Enrichment Week: developing your information skills

Strong information skills are not only important for improving your work in assessments, they’re also useful life-long skills that are increasingly important in our digital society.  Strengthening these skills will help you to find and engage critically with information both for your assignments and in your future beyond University.   

During Enrichment Week we ran a session looking at how you can reflect on your current information skills and discover resources, tools and advice that can help you take your capabilities further.  If you missed the session and want to learn more, this blog summarises the steps you’ll need to take to improve your own information and digital skills.  You’ll also find slides from the session at the end. 

Reflect 

Reflection is an important part of the learning process as it allows you to identify your current practises, see your areas of strength and what works for you, and think about how you can adapt, change or develop your skills going forward to meet new challenges. 

The ASK webpage below goes into more detail about reflective practice, while our quizzes will help you reflect on your current information skills: 

Tools: 

Set SMART goals 

The next step is to consider what you want to put into practice, change, use or try based on your reflections. You need to give yourself a goal, target or action plan to work toward – this should be SMART: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable 
  • Achievable  
  • Relevant  
  • Time bound 

So for example, you might want to improve your referencing for your next assignment or focus on searching three new subject databases for information to help you write your literature review. Alternatively, you may want to use your skills in a different way, by researching employers before you write your CV. 

The frameworks below can be useful both for reflection and for selecting goals as they highlight the kinds of skills you should be developing as a University Student.  You might also get ideas for goals from feedback from your assignments, from the kind of skills you’ll need in your future career, or simply by just selecting a topic you find interesting. 

Tools: 

Explore 

The Library is here to help you every step of the way and have created a host of useful tools and guides to help you develop your information skills.  Once you’ve set your goal, take some time to explore the support that is available to you. 

Tools: 

  • Subject Guides – useful for finding subject-specific resources that can help you locate reliable information for your assignments. 
  • Resource Guides – help you access a range of different information types, from newspapers to maps to company information. 
  • Skills Guides – helpful advice and tools to aid you in finding, managing and evaluating information. 
  • Search Planner – a great tool for helping you prepare for your dissertation literature review 
  • ASK website – designed to support you in developing your wider academic skills, includes a host of helpful tools, guides, videos and resources. 
  • One-to One appointment – chat to your Liaison Librarian about your information skills, we can help you find information, think critically about resources and manage your references. 

Practise 

As with any skill, the only way to improve your chosen information skill is to practise it, so look out for chances to do this. These opportunities may pop up in your modules with formative assessments or quizzes, or you may need to set aside some time to practise independently. For example, you could try some of the tutorials or workbooks below that were designed to help you practise some key skills: 

Tools: 

Reflect again 

Reflection is an iterative process.  Once you’ve had time to explore, practise and apply your chosen skill and feel that you’ve achieved your goal, repeat the reflective process to see how far you’ve come and think about where you might go next! 

Session Presentation

Resource in focus: Loeb Classical Library Online

Containing over 520 volumes of Latin and Greek poetry, drama, oratory, history, philosophy and more, the Loeb Classical Library is a key resource for those studying the ancient Greek and Roman world.  The side-by-side layout of the ancient text and English translation makes the literature accessible to readers and can be especially helpful to those new to the study of ancient Greek or Latin. 

The online Library presents tools that allow readers to explore the texts at various levels, via browsing, searching, annotating, and sharing content.  The online works include the same content, page, and volume numbers as their print counterparts so you can easily switch between the two or share ideas related to certain passages or pages.

Loeb volumes

For each volume in the Library, you’ll find an introductory page containing useful information on the author, some details of the Loeb edition, a bibliographic reference for the text as well as a table of contents that you can use to navigate through the online work. You can access this page at any time by clicking on the LCL number located above the right hand page.

Screenshot showing the left and right hand pages from a Loeb edition of Plato's Phaedo.

