Tips for creating your study space

Many of us are studying and working in unusual spaces at the moment, which can make it more challenging to concentrate or find our motivation. Procrastination may be a familiar struggle, and creating a space, both physical and online, in which to be your most productive is something that many of us in the Library and Writing Development Centre have also found challenging. It may not always be possible, but creating a managed space to study in will help. So what are our tips for creating the perfect study space at home?

1. Select your space

If it is possible, designate a space as your study environment. It may be your room in a shared house, the kitchen table, office, dining room or in the case of one of my colleagues, a spot in the hallway. Wherever you choose, claim it and make it yours in order to reduce distractions from those you live with and to create a studying mindset.

Within our team, many of us have found it invaluable to have a ‘work space’ which is separate from the rest of our life and spaces in which we relax. Even if this is simply a cheap desk in your bedroom as it is for me, having a ‘study spot’ which is dedicated to your academic work will help you create structure and routine, and feel in the studying zone. It also makes for less embarrassment when you turn your camera on in Zoom or Teams.

Photograph of desk with laptop and screen.
Emily’s desk on a rare tidy day.

2. Make it comfortable

While it may be tempting to study from your bed (which I certainly did as a postgraduate), sitting upright will help you stay alert during synchronous and non-synchronous teaching sessions. Not to mention the benefits for your shoulders, back and neck. Start with a desk or table if you can, as it will allow you to make an organised space and leave your hands free to take notes.

It’s also worth thinking about how you can make the space more comfortable by opening a window for fresh air every so often, and the level of natural light you can introduce. Perhaps think about studying earlier in the day so that the natural brightness helps you stay alert and boosts your mood.

3. Tidy space, tidy mind

Now this is a tip that I will admit to needing to heed myself. A cluttered study space can make it more difficult to focus and introduce unwanted distractions. By filing away your notes and de-cluttering your space at the end of a day, you will be able to start the next day fresh and able to find the learning materials you need.

This goes for your online spaces too. Think about how and where you keep your assignments, notes and any materials you download from Canvas, to ensure you are able to access the materials as you prepare assignments or revise for exams. Set up folders in One Drive that relate to each module or project you are working on and be sure to keep track of any collaborative work, such as projects in Teams. Managing the information you collect as you study and keeping it organised in some way is an essential study skill. Visit the Managing Information Guide for more tips.

Student studying on laptop on the sofa

4. Gather some stationary

It’s a simple tip, but keep a pen and paper nearby so that you can make quick notes. This might be jotting down an idea or something to remind yourself about at a later date. Many of you will take your notes digitally and may have a tablet you use within your programme, but having a notebook and pen to hand is a valuable backup. If you prefer handwritten notes, make sure you have a good organisational system so that you are able to retrieve the information you need.

You’ll find lots of useful tips around notetaking on the ASK website.

5. Listen to some music

Some of you may find studying in silence works best for you, but for me, I need a little background noise to block out the distractions around me. Select a soundtrack for your study that helps you concentrate, with a mixture of mood boosting tracks and songs that are a little more mellow and calming. You’ll find lots of readymade study playlists on streaming services, or you could start with our Library Spotify playlists.

6. Switch off your devices

I’m sure many of us will recognise our mobile phone as a significant source of distraction and cause of many unproductive minutes. Switch off your mobile phone, log out of social media accounts on your study device and turn off the TV. This will help you create designated study time as well as space. It will also be a step towards introducing breaks in your study routine.

7. Take breaks

Taking regular breaks and walking away from your study space will help you return feeling refreshed. Why not download the iNCLude App? It has been designed to help you take small steps to improve and maintain your wellbeing, by creating positive habits and helping you focus on more than just your academic studies.

One valuable bonus tip from the WDC about taking breaks:

When you break, take a moment to leave a ‘note to future self’ about where you got to or what you were intending to do next.

Writing Development Centre, Managing Time and Motivation
Student studying with laptop and notebook.

8. Be organised

Learning remotely is challenging when you don’t necessarily have a structured timetable of lectures, seminars, labs and classes, but have to manage your own time and motivation. Being organised and creating your own plan or timetable can help.

