Top tips for tackling online assessments

Woman throwing books up in the air

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

Even in a ‘normal year’, exam time is always a tricky period. You will often be juggling different exams, trying to revise, as well as meeting other deadlines. This year, it’s made even harder by Covid-19 and the need to take online assessments, rather than traditional exams. This may come in the form of a 24 hour take home exam or you may need to produce coursework under time constraints. Whatever you are facing in the next few weeks, we want you to know that you aren’t alone and we are here to help you through.

But how exactly can we help? Sadly, we can’t do the exam with you, or magically freeze time to give you more hours in the day, but we have a list of resources that will hopefully help you tackle the next few weeks with more of a sense of calm.

  1. Online Assessment guidance – put together by the Writing Development team, these pages will take you through how to revise for a 24 hour take home exam, what to do before hand, as well as running you through exam technique and how to tackle coursework under time restraints.
  2. Library Help – whether you have a question about an essential text or access to a database, Library Help is the place to go when you have a question. Contact us via chat, email, text, twitter, Facebook or alternatively search our Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) database.
  3. Subject guides – these guides, put together by your Liaison Librarians, are designed to save you time and energy by drawing together the main resources for your subject. They are a great starting point for your research and will help you access high quality information that’s needed for you to get those top marks.
  4. Skills guides – similar to the subject guides, our skills guides focus on how to find, evaluate and manage information. These are all essential skills which you will need during this assessment period, as well as throughout your degree.
  5. Book a one to one – both the Writing Development Team and the Liaison Librarians are available for an online one to one appointment. These appointments work best if you come with a specific issue to address. This will ensure that you get the most our of your time with us. You will need to book in advance.
  6. Additional support – it really is ok to ask for help. The pressures are real and can feel completely overwhelming. Do contact your module leader or supervisor if your struggling. You can also seek additional support from your NUSUStudent Wellbeing ServiceNightline and the University chaplaincy.

So good luck. Remember……pace yourself, access the help you need and believe that you can do this!

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!

Watch Christmas Films on Box of Broadcasts

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go
Take a look at the Christmas watch list, there’s plenty to watch, not miss
With Elf, Die Hard, and A Christmas Carol show…

Staff and students of Christmas past have selected some Christmas films to complement the Law in Literature collection. These are films to watch for fun and not with a specific law focus (although Miracle on 34th Street is there for your courtroom drama fix).

The ‘Law in Literature Newcastle University – Christmas Watch List‘ is available on Box of Broadcasts. Box of Broadcasts (BoB) is a FREE TV, film and radio streaming database that can be accessed through Library Search (University ID required, UK access only). Read more about BoB, including a review of a Law student’s film recommendation.

Take a look at the list of festive films, look at the other Law in Literature playlists, or search for films to complement your studies, and enjoy the well-deserved Christmas break!

Podcasts to warm your ears

Photo by Pavel Anoshin on Unsplash

I’m not a massive podcast listener, but the ones I do listen to are entertaining, comforting and familiar. The wonderful thing about podcasts is that no matter what you are interested in, I bet there is a podcast out there on it – there is definitely something for everyone. You can also download and listen to them anywhere and anytime on your phone (and most of them are free) – I like to download them and listen whilst walking the dog or play them through the radio on long drives. How do you listen to yours?

So, this Winter holiday, download some new podcasts and get out in the fresh air to awaken all of your senses – you may even learn something along the way!

Here are some Christmassy inspired podcast episodes to get you in the mood:

  • 99% Invisible – For those who love design and architecture, myself and my fellow Librarians can highly recommend this podcast series. 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. Here’s a couple of Christmassy themed episodes for you to enjoy:
  • The Truth: Santa’s NineThe Truth create their own original short stories that are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, and always intriguing. Each episode is only 20-30 minutes long. This episode tells the tale of two best friends that take part in a Christmas Eve heist only to discover their boss isn’t who they thought he would be.
  • Scienceish: Christmas Special – Haven’t listened to this series before, but looks right up my street! Rick Edwards (presenter) and Dr. Michael Brooks (Editor of the New Scientist), delve into the science behind popular culture. Enjoy last year’s Christmas special from Scienceish where Rick and Michael conclude Season 2 by revisiting their favourite questions – fringe theories, spider goats, and simulated universes.
  • The Infinite Monkey CageChristmas Special: The Science of Magic – The Infinite Monkey Cage is a BBC Radio 4 comedy and popular science series, hosted by physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince. Enjoy last year’s Christmas special that looks at the science behind some of our best loved magic tricks and illusions.

Other top podcasts series to discover for any time of year:

  • Spark from CBC Radio – This has been one of my favourite podcasts for a few years now. The host Nora Young explores how technology, innovation and design affects our lives.
  • Happy Place – Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast series builds on the success of the top 10 bestseller HAPPY where Fearne draws on her own experiences and shares advice from experts on how to work through feeling blue to finding joy each and every day. I need this right now!
  • Desert Island Discs – Another one of my go-to podcast series. Yes you can listen to many a famous celebrity on this, but what I really enjoy is learning about many interesting figures in sciences, arts, education, politics etc. Those who you will have never heard of before, but who have had very interesting lives and done some amazing things in the World.
  • Made of Human – Comedian Sofie Hagen chats to comedians, authors, actors, musicians, activists, medical professionals, podcasters, influencers and artists about how to do life. (Spoiler alert: no one really knows)
  • Table Manners with Jessie Ware – Jessie Ware hosts a podcast about food, family, and the beautiful art of having a chat, direct from her very own dinner table. With a little bit of help from her chef extraordinaire mum Lennie, each week guests from the worlds of music, culture and politics drop by for a bite and a bit of a natter. Oversharing guaranteed.

