Finding Information: Knowing Where to Look

Photograph of several closed doors, one painted yellow the others painted white.

When you’re looking for information to help you write your essays, assignments or projects it can be tempting to turn to the source of information you use every day – Google.  While Google can be useful in some ways (such as finding company websites or journal author’s profiles), it wasn’t exclusively designed to help you find good quality, academic information that is reliable and relevant.  This means you’ll likely have to spend more of your time wading through huge amounts of information and fact-checking resources for accuracy.

Thankfully, Google isn’t your only option – there are a number of different places to look that have been created with the aim of providing you with the information that you need, such as your reading lists, Library Search, and key Subject Databases.

Take a look at this video to find out more about how these sources can help you:

For more help on finding information, take a look at our Finding Information Guide.

Self Care Week: Top Tips

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

Self Care Week is the 16th-22nd of November this year and we don’t know about you, but we think the timing is just right? In the midst of yet another lockdown and having to study / work mostly online, it gives us a chance to stop, breathe and assess whether we really are doing all we can to look after ourselves. It’s so easy in the midst of pressures and worries to forget about looking after our own wellbeing isn’t it? However, it’s even more vitally important to do it just now. So in light of this, we thought we would highlight some of the services and resources available to you at Newcastle University and some of our own recommendations for establishing positive habits.

Student Health and Wellbeing

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Student Health and Wellbeing work with local and national organisations to help to maximise your academic potential and allow you to have the best possible experience while you’re studying. They offer advice and assistance on many topics, from spiritual support to mental health counselling. You can find self-help resources and information here. They are currently offering online services so do make the most of the support that’s there……..they really are some of the most skilled, approachable and nicest people we have met.

iNCLude

iNCLude is a free app aimed at helping develop positive behaviours to ensure you’re focussing on more than just academic studies. The app centres on several themes: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. There’s space to record your feelings in a mood journal and information on campus wellbeing events through your personal feed. It’s available to download on android and apple devices so do check it out.

Silvercloud

Silvercloud is a suite of online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programmes, which can be tailored to your specific needs. It is free and can be accessed anywhere on a PC, tablet or mobile phone. The modules on Silvercloud can be worked through at your own pace and a practitioner from Student Services can help you navigate through the programmes. To find out more and sign up, go to the Silvercloud website.

TalkCampus
TalkCampus is a new mental health service based around peer support, which comes in the form of a free-to-download app. It is perfect if you’re struggling and are worried about your mental health, as it enables you to talk with other students from around the world in a safe and secure way. All you need to gain access to this service is your student email address, but rest assured your identity and location is protected and no-one at Newcastle University will know if you’re using it or not. The app itself is moderated by the TalkCampus team and although it is not a replacement for student wellbeing services, it does help you to connect with other students going through similar issues to your own. It may be a stepping stone for you for getting more help or it might be sufficient in it’s own right. Do check it out if you think it could be of some help.

Be well@NCL

Be well@NCL is a collection of tried and tested books chosen in partnership with Student Wellbeing and other health professionals, so you know you can trust them. The books deal with issues that we all go through at some point in our lives, and even more so at the moment. Topics include stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems, eating disorders, depression, OCD, fears, bereavement and so much more. Find out more about our collection on the Be well@NCL website or on the iNCLude app. Some of the collection is accessible in eBook format, while others you can order and pick up through our Click and Collect Service.

Responsible studying

This year has been like no other hasn’t it? We are all having to adapt to this new world of Zoom, teams and online Canvas content and it can feel overwhelming and draining. We’ve tailored specific content within The Academic Skills Kit (ASK) website that helps develop positive study habits for these times, such as studying online, independent learning, motivation, time management, online assessment plus much more. Visit our website to see the range of advice and support available.

Rosie, a Library assistant at the Walton Library, is a fan of the Pomodoro Technique when studying. She says:

“This technique has changed my life! If you are a procrastinator and/or you’re easily distracted, you need to try it – you set a timer on your phone for 25 minutes, work hard on your task for that period and then reward yourself with a 5 minute break. After you’ve done that 4 times, take a longer break.

Breaking work up into chunks with rewards in between means that you get more done than if you try to work non-stop for hours, and it’s easier to start an assignment when you know you only have to work at it for 25 minutes at a time. This technique is better for your stress levels and mental health than beating yourself up for leaving assignments until the last minute.”

Creative activities
Taking a break from your work to do desk yoga, colouring in or origami is beneficial in the long run – it’ll help you increase focus, retain information and maintain top performance.

There’s a variety of activities you can do while taking a break from studying, for example:

  • Check out the online programmes put together by some of our schools, such as the visiting speakers’ programme from the Department of Fine Art, the live lunchtime concerts put on by our Department of Music or the literary events put on by the Newcastle Centre of Literary Arts.
  • Join a society run through the Students’ Union. These are a great way to meet new people (even if they have to be virtual at the moment). Check out the upcoming events on Students Union webpages and add activities to your diary.
  • Simply going for a walk, run, cycle can do you the world of good. Enjoy and breathe that fresh air.
  • Ring a friend or a family member and have a good chat. Connecting with others can make such a huge difference.
  • Learn a new hobby or pick up something that’s fallen by the wayside such as playing an instrument, drawing, crafting etc.

Stacey, a Library assistant at the Walton Library, likes to knit to improve her mental wellbeing. She says:

“The health benefits of knitting have been known for a while. A 2007 study conducted by Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute found that knitting lowers heart rate by an average of 11 beats per minute and induces an “enhanced state of calm,” as the repetitive movements release serotonin which can lift moods and dull pain.

Knowing this and gaining the ability to watch your toddler running around wearing clothes you’ve made is a wonderful feeling, as if you are covering your loved ones with wool and love – the only downside is cost (and explaining a million times it isn’t just for old ladies!) Knitting gives me that ‘enhanced state of calm’, or the ability not to be totally radgie ALL of the time, which is essential for my wellbeing.”

14 day self care challenge
It’s easy to read a blog like this and think yeah, yeah, I know what I should be doing but we often find it hard to put it into practice? Why not commit with us then to looking after yourselves better for the next 14 days and take the self care challenge, created by our lovely Library Assistant Rosie. We’d love to hear how you are getting on so do get in touch:

Image of 14 day self-care activities.

Spotlight on Scopus

Have you ever found yourself asking any of the questions below?….

  • Where can I find relevant, high quality information for my research?
  • How can I track who has cited an article since it’s publication, as well as looking back on the references it used?
  • How can I follow an academics work?
  • Who can I collaborate with in my research?
  • Which journal should I submit my paper to?
  • Where can I find information to support my research funding application?

…..If you have, then why not take a look at Scopus and use it as your starting point? You can access it through Library Search or through your subject guide in the ‘Journals and Databases’ section.

Whatever subject you are studying, Scopus is one of the databases that you need to get to know. It is a large multi-disciplinary abstract and citation database of peer reviewed literature. It contains over 69 million records, including journal articles (from 22,000 titles), conference papers, books (20,000 new book details added every year) and book chapters. However, it doesn’t just have a list of results for you to wade through, but it has a series of smart tools which help you track and visualise the research as well. You can search for documents, sources, authors and institutions and compare and contrast them using a variety of different tools.

If you are wondering if Scopus is for you, then check out the video below. And if you are already a user of Scopus, then why not listen to one of their webinars to get the best out of the resource or check out the Scopus blog for tips and tricks. Happy exploring!

See Scopus basic search in action.
Scopus is an excellent resource to use to help you expand your search by focusing on specific authors and cited reference searching.

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

Decoding your reading list

In the past few weeks you have probably been presented with module handbooks for everything you’re studying, with a list of references to things you are being told to read. Sometimes these will all be in the same referencing style and formatted in a way that you can understand easily what type of information it is. But sometimes, it might be more tricky to work out what exactly it is you are looking for. You can find yourself searching for a journal article, only to discover that it’s a book chapter, and you’ll never find it in a journal database.

If you are feeling a bit confused by your reading list, don’t worry. It’s a common problem and decoding references does get easier as you become more familiar with the referencing conventions of your subject.

There are some easy things to look out for in your references that will help you identify what type of information it is, and the key details, such as the author and title, that you would need to use in order to find it successfully. Take a look at the examples in the gallery to see what to watch out for.

Reference for a book in the Harvard style with the title in italics.
Reference for a book chapter in the Harvard style which includes the chapter and whole book title.
Reference for a journal article that includes the article title, volume and issue of the journal.
Reference for a website in harvard style which includes a url and accessed date.

Your reading list is also linked from your module course on Canvas. Individual items on your reading list will link through to Library Search, showing you print book availability and linking to e-book and e-journal full text wherever possible. This means you wont need to do a separate search.

Find out more about reading lists on the Library website.

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!