The WDC have created some great guides, podcasts and videos with tips that might help, including creating structure and routine, studying in short bursts and how to motivate yourself.

When you begin your study session make sure you have everything you need to hand so that you don’t interrupt your flow. I frequently wish I’d had the sense to put my laptop charger nearby.

Our mobile apps and resources guide also includes some suggestions for apps that can help you be more organised and boost your productivity.

Visit the ASK website for more study and academic skills advice.

We’re here to help (even when we’re not)

Christmas scene with dining table

The University may be closed for the Christmas period but if you are studying, writing assignments or revising, library resources and help are always available. We may not be in the building, but the library team can help you with your semester 2 preparation.

Use your Library Subject Guide

If you are not sure which resources are best to use for your subject or what you can access off-campus, visit your Subject Guide . The guides bring together links and help for the specialist information sources in your discipline.

Visit the Library over the vacation

The Philip Robinson Library building will be open during the Winter break (Saturday 19th December 2020 – Sunday 3rd January 2021) and all other library buildings will be closed.  If you need access to books and journals, or a quiet place to study, all you will need is to book your study space online and your University smartcard and. Visit the website for the Library vacation opening hours.

Have a question? Check the FAQs

We have an extensive database of frequently asked questions available on the Library website. You can search by keyword or browse by topic area and find answers to the most common questions. So whether you want to know how to access newspapers from the Library, how to book study space or get help with EndNote, check the FAQs to see if we have already answered your question.

Contact Library Help

If you need help or have a question, use Library Help to get in touch with us. You can live chat with a librarian outside of the University to get immediate answers, or send us a message and we will get back to you when the University reopens.

So remember, you can access all of our online resources, journals and e-books from the Library website and we will be back in the Library on 4th January 2020. Enjoy the festive season!

Top tips for accessing library resources off campus.

The Library subscribes to over 300 specialist subject databases, 50,000 journals and has access to over half a million e-books. When you are on campus or use a computer connected to the University network, e-book and e-journal providers will recognise you as a member of the University and allow you access to the resource. You will see the University logo on the page and if you are on things like Google Scholar, you will be given the option to “Find at Newcastle University”. This works because it recognises the IP address of the University.

It all works like magic and it is easy to think that it is all freely available. However, when you’re off campus, working from home or perhaps in a different library, you won’t be automatically recognised. This can cause you some difficulty accessing resources and you’ll probably find that you are locked out of the full-text and asked to pay large amounts for articles.

If you are working off campus, follow our tips to make sure that you are able to access all of the resources that you are entitled to as a member of Newcastle University.

#1 Access the resource from Library Search

If you perform a search in Library Search, you will be automatically prompted to log in to online resources with your University username and password, even when you are off campus. But did you know you can also search it to access whole journal titles and databases, such as Scopus and Web of Science? Access the database through Library Search and you will be prompted to login, to easily perform your search and download the full-text.

Library search filtered by database

#2 Access the resource from your Subject Guide

As we have access to so many databases and specialist resources, we’ve drawn together the best ones for your discipline on your Subject Guide. Clicking on the links in the Subject Guide will take you through a route that will prompt you to log in with your University username and password.

Subject guides journals and databases tab

#3 Access the e-journal in Browzine

Have you created your own journal shelf or downloaded the Browzine app? Browzine is a way of accessing e-journal titles for your subject, and to read the most recent articles, just like flicking through a magazine. As you set up your personal account using your University email address, Browzine will always recognise you as a member of the University and give you access to the full-text.

Browzine app and desktop homescreen

#4 Use Windows Virtual Desktop

Logging into WVD when you are off campus allows you to work within the University network. This may enable journal and database providers to automatically recognise you as a member of the University, just as it would work on campus.

#5 Check the screen for the University logo

We get a lot of enquiries from staff and students who aren’t sure if we have a subscription to a journal or an electronic version of a book. This is sometimes because they are not logged in or have found a reference through a search engine such as Google Scholar. If you are on the website of a journal or a database, the quickest way to check if you are logged in, is to look around the screen to see if you can spot the University logo or name. This is often at the top right or below the search boxes on the homepage of a database or journal/ e-book platform.