In the text itself, the left (verso) page contains the original Greek/Latin language, while the right (recto) presents the English translation.  Tools along the bottom of the page allow you to hide either the left or right pages as needed. The tool bar also includes options for searching within the work or printing sections of the text. Further options to bookmark pages, highlight and annotate text, and organise or share your annotations with others, are also available in the toolbar but require you to create a free My Loeb account.

Screenshot showing the Loeb toolbar.

Browsing the Library

The browse option allows you to scan the Loeb Library by author name, Greek or Latin works, and Loeb volume number.

When browsing Greek or Latin works, you’re given further filter options so you can narrow your search by author, form (poetry or prose), time period, and genre/subject.  These options can be particularly useful if you are interested in certain themes presented in the ancient world across specific time periods.

Screenshot showing the Loeb 'Browse' page for Greek Works.

Searching the Library

The search box at the top right of the page allows you to do a quick search for titles, authors, keywords or phrases.

Alternatively, advanced search allows you to be more specific, searching for terms within introductions, bibliographies, or indexes.  You can also limit your search to verso or recto to focus on the Greek/Latin text or the English translations. All search boxes provide you with a Greek keyboard to simplify searching for keywords in the original language.

As within browse, the search results allow you to filter records further by language, author, period, or genre.  If you’ve searched for a specific keyword, clicking on ‘Show results within’ allows you to browse instances of the word appearing within a text from the results page.

Screenshot showing the 'Show results within' option in the results page on Loeb.

Find out more

For more help, visit the Using the Library link at the top right of the Loeb Library page.  Here you’ll find further advice on using tools within My Loeb, how to search and how to cite volumes from the Library.

You can find out more about key features and take a quick visual tour of the digital Library via the Loeb Classical Library website.

Resources for Archaeology

The Library has lots of great collections and resources, so when it comes to finding wider reading for your topic or beginning research for your assignment or dissertation it might all seem a bit overwhelming.  Library Search can be a great place to start looking for information but there are many other resources you might want to try. To help you get the best out of our resources we’ve put together this list of some of the most useful online databases and collections for Archaeology.

Let’s dive in!

Scopus

Scopus is a large, interdisciplinary database of peer-reviewed literature, providing an index of articles, book chapters, conference papers 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.

Scopus tutorial: How to expand your search results

Scopus includes other smart tools that can help you track and visualise the research in your area, including author and affiliation searching, visual analysis of search results, a journal analyser, and author identifier tools. You’ll find tutorials and advice on using these features in the Scopus support centre and on their YouTube Channel.

JSTOR

JSTOR provides access to full-text materials including 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

Archaeology Data Service Library (ADS)

ADS is a database which brings together material from the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography (BIAB), the ADS library of unpublished fieldwork reports, as well as documents from the ADS archives and publishers such as Oxbow.

There are three ways to search ADS:

  • Archsearch – for searching for short records about a monument or historic environment event from the UK.
  • ADS Library  – for a report, book or article about the historic environment of Britain and Ireland.
  • ADS Archives search – for raw data.

Find out how to search ADS for a known article in this video guide:

PastScape

The information on PastScape is derived from the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) which holds records on the architectural and archaeological heritage of England. The NRHE contains over 420,000 records of archaeological sites and buildings in England and its territorial waters. The record is very broad in scope and contains information on sites dating from prehistoric times to the modern period, from finds of early stone tools to contemporary architecture, from Roman roads to disused railways and 19th century shipwrecks.

Although PastScape is no longer being updated, it is still a useful resource for finding descriptions of sites or buildings, surveys and excavation information and other useful links.

Encyclopedia of Ancient History

The Encyclopedia of Ancient History is a reference work containing a comprehensive collection of 21st century scholarship on the ancient Mediterranean world.  Entries span the bronze age through to 10th century Byzantium and extend to all Mediterranean civilisations including the Near East and Egypt.  Materials include articles, images and maps of the ancient world.

