Spotlight on Knovel’s new interactive tools

Decorative image of a man working on a computer

What is Knovel?

Knovel is a technical reference database that provides access to core engineering handbooks and tools. It allows students, researchers and professionals to take material and property data, and to analyse it quickly and intuitively.

Our previous blog gives a general overview of Knovel’s main features and content, describing how it empowers engineers by offering a trustworthy source of information and data. But there is so much more you can do with Knovel using the interactive and visualization analysis tools. Alongside their data and technical information the tools let you manipulate and extrapolate data from within your browser and export it into your work in whatever format is most appropriate for your requirements. These tools allow you to interact more with the materials data within Knovel, so the data becomes much more discoverable and useful for your studies and research.

Creating a free, personal Knovel account allows you to save the work you do with these tools too. You can also save searches, graphs, tables and more, picking up right where you left off if you need to take a break.

What are the interactive tools?

There are several powerful tools that allow you to interact directly with the huge sets of data and properties in Knovel. Carrying out a simple search of material properties will give the option to select interactive tables or graphs. This video from Knovel gives an overview of the interactive tools available.

Hyperlinked image showing the Knovel 'interactive tools' video

Interactive Tables

The tables within Knovel can be overwhelmingly huge in scope, needing filtering to start to work the data into something useful. The interactive table tool allows you to filter and sort columns of large datasets, as you would a spreadsheet, but within your browser. You can hide, move, and lock columns, and quickly go from a broad search looking at the property of a material, for example steel, to a table you can adjust and save or export for inclusion in your work.

Screenshot of an example interactive table in Knovel
An example interactive table

Graph digitizer

Knovel includes a wealth of crucial engineering handbooks and has digitised the graphs in these titles. This allows you to extract and export data from digitized curves, enabling you to open any graphs in a separate view where you can extract data points, adjusting the parameters to get the information you are interested in. You can define points on the curve by clicking directly on the line, or by using the navigation panel to specify exact points, and you can define the axis with the other axis adjusting automatically. You can then add points, curves, or elongation data, and manipulate as needed before saving or exporting in a format suited to your output.

Screenshot of an example digitized graph in Knovel
An example digitized graph

Equation plotter

With so many example equations in Knovel the plotter function lets you visualise parametric equations and then manipulate them in several ways, such as plotting curves from the equation. When you run a search for material properties and choose a table, then selecting the equation icon will open the plotted equation for you to work with. You can then add points to particular values, change units, and work the data.

Screenshot of an example plotted equation in Knovel
Knovel equation plotter

Interactive equations

Knovel includes vast collections of example equations for application in engineering. You can navigate all disciplines by specialty, browse the full collection, or filter by equations in the general search.

The interactive equation tool is browser-based calculation software. It can help you get the solutions to problems faster, by letting you work with the online equation as you would in your own workbook. The equation worksheet functions as a space to explore and relate data back to your own work. You can also create worksheets for searches, combining text with images and plots. Watch the video from Knovel below for more information on interactive equations.

Hyperlinked image showing the Knovel 'interactive equations' video

Unit converter

This is a simple tool, but especially useful as it is integrated throughout Knovel to help you work with the data. It draws on a range of units, properties, and scientific notations systems. Easy to access and to use, it will help make sure you are working to the correct equivalents.

Screenshot of the unit converter tool within Knovel
Knovel unit converter

Steam calculators

Presented as a series of 8 calculators, this recent addition allows fine control of a full range of thermodynamic variables, under a variety of conditions, for results determining steam table data. With support for ranges of temperature, pressure, and quality, it lets you work out the required conditions for achieving the quality of steam needed. Watch this video from Knovel to learn more about Steam Calculators.

Hyperlinked image showing the Knovel 'steam calculators' video

More information

You can get further help with Knovel on the Knovel LibGuide. You’ll also find links to Knovel, and additional support within the Library’s Subject Guides for all Engineering, Science and Computing disciplines.

Contact your Liaison Librarian for any further questions around getting the most from Knovel, and for other ways we can help support you in your studies.

Accessing resources beyond the Library

Photograph by Erik Odiin of somebody in a train station
Photo by Erik Odiin 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 you need? How can you find out about resources relating to your research topic which are held elsewhere? Can you visit other libraries and archives if you’re away from Newcastle over the vacation?

