Student guest post: resources for your English literature/language studies

We’re delighted to welcome a guest blog post from Leanna Thomson. Leanna is a second year undergraduate English Literature student, and a blogger for the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics.

Leanna Thomson
Leanna Thomson

“This semester, I studied the module ‘Independent Research Project Preparation’, which included a guest lecture from the Library all about their resources. I found the information about databases so useful that I wanted to share it with students outside of the module, because I think it could really revolutionise their remote learning! I hope you find these resources as useful as I did.”

Our top eight sites for finding secondary and specialist sources

The search for relevant, high quality secondary sources to reference in your assignment can seem like a challenge, especially during remote learning. Sometimes your online search can yield so many texts that you don’t know where to start; other times you struggle to find anything at all. However, our top online database picks will help you find the perfect text in no time! All you have to do is use Library Search or your library subject guide to access the databases.

1. Library Search

A search on the University library catalogue, Library Search, not only fetches up results from the Library’s huge range of books, articles, newspapers, audiovisual content and more, many of which you can either access online or order for click and collect or home delivery. It will also find papers from the hundreds of journals and databases that the Library subscribes to, including both interdisciplinary and SELLL specific titles. Library Search also has advanced search setting and filters, which can help you find exactly what you need. You can also access specialised guides about finding secondary sources for your subject.

2. Literature Online (LION)

LION is a literature-specific database, perfect for seeking content such as literary criticism, works of literature to use as comparisons to your primary texts or enforcements of your argument, reviews, periodicals and audiovisual content, to name but a few of its elements. Its advanced search engine can be modified so that it only finds what you are looking for, and it is a perfect database to turn to when you can’t find quite enough literary-focused content on your topic.

3. JSTOR

JSTOR offers full text online access to scholarly journals, books and book chapters across all subject areas. It has basic and advanced search options that allow you to search by topic keyword, author, subject area, title or publisher.

You can also download JSTOR texts as pdf files, meaning you can store them on your computer or print them off.

4. Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA)

LLBA 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 thesaurus

It also features 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.

5. Scopus

Scopus is a large, interdisciplinary database of peer-reviewed literature, including articles, book chapters and conference papers. It includes a range of smart tools that can help you track the research in your area. You can search for documents, sources, authors and institutions, and compare and contrast them using a variety of different tools.

It includes full reference lists for articles, as well as lists of texts which have cited a particular article. This allows you 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.

6. MLA International Bibliography

The MLA international bibliography is produced by the Modern Language Association, an organisation dedicated to the study and teaching of language and literature. It indexes books and articles published about modern languages, literature, folklore, and linguistics. It contains many links to full texts, and as its title suggests, it includes texts from all over the world. The electronic version of the bibliography dates back to 1925 and contains over 2.2 million citations from more than 4,400 periodicals (including peer-reviewed e-journals) and 1,000 book publishers. It’s an ideal database for any SELLL student!

7. Google Scholar

A search on Google Scholar is just as simple and fruitful as an ordinary Google search, but the results will be peer-reviewed, academic sources, so it’s a much more reliable search engine for your university work. It will also bring up references from a range of different information sources, including Google Books, online journals, downloadable pdf files and even many of the databases discussed on this post!

What’s more, there are lots of useful filters: you can search by relevance and by time period, which is really useful for when you are looking for sources from a particular moment in time. There are also “cited by” lists, so you can track research forwards in time, and suggestions of similar texts for each source.

8. 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, with some containing linguistic information too, and most can be downloaded for academic use. You can browse the database by project, county, or date: the search box on the top right of the page can be used to look for specific keywords, including dialects or places.


Thanks Leanna: some great tips there! If you are a student, and would like to write a guest blog post for us about any aspect of the Library and its resources, please just get in touch with us: we’d love to hear from you!

Accessing resources beyond the Library

Photo by JK on Unsplash

If you’re working on a dissertation, thesis or project right now, or will be doing so next academic year, what can you do if the Library doesn’t have access to all the specialist books and other information resources which you need? And how can you find out about resources relating to your research topic which are held elsewhere?

Current Covid-19 restrictions are obviously making it more difficult than usual to go ‘beyond the Library’, but there are still options available, and more should gradually return later this year. Find out below….

1. Search

You can search across the catalogues of over 170 UK and Irish academic and national libraries, together with other specialist and research libraries, via Library Hub Discover (formerly COPAC). The range of libraries included in Library Hub Discover is expanding all the time, and includes all UK universities, as well as the libraries of such diverse organisations as Durham Cathedral, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Royal Horticultural Society.

