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.

Scopus quick tips: Phrase searching

For those of you that don’t already know, Scopus is an expertly curated abstract and citation database combined with enriched data and linked scholarly literature across a wide variety of disciplines. In short, it’s a great resource for study and research providing quick access to verifiable data sources.

However, to get the information that you need from Scopus requires the use of accurate search strategies and methods in addition to your standard Boolean operators of OR, AND, NOT.

To demonstrate, when running a simple search for the words green AND energy (note the use of the Boolean AND) within Abstract title, Abstract, Keywords, Scopus returns an enormous 112,080 document results. In response to such a large return, phrase searching can be a useful strategy for narrowing results down in the first instance; although, the type of phrase search that you choose is also important.

When phrase searching you can return loose/approximate results or exact results depending upon the use of specific punctuation, which can dramatically alter the number of records revealed in the database. For example, when wrapping the phrase “green energy” in double quotation marks and searching within Abstract title, Abstract, Keywords, Scopus returns 7,131 document results – this is a loose phrase search. Conversely, when wrapping the phrase {green energy} in braces (curly brackets) and searching within Abstract title, Abstract, Keywords, Scopus returns 6,596 document results – this is an exact phrase search.

Immediately, we can see that the exact phrase search returns around 500 fewer results. The distinction is far greater, however, if green-energy is hyphenated and the same searches are performed. Here, the loose phrase search in double quotation marks returns the same number of results as with our original search, 7,131, effectively ignoring the hyphen and searching for documents where green energy appear together. In contrast, the exact phrase search in braces finds only results with the hyphen and this time returns only 132 results.

This is just one brief example of how using simple search strategies can alter the number and range of results that can be retrieved in Scopus. Now, log in to Scopus via Library Search and have a go at widening, or narrowing, your search horizons.

Winter Craft-along Online: Part 3

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

Fork pom poms

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

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

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

Twig stars

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

Crafty librarians

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

Share the Joy

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

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

Winter Craft-along Online: Part 2

Winter Craft-along Online banner

As promised, here is our next instalment of Winter crafts – so glue guns at the ready for some more crafting antics.

As in our previous blog, we are embracing all things sustainable, and challenging you to make your crafts using materials found around the house. This time you will need an old jam jar, a pair of socks and some fruit!

Glass jar lanterns

For this one you will need an old, clean glass jar and some cheap PVA glue (the video says to use Mod Podge, but cheap PVA glue works just as good), tissue paper to decorate your jar and a tea light (real or battery operated). The video shows Christmas trees and snowflakes, but let your imagination run crazy – you could do a snowman, father Christmas, a snowy scene or a nativity. Really easy, but looks so effective, and who doesn’t love tea light lanterns when the nights are dark and cold.

No-sew snowmen

This is where your old (clean!) sock can be turned into a jolly snowman. For this you will need one white sock, some elastic bands or Loom bands, uncooked rice, 4-5 buttons (I bet you have some random buttons kicking about the house?), PVA glue, a bit of scrap ribbon or some wool for his scarf and then some more wool if you would like to make him a pom-pom for his hat. I am definitely going to have a go at making this – so easy, but looks so good.

Dried fruit garlands

I’ve been meaning to have a go at making these for ages, not only do they look good, but I bet it makes your house smell amazing! For this one you will need some citrus fruit – this can be oranges, limes, lemons, or even grapefruit – maybe you have some sitting in your fruit bowl that have seen better days and could be given a new lease of life? You can also use cloves and press them into the slices before you pop them in the oven, to make them smell so good. In the video is says the temperature in Fahrenheit – all of the blog and instructions I have read it just says to set your oven at the lowest temperature available on your oven. Cook low and slow and make sure you turn them over half-way through. You will also need string or twine to string them up. I have seen them on Christmas wreaths and as Christmas tree decoration – have a play and see what you can make with them.

Share the Joy

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

Look out for our final blog with a couple more crafts for you to try and inspiration from our Library staff.

Winter Craft-along Online: Part 1

For a few years now the Library has hosted Crafts at Christmas – a wonderful event that brings together staff and students into our Libraries for a time to unwind and focus our creative energies on some Winter crafts. Sadly this year we are unable to host our usual event, so instead we have created a series a blogs highlighting some excellent, but very simple, crafts that you can do in the comfort of you own home.

Our sustainability challenge

This time of year can be not only expensive but full of waste. So our challenge to you is to make these Winter crafts from as many materials that you have lying around the house as possible, such as old wrapping paper, last year’s Christmas cards, or old balls of wool lying around etc.. You’ll be amazed what beautiful crafts you can make out of the stuff you normally recycle or throw away.

3D paper snowflake

Last year I made these stunning 3D paper snowflakes out of the paper packing you get in your Amazon delivery! We make these snowflakes every year in our Crafts at Christmas events – they look really complicated, but are really easy. Why don’t you give them a go. All you need is paper, scissors, a stapler and sticky-tape…

Origami paper box

Another really simple paper craft, but instead of buying origami paper why don’t you make them out of old wrapping paper or even old, thin Christmas cards. These wee boxes are great for holding sweet treats for a loved one.

