Full  STUDENT  pdf  here…




Full  TUTOR  pdf  here…







[ S = notes for Students  /  T = notes for Tutors  /  S, T = both ]     RLF’ = Royal Literary Fund



Who can benefit from this Pack ?                                                           [S, T]



·         Anyone interested in self-development through reading, writing and study.


·         Mature students and sixth-formers preparing for the independent regime of university study, along with its various and demanding tasks (essays, exams, presentations, vivas, etc.).


·         Students already at university (post-graduates too) motivated to find new stress-reducing study techniques or ways of enhancing grades, confidence and their enjoyment of courses.


·         Teachers/ Tutors, and their departments, seeking support or fresh ideas in establishing (or augmenting) a rigorous, effective and student-friendly approach to Study Skills.


·         RLF Fellows in academic/ writing institutions, involved in 1-to-1 or group work where Study Skills are an on-going concern, or dealing with repetitive study-based problems.



What is ‘Mission Possible’ all about ?  Why use this material ?      [S, T]



Many students, at some point in their study, find themselves apparently stuck in the same old problems.  Their grades refuse to budge.  Coursework becomes a chore.  Other students might actually be doing very well, yet seem thwarted in their attempts to hit the very top notes of achievement.  Mission Possible offers all such students and their tutors, at the very least, a partial remedy.  This diverse palette of Study Skills resources has been developed by Mario Petrucci, Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Oxford Brookes University, and with the bogged-down student very much in mind.  It is free for anyone to use, either in personal study or as part of a tutored course (though not for publication or resale, see Conditions of Use).


The Pack is already tried and tested, and has proved invaluable to students in the preparation of essays, dissertations, talks and presentations, as well as for anyone attempting to survive exams.  Many of the techniques, though, go further than that: they also help with ‘life skills’.  That is, the ideas can be adapted to all kinds of situation – anything from the design of a clear and energetic CV, to giving an impressive job (or radio!) interview.  The benefits are lifelong.



What kinds of topic are included ?                                                         [S, T]



            Speaking & Presenting in Public                           Design & Delivery of Overhead Transparencies / PowerPoint

            Voice, Body, Breath;  Nerves                              Creating a ‘Core Statement’ (for essay plans, etc.)

            Essay Plans                                                         Making sure you answer the Question

            Building Your Argument: ‘13 Ways’                     Modes of Reading: ‘Skim/ Scan/ Spiral’

            Memory and Revision                                          Mnemonics (making memory easier)

            Memory’s Wheelbarrow                                       Strands of Study (a strategy for the entire year)

            Managing Tasks: the 6-Stage Attack                  Building ‘Personal Modules’ (your knowledge base)

            Proofing & Checking                                            The Five Writers (how do you work?)

            Basic Study Skills: a summary                              Building English (e.g. for overseas students)



What the Pack doesn’t do…                                                                      [S, T]



Mission Possible is by no means exhaustive, nor is it a cure-all for every type of difficulty you will encounter in essays, exams or research.  There are gaps which, given the space and time, I would have liked to plug (including that fraught issue of how to adjust your work to meet a required word count).  Moreover, there are common queries in essay-writing – such as the conventions for bibliographies, quotes, etc. – which I keep silence on, partly because they are dealt with so thoroughly elsewhere (for instance, on the RLF site, in David Kennedy’s excellent guide).  I focus instead on a number of key skills in study, planning and presentation, often of deep concern to students but not always dealt with in the ‘How-To’ books.  I also introduce new, unusual or revitalising techniques to cope with some of the perennial problems.  As ever, though, one cannot find all the answers in one place – one never does! –  but I am confident Mission Possible will give you a good start.



Things to watch out for …                                                                         [S, T]



Clearly, no format can meet every eventuality; so, I must leave it to you to adapt, interpret or rewrite each item according to your specific needs.  If for any reason you do get stuck or confused, the advice or input of a tutor or colleague can, of course, really help.  It is also understood that whenever my examples refer to a particular author or book (Byron’s Don Juan, for instance, or the British Council/ Picador anthology New Writing 12) more pertinent texts of your own choice may be substituted.



