One of the benefits of studying is that my brain is generally much more on the go. Whilst knackering (partly due to my schedule and partly due to having to be 'on' for study and a full-time job) I am finding it exhilarating and liberating to have my brain thinking about and assimilating something that isn't work or relaxation related. These first few weeks have been instructional in other ways. I have a better idea of when and how I best study, and that ambient noise is a necessary must (see previous post). I also now know that my note-taking needs improving somewhat, and my tagging of information in the reference books (via post-it tag things) could be much better. I also know I work much more quickly and intensely first thing in the morning and that the evenings are a real struggle.
I have much less time for gaming, reading and general goofing about, a greater need to go running, and am finding that writing with a purpose is immensely enjoyable, if a bit fraught with tension. I am also, rather unexpectedly, enjoying scrawling with a pen and my handwriting is actually improving, although you wouldn't say so if you saw it at the end of my normal two hour morning stint.
One of the tools I am using for my assignments is Scrivener, which is a writing application available on the Mac, Windows and even Linux as beta-ware. It is a great piece of software that I use for fiction writing, allowing a large degree of flexibility in your approach to writing fiction, non-fiction, dissertations or assignments like mine. It is, as an aside, one of the primary reasons I bought a Mac.
It is early days yet but I have already put some thought on how to I am going to structure my folder system and how I will structure my files within Scrivener itself. The file structure will reflect the eventual structure of the assignment and answers. I will utilise the ability to split the assignment into distinct areas of work to my advantage, allowing me to work on each part, drafting, redrafting and finalising at will, without fear of messing up the whole file as I might with MS Word. I can segregate my draft sections from my final versions within the same document with ease and reorder them on the fly. I can also collect any reference materials (webpages, pdfs, scans, images, etc) within the research area and use Scapple (a mind-mapping application from the makers of Scrivener) to plan out my assignments. I can even import the Scapple files into Scrivener.
This will all become a lot more relevant once the complexity and size of the assignments increase, but it bears thinking about now so that I have a consistent approach as time marches on.
On the subject of tools I did, rather sadly, do a lot of research into pens. I have a couple of lovely vintage fountain pens that I use sporadically and thought to find one for writing up my notes. Reality set in though and I turned to the modern day equivalent and the almost universal recommendation from pen aficionados everywhere was the Uniball Jetstream and, frankly, it is the dog's dangly bits.