The Pros and Cons of Recording Your Class Lectures

Ive only used an MP3 recorder a couple times in my college career, and these were for classes where my professor would spit out tons of information in a brief amount of time (and my pen couldnt keep up).

Here are some pros and cons of recording lectures:

The Benefits of Using a Recorder

The class lecture is complex and difficult to understand.
If youve ever had to sit through a lecture about Foucault, you know how difficult comprehending a lecture can get. And thats where listening to a lecture a second or third time can help.

Youre going to be absent.
Ask a friend to record a class lecture if youre going to miss it. Sure, you could just copy his or her notes, but a recorded class lecture in its entirely will make sure you dont miss a thing.

You want an audio archive.
If youre scared you might lose paper versions of your notes, then you might want to consider having an audio version available as a backup.

You cant keep up with how fast your professor is lecturing.
I have horrible penmanship, and my handwriting is too slow. So if you have a professor or TA that lectures fast, you may want to consider recording the lecture to catch anything you missed.

The Problems of Using a Recorder

Listening to Recorded Lectures Takes Time
The biggest downside of using recorded lecture notes is that it takes time to listen. Its another hour or two out of your day to scan through an old lecture. Its a time killer.

Recording Lectures Encourages Half-Listening
When you know everything is getting recorder, youre apt to daydream or not pay full attention to whats being said.

Recorders Require Batteries and Might Not Work Properly
You never know when your last battery dies, or when the recorder didnt capture everything your professor said. You also miss out on any notes your professor writes on the board.

Common Recording Problems
Here are some recording problems Ive encountered: batteries died, pause button left on, volume too low, and recorder microphone not close enough to the speaker.

For the most part, I never used a recorder – but what about you?

Where to Find a Librarian 24/7

If you ever have any research trouble, you should seriously consider contacting a librarian.

They can cut your research time in half – and help you find exactly what you need.

And you never need to visit a library to talk with them.

Simply chat with them online with one of the following online services:

Amherst College Librarians
Amherst College librarians are available to chat through ICQ, Yahoo, MSN, Trillian, and AIM. Check out their website for details on how to contact them.

Ask a Librarian
The Memorial Hall Library allows you to email one of their librarians or call them at 978-623-8401 x31 during their library hours. Ive never tried emailing them, but their websites says theyll respond within 24 hours.

Ask Here PA
Ask Here PA is a library service based in Pennsylvania. They promise to answer your question within 15 minutes.

Brown University Librarians
This library chat service is intended for students at Brown University, but Im sure theyll help you out if youre nice.

Cornell University – Ask a Librarian 24/7
Cornell librarians are available to chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also email them with any questions you might have.

Florida Ask a Librarian Service
This website connects you with Librarians in Florida. This online chat service is available until midnight (Eastern Standard Time) Monday through Friday. They are also available to chat with you on Saturday and Sunday until 5 p.m.

Internet Public Library
The Internet Public Library allows you to email your question to a librarian. The only problem is that it takes about 3 days to get a response.

Library of Congress – Ask a Librarian
Librarians at the Library of Congress can also assist you with your research. They promise to respond by email within 5 business days. allows students to chat with a librarian online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After youre done chatting, theyll email you a transcript of everything youve discussed. I found this service very helpful.

Peoples Network
The Peoples Network will hook you up with a librarian in the United Kingdom. They have a real-time chat and email system to help you answer your questions.

Princeton University Library
Chat with a Princeton librarian on AOL, Yahoo, MSN, or ICQ. They arent available 24/7, but you can catch them online during the day.

Seattle Public Library
The Seattle Public Library also provides a 24/7 online chat program to help you with your research. Theyre chat system is connected to librarians across the country.

Please leave a comment if there are other library websites people should know about.

How to Proof Your Paper Like a Pro – 8 Proofreading Tips

I used to work as a proofreader.

It wasn’t the most exciting job in the world, but it helped me become proficient at proofreading ads and documents very quickly.

Whenever possible, it’s always best to have someone else review your essay.

However, it’s not always convenient to get someone to edit your paper at the last minute (when most papers get finished).

