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Understanding University Phrases

There are many words and phrases which you may come across at university that you might not have heard before. So, we have put together a helpful list of common university phrases to help you on your way.

Academic/Lecturer:   Academics are experts in their subject area and deliver lectures on university degree programs. They also carry out research in their chosen field.

Academic Librarian:    Librarian who specialises in a specific academic field. Each course has its own dedicated librarian. Academic Librarians run workshops focusing on research and critical thinking skills.

Admissions office:   The office that handles applications and enrolment.

Alumni:   Students that have graduated from the University (singular: alumnus/alumna).

Annotated Bibliography:   A list of the sources used in your research with brief ‘annotations’ of each that describe the source’s content and main argument.

Assessment:    An examination of your academic work and learning. Assessments are often in the form of an essay, presentation, or exam.

Assessment brief:   Information about the assessment written by the marker.

Assignment:   An assessed piece of work allocated to test or develop your knowledge, usually in the form of an essay, report, or project.

Bibliography:   A list of all the resources used in preparing for a piece of written work. The Bibliography is usually placed at the end of the document.

Blackboard:   An online platform where your course materials and assignments can be found. See our guide for more information on how to use Blackboard.

Blended learning:   Learning which takes place both online and in person (I.e., on campus via lectures and seminars).

Boolean Operators: Using Boolean Operators (such as AND, OR, NOT) between search terms helps limit or expand search results

Bursary:   A financial contribution towards fees and/or living costs whilst at university.

Campus:   The area of land where university buildings are located I.e. Kedleston Road campus, St Helena (Chesterfield) campus. 

Cite them Right: A clear and comprehensive Referencing guide available through the library both online and in book form. Access Cite Them Right through this link. You will need your student details to log in.

Citation:   A reference to another source in your work. Citations require less information than an entry to a reference list (author, date and page number (where required)). 

Chaplain:   University chaplains are available on campus to offer religious or pastoral guidance.

College:   A college in Higher Education includes the buildings, academics and administrators for a particular department, I.e., ‘the college of Health and Social Care’.

College Student Centre: Your College Student Centre is there to provide you with information, advice, and support throughout your time at university. Find your College Student Centre through this link.

Copyright:   A legally enforceable restriction of the copying and publishing of original works.

Council Tax Exemption Certificate:   A certificate which exempts students from paying council tax during their studies. Certificates can be obtained by filling out the relevant form (available via UDo).     

Databases:   An online collection of information, usually journal articles or other subject information. You can use databases to search for journal articles suitable for your research. Some have the complete full-text articles, but others only give a brief summary.

Deadline:   The last date you can submit an assignment. If you are unable to meet a deadline you may be able to get an extension through a late submission request or a exceptional extenuating circumstance request.

Dean:   A University Dean is the head of a faculty or administrative division, for example ‘Dean for the College of Health, Psychology and Social Care’.

Derby English Language Centre:   The University’s English Language Centre support international students with drop-in sessions and academic writing. These sessions are open to international students or students whose first language is not English. These workshops are in addition to Develop@Derby workshops.

Dissertation:   A dissertation, sometimes referred to as an independent study, is a long piece of academic writing, split into sections or chapters, which demonstrates detailed research in your subject area. This type of assessment is usually assigned in your final year of study.

Distance Learner:   A student who completes their studies away from the campus.

eBook:   An electronic version of a printed book which can be read on any desktop or handheld device.

Exceptional Extenuating Circumstances (EECs):   Serious unforeseeable events which significantly impact a student’s ability to complete an assignment/course requirement. If an EEC is accepted the student will grandad an extension to help them complete their work. See this link for more details.

Enrolment:   The act of officially signing up for your degree programme. You will need to complete your enrolment in full before embarking on your studies.

Feedback:   When a piece of work is submitted, lecturers will provide written or verbal comments or ‘Feedback’ on your work to help you understand what you have done well and how you could improve. See our ‘Reflecting on Feedback Guide’ for further information.

Formative assessment:   A formal or informal test taken during your course which aims to monitor student progress and identify areas for improvement. Formative assessments are often pass/fail.

Freshers:   First year students in their first few weeks of university.

Freshers’ Week:   The first week of the academic year whereby new students are inducted to the University. The week is filled with events, entertainment and information designed to help students settle in, make friends, and get to know the University and what their experience will entail.

Graduation:   The awarding of degree certificates to students who have successfully completed their course.

Group work:   Working in groups is a common way to be assessed at university. You may be asked to create and deliver a presentation or to work on a written piece such as an essay or report. See our ‘Group Work Guide’ for more information.

Halls of Residence: A place where students live at university, usually in the form of apartments/dormitories.

Journal:   A periodical publication in which research articles relevant to a specific field are published, I.e., Journal of Education.

Journal Article:   An academic magazine, that deals with a particular subject or professional activity, e.g. a medical journal. They include reports about research and are issued at regular intervals, usually with volume numbers and dates; also called periodicals, magazines or serials.

Late Submission Request:   An extension of up to 7 days which can be granted by your Personal Academic Tutor in cases of unforeseen circumstances preventing you from submitting a piece of work on time. See this link for more information.

