How to Approach an Area of Study

How to approach an Area of Study

Mind Maps


Students often find mind maps a bit geeky, and, well, they are. But they are also a fantastically useful tool for thinking about Area of Study themes. What’s great about mind maps is that they show you what assumptions you are making about the topic, by the way you connect the sub-themes together. It also allows you to brainstorm in a lot of different directions around the theme and not worry about whether your ideas are right or wrong.

So when you get your Area of Study topic, your first activity should be to make a mind-map. Remember to use colour and drawings or symbols as well as key words and descriptions, or you are only activating one side of your brain!

Research alternative definitions

HSC area of study research alternative definitions
You should never just take one source’s definition of your Area of Study key-word. Check several dictionaries, including reputable ones like the Oxford and the Macquarie dictionary. You will probably find several definitions and a couple will be slightly different.

You should also check out entries in encyclopaedias and quotes from famous philosophers, scientists, or literary figures as these can give you a fresh new perspective.

It’s also quite helpful (and impressive to teachers) to research the origin of the word. The study of word origins is called etymology (not to be confused with the similar-sounding entomology, the study of insects) and it involves finding out what the branches of the word means, and what language they originally came from. A good dictionary will often tell you the roots of a word so it isn’t hard to look up.

For example, the word “dinosaur” has the roots ‘dino’ from the Greek deinos, meaning ‘monster’ and ‘saur’ from the Greek sauros meaning lizard. Thus dinosaur means: monstrous lizard.

‘Belonging’ for example comes from the Middle English term bilongen where long means “dependent”. So the original meaning of belonging was about dependency or need for others.

Writing your own definitions and examples

Start by creating your own sentence about the topic. For example:

“Power is…” and then just fill in the blanks.

“Power is…physical or other strength that one person or group has over others.”
“Power is…a relationship where one person is stronger than another.”
“Power is…a force that people seek to attain for themselves.”

Then for each sentence, give an example from the real world to illustrate your point.

“Power is…physical or other strength that one person or group has over others.”

For example: The police have the legal power to arrest citizens. But they also have physical power in the form of weapons and training which allows them to enforce their legal power.

Keep going until you have exhausted all the ideas you have on the topic.

Start Scouring the Headlines

HSC area of study Start Scouring the Headlines
Area of Study involves wide reading and the collection of additional materials. You should get yourself a scrap-book or folder to keep any relevant materials in.

These could be news or magazine articles, advertisements, feature articles, editorials, short stories, poems, blogs or forum posts, journal entries or reflection statements – any text-type which focuses on your Area of Study.

For Year 11 and 12 it is also quite important that you have some general knowledge about society and culture. Try to keep up with the current events in the news, even if you only read the headlines each week and don’t bother reading the articles.

A basic knowledge of modern history is quite important too – you might want to brush up on your Australian history at least. Do some browsing on Wikipedia or even click through some of the interest articles at the federal government website:

The Required Context for Senior Studies

HSC area of study The Required Context for Senior Studies
In Year 11 and 12, the best marks go to the most sophisticated answers. But what makes an essay sophisticated? Usually, it comes down to a knowledge of context, or general knowledge about human life, social problems, current events and basic history.

If you are someone who has never had a lot of general knowledge about these things, it is never too late to start! What’s more, this kind of information is not just handy for doing well in English, but for doing well at life in general. Try to answer the following discussion questions as best you can. If you don’t know, guess. Never leave an answer blank. At the end, compare your answers with others.

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