Study Skills for Chinese Students


Mike Courtney & Xiangping Du

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright

    About the Authors

    Dr Mike Courtney is an academic skills tutor at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. He has taught in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Middle East and the UK. He has researched the influence of culture and language on learning styles and academic skill development. He currently teaches in the UK and in Hong Kong, in the area of academic skills development and Open Learning.

    Dr Xiangping Du is an academic skills tutor at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, supporting students in a wide range of academic skills areas. She studied in both a Chinese and English Higher Education environment, and understands the different academic expectations from her own experience both as a student and as a tutor. Her research in investigating Chinese students' perception of motivation towards, and identification with, the English language enhanced her understanding of the academic challenges Chinese students face when they come to study in an English context.


    This book is written for Chinese students studying in the UK. It will give you strategies for successful study which will help you get the best marks and the best results from your studies. The book can be used as a convenient reference book for all the things that you will be required to do to successfully get your qualification.

    It is important to realise that all students have similar issues, and that all students can benefit from study skills advice. We have written this book especially for Chinese students because we have taught Chinese students in China and in the West for many years, and we have observed some important differences between learning and teaching styles in China, and learning and teaching styles in the UK. We have also written parts of this book in Chinese to help Chinese students fully understand the advice we have given.

    You don't need to read the book from the beginning to the end. The book is written to provide you with a complete study skills course, so reading the whole book will be a good idea. However, you can use the table of contents and the index to find particular topics that you need help with – it might be how to write reports, for example. There are five main chapters, and in each chapter you will find essential information which will help you study successfully. The information is general because each Higher Education institution will have its own specific requirements. However, there are enough similarities for us to feel that any Chinese student coming to the UK to study, whatever the subject, will be able to benefit from reading this book.

    We consulted many academics and students in different Higher Education institutions when we wrote this book. Therefore, we know that particular institutions – universities and colleges – have their own specific requirements. For example, there might be differences in the way that tutors in some institutions want you to write essays and reports. There might be different referencing systems, for example. It is important therefore that you check carefully with your tutors about their specific requirements and that you follow their specific guidelines. However, the basic ‘study skills’ we have included in this book will be similar to all Higher Education institutions in the UK, and will help you produce the kind of work that all tutors will want to see, using ‘good practice’.

    We have written the book in what we hope is a very easy style to read and understand. The chapters inevitably get more detailed as you go through the book, but we hope that each chapter will be easily understandable by itself. To help you, Xiangping has also written to you personally, in each chapter, about her own experience of studying in the UK. She successfully completed a master's degree and a PhD here, so she knows ‘first hand’ what you will experience here. Xiangping has also put some ‘study tips’ in Chinese to help you fully understand each chapter.

    You will hear too from some of our Chinese students about their own experiences studying in the UK.

    We have also provided a convenient translation of some of the more important key words from each chapter, as well as a simple ‘test’ at the end of each chapter (with answers) so that you can be sure that you have understood some important points. Each chapter also provides you with some helpful activities and opportunities to think about what you have read. You don't have to complete these activities, but we think they will help you to develop your personal study skill ability.

    How to use this Book

    You can use this book in two ways. Firstly, if you need to know specific information about essays for example, you don't have to read everything in this book from beginning to end. Use the table of contents or the index and go directly to what you need to know. Another way to use the book – and if you have time, probably the best way – is to read it completely, and complete the exercises and reflective notes. This will ensure that you cover everything and you learn the basic academic skills you will need in Higher Education in the UK.

    We have given you lots of examples of general ‘good practice’ that would apply to any Higher Educational institution in the UK. We have also given you some useful activities to help you remember what you have read. In addition we have put a simple ‘test yourself’ section at the end of each chapter so that you can check to see if you correctly understood some of the most important ideas from the chapter. The answers to these self-test questions can be found in the Appendix.