In response to Covid restrictions, Library Hub Discover is also making it easier for you to find Open Access resources via its catalogue, and it has also recently incorporated the HathiTrust Digital Library of over 17 million items.

For a more in-depth and up to date search, you can also search individual academic library catalogues online. Need to look further afield? Search library catalogues internationally via WorldCat.

If you are looking for archives elsewhere, whether in the North East or beyond, our colleagues in the Special Collections and Archives team have compiled a list of useful search tools.

2. Obtain

If we haven’t got the book you want, you can ask us to consider buying or borrowing it, via our Recommend a book service.

If you need a copy of a journal article to which we don’t have access, you can apply for it via our inter library loan service, which is currently free. Please note that inter library loans options are more restricted than usual during the current lockdown.

You can search UK doctoral theses via the national EThOS service. This has records for over 500,000 theses, of which over half are freely available online (do note you have to register with EThOS before being able to download).

3. Visit (virtually for now)

Under normal circumstances, the SCONUL Access Scheme enables students to visit most other academic libraries around the country. Unfortunately, this service has been suspended since March 2020, and is unlikely to resume this academic year (2020/2021).

However, if your research will continue in academic year 2021/2022, do check back with the SCONUL Access site, and/or the web site of any libraries of particular interest to you, in case visiting restrictions start to ease.

As with libraries, most archives are either closed to visitors at present, or only open with considerable restrictions. Nonetheless, archives services may still be able to answer queries, provide access to selected digitised items, or even a Virtual Reading Room, so it may well be worth enquiring, even if you can’t visit in person.

PubMed: Becoming familiar with controlled vocabularies


Are your literature searches run mainly in keyword-based platforms such as Google Scholar, Scopus or Web of Science?

Have you been told that you need to diversify your search, or maybe use a new database such as PubMed? Did someone mention that MeSH terms could improve your search?

If you do not know what those terms mean or where to start, you are in the right place. The following video will explain to you what controlled vocabularies are and why they are a powerful tool for retrieving relevant papers.

Now, let’s put theory into practice and demonstrate how to use Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) in PubMed. The video below will do just that.

Let’s have a look at what other controlled vocabulary databases you can use in medical sciences or if your Social Sciences student whose work crosses over with medical sciences. You can find all the databases mentioned below and others in Library Search:

Since the previous videos focus on PubMed, you might wonder what other databases you should be using. If you are unsure how to find the most relevant databases for your course, you can watch a video that will show you how to identify them.

Is Medline the database for you, but you need some help with the basics? Watch our:

Finally, please remember that this is general advice and it might not cover your particular area of interest. If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact us on Library Help, where you can email us or speak to us through the Live Chat feature.

Ovid Medline: Becoming familiar with controlled vocabularies

Are your literature searches run mainly in keyword-based platforms such as Google Scholar, Scopus or Web of Science?

Have you been told that you need to diversify your search, or maybe use a new database such as Medline, Embase or PsycInfo through the Ovid searching platform? Did someone mention that Medline’s MeSH terms could improve your search?

If you do not know what those terms mean or where to start, you are in the right place.

The following video will explain to you what controlled vocabularies are, why they are a powerful tool for retrieving relevant papers and it will demonstrate how to use Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) in Medline via Ovid.

Since the previous video focuses on Medline, you might wonder what other databases you should be using. If you are unsure how to find the most relevant databases for your course, you can watch a video that will show you how to identify them.

Is Medline the database for you, but you need some help with the basics? Watch our “Getting started with Ovid Medline” video for the basics. For a more detailed explanation on how to combine searches, watch the Combining Searches in Medline and other Ovid Databases.

Finally, please remember that this is general advice and it might not cover your particular area of interest. If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact us on Library Help, where you can email us or speak to us through the Live Chat feature.

Spruce up your referencing: When is a website not a website?

Photo by Dominik Dombrowski on Unsplash

We have all heard it said that languages spoken in northern arctic regions have considerably more words for snow than those spoken in southern climates. When dealing with something in detail every day it is often helpful to categorise and clarify its nuances.

A common mistake made in academic referencing is grouping all sources found online under the overarching category of a website. However, your aim should be to reference the information you have in front of you rather than where it was sourced. Grouping all items found online as a website would be the equivalent to referencing a book only by the publisher details, rather than the author and title. Or, by referring to both a snowball and a snowflake as simply snow.

