One of the obvious ways in which you get guidance about what are the key theories and concepts for your subject is via the lecturers that you will have access to if you attend classes. The lecture and hand-outs are designed to introduce the broad territory of the subject, and to map out and give you insight into the key theories and concepts that should be of concern to you in your work. The lecture and hand-outs will also give you specific guidance about the key literature sources you should be exploring. This is one important source of information for you.
In the tutorials, labs and workshops, you are offered an important opportunity to practice using these ideas and theories for yourself, often with the chance to apply them to new situations. In this way, regular attendance at tutorials/workshop allows you to practice and test your understanding of the concepts of the topic. This is vitally important for developing confidence as a scholar.
However, the literature surrounding your subject is your major source of information. One of the secrets of good study is found in the ways in which you extract information from the literature. The best approach is to actively read a section or chapter. You should take a questioning approach to engage actively with what you are reading. It is then best to close the book/article. Now you write down, in your own words, the key points and their significance to your topic. If you can do this, you know you have understood what you have read. If you cannot, you should read again and try to engage more actively this time with the ideas, so that they make more sense to you. This means that you are engaging right at the start with scholarly practice because you are already selecting and transforming the source of information into new applications, rather than slavishly reproducing other people's work. Always note down the full details of the source that you are using every time you make notes, so that you can find the article again in the future, and importantly, you can cite the reference if you use these notes in your work.
Further information about preparing for your assignment and developing your study skills is available on the distance learning web pages.
Advice for students regarding information skills is available on the Library Services website in the Information Skills section.