How to make the most of your time studying at Aston University

We asked our academics, staff and students to share some of their top tips on how to make the most of your time studying at Aston University, and what advice they had on how to improve your grades.

Here’s Debbie De with advice on Referencing.

Students might be uncertain about what actually needs referencing. For instance, some… some things are quite obvious, they’re common knowledge and students wonder, do they actually have to reference that?

But gradually, as the information becomes more and more subject-specific, they question whether or not it requires referencing.

So they might ask us something about… what do they need to reference?

They might ask something… slightly different but still connected with the actual reference. They might ask us.

.. let’s say – for example – a student’s read something and they write about in their essay but they write about it in their own words.

Does that make it their information and their knowledge or do they still have to give credit to the actual author?

Well, we tell them “of course they have to reference it.

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” When they do that, when they rewrite something in their own words, that’s called paraphrasing and it’s good, if they can paraphrase, they demonstrate number one, they’ve done the reading and number two, that they understand it but they still have to provide a reference.

When students ask questions about how to demonstrate their understanding within their writing, one useful tip that I can give students is “try to distinguish between what information comes from the source which they have read and where their own voice appears within the writing.

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So this might mean they have to think carefully about where they position their reference so they might explain something like – for example – Smith – brackets – 2021 explains that blah blah blah…

and then in order to get their own voice across, they might want to write something like “this demonstrates that…”, “this suggests that..

.” so then they can move away from what Smith actually said and apply their own knowledge.

They might also connect what Smith said to what somebody else has written, so they might say “this is supported by an experiment by another study or whatever…

” So it’s a way of distinguishing between who said what and where their opinion appears and what they actually think of it.

And all this demonstrates yes, you’ve done the reading but number two, you understand it enough – based on your subject knowledge – to make a further comment or contribution.

So within the assessment criteria, students have to be able to demonstrate that they’ve done wider reading. It is important.

Obviously it’s useful or it’s a good thing if you refer to what your lecturers have ask you to refer to – the core reading texts – but it’s important to demonstrate that you’ve looked elsewhere, you’ve looked at a variety of sources, so this might mean you looked at perhaps journal articles, you’ve looked at websites, you might have looked at company reports, a variety of different things, and that you’ve not limited to your reading to simply text books.

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So this will demonstrate that you understand the theories which exist within your subject area but you also understand what’s happening currently in practice and in the real world.

So it is important to do that but, also I do advise students – please be careful. Some students think that the more that they have read, or the more that they’re able to demonstrate that they’ve read within…

By providing a huge reference list, they think that that guarantees that they’ll get a good mark but what’s equally or perhaps more important is that they actually use the references to demonstrate understanding.

Because it’s quite simple actually to say… to demonstrate “yes, I’ve read this, this and this” but to actually prove you understand it, you have to use the references to say something, i.e. relate it to the question which you’ve been asked..

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