For example, a government publication found online would be referenced like this in Chicago:

United Kingdom. Department for Education. Cloud computing: how schools can move services to the cloud. London: The Stationary Office, 2016. Accessed: November 4, 2019. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cloud-computing-how-schools-can-move-services-to-the-cloud. 

An electronic journal article might appear like this in APA:

Gillum, J. (2012). Dyscalculia: Issues for practice in education psychology.  Educational Psychology in Practice, 28(3), 287-297. doi:10.1080/02667363.2012.684344

While a video posted on the Tate website would look something like this in Harvard:

TateShots (2016) Grayson Perry: think like an artist. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/talk/what-makes-artist-grayson-perry-conversation-sarah-thornton (Accessed: 11 November 2019). 

Identifying the type of information you are using, as well as the source, is an essential evaluation skill which helps in developing a greater critical approach to information. In many cases you will be unconsciously using your judgment to assess the value of information for your purpose. So when you are using any source of information, ask yourself what it is you are looking at, what details are recorded about it, and whether it measures up as a quality piece of information. You’ll find more guidance about evaluating information on our Evaluating Information guide.

Digital Scholar Lab: find out more, and book your training slot

The Library has purchased Gale’s Digital Scholar Lab: a digital humanities platform with potential uses for students, researchers and module leaders, whatever your previous experience. It enables you to:

  • create and clean customised content sets, using our Gale Primary Sources collections (which include a wide range of historic newspaper, periodical and book archives)
  • analyse and interrogate the data, using the Lab’s text analysis and visualisation tools
  • manage and share content sets with others.

For those who regularly use digital techniques or methods, you can use the Lab to dramatically reduce the time needed to compile, curate and clean datasets, either using Gale data or locally held data, which can be uploaded into the Lab.

For those interested in teaching using the Lab, it contains a comprehensive Learning Centre that you can use to introduce students to basic and advanced concepts, with worked examples that can form the basis of a lesson plan.

Finally, for those new to digital humanities, and intimidated by thoughts of coding, the Lab provides a way to produce sophisticated, analytical research that requires no coding skill and allows you to make discoveries in archives that would otherwise be impossible.

To help you find out more about Digital Scholar Lab, representatives from Gale will be running two online training sessions for Newcastle University staff and students via Zoom on:

  • Monday November 16th, 14.00-15.30 and repeated on
  • Thursday November 19th, 10.00-11.30

The session will introduce you to Digital Scholar Lab, and its interface and workflows. It will cover text mining in general, search queries, curating and managing datasets, using analysis tools, and reviewing results. There will be plenty of opportunities for questions.

Any Newcastle University staff and students are welcome: you don’t need any previous knowledge of Digital Scholar Lab. However, if you have previously used Digital Scholar Lab, you may also find the session useful as a refresher, and to find out about recent enhancements.

To book your place on one of the sessions, please fill in our booking form.

If you are interested in more bespoke training (for example, for a specific cohort of students, or at a more advanced level), please contact Lucy Keating, and we’ll discuss with Gale representatives.

Make the most out of your library’s resources

Image link to the library's Academic Skills page.
https://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/subject-support/

Key resources

Do you have an assignment or research question and don’t know where to start? Search no further, your subject-specific LibGuide is only a few clicks away.

Follow the link above and then choose the Faculty and relevant School. Once you are there you will see the key resources that are provided for you:

Image of the navigation menu displayed in subject guides. It contains a home page, books and e-books, resources for online learning, journals and databases, subject specific resources, special collections and archives, subject help and news.

Navigate to the ‘Journals and Databases’ tab. This will display the databases where you can search for the journal articles that you need. Don’t know how to use this avalanche of links? We have instructions:

Image displaying the contents of the middle tab in the Journals and Databases section. It contains a list of PDF workbooks with instructions to databases.

From the Databases tab, click on the next tab along, in the centre of the screen that reads ‘Journals and Database Help’.

One-to-one help

Is the information too vast and you feel like you’ve hit a wall? You can ask your liaison librarian team for help. From the same navigation menu on the left side of the screen, click on ‘Subject Help and News’. There, you can find the team’s contact details and further down the page, you can request to book a one-to-one consultation with a member of the team.

