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BILD - All About People
Thursday 17 January 2019
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Study skills advice

We all vary in how we study and learn. Some people prefer to study in short bursts, spreading their learning over a long period. Others prefer more sustained periods of concentration. Some of us like to study early in the day and others don’t start until late in the evening. No one way of working is better than another. You should find a way that suits you.

The following guidelines will help you to get the most from the time you spend studying and help to ensure that it will be enjoyable and successful.

The right environment

You will study better in a quiet room that is free from distractions and where you will be undisturbed. Make sure that your seat is comfortable and supportive and that you have enough working space to spread out your study materials. Good lighting will make reading easier and help prevent your eyes from getting tired.

Identifying and using resources

You may find some of the topics covered in this book interest you so much that you want to find out further information about them. You can find information about working with people with learning disabilities from:

  • books

  • newspapers

  • magazines

  • journals

  • websites

  • television

  • colleagues

  • people with learning disabilities


It’s a good idea to keep a record of your resources. You could cut out and keep newspaper or magazine articles and make a note of websites you have visited or television programmes you have watched. You will need to have a good filing system so that you can organise these resources to enable you to find what you need quickly.


We read for many different reasons and purposes. The reading you do for your studies is likely to be very different from reading for leisure. Probably the most important difference is the way you work through the text. When you read a novel, you will usually open it at the first page and read through to the end. This is known as ‘passive reading’ because you are reading everything without question. When you are studying, you may read only one chapter, or use the index to find information on one subject that is located in various places through the book. This is known as ‘active reading’ because you are finding the answer to a question.

When you are studying, it’s a good idea to give yourself targets so that you read more effectively. You could ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I really need to know this information?

  • Do I need to know some of this information?

  • Is this nothing at all to do with what I need to know?


As you go through the text have a pen near you to take notes, or a highlighter or Post-its to mark key points. This will help you to sift out information which will be useful to you.

Reading styles

Once you have established the purpose of your reading you can identify the style of reading most suited to your task. The most commonly used types of reading are:

  • Skimming involves going through a text quickly at about two to three times your normal reading speed. Look at the index, chapter headings, introduction and conclusion, as well as looking at the first line of each paragraph. This is a useful technique for deciding whether the book contains any  information that is useful to you.

  • Scanning is useful when you know exactly what you are looking for, such as a telephone number or place name. You find the word or phrase you are looking for and then follow the text.

  • Search reading is used to look for key words and phrases which will help you find specific information. Look in the index to see where you will find key words and topics. Then locate these in the publication by scanning though until you find the words or phrases you are interested in.

  • Receptive reading is where you need to have a good general understanding or to find out accurately what has been written. When reading receptively you need time to pay close attention to the text, think about what you have read and perhaps make notes.


Taking notes

One of the most important skills to develop through your studies is the ability to make clear and concise notes. You can make notes in training sessions or as you read a book or article or watch a television programme. Making notes helps you to understand a topic and identify its key points.

A common mistake when taking notes is to write everything down. You can make more useful notes by thinking about what you are looking for before you start reading the material or listening to the presentation. Produce notes which are relevant only to what you are looking for and try not to be sidetracked by writing down information you don’t need.

There are different ways of taking notes. You should choose a method that suits you. Bear in mind that you will have to remember what they mean later on! Some ways of taking notes are:

  • a short summary of the main points

  • numbered points or structured lists

  • a list of headings and subheadings

  • mind maps, patterns and spider diagrams

  • shorthand

  • key points


You should write down where you have taken your notes from, for example the publication or the website. If you use the information in an assignment you will need to say where you got it from. This is known as referencing. Use highlighter pens where you can to highlight the main points. Post-it notes are useful to mark important information which you can return to later on.

Organising your time

Spending time planning your studies can be helpful. Firstly, you can avoid a last-minute rush to meet deadlines. Secondly, if you plan how you are going to approach each task you are more likely to carry out each stage effectively and produce a higher quality piece of work. The key stages of organising your time effectively are:

  • Being realistic is important if you want to organise your time effectively. To work out how much time you actually have to study each week you should ask yourself what other commitments you have which take up time, such as:

    • work

    • family

    • social events

  • Planning ahead is essential. You will need to ask yourself a number of questions:

    • What exactly is involved?

    • How long will it take?

    • When will you do it?

    • How will you do it?

    • When should it be completed?

  • Organising your studies carefully will enable you to make the best use of the time you have available and help you to stay motivated and on track. Break large tasks down into manageable chunks:

    • Plan a timetable of when you will do each task.

    • Remember that it might be useful to allocate a larger amount of time to some activities. For example, writing an assignment may be better done in one session so that your ideas flow more easily.

    • Prioritise – don’t do the easiest thing first, but the most immediate thing first.

Being flexible

The unexpected always happens, so don’t become upset or disheartened if you are unable to stick to your timetable. Ask yourself what needs to be done to get back on track and don’t be afraid to ask colleagues, family and friends to support you.

Confidentiality and consent

These qualifications require you to relate what you are learning to your work situation. As part of this you will need to reflect on the way you work with people with learning disabilities. Before you involve an individual with learning disabilities in any activities relating to your studies you will need to obtain their consent. Discuss this with your line manager before going ahead.

If you use information about or observations of your colleagues or individuals with learning disabilities in your written work you should be aware of the need for confidentiality. Rather than use someone’s real name, you should use a false name or an initial to identify them. You should show the individuals what you have written or tell them about it to check that they are comfortable with what you have written. Discuss your organisation’s confidentiality policy with your line manager before completing any of the activities.


Passing off someone else’s work as your own or using someone else’s work without acknowledging them is a form of cheating known as plagiarism. Copying other people’s work is a serious matter and it is not acceptable to pass off some else’s ideas as your own when you are completing any written work such as an assignment.

Plagiarism includes:

  • copying directly from a book, website, handout or another learner’s work

  • unfairly using another person’s ideas in your work or rewriting a passage from a book or website without saying where you got the ideas from

You can read books, handouts and information from the Internet when you are studying. To make sure you are not accused of plagiarism when writing an assignment you should always:

  • complete it in your own words

  • make sure, if you are studying with other people, that you each produce a different assignment

  • use quotation marks if you quote directly from someone else’s work – for example, ‘prejudice means that we have preconceived opinions that are not based on reason'

  • acknowledge fully where you obtained your information if you want to quote from a book or article or information you have obtained from the internet – for example, give the title, author and date of publication and the publisher (for example ‘Communicating effectively with people with a learning disability’ Sue Thurman, 2011 Learning Matters Ltd and British Insititute of Learning Disabilities’)

  • include the web address and the date you obtained the information if you use ideas from a website, for example www.bild.org.uk 23 May 2011

Using the Internet

The Internet contains a wealth of information to help you with your studies. Most of it is extremely valuable. However, some websites contain information which is not reliable. Here are some things to bear in mind when using the Internet for research.

Use only websites which you know to contain reliable information. For example, if you were researching government policies you would go to an official government website. If you wanted information about a particular learning disability you would find it on the website of an organisation that supports people who have that learning disability.

Remember to note down the website address to show where you obtained the information. Do not copy information directly from a website into your own written work without saying where you got it from as this would be a form of plagiarism.

Do not buy ready-made assignments from the Internet. This is also plagiarism.

Download this BILD Study Skills advice.