Students using the Pack.                                                                          [S]



You can use these handouts and exercises (including the seminars) as part of your independent/ self-directed study, or to bolster your grades.  It is a good idea to access the site with friends, particularly where seminar/ group work is suggested.  The pages can be viewed on-screen or downloaded.  Each exercise has been made as student-friendly as possible, with well-scaffolded guidance notes and many examples to enable you to run with a sheet (or set of sheets) pretty much from scratch.


One important thing to remember: most of the handouts were originally designed for a tutor-led module, so please don’t be put off when you encounter notes or instructions directed at tutors.  Read those notes, as you may need to take them in.  Also, if some handouts seem (at first sight) a little more difficult to do on your own, by all means get the help of a friend or teacher/ tutor.  I have included those resources because I want to cater for all levels of aptitude and experience; furthermore, with the Pack thus intact, you have access to all the background material and get a better sense of how the exercises fit together.  Of course, you can choose just the pages you want to use.  But do bear in mind that, with a little help, the more advanced exercises can be invaluable to core aspects of your study.



Tutors & Teachers using the Pack.                                                         [T]



These sheets serve as ready-to-use handouts or overhead transparencies, designed to neatly occupy just one or two sides of A4.  There is some cross-referencing, but mostly the construction is free-standing and modular, facilitating a pick-and-mix transfer into your particular course context.  With teaching/ lectures in mind, strong visuals are used wherever possible, to keep things easy on the eye.  If some pages (or overhead transparencies) appear a little dense, please bear in mind there was a vast amount to communicate in a very small space: do feel free to reconfigure to your own taste.  For this reason, the pdfs are not ‘locked’, allowing you (post download) to tailor the material as you require.  When doing so, please refer to Conditions of Use below.  The materials are entirely free; but the usual courtesies of acknowledgement still apply.  Finally, for tutors unable to deploy these resources in any systematic way (say, in a summer school or first-year module) please refer students to this site for self-directed study, as many of the handouts are suitable for independent access by students (see: ‘Students using the Pack’).



Conditions of Use.                                                                                      [S, T]


I am entirely happy for any of these handouts and exercises (or adaptations of them) to be copied and used for educational purposes, subject to the following conditions:


·         Please ensure each sheet or excerpt retains the copyright notation: © Mario Petrucci 2005;


·         No idea, text or image may be reproduced or re-published in saleable form.


Use of ideas or material in articles, journal papers, etc., requires the usual courtesy of acknowledgement.



‘Mission Possible’:  how it came to be; where it’s going.                  [T]



This Pack is the fruit of successive RLF Fellowships I held at Oxford Brookes University, culminating in an R&D project in 2004-5.  In this, I was able to extend, test and finalise a variety of Study Skills resources which had grown out of years of student queries.


These ideas are hewn from the coal-face.  For instance, during the inaugural Fellowship in 2000-1, I was deep in a 1-to-1 session on essay structure with an overseas student.  We were both struggling to make ourselves understood.  Finally, I drew a sketch to represent the essay structure.  The student paused; then, in answer, drew his own.  A productive image-based conversation ensued!  Using a similar approach with other students (at all levels of eloquence) it soon became clear that these images not only saved time and avoided misunderstanding, but also began to fall into families of recognisable type.  A wall-chart – the ‘13 Ways’ – was born.  Other ideas arrived, centred (through necessity) on students’ stated needs and informed by my growing realisation that many writing difficulties at college either stem from a lack of basic skills or strategy, or else can be traced back to long-term habits and assumptions.


This web-based Pack collects together all of my key materials in this vein.  Some items (such as The 13 Ways, The Four Ls and Black-Red-Green) are entirely new.  Already successful with staff and students at Brookes, the Pack was first launched into the wider domain by the RLF, but is now archived here.


The Pack has also been incorporated into Passages, a pilot undergraduate module I developed at the Department of English Studies in conjunction with Rob Pope and Simon Kovesi.  Passages is a crucial, pragmatic initiative.  It provides templates for good study practices as well as evidence that teaching Study Skills can generate profound improvements in student capability.  I am delighted that its currency at Brookes is linked to my Fellowships there, and that I was able to raise awareness of the importance, and full variety, of Study Skills issues in a university context.






[a brief overview]



WHAT KIND OF WRITER ARE YOU?  ‘Five Writers’.           Seminar:  1 hour.


