Attending academic events with lecturers – Kiran Singh

#chooseDerby, #DerbyStudent, English, Kiran

During one of my third year modules, I was given the opportunity to attend ‘The East Midland’s Writer’s Conference 2015’ with my lecturer, Dr Paul Whickman. I would be in the student ambassador role for the majority of the day, so answering queries about doing English Lit at Derby for most of the time, but I was also able to attend the panel at which my lecturer was a speaker.

The day started with me and another ambassador, George, driving to Nottingham to set up the Derby University stall. Once we were set up, we got ready for any questions, and most of the queries were to do with people wanting to do an MA. Then I left George to man the stall on his own whilst I went to Paul’s panel. The panel was about the freedom to write; essentially a writer being able to write whatever you want without thinking that it may cause someone offence.

The panel was great and as well as Paul, there was the director of Writing East Midlands, a Chinese novelist and an Iranian poet. Paul gave a fantastic introduction, he contextualised censorship and offence. The introduction was a good mix of historical context and current issues. The Iranian poet was brilliant because he was a ‘real life’ example of someone who had faced extreme censorship and gave an insight to his first-hand experience at having to leave his country because of what he wrote. He also set a very good idea in motion and that was that censorship occurred at different levels and could be external or internal. The Chinese novelist was very clever because she talked about how the biggest censor was actually commercialisation because a writer is ultimately censored by what readers want. She also made very good points about how freedom was an illusion and the writer’s job is to work within this illusion by making the points that they want to make but staying within limits that will not offend anyone.

Attending the panel was very helpful for my third year module; ‘Taking and Making Offence; Blasphemy, Obscenity and Censorship from Milton to Rushdie’. The panel explored many issues which are central to the module, for example, is offence made or taken? I recorded my visit to conference, and in particular, to the panel in my seminar participation form which is one part of the assessment on this module. I also used some of the debate at the panel to help me answer my major assignment question.  Apart from using the information I gained from the panel for both my course works (seminar participation and assignment), it was also extremely useful seeing Paul in his academic field. Sometimes, it is difficult to see the purpose (or even use- although I do not agree with this but unfortunately lots of people do see English lit as a bit of a ‘useless’ subject) of your subject when in a classroom/lecture hall setting but seeing the academic that taught on my programme in practice was a great way to consolidate my learning and in fact it helped me to see that what we learn or debate in lectures are actually issues which effect everyday living.


What’s it like studying with two kids???? – Kiran

#chooseDerby, #DerbyStudent, English, Kiran

The first thought that came into my head when I initially decided to resign from my job to come to university was: how will I manage with the kids? Two boys (4 and 6 years old) and an English Literature degree don’t quite go hand in hand. Well, it’s not exactly easy reading Homer’s Odyssey whilst the kids are acting out ninja turtle fight scenes.

There are so many vital issues to consider when you are a parent and considering university, for example, financial issues, how will you manage the workload, will you still be able to give them enough attention, what about the school run, is this really the best thing for you and your family? The easiest way, I find, is to tackle all these issues as if your degree is a job because you would have the same issues if you were working.  Although, doing a degree is much more than doing a job.  With a job, at least you can come home and to some extent forget about it, there is no forgetting about your degree.

But there is one secret formula, and I swear by it (!), which will ensure you stay on top of your degree and manage a wonderfully smooth running family life too (okay ‘ wonderfully smooth’ is a bit extreme),  and that is staying super organised. You feel and perform so much better when you feel like you have everything in hand. Lists are a good way of staying organised, even a weekly dinner menu helps.  And invest in a good quality diary or use your phone to set reminders, things like setting yourself deadlines  to do your assignments well before they are actually due  means that if anything comes up the week before you have to submit your assignments , at least you have got yourself a head start because it’s bound to happen, somebody comes down with chicken pox  when your assignments are due, staying organised and getting work done ahead of schedule means you can worry that little bit less than if you had to start from scratch.

