Decoding your reading list

In the past few weeks you have probably been presented with module handbooks for everything you’re studying, with a list of references to things you are being told to read. Sometimes these will all be in the same referencing style and formatted in a way that you can understand easily what type of information it is. But sometimes, it might be more tricky to work out what exactly it is you are looking for. You can find yourself searching for a journal article, only to discover that it’s a book chapter, and you’ll never find it in a journal database.

If you are feeling a bit confused by your reading list, don’t worry. It’s a common problem and decoding references does get easier as you become more familiar with the referencing conventions of your subject.

There are some easy things to look out for in your references that will help you identify what type of information it is, and the key details, such as the author and title, that you would need to use in order to find it successfully. Take a look at the examples in the gallery to see what to watch out for.

Reference for a book in the Harvard style with the title in italics.
Reference for a book chapter in the Harvard style which includes the chapter and whole book title.
Reference for a journal article that includes the article title, volume and issue of the journal.
Reference for a website in harvard style which includes a url and accessed date.

Your reading list is also linked from your module course on Canvas. Individual items on your reading list will link through to Library Search, showing you print book availability and linking to e-book and e-journal full text wherever possible. This means you wont need to do a separate search.

Find out more about reading lists on the Library website.

Avoiding the second year slump

One of my good friends is the middle child of three siblings – born between two siblings with strong identities of “the eldest” and “the youngest”- and feels that she gets “forgotten about” or “neglected” by her parents (but of course she never is).

You could compare second year at University to feeling like the second child – not as exciting and ‘new’ as the youngest new-born (first year) nor as distinguished and knowledgeable as the eldest (final year at University) – but definitely never to be forgotten about.

Research conducted by Liverpool John Moores University found that second year students can suffer from ‘underperformance and withdrawal’ (Thompson et al., 2013) and that ‘around a third of undergraduates experienced a slow down in their academic progress during second year’ (Milsom, 2015). So don’t worry if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and disengaged as you enter your second year of studies, you are definitely not alone.

So how can you get out of your slump?

The research by Liverpool John Moores University highlight the importance of recognising the challenges faced by second year students and identify support that can help you rise to meet them (Thompson et al., 2013).

The Library have definitely not forgotten about our much loved second years, and we’ve been thinking about how we can help – here are our top three ways that the Library and our resources can support you during your second year and how you can hopefully kick-start your engagement with the Library and your studies…

1. Find inspiration

As a second year, you may often feel disengaged, so take some time to remember what you love about you subject; explore your reading lists and Subject Guide(s) to find some wider reading on your favourite topics in your subject area – this may help you build your subject knowledge, help you think about what you want to focus on in third year and remind you why you chose this subject in the start.

The reading lists for your modules is an excellent places to start any refresh. Watch this short video (2:44min) on how to find and use your reading lists:

Another place to re-engage with your subject is our Subject Guides. These guides are created by our ingenious Librarians (*ahem) and are collections of subject specific resources to help you discover reliable and authoritative information for your studies. Remember, if your studies are interdisciplinary, you might have to use multiple guides to ensure find relevant resources.

2. Refresh and build on your skills

Second year is a great time to take some time to refresh or build on your information and academic skills, so you are prepared for your studies becoming more challenging and intense as the year progresses and then transitioning into third year.

Boost your motivation this year by setting yourself small and achievable goals. These could be to improve a mark from last year, to read more widely or to refresh a skill that would be useful for employment. Our Skills Checker is an excellent tool to help you identify an area of information skills to work on.

Once you have identified the areas to work on, check out the ASK website for help and has advice on developing your academic skills. It is your guide to where you can go for support on all aspects of your academic life. With online resources to help you with your academic and study skills, covering topics such as academic integrity and referencing, exams and revisions, learning online and academic writing, you will find the support you need to study successfully.

Also discover our Skills Guides for help on finding, evaluating and managing information and useful guides on subject such as how to use EndNote, how to create an academic poster or how to identify fake news.

Our Employability Guide is another superb guide to show how developing your information and digital literacy skills can help prepare you for your future careers, and don’t forget, Newcastle University’s award-winning Careers Service provide expert advice regarding your future plans.

3. Ask for help

The Library is always here to help, so contact us by email, chat, phone or by social media 24/7 to ask any question regarding the Library services and resources.

The Library Liaison team and the Writing Development Centre are also available to meet (via Zoom or Teams) for a one-to-one appointment to help you on any aspect of Library and academic skills that you need help with. You can book an appointment via Library Help.


