Fake News: the dangers of conspiracy theories

I actually enjoy a good conspiracy theory, and they often make for great film or TV tropes. Do you remember the end clip of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where the American government are storing the Ark of the Covenant in a huge warehouse? Do you think this is true? Might governments be hiding top secret things from us in massive, unknown warehouses? I like to jest that I believe this is real.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I realised how dangerous really believing in conspiracy theories can be. Watching the storming of Capital Hill in Washington DC back in January this year, opened my eyes to how conspiracy theories could take hold and potentially endanger lives.

Like fake news, conspiracy theories have been around for a very, very, very long time. Here’s some that you might recognise:

Most recently, you may have spotted some of the dangerous conspiracy theories rising up around the Covid-19 pandemic.

Do you believe in conspiracy theories? Do you know anyone that really believes in them? Have you ever found it hard to talk to them about what they believe? In light of the conspiracy theories surrounding Covid-19, The European Commission have created 10 useful infographics to help people be aware of conspiracy theories, how they spread, the dangers of them, how to talk to people who do believe in them, and (like fake news), how you should think twice before sharing them online:

I found it particularly interesting to learn that it is basic human nature to question reality in periods of uncertainty/change/major incidents (such as the pandemic, 9/11, shootings of presidents etc.), hence this is often when conspiracy theories take off.

You’ll find these infographics on our Fake New Guide , along with other new content including links to some excellent videos and articles. Be sure to take our poll to share your favourite conspiracy theory movie too!

As a University student, it’s important for you to be aware of conspiracy theories; to know of the dangers they pose, to check your own beliefs and to be careful of what you share online. Use these resources to learn more and always remember, the truth is out there…

International Women’s Day in Law and Literature

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have curated a list of all the books in the Law and Literature collection written by women. We also have a ‘Law School Pick‘ by Dr Ruth Houghton selected for IWD.

The Law in Literature collection has always strived to be diverse in stories, voices and authors. We are pleased to say that 50% of the books in this collection are written by women.

This collection, based in the Law Library, is made up of novels, short stories, plays, graphic novels and films that all reflect law in some way. We also promote films, TV shows and radio broadcasts through playlists on Box of Broadcasts (BoB). BoB is a free streaming platform available via Library Search with your campus ID (available in the UK only). Search for our public playlists using ‘Law in Literature Newcastle University’.

Is there a book that you think should be on our shelves, or a film to add to a playlist? Is there a subject you think would make a good BoB playlist? Do you want to recommend a book or film and feature as one of our ‘Law School Picks’? Want to review a book or film for our blog? Then get in touch.

Enrichment week: referencing drop-in

Thanks to everyone who came along to our Referencing drop-in session. Here you can find links to the key resources we highlighted, so you have them all in one handy place, whether you were able to participate in the sessions or not. You can also find a copy of our slides and a link to other useful referencing/managing information blog posts at end of this post.

Our Managing Information Guide and the slides from the session give you the context of why it is import to reference and why you should be managing your information. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information out there (and that’s before you start your dissertation/project!), so getting into good habits it essential not only academically, but also for your wellbeing.

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?

Once you understand the why, you can get onto the nuts and bolts of referencing – the how:

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 are 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.

Need more help?

If you feel you need to work on your referencing a bit more, and still a bit unsure about it all, we recommend that you complete Cite them Right’s Referencing and Plagiarism tutorial – You’ll need to log in then select the tutorial button on the top right of the homepage.

Slides

Here’s a copy of our slides from our referencing drop-in session:

Referencing blog posts

Explore our other referencing and managing information blog posts.

Enrichment week: resources to support your dissertation

Thanks to everyone who booked on our three ‘Enrichment week’ sessions to support your dissertation or project. We’re posting below links to the key resources we highlighted, so you’ve got them all handy in one place, whether you were able to participate in the sessions or not.

Getting a head start

If you’re at the early stages of planning your project or dissertation, or perhaps thinking ahead to next year, then you can get ahead of the game with our dissertation toolkit.

Search planner

This interactive toolkit includes a proposal planner, to help you refine your initial thinking as you develop your proposal, and a search planner, which takes you step-by-step through each stage of the process to create your own personalised literature search strategy. It will help you develop your search terms, identify different types of information resource, evaluate what you have found, and formulate a plan for keeping up to date and managing your references.

Our toolkit will help you translate vague thoughts into a firm plan of action!

Nearing completion: final checks

If you’re well into your dissertation or project, you may well have some last minute aspects you need to check.

Are you sure you haven’t missed any recent research in your area? Find out about 360 degree searching and make sure you check key resources for your subject area on your subject guide. Are there particular types of information missing from your search: for example: data, news, reports, images? Visit our resource guides for inspiration.

Resource Guide screenshot
Resources guides

How is your bibliography shaping up: are all the references accurate and correctly formatted? Visit our managing information guide for all the answers, including a link to the Cite Them Right ebook for specific queries relating to a type of resource or referencing style.

Need more help?

You can book a one-to-one appointment with a member of the Library liaison team, and/or email us your draft search plan using our search planner.