So here are 8 tips to help you proof your own paper like a professional:

1. Read your paper backward
A surefire way to find misspellings is by reading your essay backward to yourself. This makes every word stand out. And this is a great way to focus on the punctuation of each sentence.

2. Read your essay out loud
One simple way to proof is to read your essay aloud. This will help you focus on the rhythm of your writing, your punctuation, and any glaring errors in your sentence structure. If any sentence sounds confusing, you should revise it.

3. Cut the fat
Eliminate passive verbs whenever possible.

4. Proof in stages
I always proof my papers in stages. This means that I’ll typically plan on proofing my entire paper in a variety of stages. For example: (1) Focus on every word; (2) Focus on punctuation; (3) Focus on subject/verb agreement; (4) Focus on argumentation; (5) Focus on pronouns . . . etc. You get the idea.

5. Pay attention to apostrophes
Examine every word that ends in “s” and ask yourself if an apostrophe belongs there. Remember that apostrophes should never be used to make words plural.

6. Focus your attention on every comma and semicolon
Scan your paper to find every comma and semicolon. Make sure you’re using them properly in the sentence.

7. Proof headers and subheads
You’d be surprised how often headers and subheads get misspelled. This is because most people who are proofing are focusing on the details, and they often miss the big glaring error right in front of them.

8. Proof in the morning
You won’t catch as many errors if you’re proofing right after you’ve finished writing. So take a long break before editing the paper.

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Group Study 101 – How to Avoid Goofing Off

I love to study in group sespecially before an exam.

The only problem is that if you dont have the right people in your group, you can end up wasting a lot of time. And thats not helpful for anyone.

Here are some tips to help you avoid goofing off when studying in a group:

Find the Right Students
There are many ways to stay productive during a group discussion, but it all starts with finding the right people. I recommend selecting the members for your group yourself. You know who in your class participates in class discussions. You know who seems to be serious about their education. Its those people that you want to join your group. The more motivated everyone is, the better off youll be. I know its fun to join a group with a bunch of friends, but those are the types of groups where its easy to goof around and not study productively.

Limit Your Group to Under Six Students
The larger the group, the more difficult it can be to keep everyone focused. If the group begins to grow for some reason, I recommend splitting everyone up into groups of 5 or 6. I tend to find that small group sizes work better together.

Set an Agenda
Once everyone arrives for your study group, decide on a quick agenda (if it makes sense). An agenda will keep everyone focused on whats ahead, and what they should be concentrating on. Set approximate time lengths for each item, and try to assign various tasks for each person (depending on what youre studying). Sticking to an agenda is a key to good productivity.

Discuss Class Notes
If everyone is studying for a particular test, have everyone make copies of their class notes. Everyone takes notes differently, and its helpful to look at a range of notes from different student perspectives. Everyone will benefit from seeing everyones notes. This could also spark some great discussions on areas that should get studied.

Discuss Possible Test Questions
Tell everyone in your group to bring a list of questions they think might be on the test. These questions are a great way to get the groups mental juices going. If possible, email your professor or teachers assistant ahead of time to get a list of areas to focus on. All the questions brought to the group are a great way to keep everyone thinking about the exam. It will also highlight particular areas that need more attention.

Everyone Should Teach
Some students are going to understand test material much better than others. If it makes sense to the group, have each person talk about the particular area they know very well. Have them explain what they understand about the particular topic, and have them field questions from the group.

What are some ways you keep your study group productive?

How to Study Effectively – 8 Concentration Strategies

We found a killer list of concentration strategies for students.

This list is perfect for those who want to know the best way to cram for an exam. Check this out:

Eat Frequent Small Meals
Avoid eating a big meal before a study session. Too much food will send your body into a rest mode. On the other hand, dont starve yourself either. Frequent small meals are best.

Study When Youre Sharpest
Study according to your body-clock. Are you sharpest in the morning or at the evening? Schedule your most difficult materials when you are mentally at your best, and schedule the easier ones when you are mentally less efficient.

Drink Water Often
Drink plenty of water during a study session, especially when you feel sluggish. Caffeine may help you to stay awake, but it can increase your anxiety – use it in moderation.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable in Your Chair
Choose a chair that supports your back. It should be comfortable, but not too comfortable. Just like an athlete during a performance, your body should be relaxed, so that all your energy goes to where it matters – your brain.

