I used to think that textbooks were useless: they typically have hundreds of pages, contents irrelevant to class, and unexplained pieces of information. Unlike lecture videos or study guides, textbooks are raw. They discuss too much information using abstract academic language. However, as I entered my sophomore year, I found textbooks to be irreplaceable as part of my preview routine before lectures since no other resources can organize content as clearly as textbooks do.
As a double major in Biostatistics and Linguistics who is minoring in math, I am constantly thinking about the best ways to learn. Sometimes this means looking at the overlapping concepts between these three subjects or figuring out strategies that work for a certain class but not for another. And unfortunately, these thoughts are often made in the context of school.
The past few semesters, I’ve found that I’m doing a lot more reading on a computer. Some of my course materials are online, and if I do need a book, many databases have made digital copies available for those without easy access to campus libraries. I also don’t have access to a printer, so readings I might have otherwise printed out have remained resolutely stuck in the digital realm.
Last fall, I realized that many of the study strategies and time management systems that I used as an academic coach could be helpful in my own life as a graduate student (and as an adult, in general). I was in the middle of reading for my Ph.D. qualifying exams and desperately needed a better system. (A list of nearly three hundred books to read in roughly a year felt daunting, to say the least.) Watching as my coaching students revelled in their newfound organizational skills and improved study strategies, I thought to myself, Gee, I should really try these, too.
When virtual classes were announced, I immediately thought about how this meant four more months without my favorite Chapel Hill study spots. As a senior, I owe a lot of my success to the environments that have fostered my creativity (I’m looking at you Wilson Library steps, Meantime Coffee Shop, and the courtyard outside of Swain Hall). Having relocated to Newport, Rhode Island for the semester, I spend a lot of time curating study spots that help me stay motivated. Anything to help me avoid slipping into the monotony of daily routine.
Over the summer, two apps have helped me find the time to read for pleasure. I’ve always loved to read, but, sometime in my sophomore year of college, I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I read something I picked. Finding time to read anything for fun has been a challenge for me. Because I’ve been reading so much for school, I found myself not wanting to pick reading as my relaxation of choice. I really missed reading, though.
The Word and Phrase Tool is a resource that I use to answer questions about my language use. How is this word usually used in a sentence? Does this sound right? Is this formal enough? All of these come to mind as I write. While a dictionary or a thesaurus can help me research these questions, I sometimes want a collection of real examples of the way language is used in real sentences. That language resource exists: it’s called a corpus.