Special Collections and Archives

Virtual Reading Room

Depending on your subject area, you might want to make use of some of the Library’s fabulous Special Collections and Archives in your research, or find out more about the possibilities of using archives elsewhere.

Start with the Special Collections home page: all the links you need for how to find and use our collections, including digital and virtual services while the Reading Room is still closed.

Need inspiration? Not sure where to start? Anxious about archives? Try the practical Special Collections guide for friendly, expert advice about using our collections in your research or finding collections elsewhere. Or why not see where your ideas take you with our great new Primary Sources Research Planner?

Slides

Here’s a copy of our slides from our referencing drop-in session:

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 

Tips for creating your study space

Many of us are studying and working in unusual spaces at the moment, which can make it more challenging to concentrate or find our motivation. Procrastination may be a familiar struggle, and creating a space, both physical and online, in which to be your most productive is something that many of us in the Library and Writing Development Centre have also found challenging. It may not always be possible, but creating a managed space to study in will help. So what are our tips for creating the perfect study space at home?

1. Select your space

If it is possible, designate a space as your study environment. It may be your room in a shared house, the kitchen table, office, dining room or in the case of one of my colleagues, a spot in the hallway. Wherever you choose, claim it and make it yours in order to reduce distractions from those you live with and to create a studying mindset.

Within our team, many of us have found it invaluable to have a ‘work space’ which is separate from the rest of our life and spaces in which we relax. Even if this is simply a cheap desk in your bedroom as it is for me, having a ‘study spot’ which is dedicated to your academic work will help you create structure and routine, and feel in the studying zone. It also makes for less embarrassment when you turn your camera on in Zoom or Teams.

Photograph of desk with laptop and screen.
Emily’s desk on a rare tidy day.

2. Make it comfortable

While it may be tempting to study from your bed (which I certainly did as a postgraduate), sitting upright will help you stay alert during synchronous and non-synchronous teaching sessions. Not to mention the benefits for your shoulders, back and neck. Start with a desk or table if you can, as it will allow you to make an organised space and leave your hands free to take notes.

It’s also worth thinking about how you can make the space more comfortable by opening a window for fresh air every so often, and the level of natural light you can introduce. Perhaps think about studying earlier in the day so that the natural brightness helps you stay alert and boosts your mood.

3. Tidy space, tidy mind

Now this is a tip that I will admit to needing to heed myself. A cluttered study space can make it more difficult to focus and introduce unwanted distractions. By filing away your notes and de-cluttering your space at the end of a day, you will be able to start the next day fresh and able to find the learning materials you need.

This goes for your online spaces too. Think about how and where you keep your assignments, notes and any materials you download from Canvas, to ensure you are able to access the materials as you prepare assignments or revise for exams. Set up folders in One Drive that relate to each module or project you are working on and be sure to keep track of any collaborative work, such as projects in Teams. Managing the information you collect as you study and keeping it organised in some way is an essential study skill. Visit the Managing Information Guide for more tips.

Student studying on laptop on the sofa

4. Gather some stationary

It’s a simple tip, but keep a pen and paper nearby so that you can make quick notes. This might be jotting down an idea or something to remind yourself about at a later date. Many of you will take your notes digitally and may have a tablet you use within your programme, but having a notebook and pen to hand is a valuable backup. If you prefer handwritten notes, make sure you have a good organisational system so that you are able to retrieve the information you need.

You’ll find lots of useful tips around notetaking on the ASK website.

5. Listen to some music

Some of you may find studying in silence works best for you, but for me, I need a little background noise to block out the distractions around me. Select a soundtrack for your study that helps you concentrate, with a mixture of mood boosting tracks and songs that are a little more mellow and calming. You’ll find lots of readymade study playlists on streaming services, or you could start with our Library Spotify playlists.

6. Switch off your devices

I’m sure many of us will recognise our mobile phone as a significant source of distraction and cause of many unproductive minutes. Switch off your mobile phone, log out of social media accounts on your study device and turn off the TV. This will help you create designated study time as well as space. It will also be a step towards introducing breaks in your study routine.

7. Take breaks

Taking regular breaks and walking away from your study space will help you return feeling refreshed. Why not download the iNCLude App? It has been designed to help you take small steps to improve and maintain your wellbeing, by creating positive habits and helping you focus on more than just your academic studies.

One valuable bonus tip from the WDC about taking breaks:

When you break, take a moment to leave a ‘note to future self’ about where you got to or what you were intending to do next.

Writing Development Centre, Managing Time and Motivation
Student studying with laptop and notebook.

8. Be organised

Learning remotely is challenging when you don’t necessarily have a structured timetable of lectures, seminars, labs and classes, but have to manage your own time and motivation. Being organised and creating your own plan or timetable can help.

The WDC have created some great guides, podcasts and videos with tips that might help, including creating structure and routine, studying in short bursts and how to motivate yourself.

When you begin your study session make sure you have everything you need to hand so that you don’t interrupt your flow. I frequently wish I’d had the sense to put my laptop charger nearby.

Our mobile apps and resources guide also includes some suggestions for apps that can help you be more organised and boost your productivity.

Visit the ASK website for more study and academic skills advice.

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.