Polishing up your Masters dissertation

Students studying in the LibraryAs you get into the last few weeks of work on your Masters dissertation or major project, it should all be coming together. This post aims to give you the tools to get everything done in time – and make your dissertation a shining success!

Editing, proof-reading and referencing

At this stage, you should be starting to think about editing and proof-reading. It’s best not to leave this till the last minute as it’s rarely just a matter of checking your spelling. There may be missing citation details to find, arguments that would be better placed elsewhere, repetition to remove, and word count to reduce. All these things take more time than you think.

Study Advice have a guide on writing at Masters’ level which will help you to see what you need to aim at when editing your writing. There is also a guide on academic writing including tips for more effective proof-reading. If you have five minutes, you could watch one of their video tutorials on dissertations.

It can make a real difference to your mark to make sure your citations are all correct, complete and consistent. This can be a slow process so allow plenty of time. There is information about different referencing styles and how to reference more unusual sources in our Citing References guide. You could also look at the Study Advisers’ video tutorials on referencing. If you’re still not sure, ask your Academic Liaison Librarian or a Study Adviser.

Incomplete reference? What to do?

You may find you have a key piece of information, but not all the details you need for your bibliography. If you have some information, it still may be possible to find the complete reference.

For a journal article, try Summon or one of the Library’s databases; for a book, try checking your reading list, searching the Library catalogue, or a database specialising in books such as Worldcat or Library Hub Discover. You can also look back through your Library account to see the titles of books you’ve borrowed over the last 6 months.

If you want to use a direct quote from your reading but don’t know where it came from, try typing it into Google, framed with quotation marks e.g. “the City’s collusion with slavery”. Google will then search for the exact quotation. You may find it’s better to use a short phrase rather than a longer quote; try to find a grouping of words that stands out. What you must never do is invent details, or include things in your dissertation if you cannot be sure about the source. This may lead to accusations of academic misconduct.

For more help watch this brief video tutorial on how to find bibliographic details.

Get the edge with up-to-date information

The best dissertations include the most up-to-date research so, if you have time, you can check for recent publications that you may have missed in your literature review. Many databases allow you to re-run your search for an author or on a topic to find only the most recent items.

For example, Web of Science allows you to save your searches to re-run against the latest updates to its databases. You can also set up feeds and citation alerts so that you are notified when someone cites your key articles. Watch the saving your search and setting email alerts video for detailed instructions on how to do this.

This service isn’t only available in the sciences, however – you can set up alerts in services such as BrowZine to find the latest articles across all disciplines and subjects. Most databases will have this function available, but each one will work slightly differently. If you want to set up alerts for a particular database but aren’t sure how, get in touch with your Academic Liaison Librarian.

For more, see our further tips on keeping up to date.

Student studying in the LibraryStaying motivated

It can be difficult to motivate yourself to get to the finishing line, and it’s easy to underestimate how long the finishing touches may take. Breaking your remaining tasks down and setting deadlines to get each ticked off can help. You might turn these into a Gantt chart and pin it up on your wall, so you can see your targets at a glance. Study Advice have some further suggestions on staying motivated.

Layout and binding

Find out ahead of time what is expected in terms of layout and binding and you are likely to save yourself from last-minute panic. The Study Advice website has some general principles on finishing up. More specific information should be in your course or module handbook. It may also be possible to look at past dissertations in your department to see how they have laid out their work: ask your tutor.

You do not need to hard bind your work, but if you choose to do so, do be aware that you will have to leave considerably more time. The Library have teamed up with experienced university binders Hollingsworth & Moss to offer a hard and soft bound printing and binding service.

Acceptable binding styles include thermal binding with a hard or soft cover, spiral and comb binding. These can be done at many print shops with a little notice, including Mail Boxes Etc in the RUSU building on Whiteknights campus.

If you have any last-minute queries, you can always come and ask your Academic Liaison Librarian or a Study Adviser.

Planning your revision – info tip

Boy reading in sunshineEaster’s coming up fast, and you’re probably still completing assignments for the end of term. Exams might still seem a long way off now but they’ll be here before you know it. It’s a good time to start thinking about your revision – and the Library and Study Advice are here to help.

Working out a schedule

It’s important to have a plan, to make sure you have time to cover all the topics you need to. Avoid making your revision plan too detailed and prescriptive though – you will need to build in time for relaxation, exercise – and the unexpected!

