Study Toolkit

Having solid study strategies in place from first year will aid progression and make assignment writing and exam revision easier throughout your university life. We have put together a toolkit with some resources that can help you to study effectively.

Key Academic Areas

There is support available throughout the University to help you study more effectively. The key academic areas for study include:


Reading is a key skill, and you will find that you need to do a lot of reading at university. Reading texts and journal articles in your own subject will help you become familiar with the principles of your subject. Your course reading list is a good starting point. The Skills Hub have some helpful resources covering reading strategies, how to cope with your reading list, and other tips.


Many lecturers now make their PowerPoint slides available on Canvas for students, but they will present much more information during the lecture than is shown on the slides. They may also give very useful tips for assignments or exams; therefore, it is important to attend all your lectures and tutorials.

You can find tips for good note-taking on the Skills Hub.


Referencing is an essential skill that all students need to develop - almost all pieces of academic coursework require referencing. The Skills Hub has guidance and workshops on citing and referencing.

EndNote allows you to collate, annotate and organise your references, create reference lists and add citations to your text. This is available on all University networked PCs and students are able to install one copy of the software on their own computer for personal use.

Cite Them Right Online is a user-friendly online resource which helps students reference correctly and understand how to avoid plagiarism.

Exam revision

To help you get the most out of the time you'll spend on revision, you need to develop 'active learning' techniques. For example, ask yourself questions about the subject, and explain information in different ways, such as by using mind maps or diagrams, or using cue cards.

There is more information available to help you to prepare for and sit exams on the Skills Hub.


Most students will give oral presentations as part of their studies at university. For presentations, you need to research a topic, plan the content, structure and delivery, and then prepare a PowerPoint or visual support presentation of it.

There are some helpful tips on preparing and giving presentations on the Skills Hub.

Study support software and technology

There is a variety of software available that can help you focus on the key skills mentioned above during your studies.

Software on University Network

There is a variety of useful software available on the University network, as well as some freely available software, that can help everyone with their studies and coursework.

Text to speech

Text-to-speech software allows you to have text on your screen read back to you aloud. We have created a short video that demonstrates some of the free text-to-speech options available to you.


Dictation software converts the words you speak aloud into text, which can be helpful if you are a slow typist, or are better at getting your thoughts down by speaking them aloud. There are several free dictation options that are built into the operating systems of devices you may already use, including Windows, MacOS, iOS, or Android. We have created a short video to showcase how you can make use of these features, depending on the devices you have access to.


There are also many apps available to support learners in different areas. 

Microsoft Office

As a Heriot-Watt student you will have access to Microsoft 365 and be able to download the Microsoft 365 apps to your PC, tablet or phone for the duration of your course. This will also give you access to 1TB of data storage through your Heriot-Watt OneDrive account.

Tips and advice

We have provided some useful tips and advice to help you study more effectively:

Being organised and managing your time

You need to have the ability to keep track of time:

  • Know when and where you should be for scheduled classes, events and exams
  • Know when work has to be handed in
  • Keep to deadlines.

The Skills Hub has helpful information, hints and tips on how to effectively manage your time and how to set up a workspace where you can study.

Assignment calculator for breaking down tasks

Simon Fraser University offers a free tool that lets you enter a written assignment or essay title and due date, and it then breaks the task down and gives you deadlines for each stage.

The stages it identifies are as follows,

  • Understand your assignment (5%)
  • Do your research (20%)
  • Write a draft thesis statement (5%)
  • Write your outline (10%)
  • Write your draft (20%)
  • Revise your draft (25%)
  • Finalise your references (5%)
  • Proofread and format your final draft (10%)

Outlook calendar

Add your timetable to your Outlook calendar, and schedule in revision, assignments hand-in dates, exam times, dates and locations.

You can access your HWU Outlook account by visiting the myHWU Student Portal, and you can use Canvas to keep up to date with course information.

Library and IT (Information Services)

The Information Services webpages have information about library resources, IT services and support for your studies.

Further Support
  • The Skills Hub can help develop your academic skills.
  • Help with academic writing – meet a tutor who can assist with academic writing skills, such as correctly interpreting the question in an assignment.
  • The English Gym provides help for UK and international students with their academic English and English language skills. The English Gym offers Academic English literacy skills support for all Heriot-Watt University students, with the aim of helping students interact more confidently at university. The English Gym is delivered through drop-in sessions, one-to-one bookable tutorials, workshops and self-study online materials, available across all three campuses.

If you would like some one-to-one support for developing study and learning strategies, academic writing, exam and revision strategies, or any other study-related skills, you can contact the Liaison Librarians and Effective Learning Advisers.

If you require more information on any of the above, you can contact the Disability Service.