Tips for Effective Study

    By Mirna Momcicevic  


Poor time management, lack of concentration, lack of motivation and poor learning techniques are the main reasons why students fail courses and struggle during the exam period. Although all students go through their difficulties, often the most difficult time is during the graduate school. In order to facilitate the pre-exam stress period we bring you a few tips that might help you.

No universal recipe or tactic will help ensure the success; however, there are certain rules that will, if you follow them, ease your way to success. Quality planning, self-confidence, adherence to the plan, wise use of available time, and quality lifestyle are some of the factors that can help you. Also, the environment you create and your living habits play a major role in your learning process.

Time Management

The most common problem that afflicts graduate students is time management. Many graduates have full time jobs, and children and families to look after. This is why during the first week of classes you should get familiar with the amount of reading and hours necessary for the individual courses and determine how much time you will spend studying on a daily basis.

When planning, make sure that you have time not only for reading, but for writing and editing as well. Once you have you plan laid out, it is extremely important that you stick to it. It might happen that half way through semester you feel burned out and that the plan seems meaningless, but remember “the math doesn’t lie.” If you planned well, the effort will pay off.

Environment and Order

When you learn, avoid distractions; tell those you are living with that you will be studying, so they do not distract you. Put a sign on the door, lock yourself in the room, turn off your cell phone. This might sound like a radical step, but it is often necessary, as we get distracted very easily. This way you will assure continuous concentration.
If you are studying in a group, distribute tasks and responsibilities equally, and the learning process will be more efficient. Group learning does not work well for everybody, and if your priority is having fun with your friends instead of learning, and if you have a hard time concentrating, then avoid the group learning.
Do not switch from a subject to a subject. Concentrate on one subject long enough, as by learning a little on one subject and then switching to another, and again returning to the first creates confusion in your head. Only when you are sure that you learned enough of one subject, move onto the another.

Healthy Diet, Water and Exercising

Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids is crucial for brain and functioning of the centers for learning and memory. Salmon and other fish are known for a large dose of these acids. Foods such as hazelnuts, peanuts and pumpkin seeds also have a great effect on the brain.

Dehydration can seriously impair memory and mental processes. Therefore, make sure that you are always sufficiently hydrated. Water intake depends on your size and weight, and also on your activity level and where you live. In general, you should try to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 to 150 ounces of water a day. If you’re living in a hot climate and exercising a lot, you would be on the higher end of that range; if you are in a cooler climate and mostly sedentary, you would need less (WebMD).

Exercise regularly. Numerous studies have shown that exercising at least three times a week improves brain function and has a positive effect on memory.


Many students sacrifice sleep for the sake of learning, but this is not something you should be doing. Getting enough sleep is essential for brain functioning, good judgment, reaction, and even grammar. Studies show that the brain of a person who had enough sleep memorizes faster than the brain of a person that lacks sleep (WebMD).

Believe in Yourself

Have faith in yourself and believe that you will do a great job. It has been proven that believing in own intelligence can actually increase intelligence. Some tips on how to increase intelligence would include watching less television, exercising, reading challenging books, practicing critical reflection, avoiding sleep deprivation, etc.


Last but not least, when you successfully complete the planned task and learning, reward yourself with a night out, socializing, reading books, watching movies or series. Balance your time spent on learning and allow yourself time to enjoy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why Do an Internship in China?

By Mirna Momcicevic

With Chinese Colleagues

Have you ever consider doing an internship in a foreign country? I know… it’s challenging.They don’t speak your language… it’s expensive… the food is weird… it might be scary, especially if you did not travel to foreign countries before. There are so many reasons to question your decision; however, pros are almost always greater than cons. In addition, grad school is probably your last opportunity to do something like this, as the “real life” is knocking on your door as soon as you say “goodbye” to your student life.

With this in mind, I knew that I have to expend my horizons, meet different people, be able to operate in different work environments and earn such a precious experience before I wave that goodbye. This is the time when we need to come out of our shells, take control over our lives, risk, have fun, and gain precious experience that will make us stand out from the crowd. So when I heard that Villanova is organizing an internship in China, I knew I have to do it.

The very first question many asked when I said I’m doing my internship in China was, “Why China?”