Handout:               Discovering some different styles and approaches to writing and planning.  What kind(s) of writer are you?  How might you adapt and improve your approach?


Cartoons and instructions.  For tutor-led work or self-directed study.






Useful for tutors as well as students, whenever you present information via speech or audio-visual means.  General help on some key issues behind good talks, lectures, seminar inputs, interviews.


Tutor-led or self-directed study (3 parts).  A mixture of handouts, overhead transparencies (OTs) & guidance sheets.



Presentation Skills 1         Some general ideas on making presentations …


Exercise 1:              Body vs Brain                       Is presentation about the body or the brain?

Exercise 2:              Prompting                             Techniques for making a passage connect & flow.

Exercise 3:              Breaking Stones                 Improving stodgy or woolly passages.

OT:                         The Power of Prompts        Simple example, showing how key a ‘prompt’ can be.



Presentation Skills 2         Designing OTs:  the dos and don’ts …


Handout:               (a)  Overall considerations in making a presentation.  Speaker + audience.


Handout:               (b)  Designing an overhead/ handout.  The 4 Ls: Load, Look, Layout, Learning.


OTs:                       (c)  Some examples of OTs:                # 1          Awful !

                                                                                                 # 2          Better ?  How much so ?

                                                 # 3          Effect of removing ‘visual cues’

                                                 # 4          Effect of paring things down

                                 # 5          A good overhead transparency ?

OT:                         (d)  A note on proofing.



Presentation Skills 3         Voice, Body and Breath.


Handout:               Preparing to speak.  Being still.  Habits.  Relaxation.  Dealing with nerves!  Rehearsals.



Seminars on Presentation   About 1 hour to do both.  Suitable source texts needed (e.g. via tutor).


Instructions:         Seminar A:  Producing OTs                              Practise making a good transparency,                                                                                                                                using suitable course texts (group work).


Instructions:         Seminar B:  ‘Holding the Thought’ Working (in pairs) on your oral delivery.






Essays, exams, and all the rest.  These handouts, seminars and exercises can form the core of lectures and guided work on the subject; also, they can (mostly) be used by students independently.



Some innovative techniques which help students to make a thorough, coherent response in essays, reports, exams, dissertations, presentations, etc.  Includes: getting to grips with what you want to say and summarising your ideas effectively (Core Statement); making sure you answer a question suitably and thoroughly (Black-Red-Green); finding a strong and viable structure for your answer (the 13 Ways).




Handout/ OT:                       Summary of the various ideas in this section.



Answering/ Questioning  [A]           The Core Statement  (or: what are you trying to say?)



Main handout:                      What is a ‘Core Statement’ and why is it useful?  Building an essay around it.


+ Support handout/ OT:     A further example of a good Core Statement.

+ Support handout/ OT:     Summary/ recap of issues around the Core Statement.


Instructions:                         Seminar: the Core Statement ‘Swap’.                                             1-1.5 hours

                                                Take an old (or current) essay and work in pairs to improve it.

Answering / Questioning  [B]          Black-Red-Green + ShadoW-WordS.



Handout:                               Introduction.   An epidemic: why people don’t answer the question.


Handout:                               Black-Red-Green Method.   How to make sure you do answer the question.


Handout/ OT:                       Summary version of previous handout on Black-Red-Green.


Handout/ OT:                       ShadoW-WordS.  When it comes to ‘Green’ (above) see how certain words

in the question drop definite hints on how you should answer.


Handout/ OT:                       An example of how to use Black-Red-Green to generate a full essay plan.

                                                This is an advanced example, so do discuss it with peers and tutors.



Answering/ Questioning  [C]           Building an Argument: the 13 Ways.



Handout:                               Every argument needs a logical structure.  This sheet describes 13 types of structure, the ‘13 Ways’.  What are the 13 Ways?  How can they help you?  This section needs a little time & in-depth study.  Read this sheet alongside the 13 Ways chart (next) …


Handout/ OT:                       13 Ways Chart.  Visual representation of 13 possible structures (essays, etc.).


Handout/ OT:                       Performing the same task using different Ways  (Example 1: Beckham).


Handout/ OT:                       Performing the same task using different Ways  (Example 2:  Job interview).


                                                There’s usually more than one ‘Way’ of answering a question.  The 13 Ways are flexible, and you can choose which approach you prefer. However, some Ways may be more suitable than others for a given task (see seminar later).


