Be Connected: skills for postgraduate students

Join us for a summer of connecting and learning with our two-week programme of online supportive sessions for Be Connected (w/c 14th June 2021), and end your academic year (or start your summer!) on a positive note.


Throughout Be Connected weeks the Library, Academic Skills team, and Writing Development Centre are hosting a series of online live events that will help you enhance those all-important academic skills. We will also be highlighting our very best resources, so you’ll have a host of useful tools and advice at your fingertips.  

A good place to start 

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Now is a great time to take a step back and assess your academic skills, review your deadlines, and organise your research. Join the Academic Skills Development team for an essential workshop on Time Management or sign up to a session to work on academic skills for your dissertation. The Library’s live session on ‘Getting the most from your search strategy’ will give you the tools to improve your search skills, particularly if you are undertaking a Systematic Review: 

Time management: priorities and breaks

Academic skills for dissertations

Getting the most from your search strategy – Hints and tips

Library Subject Support Blog: Top tips 

Academic Skills and Writing Development blog: Time Management 

Getting results 

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As you embark on your dissertation or research project there are many ways the Library, Academic Skills Development team and Writing Development Centre can advise and support you with your reading, notetaking, searching, and critical thinking. Our live Dissertation and Literature Review sessions are designed to help you at each stage of your research, whether you’re looking to plan your next steps, or add in finishing touches before submission. Also check out a fantastic session from our Special Collections and Archives team, which highlights how you can use our incredible collections for your research.

Critical writing: indicating stance

Managing a Dissertation, Thesis or Research Project

Dissertations: Building from firm foundations

Dissertations: The Finishing Touches

The Literature Review: in Discussion with the WDC

Introduction to Special Collections and Archives

Library Subject Support blog: Subject Guides 

Academic Skills and Writing Development blog: Dissertations 

Searching, Reading and Notetaking 

Fine-tune your skills 

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You might feel confident with your academic skills, but maybe some of those abilities could use a little bit of fine-tuning? Take time during Be Connected to hone your skills with the help of our live sessions.  Referencing and referencing management can easily fall off your list of priorities, so to help you keep on top of all those citations and bibliographies the Library will be looking at common referencing problems and where to find help. Or you might like to investigate some of our subject specialist resources, such as newspapers, audio-visual, company information or market research:

Finding newspapers and audio-visual sources for your research

Business resources: finding and using company information for your research

Business resources: finding and using market research for your research

Referencing drop-in

EndNote drop-in

Library Subject Support blog: Referencing 

Shape the future

During these two weeks the Academic Skills Development team want to hear from you at two focus groups to gather feedback on the redevelopment of the Academic Skills Kit website and to inform the creation of future resources:

Wednesday, June 16th, 2pm: Academic Skills Development Team focus group

Wednesday, June 23rd, 3pm: Academic Skills Development Team focus group

We look forward to seeing you soon!

How to make an action plan for your studies and achieve your goals

Everyone has goals, be that for lifestyle, health, work or study. These goals give you focus, generate new habits and keep you moving forward in life. However, life is tough, particularly at the moment, so the thought of setting goals can sometimes feel overwhelming. This post will take you through how creating an action plan will help you clarify your goal journey; exploring what your goal is and why you’re setting it, what it will take to achieve, and how you will motivate yourself to reach your destination.

The examples we will focus on will be for study goals, however you can apply this method of goal setting to any aspect of your life.

1. Start with reflection

Before embarking on your shiny new goals, take some time to reflect on your previous goals. Which goals have you successfully achieved? Why were they a success? Is there anything you would do differently this time? Is there a common theme in the goals that you didn’t achieve, such as a lack of purpose?

Ask yourself ‘why’ you are setting this new goal, doing so will help you stay focused and give you meaning and purpose for this potentially challenging journey that you are embarking on.

2. Make them SMART

Your goals need to be SMART:

  • Specific – a specific and focused goal to allow for effective planning
  • Measurable – how will you measure the success of your goal? 
  • Achievable  – a goal that you will realistically accomplish within a time frame
  • Relevant  – a goal that is important and benefits you
  • Time bound – a goal that has a realistic deadline

What is your goal and how can you make it SMART?