A screen shot showing the log in section of Scopus and Web of Science

Still not working …

There are times when you’ll have done everything right and you are still not recognised as being able to access the resource. In this case, it is always worth trying to log in again within the platform. Look to the top right of the screen for a link that says institutional log in, sign in via your University or it might mention something called Shibboleth. This will allow you to log in with your University username and password.

If you’re in any doubt, you can always chat with us online 24/7 or send us an enquiry via Library Help. We’ll probably ask you to send us a picture of what you can see on screen, as this will help us spot any problems.

Spotlight on Web of Science

Despite its name, Web of Science provides access to current and retrospective multidisciplinary information from approximately 8,500 high impact journals, including titles within their Social Sciences Citation Index®, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index™ collections.  Web of Science allows cited reference searching where you can navigate forward, backward, and through the literature, searching all disciplines and time spans to uncover all the information relevant to your studies.

Where to find Web of Science

You can access Web of Science from Library Search. This will help you to access the database successfully as you will be prompted to log in with your University username and password. Simply search for it by name from the Library website.

You will also find a link to on the Journals and Databases page of your Subject Guide, which provides a list and links to the recommended databases in your discipline.

What does Web of Science include?

  • More than 20,000 journal, books, and conference titles
  • Over 69 million records
  • More than 90,000 books
  • Over 10 million conference papers

Web of Science content

As we alluded to above, Web of Science includes much more than ‘science’ information, including:

  • life sciences, biomedical sciences
  • social sciences, arts & humanities.
  • strongest coverage of natural sciences, health sciences, engineering, computer science, materials sciences.

Get started with Web of Science with these advanced search tips.

Spotlight on Compendex

Compendex is one of the best places to go when searching for engineering literature. It provides peer-reviewed and indexed publications with over 20 million records, from 77 countries, across 190 engineering disciplines.

The database includes not only journal articles, but also articles in press, trade magazines, book series, dissertations, as well as a wealth of conference proceedings and conference papers, which are so important in scientific research. In addition, it also includes all technical standards from IEEE.

To access Compendex, you can either go through Library Search or alternatively it may be listed under ‘Journal’s and Database’ section in your library subject guide.

Watch this quick introduction to see Compendex in action.

Spotlight on Scopus

Have you ever found yourself asking any of the questions below?….

  • Where can I find relevant, high quality information for my research?
  • How can I track who has cited an article since it’s publication, as well as looking back on the references it used?
  • How can I follow an academics work?
  • Who can I collaborate with in my research?
  • Which journal should I submit my paper to?
  • Where can I find information to support my research funding application?

…..If you have, then why not take a look at Scopus and use it as your starting point? You can access it through Library Search or through your subject guide in the ‘Journals and Databases’ section.

Whatever subject you are studying, Scopus is one of the databases that you need to get to know. It is a large multi-disciplinary abstract and citation database of peer reviewed literature. It contains over 69 million records, including journal articles (from 22,000 titles), conference papers, books (20,000 new book details added every year) and book chapters. However, it doesn’t just have a list of results for you to wade through, but it has a series of smart tools which help you track and visualise the research as well. You can search for documents, sources, authors and institutions and compare and contrast them using a variety of different tools.

If you are wondering if Scopus is for you, then check out the video below. And if you are already a user of Scopus, then why not listen to one of their webinars to get the best out of the resource or check out the Scopus blog for tips and tricks. Happy exploring!

See Scopus basic search in action.
Scopus is an excellent resource to use to help you expand your search by focusing on specific authors and cited reference searching.

Where to find Standards?

This small, but beautifully formed Standards Resource Guide will give you all you need to know about what standards you can access whilst at Newcastle University.

Standards are codes of best practice containing technical specifications and guidelines. They are used to ensure uniformity and consistency, reliability and safety and provide a quality benchmark.

We have full text access to all current BS, ASTM and IEEE standards.

Many ISO and EN (and some IEC) standards also have BS equivalents and are available online too.

To support teaching and research, we also purchase a small number of individual standards from other organisations (e.g. ASME, API, etc). These are usually available in hard-copy and you can find their shelfmarks on Library Search.