The Study Advice guide on preparing for exams includes tips for planning your revision, including how to work out your revision schedule. You might also find our video tutorials on time management helpful – we have tips on planning and avoiding procrastination, for instance.

Finding materials for revision

You will probably start by reading through your lecture notes, and then looking at texts on your reading list. The Library has guidance on finding different types of publication as well as videos that will help you to get the most out of the Library.

You should also check the subject resources and guidance for information resources in your topic – much more reliable than ‘just Googling it’. And remember that, whether you’re revising on or off campus, our ebooks and ejournals are accessible 24/7.

Where will you revise?

It’s good to think about the place that you study best. Some students prefer to study at home or in Halls, and 24/7 access to e-resources makes this a viable option without taking mountains of books home. If you do this, make sure you make a schedule and stick to it – it’s easy to watch just one more episode of that box set!

Many students prefer to study in the Library, and study spaces will be available in the URS Building and the Library as usual. However it’s worth considering some of the other places to study on campus; being somewhere different may help you to avoid distractions. Or consider other places off-campus like public libraries. Going to a new place that you’ve identified as a ‘place to do revision’ can help you to focus.

Wherever you revise, remember to take breaks. Library@URS may be open 24 hours but that doesn’t mean you have to work through the night – your brain needs rest and time for processing information.

Making your revision effective

If you can find six minutes in your busy schedule, you have enough time to watch the Study Advice video tutorial on effective revision – and save yourself a lot of wasted time. Our guide on preparing for exams also has tips on revision and memory techniques. If you’re taking exams in the UK for the first time, have a look at our information on assessment by examination in UK higher education to give you a clearer idea of how they may differ from what you have done in the past.

Remember that the purpose of revision is not to memorise everything you can find about the subject, but to prepare yourself to answer exam questions. Check the Past Paper archive on the Exams Office website to find examples of questions for your modules which you can use to write practice answers – to time and by hand, ideally. We have a Study Seminar on Writing for University Exams on Wed 20 March 2019, 2-3pm in Edith Morley G25 – no need to book. And have a look at our video tutorials on exams for guidance on the best way to prepare for different kinds of exams.

This is one of a series of tips to help you save time and effort finding or using information.

This tip was written by Kim Shahabudin, Michelle Reid, Sonia Hood and Linda Shroeder (Study Advice team).

Cite it right – and avoid unintentional plagiarism! – info tip

You may think that advice on avoiding plagiarism doesn’t apply to you, because you’re not planning to buy an essay from the internet, or copy someone else’s work. But you may not be aware that it is possible to plagiarise unintentionally if:

  • you’re not aware of the differences between referencing at university and any referencing you may have been used to doing previously;
  • you haven’t been meticulous about keeping records of your reading;
  • you don’t know how to use references in your academic writing to support your discussion and critical analysis.

It’s important to take referencing seriously and not just guess, or assume that you know how to do it. The consequences can be serious with marks deducted – it can even lead to accusations of academic misconduct.

However, it can be confusing when you have advice and guidance on referencing from so many different sources. It’s tempting to just Google it! But that’s far less likely to give you the right answer than guidance produced at your own university. You should always check your own Course Handbook first for advice (it will be on Blackboard).

Our Citing References guide combines previous guidance from the Library and Study Advice to cover the why, what, when and how of referencing in a single place. Study Advice video tutorials on referencing are embedded in the guide, which includes:

You could also look at The Academic Integrity Toolkit, which shows how understanding referencing is an important part of studying at university and ‘becoming a graduate’ generally. The Toolkit includes tips, explanations and exercises (with answers) to help you develop your understanding of essential skills including:

If you’re a Part 1 undergraduate and have enrolled on Study Smart, you could also go back over the relevant guidance in Week 1.

The guidance below focuses on three important points to help you avoid unintentional plagiarism.

References in a footnote1.Know when to include a reference

Whenever you include an idea that you have gained from your reading in an assignment, you must ensure that you reference it correctly, both in the text and at the end in your reference list or bibliography. If you use the original words you have found in your reading, you must mark them with quotation marks, even if you only use part of the sentence. It is not enough to give the details of where the words came from; they must be marked out, or it will look as if you are claiming them as your own words. If you are writing the idea up in your own words, don’t be tempted to just change a few words. If you use quotations inadequately or paraphrase badly it will certainly be viewed as poor academic practice and may subject your work to penalties. It may even be seen as plagiarism.