Read on to find out how you can expand your search beyond our library….

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.

Library Hub Discover logo

In response to Covid restrictions, Library Hub Discover has also made it easier for you to find Open Access resources via its catalogue: it has recently incorporated the HathiTrust Digital Library, as well as the Directories of Open Access Books and Journals to its searchable database.

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 directories and 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.

You can search UK doctoral theses via the national EThOS service. This has records for over 500,000 theses, dating back to the year 1800, of which over half are freely available online (do note you have to register with EThOS before being able to download: it’s a separate login process to your usual University login).

3. Visit

Photo of Special Collections Virtual Reading Room
Special Collections Virtual Reading Room

The SCONUL Access Scheme enables students to visit most other academic libraries around the country, and in some cases, borrow from them. This service has recently resumed since its suspension during the Covid pandemic, but please note that not all academic libraries are currently participating in the scheme, so do check carefully before you visit, and read the latest information on the SCONUL Access site.

You will need to register with SCONUL Access before you can visit another Library, so do allow time for your registration to be processed.

If you want to consult archives or special collections elsewhere, you’ll need to check with the organisation in question beforehand (you’ll usually need to request to consult items in advance of your visit). If you can’t visit in person, archives services may still be able to answer queries, provide access to selected digitised items, or even operate a Virtual Reading Room, so it may well be worth enquiring.

Sound and vision: introducing our new audiovisual resources guide


Where can I find pictures relating to transport which I can use in my project? How do I find out what was broadcast on British television and radio on a particular day in the 1970s? Where are the best places to find examples of digital art? I need audio clips of scary sounds for my presentation – where to start? Are there any interesting oral histories in my subject area? How do I reference a podcast? I’ve found an ideal picture online, but I don’t know where it’s from – what can I do? Is there an authoritative list of famous music plagiarism cases anywhere, including audio clips?

Screenshot of oral histories from the British Library
British Library oral histories selection

You can find the answers to these, and many more intriguing questions, on our brand new guide to finding and using audiovisual resources.

We’ve updated and expanded our old images guide, and included new databases and resources for finding films and television programmes, plus audio content such as radio programmes, sound clips, podcasts and oral histories.

We’ve also updated the original still images section, which helps you find images of all genres and subjects, such as anatomy, archaeology, architecture…. and all other letters of the alphabet!

Need more help?

Keyword searching isn’t always the best way to search for audiovisual content, so if you want to find an image which looks like another one, search by colour, or find exactly what you want on Box of Broadcasts, visit our guide.

Finally, if you’re unsure whether you’re permitted to use an audiovisual resource in your assignment, and/or how to cite it, we can help with that too. Our guide contains plenty of helpful advice on using and citing audiovisual materials, and we’ve tried to include links to collections and databases which are licensed for educational use where possible (but please do check the terms and conditions in each case).

International Women’s Day 2022 – Medicine in Literature

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022 Walton Library’s Medicine in Literature team have created a Box of Broadcasts watch list to showcase films with a female story at their centre. The selection contains tales about women and their relationships to health, medicine and science. From Frida to Gravity to Suffragette the collection looks at both fictional and non-fictional accounts of the strength it takes to navigate the world as a woman. We hope you enjoy watching!

We are also celebrating International Women’s Day in the Walton Library with a display highlighting the achievements of female graduates from the Faculty of Medical Sciences. These are shown alongside books written by, or about, women who are making an impact in the world of medicine and breaking the gender bias in the process.

Celebrating female graduates of the Faculty of Medical Sciences.

Box of Broadcasts is a TV and radio streaming database that can be accessed via Library Search (UK access only, Login required). Take a look at the list of films selected for International Women’s Day 2022 or browse all of our public playlists by searching ‘Medicine 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? Then get in touch.

https://libguides.ncl.ac.uk/medicineinliterature

Get more out of Box of Broadcasts!

Have you met BoB? Box of Broadcasts is a fantastic resource for all subject areas: an archive of over two million radio and television broadcasts from over 75 free-to-air channels, including all BBC channels, ITV and Channel 4, plus some international channels. New programmes are added to BoB as they are broadcast each day.

