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

Grow the skills you need

Enrichment week is a great opportunity to take some time to reflect on your academic skills and practice ahead of completing upcoming end of year assessments.  


Throughout Enrichment week the Library and Writing Development Centre are hosting a series of live events that will help you grow and enhance those all-important academic skills. During the week we will 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 

It’s early days in this semester, so you have time to take a step back and assess your academic skills, review your feedback, and organise your studies. Join the Writing Development Centre for live Q&A sessions on Time Management, and Feedback, or register for the Library’s live session on Developing your Information Skills, which will give you the tools to evaluate and improve your skills: 

Live Q&A (In discussion with…) Feedback Friday (WDC) 

Developing your Information Skills: Live session with the Library Liaison team 

Managing your time effectively 

Library Subject Support Blog: Top tips 

Academic Skills and Writing Development blog: Time Management 

Getting results 

As you embark on your dissertation there are many ways the Library and Writing Development Centre can advise and support you with your reading, notetaking, searching, and critical thinking. Our two live Dissertation and Literature Review sessions are a great starting point for planning your next steps, while the Write Here, Write Now session will help you kick start your writing. Also check out a fantastic session from our Special Collections and Archives, which highlights you how you can use our collections for your dissertation.

Get a head start with your dissertation: Live session with the Library Liaison team  

Dissertations: final checks and questions: Live session with the Library Liaison team 

Write Here, Write Now with the WDC 

Special Collections and Archives for your dissertation

Library Subject Support blog: Subject Guides 

Academic Skills and Writing Development blog: Dissertations 

Searching, Reading and Notetaking 

Fine-tune your skills 

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 Enrichment week to hone your skills with the help of our live sessions.  Referencing 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 perfect your presentations with help from the Writing Development Centre. 

Referencing drop-in: Live session with the Library Liaison team 

Live Q&A (In discussion with…) on Presentations (WDC) 

Euromonitor International Passport – online demonstration and live Q&A

Library Subject Support blog: Referencing 

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:

Need more help?

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

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!

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!