Well, let me list just a few reasons:

  1. World’s fastest growing major economy

According to National Bureau of Statistics of China, China is the world’s second largest economy by nominal GDP, and the world’s fastest growing major economy. It is also the world largest exporter of goods, meaning that China’s economic importance has grown dramatically in the last decade. While countries like the US and the UK are suffering from a depressed economy and bleak job prospects, opportunity is alive and ever-growing in this booming, international corner of the world.

  1. Differentiate Your Resume

International experience in a booming economy such as China will set you apart from the majority of candidates out there. You will be preferred after gaining knowledge of an important business economy, intercultural communication, and different work environments. A China internship can be a basis to show your prospective employer that you are willing to take initiative and challenge yourself in an international environment.

  1. Expend Your Horizons

Apart from learning the language, a China internship will open up and expand your horizons by exposing you to a new culture. You will have the chance to experience and understand how different the culture is, how differently people behave in personal and professional settings, and how the workplace and business negotiations are created. Bear in mind that nowadays, with the technological advances, many companies do international business.

  1. Networking and Connection

Friends and colleagues from different countries are one of the greatest treasures one can have. Networking and connection are especially important in China, and are described by the term guanxi 关系. This Chinese term describing a relationship, favor, network or social connection between friends and partners is a big thing in the Chinese culture. If you are blessed with guanxi, you will find it is one of the best ways to find an internship, job, or do business in China. Chinese people take care of their friends, and mostly likely you will always be able to go back to them.

  1. Memorable Life Experience

The experience you have of living and working in a foreign country and the hardship of overcoming a language barrier and culture shock will be a memorable, lifelong experience, and will strengthen your identity. Later you can only appreciate your efforts and the importance of coming out of your comfort zone, which will be beneficial not only for your future career but also for life in general.

  1. Travel, Travel, Travel

A picture is worth a thousand words. Imagine how much more is worth the picture you see with your own eyes and experience with your own senses. China is such a great country with so much to offer.  It is home to countless tourist attractions, thanks to its rich history, which you can explore during your visit. You can visit some of the world’s biggest cities on the one hand, and explore and enjoy the beauty of the nature of China, including the famous Great Wall, on the other hand.

I’m telling you, “It’s an awesome country, and an awesome experience!” Make sure you keep an eye out for opportunities.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Feature Story: New Director of the Graduate Program of Communication

There have been a lot of changes at Villanova University lately. This school year the Graduate Department in Communication has a new director, Dr. Heidi Rose. I was able to interview Dr. Rose and get some insight about her life and role with the program.

Research Interests and Background

Dr. Heidi Rose is a faculty member in the Communication Department. Her research interests overall concern the body, identity, and the relationship between body and text. Her early research examined American Sign Language Literature and Deaf Culture. She was able to publish this into a book/DVD which is the first bilingual and bicultural text of its kind. In more recent years, she has been drawn to autoethnography as research method and performance. This led her to write and perform two performances.

“I have written and performed two related solo performances, Good Enough and Mirror Image, which I performed together last February on campus and hope to tour around the U.S.”

Like many students in undergrad, her interests of today are something she developed while she was studying at Northwestern University. As a Theater Major who realized that pursuing acting was not what she expected, she choose to return to academia.

“After meeting with Dwight Conquergood, who was one my professors and mentors at Northwestern, he steered me to a Master’s in Communication with a focus on Performance Studies. I was fortunate to be offered an assistantship, so while at Emerson College in Boston I taught speech section of a large public speaking class and began learning about research. I discovered that the teaching a research lifestyle made sense for me and that studying performance and culture gave me a great deal of satisfaction. The logical next move was to pursue a PH.D.”

Goals and Vision

Although Dr. Rose has only been in her position for a couple of weeks, she has developed a vision for the program. She wants students to use the concepts they learn in courses like Strategic Communication Theory and Research Methods to make sense of the world and to effect change in their own particular corner of the world.