We know it’s a very popular resource, but are you getting the best out of it? Here are some quick tips for newbies and experienced users alike!

Smarter searching

BoB is a huge database, so searching by keyword may retrieve a lot of irrelevant results, especially as the default search looks for your keyword in all programme transcripts (i.e. every word spoken in a programme). Click on the Search options link just under the search bar to see various ways of making your search more precise, including searching in the programme titles only, or limiting by date. This help video gives more detail:

Playlists and clips

You can create your own playlists: really helpful if you’re researching for an assignment, or preparing to teach a module. You can also search public playlists curated by other BoB users around the UK: just select Public playlists underneath the search bar, or explore this showcase of playlists for more inspiration.

BoB curated playlists

Clips are really easy to make too:

Stop press: pre-2007 broadcasts now available

Box of Broadcasts currently only contains programmes broadcast from 2007 onwards. However, in March 2022, the BBC announced that its entire digitised archive can now be requested using the Television and Radio Index for Teaching and Learning (TRILT), which is also managed by Learning on Screen.

Need more help?

Got more BoB questions? Try their extensive FAQs or take a look at their updated collection of short video guides.

Tips for creating your study space

If you’re away from Newcastle over the Winter break you may be studying in unfamiliar or unusual spaces, which can make it more challenging to concentrate or find your motivation. Procrastination may be a struggle and creating a space, both physical and online, in which to be your most productive is something that many of us find challenging. It may not always be possible, but creating a managed space to study in will help. So what are our tips for creating the perfect study space at home?

1. Select your space

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

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

2. Make it comfortable

While it may be tempting to study from your bed (which we’ve all done!), sitting upright will help you stay alert. Not to mention the benefits for your shoulders, back and neck. Start with a desk or table if you can, as it will allow you to make an organised space and leave your hands free to take notes.

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

3. Tidy space, tidy mind

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

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

4. Gather some stationery

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

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

5. Listen to some music

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

6. Switch off your devices

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

7. Take breaks

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

One valuable bonus tip from the WDC about taking breaks:

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

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

8. Be organised

Learning remotely is challenging when you have to manage your own time and motivation. Being organised and creating your own plan or timetable can help.

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

When you begin your study session make sure you have everything you need to hand so that you don’t interrupt your flow. You might want to leave your laptop charger nearby!

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

Visit the ASK website for more study and academic skills advice

Spotlight on Knovel

Knovel provides a searchable database of handbooks, data sets and reference sources in engineering (chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, materials and biotechnology), chemistry and biochemistry, earth and environmental sciences among other areas. You can search within a particular work, or across the entire Knovel collection. Searching can be done by keyword or by numeric data ranges.

Knovel has a data search feature that allows you to find materials that meet specific parameters including physical, mechanical and thermal properties. Tools within Knovel include interactive charts, graphs, spreadsheets, and equation plotters.

You have access to:

  • Technical reference resources from 150+ publishers including AIChE/CCPS, NACE and more.
  • 65M+ data points including material and chemical property data

Technical reference collections that we subscribe to here at Newcastle University include:

Adhesives; Coatings; Sealants & Inks
Aerospace & Radar Technology
AICHE/CCPS – Center for Chemical Process Safety
Biochemistry; Biology & Biotechnology
Ceramics & Ceramic Engineering
Chemistry & Chemical Engineering
Civil Engineering & Construction Materials
Electrical & Power Engineering
Electronics & Semiconductors
Environment & Environmental Engineering
Food Science
General Engineering & Project Administration
Marine Engineering & Naval Architecture
Mechanics & Mechanical Engineering
Metals & Metallurgy
Oil & Gas Engineering
Pharmaceuticals; Cosmetics & Toiletries
Plastics & Rubber
Process Design; Control & Automation
Safety & Industrial Hygiene
Sustainable Energy & Development
Textiles

Check out Knovel’s Support Centre that highlights news and FAQ’s. You can also get access to many video tutorials, including a very handy overview to help you get started with Knovel.

Screenshot of Knovel overview video tutorial

There is also a downloadable Quick Start Guide and a LibGuide, so you should always be able to find any help you may need.

If you are wondering how to find Knovel, you can either search for it in Library Search or you can find it in all of the Engineering, Sciences and Computing Subject Guides under both the ‘Books and eBook’ AND the ‘Journals and Database’ (eJournal Collections) tabs.