Lecture:   Taught sessions, led by an academic, which can take place face-to-face in a large room or lecture hall, or online. During these sessions, the lecturer will provide the basis on which to learn more through seminars, practicals or further reading.

Library Search:   The Search Engine on the Library website which allows you to search for books, eBooks, journal articles and more.

Library Chat:   An instant messaging service available from 9am to 5pm Monday-Friday through the library website which allows you to submit queries and chat to one of our library team. See this link for more information.

Literature Review:   An overview of previously published works on a particular topic, often completed before beginning work on a dissertation.

Microsoft Teams:   A Platform for messaging and file sharing within an organization. You may be asked to attend meetings or workshops through your Teams account. University of Derby Students can access Microsoft 365 apps including Word, PowerPoint, Teams and Outlook for free. Click here to see our Microsoft Teams Guidance.

Microsoft OneDrive:    A personal online space for you to save and share documents, photos and more. With your university account you get 1tb of cloud storage for free throughout your studies. Click here to see our Microsoft OneDrive guidance.

Module:   An elected or compulsory topic which contributes to the overall make up of your degree.

Module Handbook: Information created by your module lead which outlines what is included in the module and how the module is assessed, in addition to answering frequently asked questions about the module. You can find your module handbooks for each module on the module pages on Blackboard.

Online Workshops: Workshops that take place online and can be attended remotely. Develop@Derby workshops are held online and are recorded. Students can access the workshop and recording by registering through the Develop@Derby calendar.

Panopto:   A video recording platform which allows you to record and watch lectures, presentations etc.

Pebblepad:   A personal online study space which allows you to create an e-portfolio which can be shared with lecturers and placement supervisors. See our Pebblepad guide for further information.

Peer Assisted Learning (PALs):    PALS are students in their second year or above from your discipline, who are here to support you in your first year at university. PAL Leaders are here to give you tips about settling into university life, signpost you to resources and support, and answer your questions about your course. Use this link to find out more about Peer Assisted Learning.

Peer Reviewed:   Research that is ‘peer reviewed’ is subjected to scrutiny by other scholars in the field to ensure academic quality prior to publication.

Personal Academic Tutor:   The Academic assigned to you to provide support, guidance, and information throughout your course.

Placement:    A period of vocational experience which is an integrated and assessed part of a degree programme.

Plagiarism: Copying the work of others and passing it off as one’s own, without proper acknowledgement. See our guide on avoiding plagiarism for further information.

Reading list:   An online reading list of the books and other materials that your lecturer recommends. You can find them on your Module pages on Blackboard.  Lists will contain links to online materials.

Reference/referencing:   If you include another person’s idea in your assignment, you must give credit to the author through the process of ‘referencing’. Find out more about how to reference through our referencing guide.

Reference list:    A list of sources referred to in a piece of writing, usually provided at the end of a document.

Report:    A formal and concise piece of writing, usually written to convey the findings of a project.

Reflective Writing:    An analytic practice of writing which describes and evaluates an event or experience. Reflection is a process of learning from experiences by analysis and taking actions. Find out more about how to reflect in our reflection guide.

Semester:    The academic year is generally split into two semesters, autumn and spring (with some courses studying in the summer semester). The first semester starts at the end of September, to mid-January. Semester two runs from mid-January to mid-June. The exact dates of semesters change slightly from year to year. See the Academic Calendar for further information.

Seminar:    Where a lecture is a formal style of instruction delivered to a large group, a seminar is a more informal, interactive session with a smaller group, usually in a classroom setting.

Skills Team: The Skills Team create content and deliver workshops for all University of Derby students. Topics range from preparing for university, to self-motivation, to academic writing and referencing. Skills workshops can be accessed through this link. Develop@Derby Guides can be found through this link. For specific information for researching within your discipline, see the subject guides created by the Academic Librarians.

Summative assessment:   An exam or assessment which contributes towards your final grade.

Tutorial:  A one-to-one or small group session with a member of academic staff. Tutorials are designed to complement lectures and seminars and are generally more informal.  These sessions provide opportunities to ask questions or discuss issues with your peers and tutor.

Turnitin:    An online plagiarism detection system through which assignment work is submitted. Turnitin submission portals are found in your module assessment pages. Once your work is marked, you can access your grade and feedback through Turnitin.

Union of Students:   The Union is run completely by students and is independent from the University. The Union is here to help you feel a part of the community, providing activities, advice and support. You automatically become a member of the Union when you join the University. Use this link to see the Union of Students website.

Uni Bus:   A free ‘Uni Bus’ service is available all year round, from a range of locations, across the city. See the travelling by bus guide for further information.

Uni Card/Student Card:    Your student ID card will be allocated to you when you start university. It will allow you access to secure university areas including the Library, so should be always with you when you are on campus. You will also need your card to ‘tap in’ and record your attendance.

UDo:    UDo is your University of Derby student portal. This is your one-stop shop for all the information you need to be successful in your studies. You can access it through your PC or laptop - or on your mobile device using our DerbyUni app.   

Vice Chancellor:   The principal academic and administrative officer of the University.