English is a core subject in British schools. All pupils from infant to school leaving age are required to study it in one way or another. The study of English at a higher level continues to be popular but it is not for everyone.
Most traditional English courses were largely literature based. This meant, and still means, that you have lots to read. If you enjoy reading then this is no problem, but much of the reading in fact most of it is likely to be done in your own time. You will be asked to read literature from different ages and of different genre. It is likely you will study prose, poetry and drama. Unlike some other subjects where there is heavy emphasis on absorbing facts, English is often different because it relies more on your personal responses to what you have read.
More recently there has been a growth in the number of English courses which are language based and look at different aspects of English and linguistics. In courses like this for instance, you may be asked to translate a text from one genre to another. There has also been a development in writing courses which enable students to write expertly in both creative and functional language. Subjects often associated with English are Media Studies and Drama.
The downside of studying English particularly in the more traditional courses is the huge emphasis on reading. If you are not an avid reader and get little pleasure from reading then it might be wise for you to think twice about studying English. With the emphasis being on personal response and opinion rather than on fact based outcomes, then this may cause problems for some. The requirement to write long essays is not specific to English. Other subjects require projects, dissertations, and long essays, but it is unlikely you will be expected to write quite as much as you would for English study.
A qualification in English at whatever level is likely to be an important factor in making the search for a job easier. There are many opportunities for people with English at degree level because its value is recognised in business and the professions.
At some point in your course, you will almost certainly be required to do at least one big project. So where do you start? The library of course! In addition, remember that there is a wealth of information available via the internet.
The internet is a fantastic aid to all forms of study and if you need information when researching a project then there is an abundance of it. Information is made available on virtually any subject you can name by search engines and electronic encyclopaedia, and the information is made available in great quantities. It is important therefore, to find out exactly what you need, what is relevant.
A lot of the information will also be opinion or just drivel, peddled as knowledge. You need to be careful and separate the two. Generally speaking, information that is well established will be found in several places or be attributable to a reliable source. It is often worth trying to verify any potentially controversial points independently offline. This can take time and effort, using the internet is seen by many as a quick way of getting information. It is not. Allow sufficient time for your project to allow you to verify your facts and to develop your own opinions. Your tutor’s time is valuable, s/he will not thank you for wasting it with unverified rubbish from unreliable sources.
Be selective; decide what the project requires. Try to be specific and focused. If your project contains irrelevant information and detail it is not likely to be viewed favourably, so make sure you use only what is necessary to improve your project. Do not make the mistake of copying great extracts from the net; this is not a good idea. Even more important than copying great chunks is that you do not try to pass off what you do copy as you own work. This is plagiarism and is viewed very seriously by examiners and moderators at all levels of academic study. It is also completely pointless as it removes all learning opportunities.
When you do find the information that you require, you need to read it, understand it and then attempt to express it in your own words. At first this maybe difficult for you to achieve but the more you do it the easier it will become. You will learn how to process the information to your advantage.
If your project requires you to include photographs, pictures or other images then the internet can be very useful in providing these and incorporating them into your work. But always make sure that you get permission to use the images. It is unlikely that you would ever be prosecuted for stealing someone else’s intellectual property but it is a matter of courtesy.
Finally, remember it is important that your project is presented in the most effective way. It should be cohesive, clearly indexed and easy to read. You can always get a friend to read it through in order to proofread and critique your work.