Watch this brief video tutorial on using paraphrases.

See Library and Study Advice guidance on using quotes and paraphrases.

2. Develop good note-taking practices

Ever looked at your notes and thought, “I wonder where that came from?” or “I wonder if those are my words or copied from the text?” It’s frustrating when you can’t be sure – but it could cause you problems if you use the material without being able to reference it accurately. To avoid this, make it a habit to have good record-keeping practices. Always note the details of each text you use (author, title, year) when you start writing notes on your reading; include page numbers as you go along, even if you are not copying text directly but writing the ideas in your own words; have a system of markers to indicate if something is a quote (put in quotation marks), an idea explained in your own words, or a query or new idea stemming from what you’re read (perhaps an asterisk *). The Study Advisers have guidance on effective note-taking and a brief video tutorial on critical note-taking with more suggestions.

If you’re using an e-book, you may be able to make notes electronically as you’re reading the text. See the section in our LibGuide on Studying with e-books for more information. If you have an online reading list, you can also make brief notes on this – our LibGuide page on What else can I do with my list? has details.

You might also consider using reference management software to keep details of your reading including all the bibliographic information. EndNote online and Mendeley are free software which work with Word to create citations and bibliographies for you.  If you’re a researcher with lots of references to manage you might choose the more sophisticated Desktop EndNote. For advice on which version to use, and for self-paced training guides on EndNote, or book a place on a training workshop, see the Library’s web pages.

3. Know what to do if you can’t find all the details of a reference

bibliographic details screencast screencapIf you have a quote but don’t know where it came from, try typing it into Google. You may find it’s better to use a short phrase rather than the whole quote; try to find a grouping of words that is less common. If you have some details of the text, you could try looking at your reading list or searching the Library catalogue. You can also look back through your Library account to see the titles of books you’ve borrowed. If you have the author and title of a journal article or even just the title of the journal and a date it may be possible to find the complete reference in Summon or one of the Library’s databases. What you must never do is invent details, or include things in your assignment if you cannot be sure about the source. This may lead to accusations of academic misconduct.

For more help watch this brief video tutorial on how to find bibliographic details.

Need more help?

If you’re still confused, or you have a specific question about referencing that isn’t answered in our guide, you can always contact your Liaison Librarian or the Study Advice team to discuss this in person. Just remember to do it in plenty of time – the day your assignment is due to be submitted is not ideal!

This is one of a series of tips to help you save time and effort finding or using information.

This tip was written by Dr Kim Shahabudin, Study Adviser and Caitlin McCulloch, Trainee Liaison Librarian.

Getting help with your dissertation – info tip

A shelf of books and some lightsNo matter how many essays you’ve written, working on a dissertation or research project can be overwhelming. They can involve lots of new skills from deciding on research questions through to those tricky final citations.

Whatever stage you are at, there is lots of help available from the Library and Study Advice team!

Starting out: Search strategies and finding information

It can be a little daunting starting such a big project so you might want to start with the Study Advice guide on dissertations and major projects or their video on defining your research question.

Once you have sorted your research questions you will need to start researching your topic. Look at the Library subject guide for your department to find key databases in your area. There is also a guide to doing a literature search, the LibLearn tutorials on Blackboard, or you could watch our videos on literature searching if you would like a break from reading!

If you are struggling to find the information that you need then you can contact the Liaison Librarian for your subject.

railroad tracksStaying on track

Once you have started your research the Study Advice team have some resources to help you keep going. If you are trying to tackle the literature you have found, it might be a good idea to watch their videos on reading academic texts and critical notetaking.

With large projects like dissertations it is easy to feel like you have lots of time left only to find the deadline creeping up on you. When you are trying to balance your dissertation with lectures, other coursework and revision it is easy to fall behind so take a look at the Study Advice video on managing your time to get some tips.

Dissertations and research projects can also be harder to structure than a normal essay due to their size. This Study Advice video on structuring your dissertation has some helpful suggestions to get you started.

Writing up and referencing

When you have a structure in place you will be ready to start writing up. If this seems a little overwhelming take a look at the Study Advice guidance on writing up your dissertation.