EXAMPLE: Your goal is to hand in your dissertation early this summer. This goal, as it is, may feel daunting and unachievable, so how can we make it SMART?

  • Specific – You want to hand in your dissertation two weeks early because you are going on holiday.
  • Measurable – You will set measurable targets daily/weekly, such as X amount of words written by X.
  • Achievable – You have 10 weeks to complete your goal, so you feel it is very attainable if you plan your time carefully (if you only had 2 weeks, you might want to reconsider your goal).
  • Relevant – This goal is very relevant as you need to do well in your dissertation so you can pass your degree, but you also need to complete it early so you can go on your booked holiday.
  • Time bound – You have a clear ideal deadline of two weeks before hand-in.

Use our Goal Setting Template to get you started on your SMART goal:

3. Put your goal into action

An action plan is a flexible checklist or document for the steps or tasks that you need to complete in order to successfully achieve the goal(s) you have set yourself.

This could be written in a notebook, diary or using the Action Plan Template we have created that you can print off and use. It’s important that you get out your pen and actually write your goals down on paper. Research has shown that this will engage the left-hand, logical, side of the brain – basically telling your brain that you mean business!

Use our Action Plan Template to put your SMART goal(s) into action:

4. Plan for obstacles

There are always going to be challenges and events that may disrupt your goal, but instead of letting that obstacle derail you, plan for it.

Look at your study goal and identify what the obstacle(s) will be.

EXAMPLE: You want to submit your dissertation in early, but there’s a big family birthday coming up and a Uni field trip planned. So, get your action plan out and make sure these events are accounted for and plan your studies around them.

5. Check it off

There is nothing more satisfying in life (well apart from popping bubble wrap) than crossing or checking items off a to-do list – it’s that sense of accomplishment, feeling like you are finally getting there, which in turn reduces stress. So remember to break down your goal into small attainable actions and checklists, and for big projects, such as a dissertation or research project, you might have multiple checklists on the go. Just think of the satisfaction you will feel when it’s all done!

6. Reward yourself

This a very personal aspect of goal setting, but an important one.

To boost your motivation we recommend that you choose a reward for all your successful hard work, but select something that’s in relation to the size of the goal – maybe a piece of cake for getting a First Class degree is a bit out of proportion! Add this reward to your action plan and remind yourself of your incentive on a regular basis. It will keep you motivated when you feel like giving up.

EXAMPLE: If you hand-in your dissertation early you will treat yourself to a night out with your friends before you go on holiday.

7. A bit more reflection

You made this goal for a reason – it’s something that you really, REALLY want to achieve, so if your plan isn’t working, change it! Take some time to reflect on what’s working or not working in your action plan, be that daily, weekly, or monthly. Consider – How are you progressing? What changes can you make to bring you closer to your goals? It hard to keep on track when you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, so are there any quick wins to give you a sense of accomplishment?

EXAMPLE: It’s late at night, you’re tired and struggling to write your dissertation conclusion. Your self-given deadline is in a days time and you are starting to doubt that your goal is achievable – maybe you need to postpone the holiday?

What you need to do is pivot your method – this isn’t working, so what can you change to still achieve your goal? Maybe leave the conclusion for the morning when you feel more awake, but spend the next hour focusing on your reference list so you can tick that off your action plan instead.

Final thoughts

Your SMART goals can be about anything and should be quite simple to plan. There’s lots of help online on using SMART goals, but working your way through the acronym for your particular goal is an excellent start. Don’t forget to use our Goal Setting Template and our Action Plan Template to help keep your goals manageable and reduce that feeling of overwhelm with your studies.