Academic skills

Do you feel that your academic skills need to be polished a little? Don’t hesitate to look at our Academic Skills page from the Subject Support page:

Image link to the Subject support page displaying the links to guides for the three faculties and Academic Skills.

You will find more guides on this page relating to how to find academic information, reference it, using EndNote, distinguishing between real information and fake news and many more: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/subject-support/faculty.php/?f=other.

Academic Writing

You can also get one-to-one help from the Writing Development Centre if you are struggling with study skills or academic writing.

Library Help

Do you have any specific questions? Please contact us via Library Help where we monitor your live chats and emails or have a look through our FAQs: https://libhelp.ncl.ac.uk/.

Journals – Don’t get lost in the darkness

Journals

The Library subscribes to a huge number of journals to assist you with your research. The majority of these are available electronically although we still have some print titles. There are some journals that are only published online with no print and may not have volumes and parts but are identified by DOIs or references numbers.

You can find journal titles by using Library Search. However if you are searching a database, you can use the Find@Newcastle University option, to link straight to Library Search to see if the journal is in stock. In Library Search records for electronic journals say Online access and when you click on them give you options to View Online.

Records for print journal give you a location and shelfmark indicating where the journal can be found.

If you read an article online then you need to reference the article as a Electronic Journal Article not a webpage.

Using the Harvard at Newcastle style a reference from an Online only Journal would look similar to this:

Chan, J.-Y. L., Wang, K.-H., Fang, C.-L. and Chen, W.-Y. (2014) ‘Fibrous papule of the face, similar to tuberous sclerosis complex-associated angiofibroma, shows activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin pathway: evidence for a novel therapeutic strategy?’, PloS one, 9(2), p. e89467.

A reference for a Print Journal would look like this:

Paton, N. (2015) ‘Night work triggers health risks’, Occupational Health, 67(9), pp. 6-6.

Waltzing with EndNote

What is EndNote?

The official blurb on EndNote is that it is “…the industry standard software tool for publishing and managing bibliographies, citations and references.”

Have you drifted off yet? Don’t – read on!

EndNote takes a little getting used to and we recommend you familiarise yourself with it at the start of your research process. But as Library Staff, we wouldn’t spend a significant amount of time demonstrating and training our academic staff and students on what EndNote is, and how to use it, if we didn’t think it was valuable. It will save you a huge amount of time in terms of writing up your assignments.

Essentially, you can use EndNote to create and organise a personal library of resources relevant to your research. You can import references from Library Search, and a huge range of databases such as ScopusWeb of ScienceIEEE Xplore and Business Source Complete. You can ask EndNote to locate the full-text PDFs of the resources you are going to use in your research, and you can annotate them as you wish too. Did you know you can instruct Google Scholar to import references into EndNote? No? Try it. Finally, if you already have materials stored in your home folder (H:\) then you can attach them to a manually-created reference within EndNote, bringing all your research together in one place.

In addition to organising your references (and this is the clever bit) you can then get EndNote to ‘talk’ to your word processing software, e.g. Microsoft Word, and insert the citations into your work for you in your chosen referencing style, e.g. Harvard at Newcastle, Vancouver, APA or MLA. If you don’t want to do that, then EndNote will also allow you to create an independent bibliography of your references, saving you an awful lot of typing.

Using EndNote

Intrigued? You should be. Take a look at our EndNote Guide. It contains all the introductory information you need, step-by-step workbooks to train yourself on the use of EndNote (the Desktop and Online versions), videos, useful FAQs, and contacts for help, should you need it.

Finally, Newcastle University provides support for EndNote but it is not compulsory to use. You may prefer MendeleyZoteroRefWorks or another piece of bibliographic management software. That’s fine, whatever makes your referencing lives easier. Go on, give them a try.

It’s all a matter of style

There are lots of different referencing styles, but which one is right for you?

Once you start creating citations and references, you need to consider referencing styles. There are hundreds of them out there and each has a slightly different set of rules about how citations and reference lists should appear in your text.

Most Newcastle University students use the Harvard at Newcastle style, but there is also Vancouver, IEEE, OSCOLA, Chicago, and many more. Your lecturers will expect you to use one specific style and all of your citations and references should conform to that style accurately and consistently; same punctuation, same capitalisation, same everything. 

We have lots of help about using some of the popular referencing styles in our Managing Information guide. The Cite Them Right website is also a valuable online resource that will show you how to hit all of the right steps on your way to mastering an individual referencing style.