As it is a longer piece of writing than you are likely to have written before it is a good idea not to leave your referencing until the last minute – you don’t want to lose precious marks because you ran out of time to format your bibliography! Luckily there is software freely available to help speed this process up. We offer support for EndNote online and Mendeley, which both help to gather your references and automatically create bibliographies. You can check our guidance page to get started or sign up for a workshop.

If you choose to add your citations manually, and are not sure how to reference a particular resource or would like a refresher, there is lots of guidance on the Citing References guide. But don’t forget to check your student handbook for details of the referencing style required by your department.

When you’re finished, you’ll need to get your dissertation printed and bound – the University’s recommended provider is Hollingworth & Moss.

Further help

If you would like more information you can contact your Liaison Librarian or the Study Advice team.

Good luck with your research!

This is one of a series of tips to help save you time and effort finding or using information.

This tip was written by Dr Kim Shahabudin, Study Adviser.

Stay search-savvy: evaluating online information – info tip

Lots of question marks - two are brightly-colouredWhen you’re searching online for information for your assignments, you’ll find a wealth of information – but how do you know what you can trust? What’s reliable enough to be included in your academic work?

Top 5 tips for evaluating online information

1. Ask questions

Before quoting information that you find, ask yourself the following questions:

Authority: is the author of the page/site a subject expert, or a trustworthy organisation?

Accuracy and reliability: is the information fact or opinion? Is it influenced by an agenda, or providing only one point of view? Is the spelling and grammar correct?

Currency: is the page and its information up to date, and updated regularly?

Audience: who is the information aimed at? Schoolchildren, university students, medical professionals – and is this the right level for the work that you are doing?

Feel: does the site look well-maintained and well-structured?

 

2. Think about trying a different source

A general Google search returns all sorts of information, some of it personal to you, and for your academic work you’ll want to use more scholarly, academic research rather than personalised searching. Google Scholar can be used to narrow your general search to more academic sources. To make the most of Google Scholar you can adjust the settings to show links to items available through the Library. For instructions and further information, have a look at our guide to accessing Google Scholar, or Google’s own search tips.

 

3. Make the most of the Library resources

Be aware that Google Scholar has limited reach online, and might have patchy coverage of the articles or topics you’re interested in! You don’t want to miss information, so use the Library’s Summon discovery service and subject databases – your subject guide includes a list of selected reliable, authoritative databases and website for your subject.

 

4. Evaluate everything!

You should always be evaluating your sources – use the criteria above to consider how appropriate the information you find is to your assignment. Apply the criteria above to general online searching, and on academic databases as well.

 

5. Still not sure? Ask for help

You can ask your subject liaison librarian for guidance on finding good quality resources for your study and research.

Watch the Study Advice tutorial on evaluating your sources – this is great if you’re new to academic study and aren’t sure which sources of information are best placed to include in your academic work.

One thing to take away from this post: you’ll find all of this guidance on the Library’s online guide to evaluating websites, bookmark this page and read it again!

This is one of a series of tips designed to help you save time and effort finding or using information.

This tip was written by Kim Coles, Liaison Team Manager.

 

Overwhelmed by reading? – info tip

Two students reading and studyingIf your resolution this term is to be more efficient when studying, a good area to focus on is your reading and note-making. Independent reading and taking notes are likely to make up a large part of your study time at university, so a few small adaptations to your reading strategies could potentially save you a lot of time over the term.

Reading with a purpose

The Study Advice team has a guide on managing academic reading which includes ideas on how to select material, deciding how much to read, and reading techniques. We also have a brief video tutorial on reading academic texts that introduces the kind of reading needed for academic work and appropriate strategies.

To get started, try this simple three-step plan to make your reading more active and targeted:

 1. Understand the purpose for your reading:

2. Think about what you need to find out:

Ask yourself what you already know about the topic, from previous lectures, seminars or wider knowledge. Use this to identify your gaps and what you need to find out – it can be useful to phrase this as a series of questions so you can then search for answers to those questions.

3. Identify where you can find this information:

Your reading list is often a helpful place to start – the Library has a guide to understanding your reading list. But to get the best marks you will most likely need to go beyond your reading list – see the Library guide on doing your literature search for information on where to look, effective search tips, finding the items you need. For targeted resources and more advice on finding information in your subject, take a look at your subject resources pages or contact your subject liaison librarian.

An open notebook and pensNote this!

Efficient reading goes hand-in-hand with good note-making, so if you feel you are being slowed down by taking too many, or too few notes, have a look at our guide to effective note-taking and our video tutorial on critical note-taking.

