Academic Integrity - Referencing, Citation & Avoiding Plagiarism: International Students Study Skills
International Students Study Skills
Studying at university in Ireland might be different to that of your home country. Things like learning, classes, and assignments may all work in ways you are not familiar with. This page will give you basic information on these and study tips on how to succeed.
This information is useful before you arrive in Ireland or while you are here studying.
Study Tips for International Students
In Irish academic culture, students are expected to undertake a lot of independent study. This type of learning requires students to plan their study time and set goals for their own learning. Ways of doing this include making a study or revision plan, reviewing lecture notes, critically reading recommended reading, taking organized notes and actively reading around a subject area. Students can work alone or organize study groups.
In class, lecturers and tutors may be less directive about the content of a subject area and about what is expected in your independent study time. To help find out what is expected, read the course handbook or module description. Look for module aims and outcomes. These should briefly summarize what must be learned by the end of each module.
Never be afraid to ask for help. Contact a lecturer or tutor if you need clarification on the further independent study required for a module. Sending an email or asking to talk after class are good approaches. Classmates can also be a good source of information and help.
There are different types of teaching methods, depending on the course you take. During these classes students will be required to participate in different ways.
A lecture usually involves the lecturer presenting to a large group of students on a topic or theme. They often last about one hour. Students are expected to listen and take notes during lectures. Lecturers will often provide a copy of the presentation either before or after a lecture. A lecturer may invite students to answer questions or take part in group activities during the lecture. View our page on taking lecture notes for some tips.
Tutorials are smaller than lectures and usually require more interaction from students. This is a chance to practice speaking in English about academic content. Tutorials are led by a tutor and usually focus on the theme of the last lecture. Students are often asked to do some work or reading in advance. Tutorials are a chance to find out more on your subject areas, ask questions, and to get to know fellow classmates. Students will be expected to speak out and contribute to discussions.
Practical or Laboratory Sessions
In general, practical or laboratory sessions are classes where students will be given clearly defined tasks which they must undertake in a classroom or laboratory. Usually they are led by a researcher or lecturer in the area. Often students will be producing something that will be examined by their lecturers.
Participation in Class
In Irish academic culture, students are expected to actively participate when asked to by their lecturer. It can mean volunteering an answer to a question a lecturer has posed to the class, taking part in a small group discussion in class, speaking on behalf of a group on a topic discussed, or even giving your critical evaluation on a theory or piece of research. The aim of this is to encourage students to think independently, engage with content and improve critical thinking skills. Use the Library’s guide on Critical Thinking for help.
Culturally, this might be very different to the teaching format in your home country. Speaking in English, in an academic setting, may also be very hard. Keep trying, do not be embarrassed about having to speak slowly. Lecturers and tutors are very happy to get contributions from all students in class, especially those visiting from other countries.
To improve your spoken English, make friends with people who you must communicate in English with. This will really help. You could also join a UCD Society or set up a study group.
If English is your second language, reading at university will take longer. Timetable yourself extra time to read course material. On reading lists, essential or core reading must be read. Recommended reading can be undertaken at your discretion. Ask your lecturer for guidance on what to read. Students in Irish universities are expected to read beyond their lecture notes. Reading journals, watching documentaries in English on your subject and talking to fellow students can help. Look at our guides on Active Reading and Critical Thinking.
Writing in a second language is a challenge. Writing academically in English is an extra challenge. The traditions of how academic pieces are written in Irish academic culture might be different to those you are used to in your own language and culture.
Writing in assignments requires formality, objectivity and analysis. Evidence is always provided for any argument or critical review. The subjects you are studying will have their own particular English vocabulary. The Academic Phrasebank at the University of Manchester is an excellent sources of phrases and terminologies for writing in academic English.
Reading widely in your subject area, in academic sources, is one of the best tools you can use to improve your written academic English. Setting up a study group to read and discuss academic content in English, will also help your academic skills.
