In the second part of MIDIRS resource on study skills we shall be considering the range of resources you might need for academic study. This starts with being able to understand and define scientific terms and language, as well as being reasonably competent in spoken and written English. As part of your midwifery studies, there will be an expectation that written assignments as well as oral presentations will demonstrate an acceptable standard for grammar and use of language, as these are skills that you will also need in your midwifery clinical practice.
The resources that will help you gain this knowledge can be found in standard dictionaries, supported by thesauruses, as well as more specific nursing, midwifery and medical dictionaries which can help with definitions of words and clinical terms as well as how to spell them. There are now endless resources available online, although paper hard copies of the above should all be available at your university library.
Apart from ensuring that the text you are writing, or speaking on, is grammatically correct, it is also important for written assignments where you are referring to key
concepts, theories or factual information, that you acknowledge the original source of this information. This is called referencing where the author(s) and the date of
publication are cited in the body of the text and then full details of the publication are listed at the end of the piece of work.
As you progress through your midwifery education programme, it is likely that you will need to refer to some of these reference sources in undertaking literature reviews, locating specific information, analysing findings and completing your coursework and written assignments.
As part of the academic process it is important that you are also able to accurately cite your sources of information, and this section therefore also provides guidance on different citation/reference styles.
Everybody should have a dictionary! They provide information about the meaning, spelling and pronunciation of words in a given language and fall into three broad categories:
- Unabridged dictionaries – these attempt to include all words currently used in a given language and are very comprehensive, providing extensive information about the words that are featured
- Abridged dictionaries – these are less comprehensive because they do not include words that are commonly used in the text of newspapers, books and magazines
- Specialised dictionaries – these enable you to access technical words that are rarely used outside of a given profession/speciality. One example of a specialist dictionary is a ‘Midwives’ Dictionary’, which provides information on the technical words and terms commonly used in the fields of midwifery and obstetrics.
A thesaurus is a list of ‘synonyms ’ for words that are used frequently in any given language. A synonym refers to a word that has the same meaning or practically the same meaning as another word eg ‘learner ’ is the synonym for ‘student ’. However, a thesaurus contains far more synonyms for each word than would be provided by a standard dictionary. It is a particularly useful resource when you need to paraphrase text (ie a reaffirmation of text by using alternative words), or you wish to express yourself more accurately.
Encyclopaedias, whether accessed in electronic (online) format, or as multi-volume hard copy publications, contain information, illustrations and diagrams on a wide and diverse range of topics. Encyclopaedias can also include definitions and references to additional information and further reading; there are two types of encyclopaedia:
- General encyclopaedias provide overviews on a very wide range of topics
- Subject encyclopaedias provide more comprehensive and detailed information that relates to specific fields of study, topics and events, eg Life sciences; Philosophy; Flowers and Plants; Folklore and Religion.
Online encyclopaedias, while appearing to cover almost any topic in the world, are not generally subject to the same rigour as hard copy publications and so a degree of caution should be used when seeking information on topics that are of a specialised nature. So this has a two-way approach, because of the access from a diverse resource, the online resource may have considerably more information than hard copy publications, but it is important to try to establish that the information is accurate by cross-referencing the information with other related resources.
A definition from an encyclopaedia should usually be cited as a reference in the text.