This wasn’t the summer you were anticipating. Instead of being cooped up in a gym which smells of old plimsolls, and agonising over an exam paper, then heading off with your classmates for a long hot summer back-packing, you now have a lot of time on your hands, staring at your bedroom wallpaper and wishing it were somehow different, so how can you fill your time before starting uni.

At the risk of sounding like your great aunt, I’m going to suggest you get yourself prepared for the intellectual adventure of a life-time. You’ve probably already investigated buying a sandwich toaster, a mini-bar and a coffee-machine on e-bay for your new pad (all I’m afraid not allowed in uni bedrooms), but have you started the pre-reading?

Did I hear a yawn? Now before you click away, I’d like you to take some of my suggestions seriously.

Getting uni-ready doesn’t have to be expensive or dull

If you live in Kent, there are some excellent ways you can get yourself uni-ready.  Access to public libraries may be limited at the moment, but they have a wealth of eye-poppingly amazing digital resources if you take the time to look. This is also true of other library authorities in the UK. Why not have a look at this map to find yours.

A very short introduction

Ever heard of the “A Very Short Introduction Series” produced by Oxford University Press, well Kent Public Libraries have them online! They are approximately 140 pages long (hence “A very short introduction” ) and they are written for anyone wanting “a stimulating and accessible way into a new subject”.

Here are some you might like to consider:

Accounting / Advertising / Archaeology / British Politics / Criminal Justice / Engineering / English Literature / Film / History / Philosophy / Psychology

But if you don’t want to stick strictly to your degree subject, why not go a bit off piste…

Anarchism / Angels / Animal Rights / The Antarctic / Anxiety / Autism / Beauty / Bestsellers / The Blues / The Brain / The Cell / The Celts / Chaos / Comedy / Complexity / Coral reefs / Crime fiction / Darwin / Deserts / Dictionaries / Dinosaurs / Design / Documentary Film / Dreaming / Emotion / Free Speech / Free Will / Film Music / Forests / Galaxies / Hormones /Myth / Peace

And if you fancy something from the light blues instead, you can access the Cambridge Histories Online via the Kent public library subscription. Cambridge Histories are a collection of titles spanning 350 volumes in 10 subject areas (mainly arts and humanities focus). e.g. The Cambridge History of the Gothic, The Cambridge History of Magic and Witchcraft in the West, The Cambridge History of Science, The Cambridge History of Black and Asian British Writing, The Cambridge History of British Theatre.

This is your chance to delve into some of these titles and start asking questions. Impress your lecturer with some thought-provoking pre-reading.

Public libraries also provide access to e-audiobooks if you find that you want to listen rather than prop a laptop on your bedside cabinet.

Get in the JSTOR-know

If you haven’t experienced reading scholarly texts or journal articles before, then now is the time to try it. JSTOR is a major supplier of multidisciplinary articles and book chapters from top scholarly publishers. When you get to uni, you’ll discover that we subscribe to most of JSTOR’s content, but until you get here, why not see what is freely available on the site.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

It’s probably not the best site for science and medical articles, as JSTOR doesn’t offer the most recent research, but for a long-look at a subject, you can find a lot of interesting material. Maybe if you don’t know exactly what’s going to be taught on your modules, you might want to look for something more general. Or maybe try reading about something you already know about, to get a sense of the style and structure of academic writing. You’ll be surprised what you can find:

Spoilers, Twists, and Dragons: Popular Narrative after Game of Thrones

The Worlds Align: Media Convergence and Complementary Storyworlds in Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World

“You must feel the Force around you!”: Transmedia Play and the Death Star Trench Run in Star Wars Video Games

So, get a feel for JSTOR and how you search it, as in some disciplines, it might become your best buddy. For other subjects Google Scholar and PubMed might be more suitable. Why not take a look?

As you read, you may wish to think critically about:

  • What are the most important points in this (article)?
  • What have I found out that I didn’t know before?
  • Is the article convincing? Why / why not?
  • Does this change what I think? Yes? How? Why? No? Why not?

Start thinking like a uni student, and you’ll be prepared for the course reading when you arrive.

Sampling and selecting

One thing you are going to learn about uni life is that there is a whole lot of reading for some subjects. Why not get adept at sampling and selecting material before diving in for the full immersion.

Image by Shirley Hirst from Pixabay 

Google books provide previews for some of their titles – little tantalising tit-bits to get you to buy the book.  Well why not read the previews and create a hit list of titles that you’d like to read when you receive your university smartcard (which also acts as your library card).  Have a look at our university library catalogue and see if we have them.  Be critical about what you find – is the material up to date, is it relevant, who wrote it and why?

Amazon also offers free sample chapters. Try to choose titles that have been published by a university press or an academic publisher such as Taylor and Francis, Routledge, Sage etc. and avoid books aimed at a general readership.

If you’d like to find out more about free academic material online, then take a look at this Open Access blog.

As you embark on your university journey you will find that selecting and rejecting information is an important part of forming your own ideas and arguments. You will also find that adopting search tricks such as using the search text option in Google Books to tease out information, become invaluable.

However, it is important to recognise that citing from a snippet view has its dangers, as you may find yourself mis-representing an argument or theory because you have only read a small part of it. Where possible, it is always best if you can obtain the full-text and read more than one or two pages of any text, if only to evaluate how the snippet fits in to the wider argument. Imagine writing a 600 page academic text, and everyone only ever read the first 5 pages.

Feel the pages

Maybe you just want to own a few core texts to get you set up for the new academic year. Well, the CCCU book shop is open (in a virtual way) for business.

You can browse texts by subject discipline and see featured books from reading lists. They operate a price-match promise with a certain retailer (psst…. Amazon). They offer free shipping, and if a book isn’t found on their website send an email to bookshop@canterbury.ac.uk and they will investigate.

If you are unsure of which titles to purchase, the programme administrators from your academic department are usually able to recommend core titles.

Get in touch

If you have any further questions about the library and its services, please contact us or follow our lively Twitter feed @ccculibrary and Blog.