P.S. I had to set myself a SMART goal for writing this blog post and my reward was a very tasty lunch ❤

Fake News: the dangers of conspiracy theories

I actually enjoy a good conspiracy theory, and they often make for great film or TV tropes. Do you remember the end clip of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where the American government are storing the Ark of the Covenant in a huge warehouse? Do you think this is true? Might governments be hiding top secret things from us in massive, unknown warehouses? I like to jest that I believe this is real.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I realised how dangerous really believing in conspiracy theories can be. Watching the storming of Capital Hill in Washington DC back in January this year, opened my eyes to how conspiracy theories could take hold and potentially endanger lives.

Like fake news, conspiracy theories have been around for a very, very, very long time. Here’s some that you might recognise:

Most recently, you may have spotted some of the dangerous conspiracy theories rising up around the Covid-19 pandemic.

Do you believe in conspiracy theories? Do you know anyone that really believes in them? Have you ever found it hard to talk to them about what they believe? In light of the conspiracy theories surrounding Covid-19, The European Commission have created 10 useful infographics to help people be aware of conspiracy theories, how they spread, the dangers of them, how to talk to people who do believe in them, and (like fake news), how you should think twice before sharing them online:

I found it particularly interesting to learn that it is basic human nature to question reality in periods of uncertainty/change/major incidents (such as the pandemic, 9/11, shootings of presidents etc.), hence this is often when conspiracy theories take off.

You’ll find these infographics on our Fake New Guide , along with other new content including links to some excellent videos and articles. Be sure to take our poll to share your favourite conspiracy theory movie too!

As a University student, it’s important for you to be aware of conspiracy theories; to know of the dangers they pose, to check your own beliefs and to be careful of what you share online. Use these resources to learn more and always remember, the truth is out there…

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.

International Women’s Day in Law and Literature

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have curated a list of all the books in the Law and Literature collection written by women. We also have a ‘Law School Pick‘ by Dr Ruth Houghton selected for IWD.

The Law in Literature collection has always strived to be diverse in stories, voices and authors. We are pleased to say that 50% of the books in this collection are written by women.

This collection, based in the Law Library, is made up of novels, short stories, plays, graphic novels and films that all reflect law in some way. We also promote films, TV shows and radio broadcasts through playlists on Box of Broadcasts (BoB). BoB is a free streaming platform available via Library Search with your campus ID (available in the UK only). Search for our public playlists using ‘Law in Literature Newcastle University’.

Is there a book that you think should be on our shelves, or a film to add to a playlist? Is there a subject you think would make a good BoB playlist? Do you want to recommend a book or film and feature as one of our ‘Law School Picks’? Want to review a book or film for our blog? Then get in touch.

Mintel: Covid-19

As a globally recognised market analyst, Mintel produces hundreds of reports into UK-specific consumer markets every year. Each report provides a unique overview of a market’s dynamics and prospects, giving you the knowledge to devise informed and profitable marketing strategy. Mintel is also one of the many Business specialist databases that we subscribe to here at Newcastle University, which you can access via Library Search, or along with many other of our resources via our Business Subject Guide.

Recently Mintel has been providing ongoing insight and analysis across a range of industries to help you understand how and why consumer sentiment and behaviour are changing during the pandemic.

To find these resources, you need to go to Mintel (via Library Search) and there’s tab dedicated to Covid-19 analysis:

Screen shot of Mintel homepage highlighting the Covid 19 tab.

With over 200 results, there’s plenty to help any research project looking at consumer behaviour during this time.

Let us know if you have any questions or queries about this resource: lib-socsci@ncl.ac.uk

Enrichment week: referencing drop-in

Thanks to everyone who came along to our Referencing drop-in session. Here you can find links to the key resources we highlighted, so you have them all in one handy place, whether you were able to participate in the sessions or not. You can also find a copy of our slides and a link to other useful referencing/managing information blog posts at end of this post.

Our Managing Information Guide and the slides from the session give you the context of why it is import to reference and why you should be managing your information. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information out there (and that’s before you start your dissertation/project!), so getting into good habits it essential not only academically, but also for your wellbeing.

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?

Once you understand the why, you can get onto the nuts and bolts of referencing – the how:

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 are 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.

Need more help?

