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

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!

Get more out of JSTOR!

JSTOR is one of our most popular academic databases, and you may be one of the many people who uses it regularly. It provides access to thousands of journal titles, books and other resources.

We subscribe to many of its collections, giving us access to thousands of journal backruns, spanning many decades and subject areas, together with 6,500 Open Access books (all catalogued on Library Search), and over 1.3 million images, videos and audio files, via Artstor Public Collections.

STOP PRESS! We now have access to an additional 59,000 JSTOR ebooks. Read all about it!

But are you getting the best out of JSTOR? Read on to find some tips and features you might not know about…..

Advanced search

JSTOR is a very large, multidisciplinary database, so a simple keyword search won’t usually be the most effective way to search it. Click on Advanced Search to get more options which will give you better control over your search: for example, just searching in certain fields (e.g. author or abstract) or limiting your search by date, resource type, language or subject area.

Text analyser

This exciting new feature enables you to drag and drop a document, and JSTOR will then process your document’s text to find the most significant topics and recommend other documents within its database. Try it out!

Workspace

Using Workspace, you can save, organise, and share your sources, including non-JSTOR content. You can also add notes and generate citations in many popular formats. You need to create an account on JSTOR in order to use this feature.

Text mining

Data for Research (DfR) provides datasets of JSTOR content for use in research and teaching. Data available through the service include metadata, n-grams, and word counts for most articles and book chapters, and for all research reports and pamphlets. Datasets are produced at no cost to researchers, and may include data for up to 25,000 documents.

Further help

You can get more help with JSTOR by clicking on Support at any time, or visit their specialised library guides for a more in-depth focus on particular topics. For the very latest JSTOR developments, tips and features, follow @jstor on Twitter.

Library Search: (the secret stuff?)

You know Library Search. You use it every day when you’re at University. Why are you going to read a blog post on it? Well, we’re wondering if you’re using Library Search to its full potential. Not sure? Then read on.

Library Search is Newcastle University Library’s discovery tool – essentially it’s how you find resources on the library shelves and access those invaluable resources online. But what else can it do?

An image of the Library Search login function.

Log in. Using your usual Campus ID and password, you can open up the full functionality of Library Search by telling it who you are. It allows you to:

  • Log into your library account to see what books you have on loan (which you may be finished with and could return to any library site), those requests you’ve placed and any books you have on loan that may have been requested by someone else. The standard library stuff, but it’s important too.

An image of Library Search's My Account function.

  • Save items you want to come back to (that’ll save you writing them down somewhere else). Find that favourite item and ‘pin’ it to your record. You can then access a list of your favourite books, journals or journal articles and label (or tag) them as to why you may need them, e.g. Herbology, Professor Snape’s essay, or Field Trip to Hogsmeade. That makes it easy to see what you need to use for each lecture, seminar or assessment.

An image of the Library Search Favourites tool.

  • Permalink. You can share an item with someone if you want to – copy the permalink to the clipboard and send it to someone you know may be interested.

An image of Library Search's permalink tool.

  • Save your search. If you need to repeat your search then save it within Library Search so you don’t need to remember the keywords and connectors (AND, OR, NOT) sequence. This is important if you are scoping a search and need to record or change your approach. You can also ‘Personalise’ your results to a particular discipline – give it a try!

Animage of the Library Search Save Search and Personalise tool.

  • Set up a RSS Feed (yes, really!). The Rich Site Summary function allows you to be informed of changes to results in your saved searches. Handy, eh? Go to your Saved Searches and simply click the RSS icon.

An image of Library Search's RSS feed tool.

  • Receive an email alert when there are new results for your saved search. This can save you time in your research as Library Search will inform you if there is a new publication available which matches your search terms. Switch it off when you move onto a new subject area by accessing your Favourites list and deselecting the alarm bell icon.

An image of Library Search's email notification tool.

Finally, if you’re writing up your assignment and can’t remember the essential elements of a reference, then use Library Search for guidance. The Citation tool will allow you to view a suggested citation and to copy it to your clipboard for use in your work.*

An image of Library Search's Citation tool.

*BUT (you knew that was coming, didn’t you) ensure you choose the correct style and check your citations for accuracy before including them in your work. It pays to know your required referencing style and not to rely on automated or generated references. If you want to learn more about referencing then see our Managing Information guide and Cite Them Right. Cite Them Right is a great resource which will remind you of the importance of referencing, how to reference and will give guidance on how to cite those more tricky materials such as conference papers, newspaper articles, social media posts and more. Finally, there’s a new tutorial with lots of interactive questions so you can test yourself too.

If you know of any tips or tricks in Library Search that aren’t mentioned here, then leave us a comment and share them!

Routine for Referencing

What are the key steps to a successful routine for referencing? Of all the enquiries we get in the Library, referencing is the most common.

Referencing is the acknowledgement of the sources that you use in your work. You must reference all sources that you use in your assignment, project or dissertation, including words and ideas, facts, images, videos, audio, websites, statistics, diagrams and data.

Over the next two weeks weeks we’re focusing on referencing, giving you the routine for success. As a novice, you might need a little help to understand the steps and techniques for your referencing style.

We’ll tell you where to get advice and help

Understand why we reference and how

How to avoid plagiarism

How to manage your information to make your life easier and assignments less stressful, giving you the routine for success.