“I would like this Graduate Program to be known as a place of possibility—a program in which students feel free and inspired to take intellectual and creative risks and to explore new professional options”

This year she decided not to teach in the Graduate Program because she wanted to focus on learning her role as the Director. However, this Fall she is teaching a Freshmen Honors Course called Interdisciplinary Humanities and in the Spring she is teaching an upper level course called Gender, Performance, and Social Change as well as a Senior Project. While Dr. Rose may not be teaching in the Graduate Program, she has listed her top 5 goals she wants to accomplish during her tenure as Director:

  1. To continue to distinguish this program from all other Master’s in Communication at area universities
  2. To grow our Graduate Alumni Connections
  3. To send more students to Ph.D. programs in Communication
  4. To make sure the program is doing its best to prepare students for a wide range of professional opportunities
  5. To Develop strong relationships with all current graduate students and work together to create the best experience possible for every individual.

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The New Student Perspective: Orientation and the first days of School

Written by Ashlee Douglas

Graduate School has begun! Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. Everyone just kept reiterating, “It’s different from undergrad”, “It’s going to be a lot of reading”. Coming from a non-communication background, I was nervous about what would be expected of me: being able to understand the concepts and to handle the workload. I just kept reminding myself that communication is something of great interest to me and I am confident that Villanova is the place of study that will help guide and strengthen my educational and professional interests.

Student Orientation weekend had arrived. We began with the first lecture, “The Communication Perspective”, by Dr. Emory Woodard It was a way to introduce the new students to the program, the faculty, and touch on the various ways that one can engage in communication studies from the theoretical to the practical. Rhetorical, Social, Critical, Performance Studies, Public Relations, the list goes on. I enjoy that aspect of the study of communication, and I am also excited that Villanova has such a diverse faculty that touch on many facets of communication.

The second day of orientation was several lectures on the expectations of graduate school, from reading, pedagogy, research, theory, and the journey from orientation to graduation. The day was filled with questions, discussions, and getting to know my classmates and some of my professors. By the end of the day, I felt less nervous about this new undertaking and a little more confident in my abilities.

I have completed my second week of classes. I know my way around a little better, I am connecting names with faces, and I’ve got my wildcard (I’m assuming that makes me an official Wildcat). I am starting off with Strategic Communication with Dr. Murray and Quantitative Research with Dr. Murray. Yes, it is a lot of reading as everyone forewarned. However, the readings are interesting and the class discussions are entertaining, so it makes it less daunting. The Villanova community has been great so far, and I am looking forward to what is to come from this experience.

Below are photos from after the Welcoming Lecture where we gave a toast and refreshments were served.

IMG474 IMG473 IMG472

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Qualitative Research vs. Quantitative Research

by Marianela Nunez


Without any doubt, being a graduate student involves mastering research methods. Research methods help us answer questions about the topics and things we want to understand. However, not all methods are meant to answer the same kinds of questions. Hence, researchers have developed two paradigms to do research that differ in their purpose and in their ways to do research. These two paradigms are called qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative Research vs. Quantitative Research

Qualitative research is very different from the quantitative research. The epistemological and ontological questions and assumptions of the qualitative paradigm hold mostly opposite values than those held by the quantitative. In qualitative research, as opposed to quantitative research, in which objectivity is the main focus, hermeneutics is what matters to produce trustworthy knowledge. When it comes to talk about ontology, qualitative scholars believe that there are multiple realities as opposed to one reality about the things they study. According to the quantitative paradigm, there is one reality that is waiting to be discovered by the researcher to reveal the nature of the world. However, the qualitative paradigm disagrees with this understanding and argues that there are multiple realities that are shaped by human interactions on earth.

The qualitative paradigm and its methods to conduct research constitute a humanistic body of knowledge that seeks for interpretation. Qualitative methods represent the assumptions of qualitative research, its concern with representing the other, acknowledging and being reflective of our positionalities and create valuable and ethical work (Conquergood).

The purpose of qualitative communication research is to gain a better understanding of human communication and realities without claiming generalized understandings of the world. As a result, they use thematic analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of the information gathered to produce very rich, detailed and very specific knowledge. On the other hand, quantitative research seeks to quantify and explain reality relying on statistical analysis, numbers, and pre-determined formulas and variables to produce knowledge.

Establishing credibility and trustworthiness is compared to validating a study in quantitative research. However, this is done totally different in qualitative research since we are not looking for generalizable claims to apply to all populations. As the qualitative researcher, Haraway (1988) argues, knowledge is partial and situated. Therefore, establishing credibility in qualitative studies depends on prolonged engagement, member checks, audits, peer reviews and some other factors.