I have also found that a good routine helps with staying focussed and then everything (and everyone) gets adequate time. For example, your kids know when you spend time with them and you know when you will be doing your university work. If you can, it is also a really good idea to try to build a support network around yourself. Your partner, family and friends can all help with the kids. Even at university, there is The Student Parent Group, who run events and offer support for students and their children.  Using the support and help available means you won’t feel like you are on your own.

The most important thing to remember, though, is that kids are haphazard things (as are most things in life – it’s just that they can speak (or cry on demand) and have feelings which makes them more awkward than most things) so the routine may sometimes have to be given a miss and you might have a day when you don’t get anything done – but one day won’t make a difference. In fact, sometimes you need a well- deserved break and at times (especially when you have presentations or assignments are due) you will be at the other end of the scale, so,  it may well be that you can only give your family very little attention but it won’t be forever so don’t beat yourself up about it.

And finally, use your family life as inspiration and motivation. The university’s motto is ‘Experience is the best teacher’ and there is no experience more embarrassing, intimate and challenging than family!

Scott – Dissertation Survival Guide

#chooseDerby, #DerbyStudent, Digital Ambassador Derby, LHSS

You start out with an idea, a concept, something that you look at and think: “Yes. I can do a damn good job with that.”

Then it comes to three weeks before deadline and this dissertation that was a challenge you were looking forward to at the beginning of the year is now the bane of your life and you just can’t wait for it to be out of your way!

Dissertations have the capability to cause serious mental breakdowns, send stress levels soaring through the roof, and leave you sitting in your room hashing out hour upon hour of work without the time to even think about seeing if the world is still spinning on its axis outside your four walls.

I’ve prepared a little survival plan for you in order to help you save your sanity when the time comes for you to start writing your dissertation. It might even come at the right time for you if, like me, and in the final stages of putting your dissertation together. Reading this could save you from ripping your own hair out.

Slow and steady wins the race.

This may make those of you who are on the home straight scream at me, because you know this all too well. If you’ve left it TortoiseAndHareall until the last minute to write your dissertation, then you’re definitely going to scream at your computer screens, because I can guarantee you’ve had numerous people telling you that you should’ve done this all along.

The best way to write something like this is in bite-sized chunks – not mammoth mouthfuls and all-nighters that leave you with a bad after taste of Red Bull on your palette.

There are rare examples of people writing their entire dissertation in one go right at the last minute, like this guy who turned yellow after an energy drink fuelled 40 hour session of dissertation writing, but don’t leave it to chance. Plus, who wants to look like an extra from The Simpsons anyway?

Bombard your tutors like never before.

They’re there to help you, so don’t deny yourself of that privilege! They are the ones who are the experts in your chosen field of study, so if you’re unsure of something, ask them and not Wikipedia.

Arrange tutorials, send emails, drafts, thoughts, concerns for your mental stability all to them because it then also really looks like you are trying and that you care about the work you’re doing. This is only going to have a positive impact on your grade.

Think you’ve done enough reading? Then you need to do more.

Dissertations are the culmination of what you’ve learned at university and are your academic gift to the world, so it has to be well referenced and backed up by people who have presented similar gift-wrapped presents to the area of your study.

This means a lot of reading. If you think you’ve done a good amount, you’ve only made a start. You can never have too many references, even if you don’t use them all (which is highly likely) at least you’ve got them if you need them. There’s nothing worse than trying to write a certain point and realising you need to pay another visit to the library before you can make a start on it.

Focus on your work, not the idiot who has finished their first draft weeks early.

Your worst enemies could well turn out to be your course mates during times in the dissertation process. Why? Because there’s always someone who will be streets ahead of where you are, and that causes a whole range of negative, hateful emotions within you.

It also makes you freak out and doubt yourself massively. But do not fear, you will be fine. Focus on your own work, set your own deadlines, and set your own pace. Just make sure that doesn’t mean you finish your work well after the deadline. That wouldn’t be ideal.

Put your life on hold for a while.