    Tutor, Programme and Module

    There are some differences in the words that are used for teachers and courses in the UK and China. We have used the word ‘tutor’ to mean your teacher since this is the most common word for a teacher in UK Higher Education. We have also used the word ‘module’ to mean your ‘subject’, and degree or diploma ‘programme’ to mean your course. In China, a course is a programme and a subject is a module.

    Higher Education institutions

    Chinese students coming to the UK will be going to UK universities for degree programmes, but also to colleges for other types of programmes. We have therefore sometimes used the words ‘institution’ and ‘Higher Education institution’ to mean either universities or colleges.

    We have used the word ‘skills’ to indicate the different kinds of abilities which you will need for your academic work.


    In English, your family name is called your ‘surname’. When we have given examples of what scholars have said, we have used the term ‘Surname’ to indicate the scholar. This is the usual way to show a scholar's name in the text – we don't normally use first names in academic writing.

    The Reflection Box

    Guide to Icons

    Summary of Chapter Contents

    Chapter 1

    Different cultures: Living and studying in a new country: This chapter contains some essential information for Chinese students coming to the UK to study. The chapter provides you with information to help you feel comfortable living and studying in the UK.

    Chapter 2

    Essential academic English skills: Because your English language skill is the most important skill to ensure that you develop effectively the other skills in this book, we have devoted this chapter to essential information and revision for the academic English you will need to use in your reading, your researching and your writing, as well as communicating effectively with your tutors and other students.

    Chapter 3

    Essential academic study skills: This chapter introduces you to the special study skills you will need to develop in order to study and learn effectively in the UK academic environment. You will need to use your improved understanding of academic English and academic skills to become effective in the processes of UK Higher Education.

    Chapter 4

    Assignments, assessment and feedback: This chapter gives you essential information about the main types of academic products that you will be expected to produce to achieve module learning outcomes, against which you will be assessed. The chapter therefore contains more detailed information about the kinds of assessment you will meet in the UK, and how you can best use feedback from your tutors to improve your academic performance.

    Chapter 5

    Research and dissertations: This chapter gives you further detailed information about the research aspect of Higher Education study in the UK. This chapter brings together all the study skills covered so far to help you develop one of the most important skills in Higher Education – the research skill. This is an important skill to develop because it is required not only to produce successful assignments, but also for longer individual research projects such as dissertations. The ability to research well is important for finding good secondary data for assignments, as well as carrying out primary research projects requiring your own original research.


    Answers to ‘Test yourself’ sections, activities and reflection writing space.


    We would like to acknowledge the valuable contributions of our colleagues in the Hertfordshire Business School Centre for Academic Skills Enhancement (CASE) in the writing of this book. We also have to sincerely thank the Editorial team at SAGE, and the many anonymous reviewers of the book, for their expert and insightful comments and suggestions, which have helped us to shape the final text. Any deficiencies, errors or omissions are entirely our own responsibility.

    We also need to sincerely thank all of our hard-working Chinese students for their invaluable help and comments in relation to the issues covered in this book. We must thank, in particular, Xiao Zhou (Ava) and Aoke Zhang (Cici) for the written reflections about their student experiences in the UK. Lastly, thanks to all our students who gave consent for us to use their photographs in this book.

    We hope this book helps you to achieve success and happiness in your UK studies!

    Mike and Xiangping

    Student Endorsements

    Study Skills for Chinese Students really helps me to understand how to study successfully in the UK. I like the personal stories of some of the students, and Xiangping's tips in Chinese are really helpful and give me confidence.’ Aoke Zhang

    ‘This book gives us all the information that we need for all our assignments and reports. It has good examples and explains things very well for me. When I came to study in the UK, everything was very different from studying in China. This book is so valuable to me because it shows me how to do everything and explains why doing essays and reports in the UK are different from in China.’ Jennifer Li

    ‘This book is very easy to read and understand. The tips in Chinese help me make sense of English texts. I also find the examples are very useful to demonstrate ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ways of writing. I wish I had this book when I first started studying in the UK. I would strongly recommend all Chinese students studying in the UK to get hold of the book and I am sure it will make a big positive difference to their academic studies and success!’ Sean Song

