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Study's exhausting... before you've even put pen to paper

STUDYING the art of study is a complicated practice. It's a skill that every student has to learn.

IF I write an essay about the history of Irish politics, I can't just look up facts and historical occurrences and other such research.

I have to find out how to use the library properly, the databases, how to reference and how to structure it, all before I've even opened a book or put pen to paper.

Students have to conform to a certain style. There has to be consistency.

I don't disagree, I am just all too aware of the amount of hoops we have to jump through to gain that level of consistency. How do we achieve uniform essays? The Harvard Referencing System, of course.


This is the system that, with 20 minutes to a deadline, makes our blood boil in both anger and panic when we need to format every reference, citation and compact them in an alphabetical bibliography on the back page.

Confused? We all are. And we haven't even gotten to the content yet. Once students have grasped how to reference, they need to find the content to reference. But the college libraries are different to the local one you got your first library card at. And every college library is different from one another as well.

It's not just books you need to look at, it's journals, e-books, databases, newspaper archives. Then you need to find the seven-digit combination to locate the shelf you want, and that's if what you are looking for is even on a shelf.

Then you need to find exactly what you're looking for in that source and reference it perfectly in your essay, remember? And that's just one source.

Sometimes, the hardest part of the assignments is finding sources to reference it back to, in order to avoid the dreaded charge of plagiarism.

Sometimes, I find the most informative and effective essays don't come from the books we force ourselves to find. Unfortunately, as students, that doesn't mean we don't still have to find them. And sadly, I don't think we can reference ourselves just yet. Mostly, there are helpful tutorials that students don't look at, and useful workshops that students don't bother to go to, to help them use all resources available.