This bit sucks. You will definitely have to turn down various opportunities to do fun stuff like going out for lunch, taking a wander into town, or anything else you might usually do to kill a bit of time. You quickly have to learn that any time you have must be dedicated to your dissertation.

Every minute spent doing something other than typing away on your computer is filled with guilt and anxiety and thoughts of: “I should probably be doing my dissertation.” It’s probably wise to make sure you get some done if this is the case.

It may sound like the most awful thing you’ll ever have to do, and at the time that’s how it feels. But it’s only for a while, and when it’s over, you can celebrate like never before. Handing it in as the finished article will be the best feeling in the world, so let that drive you on top success and away from despair!graduation-cap-in-air

A typical English Literature lecture – Kiran

#chooseDerby, #DerbyStudent, English, Kiran, lecture, LHSS

One of the things most people want to know, apart from all the NSS facts, fees and other really important stuff about university, is what is an actual lecture like? How different is it from college or sixth form? How long is a lecture? What is the set up and how much study or work do you need to do before one? Even the simpler questions, like, do you get a break or can you use your laptop to make notes can put your mind at rest and help you slip into an academic learning environment more easily.

So ultimately, the structure of a lecture depends on the modules and year of study, but generally the English Lit lectures are four hours. The first two hours are often more lecture type, as in they mostly consist of the lecturer teaching the text in question.  So, for example, if we are studying a text such as Dracula, the lecturer may give us the context and the literary theories associated with Dracula in the first two hours.  It is really important to take notes during this part of the lecture but if you are not that fast writing, the lecturers do upload the powerpoint lecture presentations online.

The second half of the lecture is usually a seminar.  This is where the content from the first part of the lecture can really come alive. For example, we can discuss exactly how particular theories can be applied to the text or is the context really relevant to the text. This part of the lecture is the time when students can really become vocal. Sometimes the debate can progress onto prolific or current issues. It’s important to use the opportunity of a seminar to test your thinking and gain confidence. You may say something which other students disagree with but that is kind of what the seminar is about, exploring different readings of the text or theory in question.

English is an intense degree, there is lots of secondary, highly academic reading involved but it is also one of the most rewarding degrees. I have picked up so many skills through the degree proggramme, I have also really developed lots of skills. One example would be that in a seminar, you are given the chance to present a text.  It’s basically like being the lecturer for one hour and it means you can steer the debate and discussion in a seminar in the direction that you want. My presentational skills have developed as I have done more and more presentations in seminars.  Also, a presentation is graded like an assignment. So, the lecturers support you whilst you are planning and preparing for your presentation, just as they would when completing assignments. You also gain lots of communication skills because presentations are often conducted in a group.

A lecture is very different from A’level   study.  The texts studied are intellectualised much more and it is good practice to do secondary reading before lectures.  There is usually a break between the two hour lecture and the seminar.  It’s also really important to be able to adapt to different teaching styles because different lecturers have different styles and some modules require completely different approaches.

I hope I have clarified what an English lit lecture is like, and I realise I may have made it seem like it is really intense and hard work but it is honestly worth it. There are some lectures which have even changed my perspective on life! I have walked in as a different person at the beginning of the lecture and walked out with a totally different bag of ideas at the end! Lectures on ideology, subjectivity or Sadeism are just a few worth mentioning which have had that effect!

  • What’s it like studying with two kids
  • What’s it like doing a degree that isn’t vocational
  • Coursework vs exams
  • Doing work around the uni – ambassador role
  • Making good use of the library
  • Making lifelong friends/using uni as a social space
  • Using the hub-careers
  • Forming a society
  • What’s it like being a student rep for English
  • How to make most of your degree – using the skills outside of your degree
  • The extra-curricular activities on English lit, e. g. writers conference
  • Finding/working out your study method

Scott – 5 tips when approaching deadline day

#chooseDerby, #DerbyStudent, Digital Ambassador Derby, LHSS

It’s getting to that point in the year again when there’s lots of stress and not a lot of time. Yep, it’s that period where everyone has their final deadlines looming large.