If you need a particular standard for your research, dissertation, or to support your teaching, please contact the SAgE Library Liaison team for advice (lib-sage@ncl.ac.uk) or use the Books on Time service to ask us to buy it.

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.

Library Search: find resources with the Library’s super search

We’re a couple of weeks in to term, and for new (and returning) students, it’s time to start looking beyond your reading list. Reading lists are a great place to find the essential reading material for your modules. But when you begin to look in more depth at topics that interest you, and to read for your seminars and assignments, you will need to look beyond your reading list to the wider books, ebooks, journal articles and more, that you will find using Library Search.

This week we are putting the spotlight on Library Search, to give you tips and tricks to help find good quality, relevant information, quickly. We are going to share videos that show you how to search. Tips to help with your referencing and keeping track of the information you find.

Let’s start off with Library Search in 90 seconds …

13 online resources for geography students

We’re studying in unprecedented times right now and when completing upcoming assignments, you may need to look beyond your reading list to explore quality resources available online. Here are some of our suggestions to help you find the information you need.

1. Library Search for ebooks and articles

When working off campus, you can still access the full collection of ebooks, electronic journals and professional magazines, newspapers, conferences and more, from Library Search.

Additional ebook titles are being added to the collection every day while we are all working remotely. Search by author, title or keyword to find books to help you with your essay topic.

Watch our short video showing how to search for eBooks.

We’ve put together a page of tips and help videos all about Library Search on our finding information skills guide .

To find academic journal articles from across our collection that match your topic keywords, use the everything search option and filter your results on the left to peer-reviewed journals.

Find out how to search for electronic journal articles in this short video.

2. Your Subject Guide

The Subject Guide for Geography draws together in one place, the resources available from the library to help you with your academic work. Use the Journals and Database page to access subject databases such as Natural Science Collection, Social Sciences Premium CollectionLyell Collection and JSTOR.

You can contact the Liaison Team for one-to-one support or send your questions to Library Help, where there are staff logged into our live chat service, 24/7.

Between Library Search and your Subject Guide, you will be able to find excellent information to use in your academic essays, but there are many other resources you may want to try.

3. Proquest Collections 

The Social Sciences Premium Collection and Natural Sciences Collection are both brilliant places to start if you would like to refine your results to either natural or social sciences, while still searching broadly across different information types. They are collections of databases, covering a range of information types including articles, reports, conference papers and theses, so you are able to find results that match your keywords from a variety of global sources.

Find out more about the Social Sciences Premium Collection, how to search it successfully and use the advanced features in the video guide below. It is a brilliant resource for sociology and excellent to use for any academic assignment.

Watch our introduction to the Social Sciences Premium Collection to explore basic and advanced searching.

4. JSTOR

JSTOR is a full-text collection, giving you online access to scholarly journals, books and book chapters in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

It has basic and advanced search options that allow you to search by topic keyword, author, subject area, title or publisher

Screenshot showing the JSTOR homepage

5. Scopus

Scopus is a large, multidisciplinary database, which indexes peer- reviewed journal articles, books, book chapters, conference proceedings and trade publications.

One of the main advantages of using Scopus is that it provides a lot of useful information about the articles it indexes. This includes full reference lists for articles and cited reference searching, so you can navigate forward and backward through the literature to uncover all the information relevant to your research.  

You can also set up citation alerts so you can be informed of new, relevant material automatically. Other useful tools include citation overviews, author and affiliation searching, visual analysis of search results, a journal analyser, and author identifier tools (if you are interested in publishing work).Watch this video from Scopus about how to expand your search from a known article reference.Watch this video from Scopus about how to expand your search from a known article reference.

Watch this video from Scopus about how to expand your search from a known article reference.

6. Government publications

Government publications provide information in a variety of subjects. Statistics, White Papers, Parliamentary Bills and a whole range of Official Legislation published by the Government. The provide a good, reliable, source of accurate statistics, and can give support to your argument in essay topics.

We have put together a resource guide for government publications that will give you quick access to the United Kingdom gov.uk publications search and the Office For National StatisticsEuropean and international official publications.