Handout/ OT:                       Discussion (optional): where does ‘Beginning-Middle-End’ fit in to all this?


Handout/ OT:                       Building An Argument:  The 3 Types.

[OPTIONAL]                          A simpler (but far more general & less complete) set of essay structures.



Essay Plans and the ‘13 Ways’: a Seminar       Advance preparation + 1 hour seminar.


This is a crucial activity if students are to fully grasp the various methods in this section.  Aim: to practise the Black-Red-Green Method, create a Core Statement and produce (and improve) an Essay Plan.  This is the exercise where all the relevant ideas come together.  Group work (tutor-led) or self-directed study (students work alone or in pairs).



Preparation sheet:                                This sets up the seminar (see next).  You require two questions [A & B] to

[in advance]                        work with.  Typical examples of A & B are given, but you should substitute

your own.  All students work through this sheet, well ahead of the seminar.


Seminar handout:                 2 sheets of instructions (with discussion) + another copy of the 13 Ways chart.

[on day]                                                Will help you: answer the question, plan your essay, improve its structure.


+  Alternative Seminar       Uses the 13 Ways to tackle more varied writing tasks.  Needs 13 Ways chart.

[Instructions]                       Helps develop useful structuring skills for all kinds of assignment.


(Optional) Handout/ OT:   Follow-up for seminar – Essay Plans/ 4 Steps.  A summary of outcomes from

the Essay Plans/ 13 Ways seminar (above).  4  Steps to answering a question.






Various tools and strategies: preparing for exams; improving your memory; making better use of notes.


Handouts:             ‘Memories’                           Memory/ Mnemonics/ Exams:

                                                                                a practical introduction to memory.


Handouts/ OTs:   Processing your notes:      Personal Modules I – example (using Jakobson Model).

                                                                                Personal Modules II – creating  Blocks’.


                                An easy and powerful way to build a reservoir of structured notes over the course of a degree.  Develop ‘modular’ resources you can use effectively in a variety of situations.


Handout/ OT:       Memory and Study:             ‘Strands of Study’.


Understanding the rhythms and structures of study.  Memory, lectures, exams.  Note-taking, reading, revision.  How to time things for best results.  Building to a climax.


Handout/ OT:       Memory and Revision: some reinforcements.  Sleep: Memory’s Wheelbarrow.


The importance of sleep and of the quality of revision (not just the quantity).

Managing memory: short-term, mid-term, long-term memory.





The overall management of assignments, particularly tough ones!  Learning from experience.

Further thoughts on Presentations.


Handout:               The 6 Stages: a General Approach to Tasks.


This section brings together most of the earlier ideas, creating a powerful six-stage approach to task-solving.  This is an all-purpose, flexible approach you can adapt to most situations or assignments.



Handout:               Before & After’: some final thoughts about Managing Tasks.


The need to check your work, to learn from previous assignments.  Recognising your strengths, weaknesses.  Rehearsing for presentations.  Growing as a writer.




Study Skills: a summary.   Handout/ OT:  a simple overview of all the ground we’ve covered.  Study as an involvement of the Self – much more than just a series of tasks.  Enjoying what you do.






Some important odds and ends: Basic Study Skills; Writing Essays (Key Stages); Building Your English; Techniques for Reading (Skim/ Scan/ Spiral); Modes/ Categories of Writing.



1.  Handout:          Basic Study Skills.   Assessing tasks; building your response.

Useful when you have a great deal of material to read or research.  Saving time.



2.  Handout:          Writing Essays:  Key Stages.   Clear, step-by-step approach to producing an essay.  The key concerns – captured on one sheet of A4.  Supplements earlier material.



3.  Handout:          Building Your English.   Particularly useful for overseas students.



4.  Handout/ OT:  Techniques for Reading: Skim/ Scan/ Spiral.

There are different ways of ‘reading’.  Save time; cover more ground more effectively.



5.  Handout/ OT:  Modes of Writing  (Categories).  Descriptive writing, analysis, evaluation, etc.

A quick guide to 8 modes of writing, what they are and when to use them.



Edited for archive: 05-10-2014


Full  STUDENT  pdf  here…





Full  TUTOR  pdf  here…




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