Naturally, everyone is going to be worrying at least a little bit. Some people are innately more relaxed than others, and some are far more prepared than others.

No matter what kind of person you are or how you’ve prepared yourself, there are some things you can do to help ease you through your work and make everything run a little more smoothly for you.

So, being the kind natured guy that I am, I’m now going to share with you lucky lot some of the things that I do that help me keep my head when my hand-in dates are approaching.


1. Manage your time effectively.

The likelihood is that you’re going to be juggling a lot of different pieces of work for a lot of different modules when deadlines approach, and it’s easier than you might think to forget a piece of work.

I don’t mean completely forget that it exists of course, but it’s so easy to get wrapped up in one piece of work that you don’t leave yourself adequate time to do a good job on some of the other assignments you have.

This can be a real nightmare, and really put you at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the best grade you can.

I find that spending a few hours a day doing different pieces of work can help, because then, by the end of the week, you’ve made a considerable dent in your total workload. Or even spend a day of the week working on different things if you find it too difficult to switch focus during the day.

2. Give yourself plenty of breaks

It’s an age old trick, but it really works!

I usually try and do an hour to an hour-and-a-half of work before taking 15 or 20 minutes to chill. This usually involves me and my flat mate giving each other an update of how we’re getting on in the kitchen while we make a green tea or get a bit of food.

Something like this just helps your brain refresh a little and you can go back to your work revitalised and ready to knock it out of the park!

Don’t start playing on the XBOX or watching TV during your break though, it’s far too easy to sit for a lot longer than you’d planned if you do that.

You’ll never get back into the groove if you do that.

3. Make the coursework your number one priority

One of the struggles of having so much coursework to do is that you actually have to live as well.

There will be days when you have things to do that aren’t essays and presentations.

But it’s important that you still make sure your uni work is top of your agenda. Get up, get ready, do your work.

Going to the gym or doing your washing or getting some food for tomorrow can wait until the evening. If you start doing these things first, then you risk not having any time left afterwards to hit your work targets for the day.

4. Make yourself daily and weekly targets

Speaking of targets, it’s vitally important that you make yourself some!

Whether you write them all down on a piece of paper and cross them off as you complete them, or you just work towards them in your head, just make sure you know what you’re working towards.

I like to try to be slightly overly optimistic when I set myself daily targets, so then if I don’t tick everything off my list, it makes me more determined to get through everything the following day.

5. All-nighters: avoid at all costs!

They seem to be pretty common stories coming out of every uni, so you’d presume that you’re going to have to pull one at some point, right?

Not at all. In fact, I’d strongly advise that you didn’t let it get to that stage at all.

I’ve never done one myself and I don’t plan on doing one in this final month of my uni career either. I’ve done late nights, that much is true, and even then when it hits 11 o’clock, I can feel my concentration waning and the quality of my work going sharply downhill.

Even after battling through until the early hours, I felt exhausted and woke up slightly later than I wanted to the next day feeling groggy to say the least.

Things like this only have a knock-on effect to the next day or two and although you might blitz your work in your 24 hour session, you’ll lose out in the long run by being too drained to do anything in the following days.


Scott – A bit about my Journalism course

#chooseDerby, #DerbyStudent, LHSS

I’ve been in my role as Digital Student Ambassador for quite some time now, and I realised this morning that I’m yet to actually write anything about what life is like on my course!

So I thought that this week, I would shed a little light onto what happens on the programme and what you can expect to be getting up to if you choose to take the course as I have.

First year on the Journalism degree is much like it is on any other course. It’s an introduction to uni life where you’re expected to adapt to different teaching methods, assessments and learn how to use various different pieces of equipment.

You study modules such as an introduction to public affairs, reporting reality, introduction to journalism and introduction to broadcast. All of these modules help to give you the fundamental grounding and knowledge that you will certainly need and draw upon in your following two years to develop and push yourself further.

