Participating and getting your voice heard
Advice on participating in an academic context, and ensuring your voice is heard on wider issues.
Getting your voice heard is an important part of being a student, both in an academic setting (such as lectures and tutorials) and in a wider university context (such as clubs and societies).
You are expected to participate fully in lectures and tutorials – by listening, asking questions and contributing your views. Postgraduate work involves learning from your lecturers and tutors but also from your peers, and this kind of learning requires actively taking part. Many students find this challenging but it is central to doing a postgraduate degree.
Lectures and tutorials
Edinburgh has a wide and varied academic base, and every student has a valuable role to play in the academic life of the University. Students’ thoughts and opinions are welcomed and valued, and they form an integral part of developing the ideas presented in lectures or tutorials.
Here are some tips for learning to participate and making your voice heard.
Your programme may have a small lecture group or combine larger-scale lectures with small group tutorials. You may find it easier and less intimidating to ask questions in study groups or smaller tutorial groups first, until you have built enough confidence to ask a question in a lecture.
Research in advance
An important part of studying at a postgraduate level lies in developing your capacity for independent learning. Relying on the information provided in lectures and tutorials is not enough; you will need to read independently in your subject area as well. This kind of reading – and corresponding analysis of what you have read – will help you participate in lectures, because it is easier to ask questions when you have researched a subject in advance. It can be particularly useful to write down any questions you may have before a lecture; that way you will be clearer and more confident when you ask a question.
Remember to speak slowly and clearly when you ask a question, so that everyone can hear what you are saying, as your question is likely to be relevant to other people and may move the class discussion forward. Lectures can be fast-paced, so it may be a good idea to raise your hand to signal that you want to participate.
Non-native speaker? Make the most of support available
Speaking up during lectures and tutorials can be particularly challenging for some students who are developing their English language skills.
One of the best ways to develop your confidence in speaking in lectures is to increase the amount of time you spend speaking English conversationally. Try to speak English whenever possible, and actively seek out opportunities to talk to native speakers, for example when buying things in shops.
The English Language Teaching Centre has resources available to support non-native speakers.
University life also offers many extracurricular opportunities to explore some of your interests or develop new hobbies or skills. Taking such opportunities is part of making the most of your postgraduate degree.
The University of Edinburgh has over 240 student-run societies. If you can't find a society you want to join, then you can set one up with support from EUSA.
EUSA runs the elections for various positions and committees, and it coordinates a network of student representatives.
The University of Edinburgh is also closely involved with the local community. Taking part in local projects often adds a rewarding dimension to your postgraduate degree.