Differently, in quantitative research, the validity of a study depends on the instrument and how well it measure what it was meant to measure. Qualitative methods measure objective facts; it is focused on variables and their relationships. It looks for cause and effect and it is value free. This type of research emphasizes reliability over authenticity.

Characteristics of Qualitative Research

  • It is an inductive method.
  • It is focused on the individual.
  • It is holistic.
  • It is important to use gender neutral language.
  • The use of first person is okay.
  • Cause and effect are not engraved in the QR vocabulary. They are actually words that should not be used when talking about qualitative studies. We are not measuring anything. We are just trying to understand the things we study. If we go away from this cause and effect type of thinking then we can gain an in depth understanding of fewer people.
  • Interpretation and understanding are at the very foundation of this method.
  • Qualitative research depends on the interaction of the researcher and his or her participants.
  • Samples are usually small.
  • Knowledge produced is mostly represented by words, images, and sounds.

Characteristics of Quantitative Research

  • It is deductive.
  • Use of first person in your writing is not allowed.
  • The quantitative vocabulary is like a new language.
  • Researchers use SPSS, a great software to analyze their statistical data.
  • Meant to produce generalizable knowledge.
  • The use of numbers, formulas, and graphs is at the core of this paradigm.
  • Samples are very big.
  • Research should be easily replicated.

Some Quantitative Research Methods       Some Qualitative Research Methods

Surveys Ethnography
Experiments Phenomenology
Interviewing Interviewing
Statistical Analysis Case Studies


Discovering your Preferred Paradigm

It is very important to find passion for what you are doing while you are in graduate school and in life in general. Therefore, I think that for those of you who have not discovered both ways of doing research, it is important to start thinking about the investigative questions you would like to answer, and how you would like to answer them to discover your favorite paradigm. Personally, I have done quantitative and qualitative research, and I have found pleasure in both methods. However, I like the idea of understanding the world using the values presented by the qualitative paradigm. Can you share what your favorite paradigm is and why?

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Prepare for the Comprehensive Exams

This is the first of a three part series focused on providing students with information about completing the Comprehensive Exams and writing a Thesis, in order to help them decide which route they would prefer. The first two parts will provide tips from professors and students regarding each and the third will consist of a broad overview comparing the two options.

ImageAlmost from the very start of Graduate school, fellow students talk about how incredibly difficult the Comprehensive Exams are going to be. This makes preparing for them seem like an insurmountable task. Below are recommendations, gathered from professors and students that will hopefully break down the preparation process into more manageable steps:

  • Keep all books, readings and notes from class – use as references when studying, but don’t only rely on your notes or memory from the class, regardless of how recently you took the course.
  • Start refreshing your mind with readings as early as possible – this allows you to ease your way back in and you will feel less intimidated by the amount of material you need to cover.
  • Create a study timeline with weekly goals – whether you aim to read one article per day or review notes regarding a certain amount of material each week, this will help you pace your studying.
  • Re-read each article and take new notes to supplement your initial readings – focus on the main points of the articles rather than taking super detailed notes.
  • Don’t limit your review to readings that you liked or think were more prominent – the exam is comprehensive and requires more than just a general understanding.
  • Create a study guide once you’ve re-read all of the material – narrow it down to the most saturated and crucial points you need to take with you into the exam.
  • Create flash cards or a smaller, more compact version of your study guide – keep this with you at all times to review whenever you have downtime.
  • Meet regularly with other students taking the exams – take turns explaining articles to each other and collectively answer questions as you go.
  • Meet with the professors from each of the courses on which you will be tested – this will help you better understand their expectations and talk through any areas of the material where you might need some clarification.
  • For areas that limit the number of meetings with professors (for example Quantitative), review as much as possible before your first meeting, which should be used to review your understanding of the material – save your second meeting for closer to the exam to address any remaining questions that have come up as you continued studying.
  • Use what you have learned to analyze and evaluate an issue and critique assumptions – this is why you need to have a strong knowledge of the material.
  • Know the proper vocabulary necessary for addressing each question – this will be vitally important during the actual exam to demonstrate your understanding of the material.