I have to say that my personal highlight was the broadcasting module as it was something new and exciting, and learning how to use the radio studios and cameras to record TV pieces with was totally new to me. It’s still something I love doing even now in my final year.

The joy of my course is that it’s mainly assessed through coursework submissions, which removes the stress of having to revise for various exams, but it can also be a pain.

It usually falls so that a lot of deadlines are either on the same day or very close together, so there’s always a lot to do in order to make sure all of your work is submitted on time.

You learn a lot in first year and have you eyes opened as to how much you’re going to be learning about over the course of the degree: it’s not simply reading the news on camera and this is a good thing. The course is fascinating and never fails to bring up really interesting topics of conversation.

Second year is where you really start to work on your practical skills a lot more. After your introduction to all of the kit in the first year, second year is where you really start applying it.

Again, you have broadcasting modules but you also have news days in both TV and radio. These are when you go in to uni all day and put together a news bulletin that would be fit for national broadcasting. Everyone has to bring in a story for the day and you take on various different roles, from producer to director to presenter: there’s a role for everyone.

They’re very intense and full on days, and they tire you out physically and mentally, but they’re so much fun and they’re one of the highlights of my uni career as I mention here.

There is a step up in what’s expected of you and the workload intensifies but this is just part and parcel of any course.

You get to choose additional modules in second year, for example I chose work based learning. So I went out on two weeks of work experience as part of my degree and made some really good contacts through it, as well as gaining invaluable experience. There’s a law module to help keep you on top of your legal knowledge, as well as a reporting practices module where you get to research and write a news feature on a topic of your choice.

Third year is a further step up again.

The compulsory modules are two double modules in convergence portfolio and online and print production project.

For convergence, you have to make five news stories: one print, two radio and two TV, four of which you then have to reversion for the internet as well as writing an essay.

Print production involves writing a large feature article which you have to research and carry out interviews for yourself.

Online production involves making a story and then creating lots of additional multimedia pieces to add onto it, such as video, graphics, timelines and various other things.

You don’t have to do a dissertation, but you can choose the independent study module if you wish to.

You get two module choices in third year, and you can choose from cultures of the war on terror, sports journalism, independent study, media culture and more.

As you can tell from reading this, there’s so much that you cover during the course of the three years as a journalism student that by the time you have finished, you’re prepared to take on any job that comes your way.

And what’s more, you get helped along the way by lecturers who know the industry inside out and do everything that they can to help you to grow and fulfil your potential.

Hope this helps any prospective journalists get a bit more knowledge and insight into the course!

Dale – Essay fun!

#chooseDerby, #DerbyStudent, Dale T

Though it isn’t even half way through the term, I can feel the deadlines closing in! This term while technically easier as I have less teaching hours, is a very hectic one, and that is the same across all courses in spring I can imagine!

After Easter we deliver our Public history Conference (more information about this soon), and our Research Project is due in. This is one I am particularly excited about; though a lot of work has to be done for it, as there naturally would be for a 4000 word essay, it is the first time we are given complete full reign over what area of history you want to research. It’s a large task in the beginning, narrowing down your subject, but once you find your personal interest it is a very exciting project to undertake! Personally I am looking at how the 1947 Indian Partition affected the nation, and the end of the British Empire.

Aside from those two modules there is the compulsory ‘European Imperialism and Decolonization, 1757-1960’ module, handily having very close ties with my research project, and the two optional modules ‘The Making of Modern Medicine’, and ‘Europe Between Wars, 1918-1939’. The first term offered the ‘Research Project’ teaching module, the ‘Society, Culture and Politics in the First World War’ module, and the three optional modules ’Goodbye Lenin’, ‘Gender and Sex 1685-1870’ and ‘European Cultural Identities and Ethnic Minorities’.

As you can see, there’s a lot of work. You only choose two of the optional modules, but the grand total of words you are required to write in second year is… 16,000!!

Even for me that is a scary amount of writing. But it all comes in moderation, so try not to worry… Too much!