Finding new books to read

We all know that people have been stocking up on groceries, but there hasn’t been as much news about stocking up on books.  But that’s just what happened in late March: book sales jumped (see and  Lots of people are catching up on the reading that they’d been meaning to get around to.

So what are we to do in PPLS?  The main library might be locked up, but our e-resources are still available.  There are hundreds of books available in each of our disciplines.  All we need to do is get some coffee and click on the titles that sound interesting.  But that raises another question: what to choose?

I’ve tried to help you answer that question. I went digging through all the PPLS reading lists on Leganto for books that have been assigned in our courses.  Then, I checked each title in DiscoverEd to see if electronic copies were available, and assembled the results in three large spreadsheets.  You can access these spreadsheets as PDFs by visiting our Learning Resources site ( and choosing either “DiscoverEd lists” from the top menu or  “Learning more about your field” from the panels in the centre.  Browse through the titles and see if anything jumps out.  There might be a book that was recommended in one of your earlier courses that you never got around to reading.  You could also try looking ahead to topics you’re thinking about taking in future semesters.  Or what about exploring another part of PPLS?  I’m in Linguistics, but I can see that there are three titles on “Sentence Comprehension” just waiting for me in Psychology.

Not all of us have time on our hands right now, of course, but many of those who do have a lot of it.  If you’re in the latter category, I hope you’ll have a look.

Learning in the Time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has radically changed the way we all study.  I’ve created a new site to help you adjust to some of those changes: (EASE required)

This new site has information on how to continue to engage with our academic community, learn from the resources you have access to at home, and improve your computing and personal skills.

At this point it’s very much a work in progress.  Still to come are external resources, programming, statistics, philosophy skills, research support and more.  These will take longer to coordinate, but you can expect updates soon.

Learning RStudio and SPSS

The University of Edinburgh has a staff and student subscription to, a site with many video courses on how to use software more effectively and acquire new skills.  It’s well worth linking your EASE account and having a look around.

With dissertation deadlines drawing closer, there are many MSc students who are approaching software like RStudio or SPSS for the first time.   For these students, the following courses might be of interest. They cover program installation, data entry and manipulation, basic statistical analysis and chart production. Continue reading “Learning RStudio and SPSS”

Upcoming courses for international students

International students should have a look at the courses that English Language Education will be holding early next year.

Some of these are on topics of particular interest to PhD students, such as annual reports, literature reviews, and the actual writing up of your dissertation. There are others that would be suitable for both undergraduates and postgraduates. These are on topics such as seminar discussions, pronunciation, presentations, academic writing, and social speaking.

What other options are there?

Our tutors will help you work on your essay’s argumentation and organisation, but you may be in search of something else. If so, the University of Edinburgh provides a wide range of support options:

Do you want advice about the actual content of your essay? The best person to talk to is your teacher during his or her posted office hours.

Are you a non-native speaker of English? Take a look at the services offered by English Language Education and the Peer Proofreading Scheme run by EUSA.

Do you have a documented disability? The Student Disability Service offers proofreading services as well.

And if you need more general help with study skills, the Institute for Academic Development offers a variety of resources and workshops designed to help you achieve your goals.

Please note that you are still welcome to use our services in addition to other help. It’s just that our help will be centered around the presentation of ideas rather than proofreading, for instance.

PPLS guidance documents

The PPLS Student Hub contains many of the reference documents produced over the years to guide you through studying material, writing assignments, and taking exams. These documents include writing advice specific to each of the disciplines (philosophy, psychology and linguistics).

Of course, this hub should be seen as a supplement to whatever material your teacher provides you with in your class.

What does good student writing look like?

It can be hard to get a feel for what your teachers expect from you as you advance in your academic career. Your essays are clearly going to have to explore topics in greater detail than your earlier efforts did, but it can be quite daunting to compare what you write to published articles written by professional scholars.

If you’re a sociolinguistics student, that’s where Lifespans and Styles comes in. Edited by Lauren Hall-Lew, this journal is published by the University of Edinburgh in order to promote good undergraduate writing. There are some excellent essays (including one co-written by our very own Victoria Dickson back in 2015) that are well worth your time.

If you’re ready to move on to your dissertation, the Edinburgh Research Archive is for you. The PPLS dissertation collection might be be a good place to start. When you click on the sub-community that’s relevant to you, you’ll have access to a variety of collections. The only thing to watch out for is that not all students have made their dissertations available to the public. A black lock icon by the filename means that you’ll have to look for another piece of writing.