • Do some more detailed reading and note-taking
    • Plan the structure
    • Write a first draft
    • Review and edit your draft
    • Do a further review and edit
    • Proofread
  2. Estimate the time each step may take - you'll get better at this as you do more assignments.
  3. Work back from the assignment due date, scheduling in each assignment step.
Weekly planning

At the start of each week, check your:

  • unit guides - note the topics your classes will be covering and work out what you need to read or review
  • calendar - see if you have assignments coming up that you need to start work on, or placements you need to prepare for.
Daily planning

Start each day by making a to-do list for your private study time. This should include:

  • reviewing lecture notes
  • reading for classes
  • work on assignments.
Planning and time management tips

Be realistic

  • Don't plan to wake up and study at 5am if you're not a morning person, and don't plan to study in the evening if you're likely to fall asleep by 9pm
  • Leave time in your schedule for unexpected events
  • Don't expect to be able to do an assignment the night before it's due

Be consistent

  • Do a little study each day so you keep up and avoid a big bottleneck later
  • Try to keep regular hours so you get a good night's sleep but don't waste time by sleeping in

Work with your energy rhythms

  • Do more demanding tasks when your concentration and energy levels are highest
  • Take a break when you're tired, and try some light exercise (like walking) to get your energy levels up again

Break big tasks into smaller tasks to make them less daunting

Use time-slots wisely

  • an hour or less (including bus or train travel) is a good time-slot for reviewing lecture notes, reading short articles, jotting down essay plans, proofreading, or preparing your daily to-do list
  • one to three-hour time-slots are good for study groups, reading for classes or assignments, taking notes from readings, searching databases in the library for relevant materials, editing a draft of an assignment, reviewing for exams
  • three-hour-plus time-slots are needed for more detailed work on assignments, particularly writing.

Read effectively

Prioritise readings

You may not be able to read everything on a reading list. So you'll need to be selective and prioritise what you read. You should:

  • make sure you read a little about each topic the course covers. Use your unit guide to organise your reading list
  • check the reading list providing by your lecturer. Always prioritise those marked as essential readings
  • look at the summary pages of textbooks. These are usually at the end of a chapter and can help you decide which chapters to focus on
  • read the abstracts of journal articles to see how relevant they are to your task or topic
  • note publication dates, so you can think about whether to focus on more recent research
  • talk to other students in your unit or study group about the readings they found most informative
  • ask your tutor or lecturer for help to prioritise readings based on what you're interested in, struggling with, or need to focus your assignment on.
Read with a purpose

You'll get the most out of the time you spend reading if you know why you're reading or what you need to get from the text.

Before you start reading, ask yourself if you're reading for:

  • an overview of the topic
  • a definition
  • an understanding of a concept, issue, attitude or point of view
  • alternative views of that concept, issue, attitude or point of view
  • facts, statistics, evidence.
Read critically

Reading critically means questioning the text and the author's stance rather than accepting it at face value. Reading critically means thinking about the following kinds of questions.

  • What is the text really about? What are the underlying assumptions? Does the author have a particular agenda?
  • What issues has the author focused on? What issues are not considered? Why?
  • What theoretical perspective has the author taken? Which other authors have influenced the author's view (whom do they cite approvingly)? Which other authors is this author reacting against (whom do they cite disapprovingly)?
  • What criteria or arguments is the author using to support their view or critique the views of others?
  • What assumptions, explanations or evidence does the author rely on? Are these adequate, relevant, persuasive?
  • Are the problems with the author's approach or questions that remain on unanswered?
  • What does the structure of the text reveal? Are theories or viewpoints compared? Is the material framed historically? Are arguments made in order of importance?
Try the 'onion reading' technique

It's absolutely fine to skim-read academic texts. You need to do this to decide which texts to read more closely, when you're reading to get an overview of a topic, or when you're just trying to get the general idea or gist of a text.

One method of skim-reading is called 'onion reading'. You peel back the layers of a text to get an idea of what it's about. The layers you might look at are:

  • title
  • abstract or summary
  • headings
  • introduction
  • conclusion
  • first sentences of paragraphs
  • last sentences of paragraphs
  • study questions (often found at the end of each chapter in textbooks)
  • diagrams and charts.
Manage reading problems

Trouble concentrating?