What’s your favourite podcast?

Snowball your way to success by using 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.

Teach Yourself EndNote

Intrigued? You should be. Enrol on our Teach Yourself EndNote module on Canvas to become proficient in using EndNote. It might make your life easier down the line.

You can also 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.

Sleigh Your References By Managing Your Information

1. Pin your favourites in Library Search 

The amount of information we gather and read on a daily basis can be really overwhelming. If you are reading for seminars, essays and dissertations, you can quickly lose track of the websites you visited, articles you downloaded and books you’ve read. But there are some quick and easy ways to manage the information you find, to be a little more organised and helping you reference it further down the line.

Click on the pin icon for the records of any items that interest you as you go, and add all of the books, ebooks and articles you use for your work to your Library Search favourites. You can tag items with a label for the theme you are researching or even a module code or assignment, to help you group them together and find them when you come to do your referencing.

2. Use the cite button

In Library Search and subject databases such as EBSCO and ProQuest, as well as Google Scholar, you will find the option to copy or download a simple reference. This can then be copied and pasted into a work document to form the start of your reference list. With a little tidying up, you will have the basic information you need to compile a reference and save yourself the time of recording the full details manually.

But be warned – these references are never perfect! They often include information that you don’t need or have missing punctuation and formatting, so you will need to give them a quick tidy up. Use referencing guidance such as Cite Them Right to help you spot any errors.

3. Use your search history and save searches

How often have you found the perfect article, clicked onto a different page or moved onto a different task, only to forget what it was called. Or found a load of useful articles but then forgotten how you filtered your results to find them?

This is where your search history an be really useful. If you log into Library Search, you can view your search history and save any useful searches by clicking on the save query pin icon.

You will find the option to save your searches in most of the subject databases too. To do this, you will often need to register for a personal account on the platform. Once you have saved your search, you can also do more advanced things, such as set up an alert that emails you whenever new articles are added to the database that match your search criteria.

4. Use a reference management tool 

Reference management tools allow you to build and maintain your own library of references. You can enter reference information manually or you can import them directly from Library Search, Google Scholar and subject databases. You cbioan also upload the full-text pdfs, images or notes to the reference, so that everything is kept safely in one place. When you begin to write, the software will allow you to “cite while you write”, adding your in-text citation and building your reference list for you.

The University has a subscription for EndNote which is available in all University clusters, via RAS and as EndNote Online. You’ll find information about how to get started with EndNote on our EndNote guide. 

Watch our short video about referencing https://youtu.be/bug1zm3dVPY

Skate your way around the Harvard Style

Harvard at Newcastle is the most frequently used referencing style and if your school does not have a preferred style, it is the the one that we would recommend. This is because there is the most comprehensive guidance available for Harvard and it is a style that can manage referencing all types of information. Whether you are referencing a book, news article, Instagram or market research, the Harvard at Newcastle style has got you covered.

There are many variations of Harvard but the one used at Newcastle can be found in Cite Them Right. Harvard uses an in-text citation (Millican, 2018, p.12) inserted in the text, coupled with a reference list at the end of the document, which provides the key. Cite Them Right  is available as a published book to borrow from the library and Cite Them Right Online provides the same comprehensive guidance in a searchable interface that can be accessed anywhere online. It includes guidance about how to reference just about every type of information you can think of, including the more tricky online sources such as social media.

You will find the Harvard at Newcastle style in EndNote on campus PCs and through the RAS, and are able to download the style from our EndNote guide if you are using it locally on your own device. We’ve also included some useful tips and advice about getting to grips with Harvard on our referencing guide.

Follow our tips and you won’t slip up with Harvard!

Spruce up your Referencing!

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, OSCOLAChicago, 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 reach the peak of an individual referencing style!

Referencing top tips: the basic elements

Decorating a Christmas Tree is serious business and so is putting together a reference. You do not simply decorate it with colourful flourishes. Each bauble, candy cane and string of tinsel has a rightful place and you need to know what that is in order to obtain the correct result.

For referencing, you need to know the basic elements and then you will be able to mix them up into any style that you need.

Winter Craft-along Online: Part 3

Our final Winter craft blog sees us making pom-poms with a fork and how to make tree ornaments with twigs. We are also showcasing some wonderful crafts that our Library team have been working on recently.

Fork pom poms

This is all new to me… pom poms… using a fork!? What crafting wizardry is this? This video clearly shows you how you can make super quick pom poms, and all you need is wool, a fork and scissors. Like magic!

So what can you make with your pom poms? Well, whatever you like really.

How about use white wool and make two pom poms, tie together and make a snowman? Use brown wool and make into reindeers or multicoloured wool and make pom pom garlands for your tree. Have a look on Pinterest for more inspiration.

Twig stars

Time to go out and get some fresh air for this one. All you need is small twigs, strong tape or glue (hot glue gun is perfect, but only if you have one), and twine/string. These stars can be used as decorations or, as seen in the video, as parcel toppers. Gorgeous!

Crafty librarians

There are so many talented members of staff in our Library, so I wanted to share with you a mere tasting of the crafts that are being created this year:

Share the Joy

We would love to see your crafts, so why don’t you share a photo and tag us in Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and use the hashtag #NULWinterCrafts2020.

I hope you have enjoyed our Winter Craft-along online blogs – Part 1 and Part 2 – and have found a pocket of time in your busy days to make something Wintery and Christmassy. I also hope it has inspired you to go out and discover other arts and crafts that you could make… because, remember, crafting is not just for Christmas 🙂