Our video guide below demonstrates how to browse and search for information using the Encyclopedia:

Video Guide to finding information on the Encyclopedia of Ancient History

Abstracts of International Conservation Literature (AATA)

AATA Online is a comprehensive database containing over 150,000 abstracts of journals and conference proceedings related to the preservation and conservation of material cultural heritage, including archaeological sites and materials.

You can browse the database by topic or use the search tab to do a quick keyword search, a more detailed search in particular fields or a text search for a more detailed keyword search.

The results tab allows you to sort items by date, author or title, and export record details to a reference management tool such as EndNote.

Historical Abstracts

Historical Abstracts provides bibliographic records for thousands of journals and books, including several key archaeology journals such as Historical Archaeology, International Journal of Historical Archaeology, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and World Archaeology.  Content covers the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada) from 1450 to the present, including world history, military history, women’s history, history of education, and more.

This video explains how to search effectively in EBSCOHost databases such as this one:

EBSCOHost Tutorial: Creating an Advanced Search

Aph

l’Année philologique is a bibliographic database, indexing journal articles and book chapters about the classical world, going back to 1924. It’s an excellent resource for researching topics related to Greek and Latin literature and linguistics, Greek and Roman history, art, archaeology, philosophy, religion and more.

Our video guide below demonstrates how to find information on l’Année philologique:

Video guide to finding information on l’Année philologique

Box of Broadcasts (BoB)

Box of Broadcasts allows you 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 for finding documentaries or critical opinions.

You can view archived programmes, create clips and playlists, and see transcripts to help with citation and translation. You can also search other user’s public playlists to see curated lists around topics similar to your own. There are lots of helpful tutorial videos on the BoB website.

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

Archaeology Subject Guide

This list was just a taster of all the great resources available for your subject area, to access these and to find out more visit your Subject Guide and explore the journals, databases and subject specific resources we’ve curated for Archaeology students. 

Resource in focus: L’Année philologique

l’Année philologique (Aph) is a bibliographic database, indexing journal articles and book chapters about the classical world, going back to 1924. It’s an excellent resource for researching topics related to Greek and Latin literature and linguistics, Greek and Roman history, art, archaeology, philosophy, religion and more.

Aph provides a range of search options:

Simple Search

In simple search you can choose between or combine a free search, where you can apply your own keywords, and a general thematic search, which allows you to access the Aph subject thesaurus via the Subject Tree or by using the auto-complete options that appear as you type in the search box. The Subject Tree is a hierarchically organized list of subject indexing terms; it highlights links between broader, narrower and related terms, helping you to select all of the keywords relevant to your topic.

Screen shot of the Aph subject tree.

Advanced Search

Advanced search provides additional search fields, including bibliographic search, which allows you to narrow your focus by author name, title, publication details or language. There are also further options for exploring the subject thesaurus with browse lists for all indexed terms and a specific thematic search.

As Aph is a bibliographic database, item records will not usually include access to Full Text articles. Instead you’ll find detailed bibliographic information that will help you locate a copy, alongside an abstract and descriptive keywords that you can use to see if the article is relevant for you.

The video below demonstrates how to find information in Aph, including how to use the Subject Tree and how to find Full Text copies of articles you need in Library Search and Google Scholar.

If you would like to learn more, the Help page on Aph provides an excellent, detailed guide to each of the databases’ features.

Resources for Linguistics and Language History

The Library has lots of great collections and resources, so when it comes to finding wider reading for your topic or beginning research for your assignment or dissertation it might all seem a bit overwhelming.  Library Search can be a great place to start looking for information but there are many other resources you might want to try. To help you get the best out of our resources we’ve put together this list of some of the most useful online databases and collections for the study of Linguistics and Language History.

Let’s dive in!

Scopus

Scopus is a large, interdisciplinary database of peer-reviewed literature, providing an index of articles, book chapters, conference papers 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.

Video guide to expanding your search results in Scopus.

Scopus includes other smart tools that can help you track and visualise the research in your area, including author and affiliation searching, visual analysis of search results, a journal analyser, and author identifier tools. You’ll find tutorials and advice on using these features in the Scopus support centre and on their YouTube Channel.

