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Don't panic: Group work

The Psyc/Soc Student's Guide to Fourth Year by Hope Christie and Karl Johnson

Don't underestimate the power of working in groups

Your peers will be a great help to you this year ... [and] will also be great for calming you down.

Fourth year is a great year to spark a sense of comradery. Your peers will be a great help to you this year, even if it is just a ‘quid pro quo’ thing where you offer to take part in their research if they’ll take part in yours*. We would advise that for your elective modules that you form study groups, which have worked well in the past (and is what our year group did). Some of the modules in 4th year may be unlike anything you have studied before. Working in groups will help you discuss lectures and readings together, talk through areas of the module you are perhaps unclear about, and split the readings amongst the group. For modules such as the Cognitive Science of Religion, Eyewitness Psychology, or Evolutionary Psychology, there is a lot of reading to cover; so if you have formed a study group a good thing to do is divide up the reading material and meet at a given time to talk through what you have read.

Plus, having to explain concepts to other people demands that you yourself have a good enough understanding of the reading material. This will help you when it comes to write an essay or complete the exam.

Your peer groups will also be great for calming you down. Chances are a lot of people you know outside of university, who have not done a degree before, will just not fully understand how stressful this year will be for you – at least that’s what we found. Our family and friends tried to be supportive to begin with, but after a while they just didn’t really get it. So make the most of your peers around you, everyone is in the same boat; everyone has a dissertation to do, an essay to write and is getting worked up about something. Take a break, grab a coffee and get it all off your chest. Seriously, there is no better feeling than realising you’re not alone in how you are feeling and having people around you who totally get it.

*A word of caution, however. Group work does not mean doing the work for other members of the group – don’t mistake ‘freeloading’ for favours and support. Working together has to mean equally. Also, don’t make groups larger than half a dozen people – otherwise it’s really just a party.
Albeit perhaps a bit of a sad one.