Recycled paperback folded Christmas tree

This is another super easy and very effective paper craft that you can do using an old book or magazine or catalogue. You don’t need any other materials other than the pages of the book, but you can decorate the tree afterwards if you like (I made origami lucky stars for the top of my tree):

Paper ball decorations

These are so pretty and all you need is string, glue and paper – we suggest using magazines and leaflets that you have had through the front door. Takeaway menus are great for it!

Share the Joy

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

Look out for Part 2 and Part 3 with even more crafts for you to try.

Finding Information: Troubleshooting your search results

Photograph of tools, including a hammer, spanner and measuring tape, laid out on a table

You’ve ran your information search and looked at your results with a critical eye only to find that they’re not quite working for you – what can you do now?

In this blog we’ll be looking at the top three problems encountered when searching for information and how to improve your search to get the results you need:

Finding too much

If your search has brought back thousands of results and you’re getting overwhelmed with the options:

Search a more specialised resource

Using a subject-specific database will help narrow the focus of your search to your particular areas of interest.  Take a look at your Subject Guide to find databases and eBook collections tailored to your subject area.

Apply limits

Make use of the ‘refine’ options usually found on the left-hand side of Library Search or your subject database.  Limit your results by date, subject area or information type.  Remember, you may need to justify your limits to your supervisor so think carefully about your choices. 

Combine search terms with ‘AND’

AND is a Boolean operator, a term you can use to have more control over your search. If you want to find information that must contain two different keywords (or phrases), place a capitalised AND operator between them. Your search engine or subject database will only find information that features both, narrowing your results. The more search terms you combine with AND, the narrower your search will be.

Finding too little

If your search has brought back a handful of useful articles but you need a wider range of results:

Combine terms with ‘OR’

OR is another Boolean operator that helps you to control your search more effectively.  Use OR with your search terms that have synonyms or related terms. Your search engine or subject database will find information that features either word or phrase, significantly broadening your results.

Try controlled vocabulary

If you’re not getting enough results, it may be that your search terms or keywords aren’t quite working for you.  Controlled vocabulary are a standardised list of words and phrases used on some databases to ensure that searches retrieve all relevant results, even when authors use different terms. Examples of databases that use this technique include ERIC, PsycInfo, CAB abstracts, Compendex and Medline. If these apply to you and your discipline, you’ll find out how to use them on your Subject Guide.

360 Searching

If you’ve found some useful articles, one simple way to find more relevant material is to take a look at the references used by the authors.  This will lead you to find older material that was published before your original article which may also be useful.  Library Search and some subject databases including Google Scholar and Scopus also allow you to see who has cited the articles you have found in their work (look for the ‘cited by link’).  This is called citation searching and allows you to find more up-to-date analysis of your topic.  By looking back at the references and forward at the citations, you get a 360 degree view of the research.

Finding nothing useful?

If your search has brought back results that aren’t relevant to your research question or you are finding it difficult to find the right search terms or databases to use, you might find it helpful to book a one-to-one appointment with your Liaison Librarian.

You can also find more help and advice on our Finding Information Guide.

Finding Information: The key to your search

Keys hanging on hooks on a piece of wood.

When it comes to finding academic information, there are a few things you need to think about before you start your search, such as where to actually look for information and the types of information you want to find in your search.  Another thing that is worth taking the time to think carefully about is keywords.

Keywords, sometimes called subject terms, are simple words and phrases that describe information; you can see them in the item record on Library Search and in Subject Databases.

An example of keywords from an article on Library Search
An example of keywords from an article on Library Search

The results that your search returns are based on this information – if your keywords match an item’s keywords, that item will appear in your results.

To get the best results, then, you’ll need to develop a balanced list of targeted keywords – these keywords may come from your essay title or research question, from your subject knowledge or wider reading – you can even borrow them from the subject terms you find on relevant articles!

As ideas and topics can be expressed in different ways you’ll also need to think about synonyms and terms related to your keywords to make sure you can find all of the relevant information.

To find out more about keywords, synonyms and searching take a look at this short video:

There are some useful tricks you can use with your keywords to save you time when you search, take a look at our Advanced Searching Guide to learn about Boolean, wildcards and truncation!

Finding Information: Types of Information

Light bulbs

In our previous blog we explored how looking for information in the right place can help save you time and effort.  However, sometimes, the right place to look can depend on what type of information you’re looking for.

While you’re probably familiar with books and you may have been introduced to journal articles, these are just two of the types of academic information available to you.  Depending on your research question or essay title you might also find it useful to explore, for example, conference proceedings, maps, company information or newspapers

Each type of information has its particular use; books provide an in-depth overview of a topic; journal articles are more specialised and focus in-depth on a particular area of a topic, and newspapers give you a useful perspective on events.  While Library Search can help you find a large range of information types, some types of information are only available in special databases or archives.  Before you start your search, it’s therefore important that you decide what types of information you will need to complete your assignment most effectively.  You can find out more about different information types on our Finding Information Guide and in the video below:

When you know which types of information you need for your assignment or project take a look at our Resource Guides, which provide useful links and guides to appropriate sources.

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

http://www.picturesbybish.com/ | https://www.facebook.com/picturesbybish/

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.