Clear Your Desk of Everything You Dont Need
Have everything you need on the desk. Put away what you do not need for the study session. Seeing reminders of other assessments or domestic bills may increase your anxiety and distract you.

Take Breaks Every Hour
It is important to take a break before you feel tired and lose your concentration completely. Regular breaks at least once an hour helps to sustain your concentration. If the work is not going too well and you have difficulties in concentrating, you may need a long break and go back to it later

Stretch During Your Breaks
Know and respect your concentration span which will vary from hour to hour and from day to day. When you sit for long periods, gravity draws the blood to the lower part of your body. When you take a break, take a few deep breaths and get more oxygen to your brain: try walking around and doing some light stretching for a few minutes. It will help to release tension in your body, and help your circulation.

Study at the Same Time, Same Place
Study at the same time and at the same place, devoted to study only. This helps you to associate the time and place with studying and concentrating. You will find that you get into a habit of studying as soon as you sit down.

Check out the other concentration strategies . . .

Where Do You Study Best?

Although studying in a dorm room is convenient, it is often a poor place to learn. There are simply too many distractions.

Thats why its important for you to choose a study spot where you can focus and not have opportunities to goof around.

Here are some tips on how to find your best study area:

Study Where Youre Alert
It is difficult for me to stay alert in a library. Sure, I can stay focused for a while, but I easily fizzle out without caffeine. So thats why I prefer reading and writing in a local coffee shop. Theres something about drinking coffee and having people around that keeps me energized and focused on writing my papers. I know coffee shops are not ideal study areas for everyone, but it works for me.

Study Where You Can Focus
I know this is obvious, but its important to study in a location where you wont be bothered. This means turning off your cell phone and going to a location where nobody else knows who you are. This can help you maximize your productivity.

Study in the Same Location
Ive read about the importance of studying in the same location regularly. Your mind and body know where you are. Using the same place to study helps train your mind and body to focus your attention more quickly. So whether you enjoy studying at a particular desk, or reading in a particular chair at a coffee shop, try and stay consistent.

So where do you study best?

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How to Prepare Yourself for Final Exams – 5 Smart Ways

So were all about one month away from final exams.

And that means that its time to start preparing ourselves mentally for the exams ahead.

If youre taking four courses, then you probably have to write four final papers; review notes from 40 different lectures; finish reading 8 to 12 different textbooks; and find time to prepare for final exams.

It can seem overwhelming, but if you start preparing yourself now, youll feel a lot better about getting everything accomplished.

Here are 5 ways to help you prepare your mind and body for a successful final exam season:

Spend Time Studying for the Tests that Carry the Most Weight
Not all final exams and papers are weighted the same. Make sure you know what percentage each paper or final exam is worth to your grade. That will give you some perspective on how much time you should designate studying for each class.

Focus Your Time on Difficult Classes
If youre pulling a solid A in American Literature, then you obviously dont need to spend as much time studying for that class. Instead, spend most of your study time on the difficult classes where your grade is borderline.

Spend Time Reviewing Class Notes Now
Do yourself a favor and spend at least one hour per class reviewing class notes. That means youll have reviewed all your class notes in just 4-hours. Highlight all the areas that are important, and look at the syllabus to narrow down the key areas you should spend your time studying. By simply going over all your class notes, youll get a good overview of the specific areas you should start studying. This will also provide your mind with a good summary of everything youve been learning this quarter (or semester).

Organize Study Groups
Most students wait until the last minute to form study groups. And those group meetings often turn into cram sessions. To avoid this, organize your study groups now to go over class notes and areas that should get studied. Youll all feel ahead of the game if you start your study groups now – and thats a huge way to reduce stress during finals week.

Design a Study Schedule and Stick to It
Make a commitment to spend at least an hour a week (per class) to focus on the final exam. By setting aside time now to focus on the final exam, youre preparing your mind for whats ahead. And youll also find areas that you have questions about. This will provide you plenty of time to get answers from your professors.

Super-Sized List of Online Academic Databases

Ive been spending a lot of time writing and researching this semester.

