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The Study Abroad Programme

Expert guidance from Study Advice at the University of Reading

You may find that you have fewer hours of teaching than you are used to. This doesn’t mean less work! In the UK, the emphasis is on you to develop your own understanding of your topic through studying independently.

What do your lecturers expect of you?

Your lecturers expect you to:

  • Take the initiative in developing your own learning
  • Have effective approaches for managing your time to complete your work
  • Have the ability to effectively find, select, and evaluate material
  • Think critically when building your understanding
  • Show how your understanding developed from your research by using evidence and referencing it correctly
  • Communicate your understanding clearly

What this means for you:

When you have an assignment to complete you will usually be expected to work out how to do this for yourself. You may have a suggested reading list, or some guidance on research, but essentially you will need to take decisions about the best way to conduct your research in order to answer the brief you have been given, and be prepared to justify them.


Top tip: Although you are expected to work out how to tackle assignments yourself, this doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. A key part of independent learning is developing your own skills. If you have questions about studying effectively, come and see us at Study Advice.

Effective study practices for UK Higher Education

Critical thinking is a phrase you will hear often in UK higher education study. It means that you should always question what you have learnt, test it to see if it is valid and consider how it can be used in a wider context to say something meaningful about your topic. That doesn't just apply to what you have learnt from your own reading and research, but also from your lecturers.

Be sceptical!... Get into the habit of not accepting information without considering why you are happy to accept it. That might be very quick, for instance, 'because it comes from a source I am sure is authoritative and objective'. Or it might need more thought: 'It's not what I expected to find. But there is this persuasive evidence, I've done some further reading and I haven't found anything that contradicts it.' Remember that whoever reads your work will be sceptical too - so make sure you have shown that your research is careful and rigorous by correct referencing to show how your ideas were developed or thorough justification of your choice of methodology.

Evaluate and assess… Scholarly work is not wholly objective. Scholars choose different theoretical frameworks to interpret and measure ideas. They may be writing to convey a particular message, or from a different cultural perspective. Or they may be using a sample that cannot be generalised from, or straightforwardly compared to the sample you are using. Don't just think about what has been written - consider why, and how it works.

Keep asking why… Every time you find yourself making an assumption, ask yourself 'why?' Then, when you have the answer, ask 'why?' to that as well. Every time you do this, you have to consider and justify your reasoning - that's what critical thinking is about.


Top tip: You may be very used to studying independently already but the styles of assignment may be different here at Reading. Always check your assignment briefs and criteria carefully for what you’re being asked to do.