Student Study Guide

There are lots of things you will need to consider when starting your studies with the ISCP. Many of our students have studied recently so are familiar with what to do and how to get started on our course. However, if you have not studied for a while, you may feel you are a little out of practice. Don’t worry, that is all perfectly normal! 

The good news is that the introductory coursework for the diploma is designed to help you get started, it is all about you and the dogs you have lived with and loved. A subject you will know in detail so I don’t think you will have any trouble getting started and completing that essay. The rest may need more planning and effort.



1.         Getting prepared

Time management

Try to get yourself organised, develop a system for yourself. It is so easy to start reading everything you come across on Facebook, in books, and watch everything that comes up on a search. YouTube and the internet are fabulous resources, but they can also be great time wasters. There is so much information out there, so you will need to try and find a way of screening out what is not needed right now, not needed for this Unit. We all get distracted and realise that the time we had put aside has just disappeared, so a little discipline with your time will help you enormously. 

Work out what free time you have and what needs to be done. Plan in your sessions if you can. You could set up a study diary like this one. 

student time table.png

You won’t always stick to it, as life has a habit of interfering with all our plans, but it is better to have a plan than not. 

You could break down what you need to do for each Unit into smaller parts so individual sessions could be ‘reading’, ‘make notes’, ‘consider reading a recommended book on the topic’, ‘do research on the internet’, ‘plan my answers’, ‘write first draft of the coursework’, ‘decide which research I would like to include and how I will reference it’, ‘write second draft’, and ‘review answers before submission’. Additional ones might be contact other students’, ‘read this week’s posts on Facebook’, and don’t forget to plan in time to ‘write my study plan for the next Unit’. 

Of course, you may need more than one of each of these categories and that’s fine. I can’t tell you the number of times I rewrote my answers until I was satisfied it was good enough to submit to my tutor.  

Setting up your study area

I don’t know if you are anything like me, but I can’t study when someone else is in the room, moving around, making noise or worse switching on the TV! We are all different of course, but at the very least I think you will need an area you can call your own. Your study area. Somewhere you can leave your books open, your PC at the right height (think ergonomically correct), your notepad accessible for those moments of inspiration when you just have to write down something you want to include in your coursework. It should have good lighting and temperature control. I know it isn’t always possible to get all of these ideal conditions but try to get some of them and find somewhere you feel comfortable. 

Then once all that is done all you need is the enthusiasm to get started on Unit 1!


2.          Getting started

What is expected of you?

We want you to think through the principles and ideas presented in the coursework file, to research and read widely on the subject, to provide references when you quote from text that you have read in the file or elsewhere, and to form and express your own opinions and theories based on your personal experiences with dogs.  

Although the diploma is a level 5 course overall, it is structured so that the level of difficulty increases as you move through the course. Units 1-4 are Level 3, Units 5 to 11 are Level 4, and Units 12 to 17 are Level 5. The marking criteria for each level is provided on our website on the Student Study Information page. Your tutor will help you build your skills as you progress through the diploma. 

Your writing should be:

  • Planned and focused: answers the question and demonstrates an understanding of the subject

  • Structured: is coherent, written in a logical order, and brings together related points and material

  • Evidenced: demonstrates knowledge of the subject area, supports opinions and arguments with evidence, and is referenced accurately

  • Presented well: be organised, have good grammar, spelling and punctuation

Word count:

  • Each Unit requires you to usually write between 1,000 and 3,000 words (a few have different parameters). The coursework for some Units has multiple questions and for these, it would be more usual to be closer to the top end of the word count requirement

Reading and your reading strategy

We all read for pleasure but reading as part of your studies is different. You may want to take notes and jot down your thoughts about what you are reading. Do you agree with what you have read, or do you have a different opinion? Have you undertaken any additional research about what you have just read? It may help to make a note of these things while you are reading each Unit. You will need the additional research sources for your reference list when you come to submit your work to your tutor.

As for your reading strategy, this might be as simple as deciding to read the whole of the coursework file before going back to Unit 1 and working on your coursework. It could be that you need to work out what is the best time and best place for you to do your reading, making sure you have your pen and paper to hand for making notes. 

One thing I recommend you read more than once is the coursework question. I would recommend that you add it to the top of your coursework so you can refer to it and ask yourself “have I actually answered the question?”. 

Note taking

You may want to bullet point important ideas or concepts or set up a new heading for each area that you want to include in your work. You could then add in more detail as you are reading more about the subject. One good way of making notes is to mind-map your thoughts and this is a link to a quick guide to mind mapping if you have not used this method before. Other methods might be to have index cards for each subject and build up the information on the cards as you read more books or online articles. I’m sure you will find the way that is best for you. 

Planning your answer

Spend some time interpreting the question and deciding how to tackle your coursework. Once you have a clear idea of what is required, you can start planning your research and gathering evidence. Creating a plan as mentioned above will help you to ensure you have enough time to complete a high-quality piece of work. 

Break down your assignment into manageable tasks and deadlines. Some of your planning activities may include:

  • searching for information and finding material

  • reading and note-making

  • drafting and writing

  • editing and proofreading


3.         Your coursework

Your thoughts and opinions

More than anything else we want you to tell us your thoughts on the subjects featured in the coursework questions and for you to explain why you hold these opinions. Give details of the research you have undertaken and explain your personal experiences that support, or dispute, what you have read. 

In any academic writing it is important to be concise. This helps your tutor understand the points you are making. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Only include one main idea per sentence

  • Keep your sentences to a reasonable length (generally not more than 25 words).

