Web: Spark Your Study Skills


Late night sessions? Flashcards? Attending lectures? Cormac Duffy explains how to best incorporate the internet into your study plan

I don’t care what the Avenue Q song says, the internet is for a lot more than lewd materials. It’s also for pirating large amounts of music and film, having inane conversations with casual acquaintances and watching videos of parasailing donkeys (if you haven’t done the last one, you’re missing out). I’ve even heard rumours that it can be used for studying. Thus, the technophobic o-two editors sent me, the aspiring Indiana Jones of the net, to investigate.

I avoid the obvious student’s favourite, Wikipedia. Regular readers will know why. So I start on one of the most well-known brand-name study sites, SparkNotes. The site has an extensive range of material, from textual criticisms and summaries to science study notes and flashcards, all geared towards American high school students.

The hyper-competition of the US college acceptance system means that the material is all of an extremely high standard. Every Shakespeare text, every boring tome of outdated philosophy, even a wide-ranging selection of history, they’re all there.

The site does seem like a godsend, but it has its weaknesses. Its teen-oriented nature means the site is covered with links to feel-good teen self-help articles and blogs about all things Twilight and Bieber. While trying to read up on Rousseau I was continually harassed by a video ad for Assassin’s Creed inexplicably placed in the middle of the article.

Also, the science sections tend not to go beyond Leaving Cert standard and the choice of material shows a clear US bias. You won’t find a cheat sheet for your Irish history or literature classes. But that’s what you get for studying Irish history or literature. Be thankful it’s not a far worse punishment.

Beyond this, useful material is tougher to find. While there is probably a Sagan’s number of sites advertising their grade-boosting ability, very few will give any help without a payment. I stumbled upon sites such as BookRags, optimistically hoping to find some tips, only to be asked for credit card details.

Universities themselves are actually supplying the best information on studying. See Stanford’s Encyclopaedia of Philosophy or the Yale Lecture series on YouTube if you want something more substantial.

For any of you who struggle with mathematics (and lets face it, who doesn’t?), get onto patrickjmt.com as soon as you can. The site, run by a mathematics professor, contains an extensive amount of video tutorials that could easily be the difference between a pass and a fail.

Hopefully, this will help some of you, but if you’re unmotivated to even look at these sites, start with the very basic how-to-study.com. You will have to learn eventually.