Preparing for Postgraduate Legal Study: 5 Top Tips to Studying Well with a Disability
By Rebecca Limb, PhD law student at the University of Warwick
If you are thinking about postgraduate study the likelihood is that you have a passion for legal studies and this is the first of my five top tips.
1. Passion and Enthusiasm for Legal Studies
This is important for all postgraduates, however, it is particularly crucial for students living with a disability. When you are having a difficult day due to your health, knowing the reason you started out on this journey is what will motivate you and prevent these days setting you back.
2. Building and Maintaining a Good Relationship with your Supervisor
Having a good relationship with your supervisor is essential. Prior to choosing your supervisor, meet with them and get to know how they work. It is also your chance to ask any questions that you may have and an opportunity for your supervisor to get to know you.
Part of building and maintaining a good relationship with your supervisor is effective communication. Feeling comfortable to talk to your supervisor about any frustrations or struggles you are having is important in ensuring that they understand the challenges that you face and aids them in providing you with the appropriate support. Poor communication leads to a poor relationship, your needs not being met and frustration on both sides. Remember that your supervisor has their job, that they are busy and that your project is only a fraction of their responsibilities. Therefore, effective communication can prevent a lot of problems from arising.
3. Student Support Services
Prior to starting your course, find out what support the university can offer you. It is useful to be aware of any services that you may need in advance of requiring them. For example, does your university have fetch and carry library book services, library support workers and accessible study rooms with electronic technology equipment? Find out about accessible on and off campus accommodation, the accessible routes around the University campus, dyslexia support, proof reading, note takers, exam arrangements and extension requests. It is important to be aware of who you can contact at Disability Services, the Student Union and who the Dean of Students is within your department. These services are there to support you throughout your studies but remember to ask for assistance if you need it as your department cannot help if they do not know what challenges you are facing.
4. Work Your Way
The workload for all postgraduate courses is high. For taught postgraduate degrees find out how many teaching hours there are and plan your days around these hours to ensure that it is manageable. For research students, as you are the project manager you can decide what days, and hours that you will work. Research degrees are flexible so take advantage of this. It is important to take regular breaks and acknowledge what you have achieved during the day. Often it is easy to focus on the hours you were unable to work. Therefore, to avoid unnecessary worrying, write a list of what you have achieved each day to encourage you to focus on the positives – this is a wonderful way of keeping track of your work.
You are more than your research and degree. It is so easy to get caught up in the seemingly endless work, to feel guilty if you have had a break and as a result spend all your time studying. However, it is important not to become your research or degree. Join societies, continue with your hobbies and interests and find new ones.
Don’t isolate yourself. Rather, surround yourself with like-minded individuals both within and outside of your department. Take part in any social events held by your department or the student union. This will help you create a support network. This support network will provide a listening ear, empathy, an honest voice when it comes to your research that will improve your work, and most importantly they will not judge you. Together you will share this postgraduate experience and support each other through it.