Adequate preparation is essential to your success on the Comprehensive Exams. And while this may seem easier said than done, adequate preparation is not as impossible as it might initially appear. By taking the process one step at a time and efficiently planning your study time, preparing for the exams can become less of a task and more of an opportunity to reflect on and synthesize everything you have learned over the course of your time in the program.

The tips offered above were supplied by Dr. Gordon Coonfield, Dr. Heidi Rose, Dr. Jie Xu, Ms. Kat Biehl and Ms. Marci Paton.

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Avoid Burnout in Graduate School

By Robin Kanak

Any graduate student can relate to the mounting panic you feel when your midterm deadline is steadily approaching and you know your paper it isn’t anywhere near finished. Once in awhile, those feelings of stress and panic are completely normal, but it is also easy to fall into a pattern where stress becomes the norm. Stress takes a toll on your mind and body, and stress + lack of motivation = burnout. I only started this program a year ago, but at the end of my second semester I was running on fumes and I knew that my lifestyle needed to change. Clearly, I am no expert, so I also consulted current graduate students, alum of Villanova’s Master’s in Communication program, and faculty members in the Department. Hopefully some of the things we have learned can help you too!

#1. Know Why You Are Here

Everyone in Villanova’s MA program is in a different place and is in graduate school for a different reason. You need to know why you are here and what steps are going to be most effective for helping you accomplish your goals. Are you here because you are interested in moving on to a Ph.D. program? If so, you might choose different classes and different projects than those who are in the program because they want opportunities for advancement in their professional career. Arianne Gasser (recent grad and Research Associate at CRA, Inc.) reminds us that “You have to know why you’re there and what you’re working toward–and that isn’t just with grad school; it’s with anything you do.” Whether you are working on core courses, studying for comps, or reading endlessly for thesis, understanding how your goals align with the things you are learning can help improve your attitude toward school and boost your motivation. Along the same lines, current graduate student Marianela Nunez advises fellow students to make sure you write about topics you are really interested in, they might even develop into your thesis!

#2. Don’t Let School Consume Your Life

There are going to be periods of time where school consumes your life, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have never have time for anything else because you are in graduate school. James Hand (current graduate student and father of two) reminds us: “You’re going to school to make a difference in your life– not to stop living.” Make time for other activities you love because they are important to maintaining your identity as more than a graduate student. Whether your activity of choice is training for a marathon, hanging out with your family, reading books for fun, or going out dancing, don’t feel like you are being a bad student for making some time for yourself (or your family). Taking time to participate in activities you love can help you feel more motivated when you sit down to do school work again. Communication faculty member, Dr. Amy Way emphasizes that “the key to making time for the activities you enjoy is unapologetically engaging in them.  Don’t take breaks and think about how you should be doing work – just let yourself enjoy the break.  Revel in it!” (As a side note, I found that Dr. Way’s credibility on this topic was boosted when she told me that she got 8 hours of sleep almost every night while in grad school!)

#3. Manage Your Time Well

By now you are probably wondering: “How is it possible to make time for anything else when there are 10 readings looming over my head?” There are a million time management tips out there, so here are just a few that come highly recommended by those who have successfully completed this process:

– Multiple graduate students recommend the Pomodoro technique (watch the video here:  Arianne says that the Pomodoro technique was particularly effective when working on papers because “I used to have the bad habit of checking Facebook or other websites whenever I couldn’t think of what to write next when working on a paper.” When doing Pomodoros, however, she says “its impossible not to feel accomplished.”

– Dr. Billie Murray, faculty member at Villanova, recommends sitting down each week and listing EVERYTHING you need to do that week. “We all tend to do this type of ‘to do list’ anyway,” she says, “But the key here is to THEN introduce your list to your calendar. Block off exact amounts of time that week when you will complete those tasks and DO THEM during that time. I find that if you schedule 30 minutes of time for writing and put it on your calendar, you will do it. And you’ll feel better having done it!”

Whether you are a full-time or a part-time student, it is easy to get burnt-out during grad school. Aligning what you are doing in school with your long term goals, choosing to make time for other activities, and taking steps to manage time more effectively can improve your motivation and attitude, making graduate school a much more pleasant experience! What are your favorite tips for avoiding burnout? Post them in the comment section below!

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment