Evaluating Information: Choosing the Cream of the Crop

Field of Wheat

With the high volume of information available to you online when you begin your research, it can be difficult to know which of the sources you find to actually use in your assignments or essays.  Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the information that is of good quality and that can help you to answer your research questions most effectively.  This means you need to make some critical decisions about the information you have found.  Even if the materials you find are from reliable sources, such as Library Search or a Subject Database like Scopus you’ll need to consider how the information you’ve found compares to other information and if it is suitable for your purposes.

To help you make effective critical decisions you’ll need to think about these key areas:

Currency – is the information up-to-date?

Relevance – does it help you answer your research question?

Authority – who wrote it?  How qualified are the authors?

Accuracy – how did the authors of the information reach their conclusions? What evidence and data have they used?

Purpose – Why was it written?

The video below looks at these in more detail:

See our Evaluating Information guide for more advice on selecting suitable information for your assignments and for more on the ins and outs of critical thinking take a look at this great blog from the Writing Development Centre: Shopping Around for a Critical Opinion

Avoiding the second year slump

One of my good friends is the middle child of three siblings – born between two siblings with strong identities of “the eldest” and “the youngest”- and feels that she gets “forgotten about” or “neglected” by her parents (but of course she never is).

You could compare second year at University to feeling like the second child – not as exciting and ‘new’ as the youngest new-born (first year) nor as distinguished and knowledgeable as the eldest (final year at University) – but definitely never to be forgotten about.

Research conducted by Liverpool John Moores University found that second year students can suffer from ‘underperformance and withdrawal’ (Thompson et al., 2013) and that ‘around a third of undergraduates experienced a slow down in their academic progress during second year’ (Milsom, 2015). So don’t worry if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and disengaged as you enter your second year of studies, you are definitely not alone.

So how can you get out of your slump?

The research by Liverpool John Moores University highlight the importance of recognising the challenges faced by second year students and identify support that can help you rise to meet them (Thompson et al., 2013).

The Library have definitely not forgotten about our much loved second years, and we’ve been thinking about how we can help – here are our top three ways that the Library and our resources can support you during your second year and how you can hopefully kick-start your engagement with the Library and your studies…

1. Find inspiration

As a second year, you may often feel disengaged, so take some time to remember what you love about you subject; explore your reading lists and Subject Guide(s) to find some wider reading on your favourite topics in your subject area – this may help you build your subject knowledge, help you think about what you want to focus on in third year and remind you why you chose this subject in the start.

The reading lists for your modules is an excellent places to start any refresh. Watch this short video (2:44min) on how to find and use your reading lists:

Another place to re-engage with your subject is our Subject Guides. These guides are created by our ingenious Librarians (*ahem) and are collections of subject specific resources to help you discover reliable and authoritative information for your studies. Remember, if your studies are interdisciplinary, you might have to use multiple guides to ensure find relevant resources.

2. Refresh and build on your skills

Second year is a great time to take some time to refresh or build on your information and academic skills, so you are prepared for your studies becoming more challenging and intense as the year progresses and then transitioning into third year.

Boost your motivation this year by setting yourself small and achievable goals. These could be to improve a mark from last year, to read more widely or to refresh a skill that would be useful for employment. Our Skills Checker is an excellent tool to help you identify an area of information skills to work on.

Once you have identified the areas to work on, check out the ASK website for help and has advice on developing your academic skills. It is your guide to where you can go for support on all aspects of your academic life. With online resources to help you with your academic and study skills, covering topics such as academic integrity and referencing, exams and revisions, learning online and academic writing, you will find the support you need to study successfully.

Also discover our Skills Guides for help on finding, evaluating and managing information and useful guides on subject such as how to use EndNote, how to create an academic poster or how to identify fake news.

Our Employability Guide is another superb guide to show how developing your information and digital literacy skills can help prepare you for your future careers, and don’t forget, Newcastle University’s award-winning Careers Service provide expert advice regarding your future plans.

3. Ask for help

The Library is always here to help, so contact us by email, chat, phone or by social media 24/7 to ask any question regarding the Library services and resources.

The Library Liaison team and the Writing Development Centre are also available to meet (via Zoom or Teams) for a one-to-one appointment to help you on any aspect of Library and academic skills that you need help with. You can book an appointment via Library Help.


I hope we have reassured you that you lovely second years are definitely not forgotten and that we are here to help you on your academic journey every step of the way (*oh so cheesy). These are difficult times but with a bit of grit and determination we have confidence that you will succeed in every way.

References

Milsom, C. (2015) ‘Disengaged and overwhelmed: why do second year students underperform?’, The Guardian, 16 February. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/feb/16/disengaged-and-overwhelmed-why-do-second-year-students-underperform#:~:text=Positioned%20between%20two%20years%20with,often%20seems%20to%20be%20overshadowed.&text=The%20issue%20is%20widely%20recognised,related%20underperformance%20and%20disengagement%20extensively (Accessed: 28 October 2020).

Thompson, S., Milsom, C., Zaitseva, E., Stewart, M., Darwent, S. and Yorke, M. (2013) The Forgotten Year? Tackling the Second Year Slump. Liverpool John Moores University. Available at: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/forgotten-year-tackling-%25E2%2580%2598sophomore-slump%25E2%2580%2599 (Accessed: 28 October 2020).

Three Steps to Getting the Most from EndNote

Someone walking up metal staircase

If you’re writing a detailed essay, dissertation or thesis, reference management software such as EndNote can save you a lot of time and effort but only so long as you put in some time and effort to learn how it works first.

So let us help you get a head start with these three steps:

Step 1: Getting set up & practising the basics

Use our online workbook to get off on the right foot with EndNote; it will guide you through setting up your EndNote Library, adding references and using EndNote with Word.

You can watch this handy video from Clarivate for a visual demonstration too:

Step 2: Organisation from chaos

You’ve probably got a lot of records in your Library now so it’s time to get organised!  Take a look at these short guides and build up your EndNote expertise:

These tools will help you keep all your information together and make it easily accessible for step three…

Step 3: Now for the real magic

Now you’ve collected and organised your references, it’s time to put them to work for you using Cite While You Write in Word.  Watch this video from Clarivate to see how it’s done:

Some EndNote Extras

Keen to learn even more? Take a look at the EndNote Extras section of our EndNote Guide to find out how to merge documents and reference lists, how to share your Library with colleagues or how to find the full text PDF of an article from your EndNote Library.

Outside the Box

While the University has a subscription to EndNote and the Library offer some support to help you use it, there are other reference management software tools available.  Take a look at this FAQ to see some comparison charts that can help you decide which tool might be best for you!

Managing Information: Referencing

Referencing is an important part of academic writing – you’ll usually find it included in the marking criteria for your assignments and projects, with marks being awarded for correctly formatted citations and reference lists.

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?

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’re 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 so that you can spot mistakes or missing information.

You can find out more about referencing and plagiarism by following this tutorial from Cite Them Right (You’ll need to log in to the institutional log in with your University username and password.)

Meet the Liaison team

By now some of you may have already met us in your Canvas modules or in online sessions, but if not you may be wondering who we are and what we do. As the name suggests, the Library’s liaison team liaise with the academic schools at Newcastle University, to help us plan and deliver excellent Library services which meet the needs of staff and students. We’re a friendly bunch: you should get to know us!

What is a Liaison Librarian?

Let Lucy, the Liaison Librarian for Arts and Law, give you a taste of what our role involves. 

How can you get in touch with us?

We’re here to help you get the best out of the Library, so if you need help it’s easy to get in touch. Use Library Help to get in touch 24/7, contact the Liaison Team for your subject area or visit your Subject Guide to find out about the resources and help available for you. We recommend you use the subject team email addresses, rather than emailing an individual person. That’s because some of us work part-time, or may be away:  emailing the team will ensure you’ll get a prompt answer.

Resource Guides: it’s all in the name!

Last week, we let you in on the secrets of Library Search. This week we want to introduce you to our Resource Guides.

Library Search is a great starting point for any piece of research or essay, but there comes a time, when you need some extra help in finding a particular type of information. And that’s where our Resource Guides come in.  We have a range of guides to suit your information needs including: company information, market research, government publications, newspapers, maps, statistics, patents, standards, theses and dissertations, plus much more.

The guides group together all the main library subscriptions we have for that specific type of information, as well as linking out to key external links and resources too. Wherever possible we also include guidance and help on how to get the best out of the databases and links and group the information together into a logical and helpful way. We know how busy life is and we simply want to save you time!

So what you are waiting for, go and check out our fabulously named Resource Guides, because they do exactly what they say on the tin!

It’s as easy as…Reading Lists

As an academic, there are 5 easy steps to creating your own reading list on Leganto, our Reading Lists service, for your students: 

  1. Access or create your reading list via your VLE (e.g. Canvas).
  2. Add resources from Library Search and other sources (e.g. Blackwell’s Book Shop).
  3. Tag each item using the appropriate tag (i.e. essential, recommended or background reading), where:
    Essential = very important to the course, all students will need to use this text.
    Recommended = supplementary texts which students are encouraged to use.
    Background = additional texts which are suggested for background subject area reading.
  4. Send your list to the library for checking and stock orders.
  5. Publish your list to ensure your students can access it.

Things to know:

Tagging each item with essential, recommended and background can generate book orders: there are book/student ratio ordering criteria for items being added to library stock and tagging will allow informed decisions to be made by the Library’s team.

Given we are in the midst of a pandemic and teaching is being undertaken in a different way this term, the Library will attempt to obtain access to all resources online (e.g. e-books) where possible. Please note we do try our best but not everything is available online! Where we can’t obtain an online resource, we will usually opt for the print instead.

There is a Canvas course prepared for you to learn how to use Reading Lists. It’s short and full of useful information on making the best use of the service for your students. Self-enrol on Reading Lists Training for Staff today.

An image of the Canvas-based Reading Lists Training for Staff home screen.

If you would prefer to submit your reading list or lecture/seminar handout to a dedicated team of Library staff to be processed, use the submission form or email the lists to readinglists@ncl.ac.uk for support.

So, Reading Lists are a great way to let your students know what they need to read, and to keep the Library informed too; they are the wise choice. 

If you have any questions about this service, please do contact us via Library Help.

Reading Lists and supporting your students

Teaching is just around the corner and the students are starting to prepare for studying through 2020/21. 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 2020, 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.

We will attempt to source all titles you suggest in an online format. If this is not possible, we will obtain the print edition whereupon your students may need to use our Click and Collect service to gain access until the University Libraries reopen fully again.

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

Reading Lists and Canvas

The University’s Virtual Learning Environment has been changed to Canvas. After years of using Blackboard, it’s a bit different! But once you start to use it, you’ll find it’s much easier to present the information your students need, to communicate with your students in word, sight and sound, and to work more easily in this online world brought on us by the pandemic.

Why talk of Canvas when this post is about Reading Lists? Well, Canvas makes your reading list for each module more visible so you are more likely to be asked about the lists by your students.

An image of the Canvas Home screen showing the main menu including Library Reading List.

The LTDS Canvas Baseline states ‘…where relevant a reading list must be provided.’

An image of the Canvas Baseline which mentions the Reading List requirement.

So what you should do? Not all modules will need a reading list. But if you do have books, book chapters or journal articles you want your students to read and would like to learn how to manage items on your Reading List yourself, please 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 and will allow you to keep in touch with the Library about the materials you need to support your teaching.

An image of a barn owl sitting in a meadow advertising the wise choice of using the Library's Reading Lists service.

Alternatively, you may wish to produce your reading list in a Microsoft Word document, or module handbook, and submit this to our dedicated Library Reading Lists team to create your online version.

If you have any questions about Reading Lists, please contact Library Help and a member of the Reading Lists team will be in touch.

Reading Lists

A reading list is an integral part of the student experience at University. Although it may be viewed as an archaic term these days, students are ‘reading’ for a degree. How do the students know what to read? It is the academic’s role to guide them.

The University Library’s Reading Lists service (Leganto) allows the Library to work with teaching staff in providing this information to the students in an online and consistent way, through their Virtual Learning Environment (Canvas or the Medical LE) alongside their teaching materials.

The University Library’s Reading Lists service is routinely promoted to the students throughout induction. It contains essential, recommended and background reading for modules taught within Newcastle University. Now we’re using Canvas, it also appears in the standard menu within each course and will be more accessible than in our former VLE.

An image of a Canvas course homepage.

So, as teaching staff, what are the benefits of using this service?

  • You have control and can create, manage and update your own reading lists online. 
  • The Library will ensure online access to resources (if available). If an e-book is not available then the correct number of print copies will be purchased based on the essential, recommended or background reading tags you apply to each item on your list.
  • Essential, recommended and background reading tags help students prioritise their reading. 
  • CLA scans (digitised book chapters and articles) can easily be requested and acccessed through Leganto. There will be no need to email us or fill out a web request form; simply tag the item on your list and the Library will do the rest. 
  • The same principle applies to new books. Once on the reading list this information will trigger adding new material to our stock – there will be no need to contact us separately. 
  • You can export a reading list to your module guide or handouts. This will save you time by only needing to create the list in one place. 

Using this system is a wise choice as it ensures the Library knows what you need to support your teaching and will offer your students direct access to the required resources.

You can find more information on this service via our website, or contact us. We are here to help you.

An image of a wise barn owl over Leganto, the Reading Lists service.