Citing, Referencing, and Avoiding Plagiarism
One important difference in academic writing in an Irish setting is that of referencing, citing and plagiarism. Referencing and citing requires that all evidence and information produced in an assignment should have details of their sources included. This means including a marker in the text as to the source of your information (in-text citation) and at the end of the assignment, the full publication details of the source you took this information from (reference). If you do not do this correctly, it is viewed as plagiarism. Plagiarism means taking credit for another person’s work. Plagiarism is generally penalized through academic sanctions and in serious cases can lead to failure on a course. It is very important that you learn these skills and apply them in your writing, as even if you do not deliberately plagiarise, you may still be sanctioned.
This might be a very different to the style of writing than you are used to. UCD Library has a comprehensive Academic Integrity Guide explaining what referencing is, how to do it and how you can avoid plagiarism. This includes links to UCD's Plagiarism Policy, which explains your responsibilities as a student.
UCD Writing Centre
UCD Writing Centre, based in the James Joyce Library, is available to help you to improve your skills in academic writing at University. They offer one-to-one sessions as well as workshops.
The Writing Centre also has excellent videos on writing topics such as essay writing, writing critically and editing or proofing work.
Please note, the Writing Centre does not offer translation, editing or proofreading services. They can help improve your skills in these areas, but will not do coursework for you.
UCD Applied Languages Centre
UCD Applied Languages Centre offers pre-sessional and pre-masters courses for those coming to study at UCD from other countries. They also offer a range of modules in English, which students can sign up for while attending. For full details contact the centre directly and ask them for advice on how they might help you.
Students will be given a range of assignments for their course. It is good practice to familiarize yourself with assignment requirements as soon as you are given them. Sometimes they are noted in your module handbook at the beginning of term. In other instances, lecturers will give them to the class during a term. Ensure you use a study planner to enter the submission dates and allocate time for completing each. Visit our time management section for help with planning.
An essay is a piece of writing where students create an academic argument based on evidence from their reading. The essay is in response to a topic, a title or a question provided by a lecturer. The student must outline their reasoning and knowledge on a topic in the form of an “argument”. This must be done in a logical, step-by-step way. Students must provide evidence from the research, as to why their argument is valid and why other arguments on the topic are not valid. At the end, the aim is to persuade a reader that their reasoning is correct.
For simple definitions of concepts such as argument, reasoning and evidence, look at our page on Critical Thinking. In our further reading section below, Stella Cottrell's 'Study Skills Handbook' has an excellent step-by-step guide on how to write an essay.
A report is usually a structured description and analysis of real-life topics. Sometimes a lecturer will give you the expected structure, in other instances you will need to create it. Reports are usually factual and designed to provide information to the reader. Examples of reports would be laboratory reports, research reports, technical reports or business case-study reports. If it is your first time writing one, try to find examples of reports in the area you are going to be writing. This can give you an idea of what is expected.
Sections that might be included in a report include Title, Abstract, Table of Contents, Introduction, Methodology, Results, Analysis, Conclusion, References, and Appendices.
Presentations are sometimes set as part of assessment on a course. Lecturers usually give a topic or choice of topics with a set amount of time given to present. Students are then expected to write and verbally deliver a structured presentation on that topic. It may include an analysis of a subject area, reporting on a project, or some sort of creative piece. In all cases students are expected to critically evaluate all content presented. Students may use audio-visual aides to help communicate the information.
Group projects usually involves a small group of students from the class. Groups are expected to produce a joint piece of work for submission. Some lecturers ask for both a group submission and then a related individual submission. Students are expected to take an equal share of the work and allow all group members participate. Submissions might be a report, a presentation or an academic poster. These can be challenging learning experiences, especially when working with a diverse group. The aim of group work projects is to prepare students for the world of work. If you experience problems in your group, speak with your lecturer or tutor.
Written exams are a chance for students to show lecturers what they have learned in their course. These are usually held in a certain location, at a certain time, for a certain length. The exam will be made up of a choice of questions which students do not know in advance. Instructions on how many questions to answer will be given on the exam paper. Students will then be expected to answer those questions, with evidence from their reading, in the time allowed.
Visit our page on Exams and Revision to help you prepare for and sit exams.
Open-book exams are generally held at a certain time, for a certain length, at a location of choice by the student. Lecturers will present a set of questions, which students can then answer using any of their reading materials or notes. These exams are designed to allow students show what they have learned and how they can critically engage in their course subjects. More information on is available on our Open-Book Exams page.