Tips and websites for more effective students

Why Rituals Pay Off:
Get In the Zone

Athletes do it before a game. Musicians and actors do it before a performance. In fact, in all walks of life, people find that starting off with a simple, ordered routine establishes a mindset which helps get any job done. Learn why rituals can help you succeed and how to establish your own.
“People tend to be at their most motivated and most effective when they are not looking at the clock or worrying about a million other distractions but rather when they are totally focused on and engaged in what they are doing,” say Sarah Moore and Maura Murphy. In their book How to Be a Student: 100 Great Ideas and Practical Habits for Students Everywhere, they explain how students can get into learning mode by following some study rituals.

“Experiment with different work and study environments” to determine whether you concentrate better without background distractions or whether “a favourite piece of music… helps(s) you create positive focus.” Also, the authors suggest, “generate clear goals and install regular opportunities for feedback.”  And “Try to reduce overall levels of anxiety” by concentrating on “eliminating the ‘what if’ questions from your thoughts.” Karl Staib, the man behind, shares his routines in “Creating a Project Ritual to Create Happiness.” To get in the zone for one of his current projects, Staib’s ritual is to “Clean off my desk” to “only focus on the task at hand,” “Close all open computer windows” to avoid the temptation “to do a quick email check,” Put on music to fit the mood I need to be in,” “make a list of what I want to accomplish,” take “a one minute relaxation,” self-coach by asking “how can I enjoy the work?” and, finally, “Get started. This is where I used to hesitate,” he explains, “but now I just jump in because I’ve prepared myself for what I want to get done.”

A Handy Checklist for Writers
Feeling overwhelmed by the onslaught of writing assignments coming your way and all the grammar rules you need to know to complete them? Richard Palmer’s guidelines provide practical insights and some chuckles. Check them out.

In his book Brain Train: Studying for Success (London: E & FN Spon, 1996), 164, Richard Palmer offers great insights on how to study… and enjoy it. One example of the information he delivers is this memorable list of Rules of Grammar for Report Writing:

  1. Remember to never split an infinitive.
  2. The passive voice should never be used.
  3. Punctuate run-on sentences properly they are hard to read otherwise.
  4. Don’t use no double negatives.
  5. Use the semi-colon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn’t.
  6. Reserve the apostrophe for it’s proper use and omit it when its not needed.
  7. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  8. No sentence fragments.
  9. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  10. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
  11. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a lot of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  12. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  13. Give slang the elbow.
  14. Conversely, it is incumbent upon us to avoid archaisms.
  15. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!!!
  16. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 onwards or more, to their antecedents.
  17. Hyphenate between sy-llables; avoid un-necessary hyphens.
  18. Write all adverbial forms correct.
  19. Writing carefully: dangling participles must be avoided.
  20. Steer clear of incorrect forms of verbs that have snuck in the language.
  21. Take the bull by the hand: always pick on the correct idiom and avoid mixed metaphors.
  22. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  23. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
  24. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  25. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, resist hyperbole.
  26. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
  27. Don’t string together too many prepositional phrases unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
  28. “”Avoid overuse of quotation marks.””””
  29. For Christ’s sake don’t offend your readers’ sensibilities.
  30. Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

Print out this list to use as a handy reminder when you’re doing all those writing assignments. And check out Brain Train: Studying for Success for many other useful tips.


Teach your kids to do online searches more effectively with:

Boolean Basics
Scouring online databases can be more effective when you use Boolean logic. Discover what’s involved in this technique and how to add it to your online search toolkit.

“Boolean Search is an algebraic concept,” says the University System of Georgia’s Online Library Learning Center adding, “but don’t let that scare you away.”

“Boolean connectors are all about sets,” they continue, noting that the words used as Boolean connectors are “and,” “or” and “not.”

They explain:

Think of each keyword as having a “set” of results that are connected with it. These sets can be combined to produce a different “set” of results. You can also exclude certain “sets” from your results by using a Boolean connector. 

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