JSTOR

JSTOR provides access to full-text materials including 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

Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA)

Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts is an excellent resource for those interested in the nature and use of language.  The database focuses on academic resources for the study of language, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics, and descriptive, historical, comparative, theoretical and geographical linguistics.

LLBA has the added advantage of including a specialised linguistics thesaurus, which you can use in advanced search to refine and focus your search. The thesaurus provides a searchable list of all the subject terms used in the database and highlights links between broader, narrower and related terms, helping you to select all of the keywords relevant to your topic.

Screen shot showing the thesaurus in LLBA.

ProQuest provide a helpful and detailed guide to LLBA which includes search tips for basic and advanced search as well as some sample searches you can work through to familiarise yourself with the database. 

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics is a comprehensive online reference work covering 27 key areas of the field, including Language Learning and Teaching, Bilingual and Multilingual Education, Assessment and Testing, Corpus Linguistics, Conversation Analysis, Discourse and Technology and Language.  You’ll also find over 200 entries on the philosophy and history of applied linguistics and biographies of key applied linguists.

You can browse the Encyclopedia by topic or look for keywords using simple or advanced searches.

Accents and Dialects

Accents and Dialects is a searchable database of English accent recordings from the British Library Sound Archive.  Recordings include early spoken word snippets from the 1890s onwards, Opie’s collection of children’s songs and games, an evolving English word bank, and a survey of English dialects.  Each recording includes a detailed description, and some include additional linguistic descriptions too.   Most recordings can be downloaded for academic use.

You can browse the database by project, county, or date.  You can also use the search box on the top right of the page to look for specific keywords, including dialects or places.

Screen shot of the Accents and Dialects homepage.

The British Library have also developed an interactive timeline showing the evolution of the English language from the 11th Century to the present day.  This requires Adobe Flash to view.

The Cambridge History of the English Language

The Cambridge History of the English Language is a six-volume work providing an authoritative account of the history of English; from Old English through to modern variations in Britain and overseas. Each volume gives a chronological overview of the data, links to scholarship in the area and considers the impact of current and developing linguistic theory on the interpretation of the data.

You can access volumes individually on Library Search or sign in via institutional login at the link above to browse all volumes together.

Historic Newspapers

The Library provides access to several million digitised pages of historic newspapers, dating from the seventeenth century.  We have all UK broadsheet archives online (e.g. The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph) as well as titles which are strong in arts and culture coverage, such as the Times Literary Supplement.

If you want to search across a range of historic new sources, start with Gale Primary Sources, as this gives access to all our British newspaper archives, except The Guardian and The Observer. Gale also has a useful tool called term frequency that allows you to track the history of particular words and phrases.

Screen shot from Gale showing term frequency for Fake News.

You’ll find an overview of all our News resources on our Newspaper Guide.

Box of Broadcasts (BoB)

Box of Broadcasts allows you 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 for finding documentaries or critical opinions.

You can view archived programmes, create clips and playlists, and see transcripts to help with citation and translation. You can also search other user’s public playlists to see curated lists around topics similar to your own. There are lots of helpful tutorial videos on the BoB website.

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

English Language and Linguistics Subject Guide

This list was just a taster of all the great resources available for your subject area, to access these and to find out more visit the English Language and Linguistics Subject Guide and explore the journals, databases and subject specific resources we’ve curated for students interested in this field of study. 

There are also subject guides for specific languages which may be useful for you to explore, including Chinese and Japanese studies, German studies, French studies, Italian studies, and Spanish and Latin American studies.

Finding Information: Troubleshooting your search results

Photograph of tools, including a hammer, spanner and measuring tape, laid out on a table

You’ve ran your information search and looked at your results with a critical eye only to find that they’re not quite working for you – what can you do now?

