Study tips from a criminology major

Hello everybody.

 I’m Lydia, a Criminology major on Spain, currently in pursuit of a Masters degree, guest writer on this blog for the occasion and a friend of Puralika. Other than that, I think that’s all you need to know about me.

Hope that the couple of posts I’ll write for the blog are of interest for you.

Kindest regards.

STUDY SPACE table chair windows

I bet I’m not the only student who has ever procrastinated… A lot. Like, revising for an exam about 6 or 8 hours prior to the said exam. Sounds familiar, right?

Well. How can we get out of that addictive, yet the stressful way of studying -and living-? How can we evolve to healthy productivity and work optimization?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t have a straight answer to those questions. 

Or, at least, not one you can miraculously implement in your life and change your habits overnight. However, I can share my story and my experience with you; which tips I use in my daily life as a university student with fairly good grades and even some free time for social life and hobbies.

First things first, I deem as necessary a bit of a background story. I’m a Criminology graduated in a European country, which means I have studied a lot of courses on Law, mainly Criminal and Procedural Law. Therefore, I have little experience in the Common Law system. Take this statement as a bit of a disclaimer regarding the -potential- differences in the contents themselves of the courses and, therefore, what you may study. Criminology, as a multidisciplinary science, involves a lot of different subjects: Law, Sociology, Maths (yes, statistics are a lesser evil), Psychology…  So, what does this mean then?

It means that I’ve had to develop a flexible way of studying, although a basic line remains.

First of all, my first and biggest tip it’s to give it a try to the Pomodoro Technique (or anything similar). 

The Pomodoro Technique is a way of working and studying which consists of dividing focus. During 25 minutes straight, you only study and have your complete focus on the task at hand. After that time has passed, you get a 5-minute break before going back to the 25 minutes of work. After your third/fourth 25 minutes of work, the break is incremented to 15 minutes. Why I find this tip the most important of all?

Because it targets focus, attention. In my case, it’s one of my main issues; I get distracted, especially if I find boring or unappealing what I must revise and work on, so my mind distracts itself with literally anything else. And thus, procrastination is born.

You must have the will to maintain the rhythm and focus on the 25 minutes: no phone, no distracting music or videos, no chats, no social media, no TV, no books… Just pure productivity. The brain enjoys more the rewards of the 5-minute break if you keep up the good work.

This leads me to another tip: to avoid distractions, mute your phone. I advise against turning it off completely because that gives me a bit of anxiety, but silencing it completely to me proves to be a better way to keep me focused and, at the same time, mislead my brain into thinking I’m still connected (which I am, just in a passive way).

Those are the two tips I truly advise to anyone since I find them the most “global” or adaptable to any person and their circumstances. However, keep reading if you want to see some more advice, on a more personal level.

Well, my next study tip is: grab a pen and write. Let me explain better. 

For courses related to Criminology, Psychology, Sociology… and, in essence, any course where memorizing is not imperative, but you got a lot of notes and text, I advise following these steps:

  1. Read first the material, whether that’s a textbook, a presentation, or your notes taken in class, etc. Read at least once, without skipping anything and, if it’s not too much content, read it again.
  2. After that, write manually a summary of the material you have read and need to study. Some parts and paragraphs you may copy them literally as you read them, other you may re-write them as you see fit, with your own words (try to do this option every time you can, in my experience that makes it easier to understand and memorize).
  3. Add to your summary any diagrams, outlines, schemes, etc, you find useful. Add them to summarize certain points of your summary if you find it helpful (done that when, for example, I had to study a list of theories -the diagram just with the names- that, also, had more extensive descriptions, which was the part I summarized in a text). If you have a good visual memory, this step is gold, like the next one.
  4. Add some highlights to keywords or titles, but don’t highlight everything nor make a rainbow out of your notes, cause that ends up being counterproductive and distracting (for me at least, it even makes it more difficult to read “fluently”). Try to put a very simple colour code in the highlights; i.e., different colours for each subject (for example, for Criminal Law use yellow and for Procedure Law pink).

These steps or method, whatever you wish to call it, take some time to get it done, so apply them with enough days in advance before the exam/test you need to accomplish. If you don’t have enough time to write manually the summary, it’s okay: type it instead and later print it. I’ve had to do that several times myself, due to exam dates and project deadlines, etc.

For Maths and things with much less text or theory and more formulas, operations, etc, my advice is: practice, practice, practice. Search for different kinds of problems that apply the same formula and try to understand the logic. I have to admit, I can’t be of much help in this kind of studying, since Maths has always been my worst subject ever since high school (although I always managed to pass with worse or better grades).

As for memorizing tips, I find it quite important that you understand what you need to memorize. Just because you can’t use your own words to explain the topic doesn’t mean you should disregard this point. It will help you memorize better (more accurately) and faster. Also, you could always try to read aloud; that way, not only you read the text but you also hear it. I found that when I felt stuck this helped to make it a bit easier. 

Plus, a little bonus motivation tip: I’m one of those people that find satisfying to cross out tasks from a list, so who knows? Maybe you should give it a try too and write your list to cross! 

And, by the way, it’s always rewarding and satisfying to put the effort and see how far you’ve gone, you may surprise yourself (…and prove some people wrong, which is also satisfying).

Finally, I must add: don’t give up. Struggling is part of the process, especially if you are used to procrastination, so don’t be discouraged if at first, you can’t keep a constant routine. Just keep trying and putting the effort. 

And please, take this post just as it is: guidance, advice and opinions. 

Be daring and creative and explore. Get to truly know yourself and detect your weakness and strengths as a student, and adapt your study method to yourself: your personality, your courses, your circumstances… That way, you’ll be able to optimize your study sessions. Remember, it’s about studying smart.

So, this is very generic advice. Nevertheless, I truly hope it served you in any possible way.

To end this post, I’ll leave a final recommendation: check out Dr Amina Yonis’ YouTube channel and her videos on procrastination, study tips, etc. I see them myself and find them very helpful, as well as motivating. Plus, she has a wide variety of topics useful for university students. Below, I leave a link to her video on the 80/20 rule for productivity: How To Apply The 80/20 Rule & Instantly Increase Productivity | Work Less Achieve More

Hope you have a good day/night and that you fulfil all your purposes!

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