No-one can lay down rules about how to study, but it is worth working out a rhythm that suits you, and that will enable you to make the best of your time as a student. This includes deciding when and where to read as well as how to plan and write an essay. Some people find they are at their best in the mornings while other prefer to work late into the night, so it is a good idea to decide whether you are a lark or an owl and plan accordingly. Can you concentrate best in the Library, or do you prefer to work at home? Do you work best in long, uninterrupted blocks of time, or do you prefer to work in short bursts, with frequent breaks? You also need to recognise that your friends’ rhythms may not be the same as yours: some people produce good work by studying through the night sustained on black coffee, others do not.
Try to embark on an essay in a positive frame of mind. The best way to do this is to begin work well in advance of the deadline and then you will have time to enjoy your reading. Make sure you allow time to think as well as read; talk about the topic with others, mull it over, re-read your notes, follow-up further references. Writing an essay is like cooking; you may be able to throw everything together quickly in the end, but unless you have decent ingredients it won’t taste very good.
You should have been shown how to find material in the Library, but if not, there will be someone willing to help with information at the issue desk nearby. But you need first to be sure what material you want. If the reading list is not clear to you, then ask the tutor who prepared it to clarify which material is relevant for your particular essay. Some students seem to feel that it is ‘cheating’ to talk with the tutor about an essay in preparation. On the contrary, such discussions can be a useful part of the learning process.
You will need to decide how much reading to do. A common...