  • Work in an area with minimal distractions
  • Make sure your study area is well lit and not too hot or too cold
  • Avoid doing tasks that require lots of concentration at times of the day when you're tired or your energy is low

Can't get motivated?

  • Divide your reading into smaller chunks
  • Try reading earlier in the day
  • Give yourself a small reward when you finish

Finding the text too difficult?

  • Create a mind map of the text based on its headings and subheadings
  • Review your lecture notes and unit guide to see if they give any clues about the meaning of the text
  • Form a study group to discuss difficult readings with fellow students
  • Talk to your tutor about the text
  • Try an easier text

Get the most out of lectures

Be prepared

You'll get more out of your lectures if you're prepared. Three things to do are:

  • check your unit guide to see what the lecture topic is and how it fits into the unit as a whole
  • have a look at the recommended readings for the lecture topic. Skim or 'onion read' if you're pressed for time
  • re-read any old lecture notes that might be related to this topic.
Learn to listen well

You'll be able to listen more effectively and lectures if you try the following:

  • Sit closer to the front. You'll be able to hear and see better if you're closer to the lecturer. And you'll be able to concentrate better – most chatting, texting and distractions happen at the back of the lecture theatre.
  • Take notice of the lecturer's use of voice and body language. Emphasis, repetition, a change in tone, meaningful pauses, an upraised finger or eyebrows can indicate the lecturer is making an important point.

Sometimes it can be hard to understand a lecturer if you're not familiar with the words they're using, or they have an accent you're not used to hearing. It's okay to raise your hand and ask them to go a little slower or speak louder. If you're not comfortable doing that in class speak to the lecturer outside.

Take notes

Don't make a mistake of trying to write down everything a lecturer says. You won't usually be able to, and more importantly, you won't have time to think about what's being said.

You need to make your own judgements about what to write down, but the following might help.

  • Find out if the presentation slides will be available later. If they are, don't bother copying everything that's on them.
  • Information written on the board during the lecture might be important to make note of.
  • To understand the structure of the lecture, listen for key words or phrases such as:
    • first, second, also, furthermore, therefore, finally
    • 'the next point is'
    • 'another idea is'
    • 'I'd like to move on now to'
  • To identify important points, listen for phrases like:
    • 'the point I'm making is'
    • 'the next point is crucial'
    • 'it's important to note that'
    • 'take the case of'
    • 'to repeat'
    • 'to summarise'
  • Underline or circle any important points in your notes so you'll easily be able to see them later.
Review your notes

Review your notes as soon as you can after a lecture. Some people like to rewrite their notes, but this isn't necessary. However you should make sure that you:

  • Understand what the lecture covered. If you don't:
    • talk to your lecturer or tutor as soon as you can
    • ask questions in your next tutorial
    • talk to your classmates about the lecture
    • don't leave it too long to clear up any issues - being unclear about this lecture might affect your understanding of the next.
  • Will understand your notes later on when you're reviewing for exams. Some tips:
    • expand any unclear abbreviations
    • add missing phrases or connecting sentences to fill in any gaps
    • highlight important points
    • add any more detail you remember from the lecture
    • rearrange material if you feel a different order or hierarchy would be more effective.

Learn in tutorials and labs

In tutorials you're expected to:

  • participate in discussions
  • ask and answer questions
  • get clear about any of the topics, issues or concepts you're unsure of. 

To do this, you'll need to make sure you:

  • check your unit guide to see if there is a set topic for the class
  • do any reading or other tasks assigned for the class
  • attend the corresponding lecture (or listen to the lecture recording) and review your lecture notes
  • write down anything you're unsure of (from the lecture, readings or upcoming assignments) or would like to raise for discussion.

If your course or unit includes labs, you'll be expected to:

  • watch demonstrations of equipment and experiments
  • do experiments on your own or with other students
  • carefully observe your experiments
  • keep clear and accurate notes of what you observed
  • write up a lab report

To do this, you'll need to make sure you:

  • read the lab notes in advance so you understand what you'll be investigating in the lab
  • read through each step in the experiment so you're aware of the process, the equipment you'll be using, and the data you need to record. You may need to prepare:
    • a timetable if you have several experiments to run during the lab
    • a table to record raw data
  • become familiar with the theory behind the experiment
  • complete any preliminary work set out in the lab notes (reading, calculations, working through problems)
  • discuss any issues or concerns with teaching staff.

Important study resources