Academic life | University of Oxford
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Academic life

The following resources may be helpful when thinking about any challenges that you may be facing and what you can do to address these. The resources listed within this section are not intended to be used as a reading list and are by no means definitive. Some resources may be more helpful than others as different resources suit different individuals. The University is not responsible for the content displayed on external links.

This page includes advice for freshers and also help with time management, procrastination, perfectionism, study skills, writing, research and passing exams.

Performing academically

Useful links

Useful books

Overcoming Perfectionism
Roz Shafran, Sarah Egan and Tracey Wade: Robinson (2010)
Based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy, aims to help you break the vicious circle of ‘never good enough’.

Writing Under Pressure
Sanford Kaye: Oxford University Press (1990)
Presents a system called the Quick Writing Process that focuses on real-world writing tasks and demonstrates how to produce clear, honest, powerful work possible under the constraints of time and space. A writing instructor with twenty-five years teaching experience.

The Clockwork Muse
Eviatar Zerubavel: Harvard University Press (1999)
Aimed at writers with large-scale, long-term writing projects (like a master’s thesis or PhD). The author explains how to set up a writing schedule and regular work habits that should take most of the anxiety and procrastination out of long-term writing. It argues that "writer's block" just indicates a need for a better grasp of the temporal organization of work. It helps readers work out when to write, for how long, and how often, while keeping a sense of momentum throughout the entire project. It shows how to set priorities, balancing ideals with pragmatism.

Further links 

Ideas for further reading

Overcoming Procrastination
Andrea Perry: Worth Publishing (2002)
A new and useful diagnostic tool to help identify where and how you have become stuck, and offers a wealth of strategies to overcome entrenched patterns of procrastination. The book introduces the Action Spiral model used in the Procrastination workshop offered by the Counselling Service.

How to Pass Exams Without Anxiety
David Acres: How to Books Ltd (1995)
Revised to reflect the latest changes in examination and assessment methods, and the most recent findings as to effective study and relaxation techniques.

How to Get a PhD
Estelle Phillips and Derek Pugh: Open University Press (2005)
Practical and clear, examines everything students need to know about getting a PhD through research in any subject. Includes a diagnostic questionnaire to self-monitor progress.

Achieving a PhD: Ten students’ experiences
Phillida Salmon: Trentham Books (1992)
The students write candidly and lucidly about their feelings, misgivings and the stresses of fitting in this huge commitment to a life already filled with family obligations and the demands of work. They also describe the solutions they found to practical problems such as storing their research, recording sources and gathering information. Their supervisor brings these accounts together into a coherent overview of all that is entailed in achieving a PhD.

The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination
Chrissoula Andreou and Mark White: Oxford University Press (2010)
A very practical aim to shed light on ‘a vexing practical problem that generates a great deal of frustration, regret and harm’. Not a self-help book but a serious and thought-provoking exploration of a what for many is an important problem.

Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done 
Oliver Burkeman: Cannongate Books (2011)
Straight to the point and very insightful about virtually every aspect of life: emotional life, social life, personal productivity, and career. Chapter 5 is a very useful chapter from a very useful book.

The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-free Play
Neil Fiore: Jeremy Tarcher (2007) 
A different approach to most others, its premise is that scheduling too much work is counter-productive: we get discouraged and rebel. It suggests starting with scheduling high-quality play time and fitting work in between.

Freshers: adjusting to university life

Useful links

Ideas for further reading

The Confidence Gap: From Fear to Freedom
Russ Harris: Robinson (2011)
A highly readable book about building confidence and moving in the direction you feel meets your values. This book is written from an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) perspective.

The Reality Slap: How to Find Fulfilment When Life Hurts
Russ Harris: Robinson (2012)
This book is a supportive read about when life hurts and how to ride with the pain. It builds on one’s own robustness and resilience, and how to make sense of painful events. The theory comes from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done 
Oliver Burkeman: Cannongate Books (2011)
Straight to the point and very insightful about virtually every aspect of life: emotional life, social life, personal productivity, and career. Chapters on ‘How to win friends and influence people’, ‘How to get more done’, ‘How to use your brain’, ‘How to keep functioning’ may be especially relevant.

A Guide to Uni Life: The one stop guide to what university is REALLY like
Lucy Tobin: Trotman (2009)
A useful book for a young person leaving home for the first time and coming to university. Has in-depth sections on money, accommodation, food, health, relationships and happiness. Also includes first aid section, handy!

A Psychodynamic Approach to Education
Alex Coren: Sheldon Press (1997)
Covers developmental issues of adolescence, transitions, gender, etc. as well as academic work and its possible psychological meanings. For students who would like to think psychologically about their own development and the meaning they attach to their education.