If you feel you need to work on your referencing a bit more, and still a bit unsure about it all, we recommend that you complete Cite them Right’s Referencing and Plagiarism tutorial – You’ll need to log in then select the tutorial button on the top right of the homepage.

Slides

Here’s a copy of our slides from our referencing drop-in session:

Referencing blog posts

Explore our other referencing and managing information blog posts.

Enrichment week: resources to support your dissertation

Thanks to everyone who booked on our three ‘Enrichment week’ sessions to support your dissertation or project. We’re posting below links to the key resources we highlighted, so you’ve got them all handy in one place, whether you were able to participate in the sessions or not.

Getting a head start

If you’re at the early stages of planning your project or dissertation, or perhaps thinking ahead to next year, then you can get ahead of the game with our dissertation toolkit.

Search planner

This interactive toolkit includes a proposal planner, to help you refine your initial thinking as you develop your proposal, and a search planner, which takes you step-by-step through each stage of the process to create your own personalised literature search strategy. It will help you develop your search terms, identify different types of information resource, evaluate what you have found, and formulate a plan for keeping up to date and managing your references.

Our toolkit will help you translate vague thoughts into a firm plan of action!

Nearing completion: final checks

If you’re well into your dissertation or project, you may well have some last minute aspects you need to check.

Are you sure you haven’t missed any recent research in your area? Find out about 360 degree searching and make sure you check key resources for your subject area on your subject guide. Are there particular types of information missing from your search: for example: data, news, reports, images? Visit our resource guides for inspiration.

Resource Guide screenshot
Resources guides

How is your bibliography shaping up: are all the references accurate and correctly formatted? Visit our managing information guide for all the answers, including a link to the Cite Them Right ebook for specific queries relating to a type of resource or referencing style.

Need more help?

You can book a one-to-one appointment with a member of the Library liaison team, and/or email us your draft search plan using our search planner.

Special Collections and Archives

Virtual Reading Room

Depending on your subject area, you might want to make use of some of the Library’s fabulous Special Collections and Archives in your research, or find out more about the possibilities of using archives elsewhere.

Start with the Special Collections home page: all the links you need for how to find and use our collections, including digital and virtual services while the Reading Room is still closed.

Need inspiration? Not sure where to start? Anxious about archives? Try the practical Special Collections guide for friendly, expert advice about using our collections in your research or finding collections elsewhere. Or why not see where your ideas take you with our great new Primary Sources Research Planner?

Slides

Here’s a copy of our slides from our referencing drop-in session:

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

IBISWorld Trial for March

We are currently running a trial to IBISWorld which is a platform offering industry market research and industry risk ratings. This includes statistics, analysis and forecasts. For more information please click to download a summary below.

To start using IBISWorld, enter your keywords in the search box and then from the results list use the left hand options to narrow your search. e.g narrowing down by geography/country.

Once you selected a report to view; again use the left hand option to navigate to specific sections e.g. chapters on the industry, key statistics, major companies etc.

You can also navigate by choosing the Country and then the sector.

Look for the download icons so you can export reports and tables in different formats e.g. Word, PDF, PowerPoint and Excel.

We hope you’ll find the layout and navigate straightforward, if not click on the ? icon in the top right within IBISWorld for additional help.

This trial includes access to:
Australia
• Industry Reports (ANZSIC)
• Specialized Industry Reports
China
• Industry Reports
Global
• Global Industry Reports
United Kingdom
• Industry Reports (UK SIC)
• Specialized Industry Reports
United States
• Industry Reports (NAICS)
• Specialized Industry Reports
Canada
• Industry Reports (NAICS)
Germany
• Industry Reports (DE-WZ)
Ireland
• Industry Reports (NACE)
New Zealand
• Industry Reports (ANZSIC)

You can now download reports, charts, graphs, data tables and more in a variety of formats including Word, PDF, PowerPoint and Excel.

You’ll find some useful information for completing SWOT, PESTLE and Porters Five Forces together with industry information.

As always, your feedback will be very welcome: you can either email it, or leave a comment on this blogpost.

Access IBISWorld via the trial via this link.

The trial is running from the 1st to 31st March 2021.