If you have any questions regarding Knovel, please contact your Liaison Librarian.

Reading Lists and supporting your students

Teaching is just around the corner and the students are starting to prepare for studying through 2021/22. So, which resources are you going to recommend to your students to support your teaching? How will you ensure the Library can offer access to what you need?

We’re promoting the Reading Lists service to our students. It’s easy to use, accessible and is a good starting point when approaching a new subject area.

Surprisingly, even in 2021, not every book is available online. You can use Reading Lists to check to see if we, as an institution, can gain access to those essential, recommended and background reading materials for you and your students. 

How can you do this? Well, you can self-enrol on the Reading Lists Training for Staff course which is available via Canvas. It will explain each stage of creating and editing your lists ready for your students to use for guidance and to prioritise their reading.

An image of the Reading Lists Training for Staff Canvas course home page.

If you don’t have time to do this now, you can produce a list of books, book chapters, journal articles and other resources and submit this to our dedicated Library Reading Lists team to create the online version to be accessed via Canvas for you. If you are doing this, the team need to know:

  • Module Leader or Coordinator’s name.
  • School.
  • Reading list/Module title.
  • Module code.
  • Anticipated student numbers on module (if known).
  • When it is running, e.g. Semester One and/or Two.

You should think about how the list should be organised: by topic, lecture, seminar, etc.

Finally, each item should be classified as essential, recommended or background reading so the Library is aware of the potential demand on the materials.

If you have any questions about availability of online materials or the Reading Lists service, contact your Liaison Team.

Be Connected: Using Newspapers and Audio-visual material in your research

As part of the University’s Be Connected week, we ran a webinar focusing on newspapers and audio-visual resources, highlighting the benefits of using these fantastic resources and how to get the most out of our databases. 

If you missed out on the webinar – fear not! We’ve put together a handy summary of key resources and take-aways for you to explore. Presentation slides from the webinar can also be found at the end of the blog. 

Three newspapers piled on a desk next to a mug of tea.

Why are newspapers and audio-visual resources useful? 

Well, these resources can be an invaluable source of information as they offer different perspectives on events or topics, by offering commentary and opinions and art (via adverts or cartoons) that reflect the social, political and cultural attitudes of a particular place and time. 

They’re a fascinating alternative to the more authoritative voice of journal articles and books – and while they obviously come with a range of bias and inevitable fake news, this presents unique opportunities for analysis and discussion. 

Can’t I just use Google to find out about the news? 

The main benefits of using Library resources over Google is access – while some newspapers, such as the Guardian, allow you to read their articles for free, most do not or if they do, you’ll find the page covered in annoying adverts and pop-ups.  With our resources it’s simple to access, download and save articles or images from a wide range of newspaper sources. 

Our databases also have tailored advanced search and filter options that help you to narrow down your search and find exactly what you need.  Google does have some basic date filters and you can use the advanced search to limit to a particular source and document type but it’s not as simple or intuitive. 

However, accessing newspaper websites via Google does offer the option of browsing through the day’s news articles, and provides the associated pictures and photographs, which are lacking in some of our databases. 

Where can I find the Library’s newspaper archives? 

The Library provides access to a wide range of UK and international newspapers from the 17th century to the present day, mainly in online format. You can access and find information about all these resources on our Newspapers Guide

As a starting point, we’d recommend trying Lexis for current news and Gale Primary Sources for historic news archives.  Both of these resources allow you to search a wide range of sources at once and both have great search tools! 

You can watch the video guides below to learn how to use these databases: 

Are there any other useful resources related to news and the media? 

For TV and radio news programmes, you might like to take a look at Box of Broadcasts, which provides access to broadcasts from over 65 channels dating from 2007. 

If you’re more interested in media commentary and analysis, the Film and Television Index provides coverage on film and television theory, writing, production, cinematography, technical aspects, and reviews, while Statista offers insights and data on the newspaper and television industries. 

For more ideas, explore our Film Subject Guide, and Images Resource Guide

Delving Deeper

To find out more about this subject of news resources and getting the best out of them, check out the slides from this Be connected: using newspapers and audio-visual resources webinar.

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!