In this blog we’ll be looking at the top three problems encountered when searching for information and how to improve your search to get the results you need:

Finding too much

If your search has brought back thousands of results and you’re getting overwhelmed with the options:

Search a more specialised resource

Using a subject-specific database will help narrow the focus of your search to your particular areas of interest.  Take a look at your Subject Guide to find databases and eBook collections tailored to your subject area.

Apply limits

Make use of the ‘refine’ options usually found on the left-hand side of Library Search or your subject database.  Limit your results by date, subject area or information type.  Remember, you may need to justify your limits to your supervisor so think carefully about your choices. 

Combine search terms with ‘AND’

AND is a Boolean operator, a term you can use to have more control over your search. If you want to find information that must contain two different keywords (or phrases), place a capitalised AND operator between them. Your search engine or subject database will only find information that features both, narrowing your results. The more search terms you combine with AND, the narrower your search will be.

Finding too little

If your search has brought back a handful of useful articles but you need a wider range of results:

Combine terms with ‘OR’

OR is another Boolean operator that helps you to control your search more effectively.  Use OR with your search terms that have synonyms or related terms. Your search engine or subject database will find information that features either word or phrase, significantly broadening your results.

Try controlled vocabulary

If you’re not getting enough results, it may be that your search terms or keywords aren’t quite working for you.  Controlled vocabulary are a standardised list of words and phrases used on some databases to ensure that searches retrieve all relevant results, even when authors use different terms. Examples of databases that use this technique include ERIC, PsycInfo, CAB abstracts, Compendex and Medline. If these apply to you and your discipline, you’ll find out how to use them on your Subject Guide.

360 Searching

If you’ve found some useful articles, one simple way to find more relevant material is to take a look at the references used by the authors.  This will lead you to find older material that was published before your original article which may also be useful.  Library Search and some subject databases including Google Scholar and Scopus also allow you to see who has cited the articles you have found in their work (look for the ‘cited by link’).  This is called citation searching and allows you to find more up-to-date analysis of your topic.  By looking back at the references and forward at the citations, you get a 360 degree view of the research.

Finding nothing useful?

If your search has brought back results that aren’t relevant to your research question or you are finding it difficult to find the right search terms or databases to use, you might find it helpful to book a one-to-one appointment with your Liaison Librarian.

You can also find more help and advice on our Finding Information Guide.

Finding Information: The key to your search

Keys hanging on hooks on a piece of wood.

When it comes to finding academic information, there are a few things you need to think about before you start your search, such as where to actually look for information and the types of information you want to find in your search.  Another thing that is worth taking the time to think carefully about is keywords.

Keywords, sometimes called subject terms, are simple words and phrases that describe information; you can see them in the item record on Library Search and in Subject Databases.

An example of keywords from an article on Library Search
An example of keywords from an article on Library Search

The results that your search returns are based on this information – if your keywords match an item’s keywords, that item will appear in your results.

To get the best results, then, you’ll need to develop a balanced list of targeted keywords – these keywords may come from your essay title or research question, from your subject knowledge or wider reading – you can even borrow them from the subject terms you find on relevant articles!

As ideas and topics can be expressed in different ways you’ll also need to think about synonyms and terms related to your keywords to make sure you can find all of the relevant information.

To find out more about keywords, synonyms and searching take a look at this short video:

There are some useful tricks you can use with your keywords to save you time when you search, take a look at our Advanced Searching Guide to learn about Boolean, wildcards and truncation!

Finding Information: Types of Information

Light bulbs

In our previous blog we explored how looking for information in the right place can help save you time and effort.  However, sometimes, the right place to look can depend on what type of information you’re looking for.

While you’re probably familiar with books and you may have been introduced to journal articles, these are just two of the types of academic information available to you.  Depending on your research question or essay title you might also find it useful to explore, for example, conference proceedings, maps, company information or newspapers

Each type of information has its particular use; books provide an in-depth overview of a topic; journal articles are more specialised and focus in-depth on a particular area of a topic, and newspapers give you a useful perspective on events.  While Library Search can help you find a large range of information types, some types of information are only available in special databases or archives.  Before you start your search, it’s therefore important that you decide what types of information you will need to complete your assignment most effectively.  You can find out more about different information types on our Finding Information Guide and in the video below:

When you know which types of information you need for your assignment or project take a look at our Resource Guides, which provide useful links and guides to appropriate sources.