    ‘This book is different from other study books I have used. I like the photographs and stories from real students, and I like the examples and the Chinese translations. They are very clear and helpful, and I can learn how to write good assignments and reports. The book is very detailed and covers everything that we need to know.’ Huang Zhu

    ‘I really like the clear and detailed explanations of the UK academic ideas and assessments. There are lots of good examples on how to structure answers and how to write and reference academically to avoid plagiarism.’ Keith Tong

  • Appendix

    Answers to the ‘Test Yourself’ Questions
    Test yourself: Chapter 1
    1.Reflection means to think about what you have done, and to think about how you can do it better, and how what you are doing now will help you in the future.
    2.The UK is one country called the United Kingdom.
    3.‘British’ is a word we use to describe anything that relates to the UK.
    4.The UK and the Republic of Ireland are also members of the European Union.
    5.Undergraduate degrees are called bachelor degrees because only unmarried men can study for them.
    6.A four-year degree is called a ‘sandwich’ degree.
    7.A high university ranking means excellent teaching.
    8.The VLE is a very good place for communication between students and tutors.
    9.You do not need to go to induction activities after you arrive in the UK.
    10.You will need to choose an English name when you study in the UK.
    Test yourself: Chapter 2
    1.Language exchange is a good way to develop your academic English.
    2.Academic English is informal.
    3.Academic English uses mainly second person.
    4.Academic English is generally tentative.
    5.This is correct: ‘A manager must do what he thinks is right.’
    6.You should generally use quotations and not paraphrase.
    7.A perfect verb tense is used to show that the action has completely finished.
    8.A colon is used before a list or an explanation.
    9.Semicolons can be used to separate two short sentences that are linked.
    10.You should use ‘etc.’ in academic writing to show that other things are also possible.
    Test yourself: Chapter 3
    1.The three main academic conduct offences are cheating, collusion and plagiarism.
    2.It's not plagiarism as long as you give a reference.
    3.It's always best to use quotation and not paraphrase.
    4.There are two main types of academic reference systems – in-text and numeric.
    5.When you read an article, you must make sure you understand every word.
    6.You should make sure you focus on taking notes in a lecture.
    7.An independent learner does not need to ask the tutor about anything.
    8.It's a fact that London is the capital of England.
    9.Bloom's taxonomy shows the facts about learning.
    10.Theories are either right or wrong.
    Test yourself: Chapter 4
    1.‘Analyse’ means to break a topic, issues, concept etc. into the main parts.
    2.‘Evaluate’ means the same as ‘analyse’.
    3.‘Discuss’ just means to talk about something.
    4.Reflective writing should always be positive and aim at improvement.
    5.It is best not to rehearse oral presentations, so that your presentation will be fresh and interesting.
    6.You should read your presentation from notes so that you don't forget what you want to say.
    7.It is essential to make a revision timetable before an exam.
    8.Open book exams require the answers to be referenced.
    9.It is important to read the module guide to make sure that your assignments show that you are achieving the module learning outcomes.
    10.If your tutor writes ‘So what?’ on your assignment, it means that you did not make it clear why you have included this particular information, or what the consequences might be.
    Test yourself: Chapter 5
    1.You should never use ‘mixed’ research designs.
    2.Research always proves things.
    3.A null hypothesis means that X has a negative effect on Y.
    4.‘Research’ is finding out about a topic and writing everything you have found out.
    5.A random sample just means that you choose anyone who is available to help you with your research.
    6.Qualitative data is sometimes called interpretive data.
    7.It's best to ask open questions at the end of a questionnaire.
    8.‘Construct validity’ refers to your research methods, and the degree to which they actually measure what they were intended to measure.
    9.You should always pilot a questionnaire first.
    10.Likert scales give you information about what people Like.
    Answers to the Activities

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