Long sentences can be difficult to follow, and this may distract from your point

  • Avoid repetition

Focus on one Unit at a time

You will be expected to have successfully completed each Unit’s coursework assignment before moving on the next Unit. This is important as the feedback you receive from your tutor may have an impact on the work you do for future Units. 

Your work should be submitted as a Word or PDF document. Your tutor will acknowledge receipt of your work and will endeavour to provide feedback within 10 days.


It is important that you provide evidence of any ideas you have included in your work. Any academic writing must be supported by evidence such as data, facts, quotations, arguments, research, and theories. This evidence will:

  • add substance to your own ideas

  • allow your tutor to see what has informed your thinking

  • demonstrate your understanding of the general concepts and theories on the topic

  • show you have researched widely and know about specialist/niche areas of interest

There are several methods that you can use to incorporate other people's work into your own written work. These are:

  • paraphrasing

  • summarising

  • synthesising

  • quoting

It is important that you only use peer reviewed references and avoid websites like Wiki which can be unreliable.

If you need help with referencing, there are many simple guides produced by universities. This is the guide that I use, but there are many more available online.  Referencing helps you explain how the information you found in books or online has helped you to develop your own arguments, ideas and opinions. 

Academic writing is concise, clear, formal and active. It does not need to be complex or use long sentences and obscure vocabulary. 

Plagiarism & Referencing

The ISCP takes plagiarism very seriously and if you are found to be using other people’s work you will be penalised and may even fail the course. Please take some time to read the plagiarism & referencing guide below (and on the Student Study Information page) and ensure that your work is your own and referenced correctly.

Plagiarism is defined as ‘the act of representing work or ideas as one’s own without appropriate acknowledgement or referencing’. 

Most university regulations define four main types:

  • Direct copying of text from a book, article, fellow students’ essays, hand-out, thesis, web page or other source without proper acknowledgement

  • Claiming individual ideas derived from a book, article, etc., as one’s own, and incorporating them into one’s work without acknowledging the source of these ideas. This includes paraphrasing a source, or altering the material taken from the source so it appears to be one’s own work

  • Overly depending on the work of one or more others without proper acknowledgement of the source, by constructing an essay, project, etc. by extracting large sections of text from another source, and merely linking these together with a few of one’s own sentences

  • The re-submission or re-use of the student’s own work in another assignment

Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional; both are categorised as Academic Misconduct and can carry severe penalties. At the lowest level, ‘inadequate referencing or paraphrasing’ or ‘a very minor amount of unattributed copying based on misunderstanding’ is regarded as ‘Poor Academic Practice’ and can lead to receiving a formal warning and/or being awarded a mark of zero for the coursework. More serious cases of plagiarism can lead to permanent exclusion from the ISCP.

Together with good intentions and honesty, mastering the skills of citing and referencing allows you to avoid accusations of plagiarism, and to have confidence in the integrity of your work. 

Academic writing requires you to acknowledge the sources of all your information, ideas and arguments. This may be a skill that you are acquiring for the first time so your tutor will help you develop this skill during Units 1 to 2. After that you will be expected to reference properly throughout the rest of the course.  

Resubmission of coursework

Our tutors use set marking criteria for each coursework assignment, and you will find more details on the Student Study Information page on the school’s website. If you have missed out important information from your coursework your tutor will explain which areas need to be expanded upon, and you will be asked to make the necessary changes and resubmit your work. We allow one resubmission for each of the three stages, and if you are asked to resubmit your coursework your tutor will include their usual feedback notes to guide you.

Assessment and Marking

Please be aware that all our tutors follow the same guidelines for marking and we have an oversight process to ensure consistency throughout our tutor team.

If your grades are falling short on a regular basis, we do have a mechanism in place to help get you back on track and improve your coursework. This is known as a Personal Development Plan which will be discussed with yourself, your tutor and the duty ISCP Principal. Within the PDP we may recommend additional reading, workshops or shadowing opportunities designed to help the student improve their knowledge and meet the graduation criteria. 

We want our students to succeed but we also have a responsibility to ensure anyone graduating from our courses and intending to start their own behavioural or dog training business provides the highest level of service to their future clients.

In some instances, we may suggest a change in tutor in order to support you with your studies.


4.         Your diploma

You will gain through successfully completing this course, the International School for Canine Psychology and Behaviour Ltd Diploma in Canine Behaviour.

You will be able to use the letters ISCP Dip.Canine.Prac. after your name on graduation.

Before receiving your diploma, you will be asked to sign the ISCP Charter which you will find in your welcome pack. This is your agreement with us to only use compassionate methods when working with dogs and their caretakers, to maintain client confidentiality, to adhere to the ethics of the ISCP Ltd, and to seek advice from your tutor if you find that you need help with a behaviour case. 


5.         The future after graduation

Don’t forget that you will continue to learn more about dogs every day. Dogs are expert teachers. Your Continued Professional Development (CPD) is important to us and we hope that once you have graduated from your current course, you will stay involved with our Facebook groups where we share details of new research published as well as upcoming workshops and seminars. We also hope that as part of your CPD you will consider enrolling on one of our other courses. 

Finally, even after graduation try to remember these wise words “However much we know, the dogs always have something to teach us. Dogs are the only real experts on dogs!” Lisa Tenzin-Dolma. 

So, all that is required now is for you to get started. Don’t forget that your tutor is there to help you. Enjoy and good luck!

© The ISCP Ltd. This is the intellectual property of The International School for Canine Psychology & Behavior Ltd

Author: June Pennell