Finding Information: Knowing Where to Look

Photograph of several closed doors, one painted yellow the others painted white.

When you’re looking for information to help you write your essays, assignments or projects it can be tempting to turn to the source of information you use every day – Google.  While Google can be useful in some ways (such as finding company websites or journal author’s profiles), it wasn’t exclusively designed to help you find good quality, academic information that is reliable and relevant.  This means you’ll likely have to spend more of your time wading through huge amounts of information and fact-checking resources for accuracy.

Thankfully, Google isn’t your only option – there are a number of different places to look that have been created with the aim of providing you with the information that you need, such as your reading lists, Library Search, and key Subject Databases.

Take a look at this video to find out more about how these sources can help you:

For more help on finding information, take a look at our Finding Information Guide.

Resource in focus – Romanticism: Life, Literature and Landscape

Romanticism: Life, Literature and Landscape is a powerful digital resource, ideal for students and researchers interested in William Wordsworth and the Romantic period.

Screen shot of a verse manuscript from Romanticism: Life, Literature and Landscape.

 It provides unique access to the working notebooks, verse manuscripts and correspondence of William Wordsworth and his fellow writers, including Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas De Quincey and Robert Southey.  While also offering a fascinating insight into the wider social, political and natural environment that shaped much of Wordsworth’s work, through the addition of travel journals, legal and financial records, guidebooks and over 2500 pieces of fine art from the Wordsworth Trust. There’s even more to explore with secondary research materials, including essays, biographies, maps, and photographs of the Lake District.

You can choose to browse the database via the Documents and Visual Resources tabs on the menu or use basic / advanced searches to focus your results.

Documents

The Documents section allows you to browse materials by collection (e.g. Dove Cottage manuscripts, Maps, Wordsworth Library Letters) or by document type (e.g. prose manuscript, correspondence, diary) and sort items by date, document type or first line.

You can also run a Document Advanced Search, which allows you to look for keywords within collections, document types or in works by a particular author.

Screen shot of an item record from Romanticism: Life, Literature and Landscape.

Item records contain clear, full colour, digital scans of the document, which you can view in detail online or download as a PDF. You’ll also find bibliographic details and notes with options to export the record to EndNote or RefWorks.

Visual Resources

Under Visual Resources you can browse the Art Gallery, Art Wall, Photograph Gallery, and Effects and Objects.

The Art Gallery showcases paintings, sketches and prints featuring portraits of Wordsworth and his family, alongside landscapes of the Lake District and other inspirational locations.  The Art Wall provides an in-depth look at a small selection of these artworks with a short essay on their history and context.

Screen shot of an image record from Romanticism: Life, Literature and Landscape.

The Photograph Gallery provides modern images of the Lake District specially commissioned for the database, while Effects and Objects offers photographs of the rooms and garden of Dove Cottage, and some of Wordsworth’s personal possessions.

You can also run a Visual Resources Advanced Search to focus your exploration.

Images are subject to copyright but may be used for educational purposes.  Take a look at the FAQs in the help section for more details.

More to Explore

Beyond Documents and Visual Resources, you’ll also find a collection of historical maps alongside an interactive map of the Lake District that allows you to explore key areas in the region.  Literary Lives provides brief biographies of the important literary figures of the English Romantic period and in Further Resources you’ll find a timeline of the period as well as a small selection of essays on the theme.

My Archive

You can choose to register for a free My Archive account within the database, which enables you to save searches and build your own library of documents and images. A useful way to keep track of your research and the resources you’ve found.

If you’d like to know more, the Page by Page guide in the Help tab provides detailed guidance on using advanced search features, viewing your search results, using images in teaching and research, and building your collection in My Archive.