I hope we have reassured you that you lovely second years are definitely not forgotten and that we are here to help you on your academic journey every step of the way (*oh so cheesy). These are difficult times but with a bit of grit and determination we have confidence that you will succeed in every way.

References

Milsom, C. (2015) ‘Disengaged and overwhelmed: why do second year students underperform?’, The Guardian, 16 February. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/feb/16/disengaged-and-overwhelmed-why-do-second-year-students-underperform#:~:text=Positioned%20between%20two%20years%20with,often%20seems%20to%20be%20overshadowed.&text=The%20issue%20is%20widely%20recognised,related%20underperformance%20and%20disengagement%20extensively (Accessed: 28 October 2020).

Thompson, S., Milsom, C., Zaitseva, E., Stewart, M., Darwent, S. and Yorke, M. (2013) The Forgotten Year? Tackling the Second Year Slump. Liverpool John Moores University. Available at: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/forgotten-year-tackling-%25E2%2580%2598sophomore-slump%25E2%2580%2599 (Accessed: 28 October 2020).

Three Steps to Getting the Most from EndNote

Someone walking up metal staircase

If you’re writing a detailed essay, dissertation or thesis, reference management software such as EndNote can save you a lot of time and effort but only so long as you put in some time and effort to learn how it works first.

So let us help you get a head start with these three steps:

Step 1: Getting set up & practising the basics

Use our online workbook to get off on the right foot with EndNote; it will guide you through setting up your EndNote Library, adding references and using EndNote with Word.

You can watch this handy video from Clarivate for a visual demonstration too:

Step 2: Organisation from chaos

You’ve probably got a lot of records in your Library now so it’s time to get organised!  Take a look at these short guides and build up your EndNote expertise:

These tools will help you keep all your information together and make it easily accessible for step three…

Step 3: Now for the real magic

Now you’ve collected and organised your references, it’s time to put them to work for you using Cite While You Write in Word.  Watch this video from Clarivate to see how it’s done:

Some EndNote Extras

Keen to learn even more? Take a look at the EndNote Extras section of our EndNote Guide to find out how to merge documents and reference lists, how to share your Library with colleagues or how to find the full text PDF of an article from your EndNote Library.

Outside the Box

While the University has a subscription to EndNote and the Library offer some support to help you use it, there are other reference management software tools available.  Take a look at this FAQ to see some comparison charts that can help you decide which tool might be best for you!

Managing Information: Referencing

Referencing is an important part of academic writing – you’ll usually find it included in the marking criteria for your assignments and projects, with marks being awarded for correctly formatted citations and reference lists.

Why is referencing important?

  • It acknowledges the ideas and contributions of others that you have drawn upon in your work, ensuring that you avoid plagiarism
  • It highlights the range of reading you’ve done for your assignment and makes your own contribution clear, showing how you’ve taken ideas from others and built upon them
  • It enables the person reading your work to follow up on your references so they can learn more about the ideas you’ve discussed in your work or check any facts and figures.

How does referencing work?

Are there any tools that can help?

Yes!  There are lots of referencing tools that can help you manage and format your citations and references correctly.  Here are some examples:

A very useful online tool that lists all the information you need to include in a reference and provides examples of how a reference will look as an in-text citation and in a reference list.  See our ‘Level Up Your Referencing: Cite Them Right’ blog for more information.

  • Citation Buttons
Citation button consisting of a speech mark "

Keep an eye out for this symbol on Library Search and Google Scholar.  Clicking the button will provide the option for you to copy a reference in a particular style and paste it directly into your reference list.  You might need to tidy it up a little bit but it will save you time over writing them manually.

Reference building tools help you to create a bibliography using the correct referencing style.  You can input information manually or use import functions to pull information through from other webpages or documents.  As with the citation button above, reference building tools can save you time but you may still need to check the references are accurate.

  • Reference Management Software: e.g. EndNote

If you’re writing a detailed essay, dissertation or thesis, you may like to use a reference management tool such as EndNote, Mendeley or Zotero to help keep all of your references organised.  This software allows you to manually add references or import them from Library Search, Google Scholar or Subject Databases; sort references into groups; attach pdf documents or add notes.  You can then use the reference management software while you write to add in-text citations and format your reference list.

The University has a subscription for EndNote which is available in all University clusters and can be downloaded to your own personal device. You’ll find information about how to get started with EndNote on our EndNote Guide.

Remember: whatever tool you use, it’s always a good idea to get to know the conventions of the referencing style your school or lecturer would like you to use so that you can spot mistakes or missing information.

You can find out more about referencing and plagiarism by following this tutorial from Cite Them Right (You’ll need to log in to the institutional log in with your University username and password.)