Im actually having dreams about one of my papers – and I have so much more research to do.

Anyway, here is a list of online databases that Ive been using to find journal articles for my lit reviews.

Most of these databases require a student ID and password, but Im listing them here because its quick access if youre in a school library:

The Nuts and Bolts of Time Management

If youve been reading productivity blogs for a while, you probably already know the basics of time management:

  • Making your “To Do” list
  • Focusing on one task/goal at a time
  • Creating deadlines for yourself
  • Rewarding yourself for accomplishing your goals
  • Avoiding procrastination
  • Making time to relax

Its easy to understand these basics, but its another to actually apply them in real-world situations.

As you know, its very easy to lose focus on our daily goals – especially with email,, Google Reader, yada, yada, yada.

So thats why Ive found these online resources on time management very practical:

Managing Your Time
Dartmouth developed a nifty list of online resources for time management. The article includes links to a time management video, planning documents, and free calendars to download in both Word and Excel.

Beating Procrastination
The best way to defeat procrastination is to identify it the moment its happening. This article provides 3 practical steps to overcome this weakness in all of us.

10 Tips for Time Management in a Multitasking World
Even though this article is focused on todays office environment, it definitely fits with the life of a busy student.

12 Hours to Better Time Management developed a great article on time management. Pay close attention to the first section that discusses how to set up your calendars.

61 Time Saving Tips
This article starts by saying that You DO have enough time for everything and then gives you a laundry list of ways to help you accomplish all your goals.

8 Ways to Avoid Managing Your Time Effectively
Sometimes it helps to read the opposite advice to think clearly about what were doing to waste time.

Time Management Principles for Students
The University of Minnesota Duluth compiled this list of time management strategies for students. Simple and practical.

TimeTracker is an online tool to help you track the time you spend on each of your tasks. It can help keep you on focused – which is helpful when you need to write a lengthy paper.

Time Management [Video] – Randy Pausch
This lecture was recorded at the University of Virginia – and runs over an hour. Its both informative and entertaining.

How to Cram for Final Exams

Its final exam time, and that means many students are having all night cram sessions right now.

Cramming isnt the best way to study, but sometimes its your only option especially if you havent been keeping up with your class readings.

Here are some cramming tips from around the web:

Divide up your time.

  • Figure out what you actually have time to do. Tally up your total study hours and estimate how much time youll need to spend studying each major concept, allotting the most time to the material you are least familiar with. Tackle the most unfamiliar concepts first, while youre still fresh, and save the material you know best for last. If you need to re-allot your time, donate more minutes to the lowest-ranked material to make sure you understand it fully.
  • Work steadily, but take frequent five- or ten-minute breaks to conserve your energy and avoid getting overwhelmed. Take a walk; get a snack and some fresh air. Move around often to prevent fatigue.

How to stay alert.

  • If youre having trouble staying alert while youre cramming, and you have no time for sleep, drink some coffee. If youre tired right before your test, drink some more. Caffeine aids mental alertness. Tea has also been proven to aid concentration.
  • Run up some stairs or do some jumping-jacks. Exercise gets blood flowing and relaxes you. It also increases your alertness.
  • It has recently been proven that the smell of cinnamon and peppermint can help you stay alert. So chew on some gum if youre feeling worn out.

How to remember.

  • Recite, recite, recite. Recitation will burn facts into your mind like no other study method. Recite the material out loud until youre sure that youll be able to recall the information selected.

Study selectively.

  • You have to decide which information is most important to remember and concentrate upon those facts and ideas. Resist the temptation to try and learn all of the important-looking material. Youll need to use as much time as you have to remember the material youve chosen.
  • As you go through your notes, find important definitions, concepts and equations. If you dont know them by heart, write them down on a separate piece of paperyour cramming notes or, better yet, on 3X5 note cards. This will help you identify what you need to know, and youll have a handy set of flash cards. The process of rewriting may also help you memorize the content.

Eat a good breakfast.

  • Eat a good breakfast the morning of the test. Fueling up with nutritious foods will help keep your nerves steady and your brain engaged. Leave yourself enough time to give the test material one last review before you leave for school, but dont look at the material after that.