7. OECD iLibrary for statistics and global reports.

OECD iLibrary is the online library of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and gives you access to booksanalytical reports and statistics, covering a broad range of topics relevant for studies in sociology.

OECD iLibrary is certainly worth searching to provide reputable supporting information for your academic work. The Social Issues, Health and Migration and Environment and Sustainable Development sections would be a good place to start.

8. DigiMap

DigiMap is out main online map resource, and at Newcastle University we have access to multiple collections

  • Ordinance Survey
  • Historic
  • Geology
  • Marine
  • Environment
  • Aerial
  • Lidar 

We also have temporary access to Global, Society and Pilot until mid-May.
They can all be accessed via Library Search using your University username and password.

Watch the Edina tutorial to get started with Digimap Roam.

You can find out more about the maps we have available at Newcastle University on our Maps Resource Guide.

9. Statista for easy statistics and global outlook

Statista is an extensive statistics platform covering over 1.5 million data sets. It includes reports, statistics and forecasts on a range of topics. So if you want to know compare homelessness statistics, explore education trends, attitudes to sustainability and the environment or how many people drink barista coffee every day, Statista is a brilliant place to start.

Statistics and reports can be exported in a range of formats including images and PowerPoint, giving you flexibility to include the visuals in your assignments. The statistics source is included, giving you the information that you need to cite it successfully.

Find out more about Statista with this brief introduction.

You will find a similar sources on our Statistics and Market Research resource guides.

10. Current newspapers with LexisLibrary

Newspapers are an excellent resource to explore, to provide a range of perspectives on a topic. You can find opinion pieces, social commentary and identify trends in public opinion.

We have a huge range of newspaper archives, historic newspapers and international sources such as Nexis that can mostly be access online and off campus. Our Newspapers resource guide collates all of our resources and will guide you through how where to look.

LexisLibrary is an excellent place to start. It provides access to UK national and regional newspapers, from the 1990s to today. It includes the copy text without the images or formatting and all of the details you need to create a citation are on the article page.

Once you have followed the Library Search link to access Lexis, make sure you click on News at the top of the page for full text access to all UK publications.

As so many articles are published every day, you will need to refine your searching using date ranges, combined keywords or by selecting specific newspapers or publication type (i.e. broadsheet or tabloid).

Remember to use your critical skills when using newspapers however, and watch out for Fake News. They are biased sources and are best used in balance with other sources. You can find our tips on our Evaluating Information skills guide.

11. Box of Broadcasts

Box of Broadcasts can be used to access TV and radio broadcasts from over 65 channels, including most of the UK’s freeview network, all BBC TV and radio content from 2007, and several foreign language channels. It’s a great resource to use to find documentaries or critical opinions.

You can view archived programmes, record new ones, create clips and playlists and see transcripts to help with citation and translation. You can also search for other user’s public playlists to help you in your own search. 

Unfortunately, Box of Broadcasts is not available outside the UK.

12. British Geological Survey

The British Geological Survey website gives you access to geological datasets, including environmental monitoring data, digital databases, physical collections (borehole core, rocks, minerals and fossils), records and archives.

You can search using keywords or browse the Open Geoscience datasets. It is also worth browsing in the research section and participate in one of their citizen science projects.

13. GreenFILE

GreenFILE is a fully searchable database on the EBSCOHost platform, offering research on all aspects of human impact on the environment. It includes peer-reviewed, academic articles, government and general-interest titles on topics including global warming, green building, pollution, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, recycling, and more.

Some of the content is full text while with others, you will need to use the Find at Newcastle University option to check for access via Library Search.

GreenFILE is definitely a database to try out.

14. Joseph Rowntree Foundation

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is a British social policy research and development charity, that funds UK-wide research and development programs. It aims to understand the root causes of social problems, and how social needs can be met in practice.  The charity produces excellent topical research reports on cities towns and neighbourhoods, housing, income and benefits, people, society and work. This is a resource for human geographers to investigate.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation homepage with browse and search.
The website is easy to search and browse by topic.

To get started, browse by topic and you will quickly get a sense of the range of information that would be useful for your written assignments