The secret is not trying to capture everything you’ve read (or you’ll just end up with more notes than there are pages in the book itself!) but to keep good records so you know where to find the information again when you need it. Watch this short video tutorial on finding bibliographical details you need for note-making and referencing. If you find it hard to keep track of your references, consider using reference management software, such as EndNote.

Spending too long reading?

Reading is a potentially open-ended task – there is always one more book or journal article in the Library that you could read. If you feel your reading is taking too long, have a look at the Study Advice guides on managing your time and our video tutorial on how to make more hours in the day

If you find it difficult to focus on your reading, list the things that distract you and take steps to deal with these distractions. For example, disable pop-up notifications on your phone if you know social media can easily draw your attention away from your reading. Another helpful strategy is to think about the time of day when you are most focused and productive, and use your best thinking time to tackle the most difficult texts.

Putting limits around your reading time and stopping it from becoming an endless task can also improve your efficiency and your motivation! Make an estimate of how much time you need to do your reading, break your reading down into manageable chunks, and schedule it into a weekly study timetable. For more advice on how to make one, watch our video tutorial on making a study timetable.

Need more help?

If you need more advice on how to manage your reading and improve your note-taking techniques, contact the Study Advice team to book an appointment.

This is one of a series of tips to help you save time and effort finding or using information.

This tip was written by Dr Michelle Reid, Study Adviser.

Personalised Library support for your subject – info tip

If you’ve ever felt a little overwhelmed by the range of resources that the Library has on offer then you might want to get help from your very own subject Liaison Librarian or explore one of our dedicated subject guides.

Subject Liaison Librarians

Every subject offered at Reading has a Liaison Librarian – they are your main point of contact with the Library. They can help you make effective use of the huge range of resources the Library has to offer in support of your studies by:

  • showing you how to use information resources effectively – your librarian can offer training sessions for your School/Department on finding and using relevant resources
  • creating and updating Library guides for your subjectproviding an overview of the range of subject specific print and e-resources available to you
  • helping you save time by making the most of all our Library services
  • giving you individual help with research – your librarian can offer in depth help in finding information, including identifying the most relevant print and online resources for you to use

Look at our list of liaison librarians to find out who you should contact for more help with finding resources for your subject.

As well as providing one-to-one advice and offering group training sessions and workshops, every Liaison Librarian has created a guide for each subject, with lots of helpful information and advice on finding resources for your studies.

What is a subject guide and how do I find mine?

Our online subject guides include information about relevant books, reference materials, journal articles, electronic resources (including e-journals, databases and multimedia resources) and other useful websites relating to your area of study. There’s also advice on citing references in your work. They have been created by our team of subject Liaison Librarians, and are regularly reviewed by them to ensure they remain relevant and up to date.

The key link 'explore key resources in your subject' - this will take you to your subject guides.To access the guide for your subject just click on the “Explore key resources in your subject” in the ‘Help for your subject’ section of the Library website homepage, or go directly to our list of subject guides.

 

How do I find the information I need?

The subject guides are divided into several sections, each with its own tab at the top of the page:

  • Reading Lists – how to get started with your online reading list (if your course/module has one) and how to effectively manage your academic reading.
  • Dictionaries & encyclopedias – online dictionaries and encyclopedias as well as highlighting key print titles in the Library. It also links to e-resources such as Credo Reference, Oxford Reference and specific dictionaries for your subject. It is far more reliable to use these than to use Wikipedia for your work.
  • Books – tips on finding books using Enterprise and lists of Call Numbers for particular topics within your subject area. This section also showcases new books that have been purchased for your subject.
  • Journal articles – tips on finding journal articles on Summon and links to the key databases databases for finding journal articles in your subject area.
  • E-resources – lists key databases for your subject, as well as other useful resources such as multimedia resources, company financial databases, and online tutorials and guides to e-resources related to your subject.
  • Websites – a list of relevant websites that could be useful for your work. There are also hints on how to evaluate a website, so if you conduct an internet search you can be more confident you are using reliable information.
  • Citing references – points you in the right direction for getting help with referencing and avoiding plagiarism. You’ll also find information on reference management software which can save you time collecting references and writing your bibliography.
  • Further sources – information on Special Collections which may be relevant to your subject, and obtaining other materials such as conference papers, theses, maps and newspapers.

Need more help?
We want to help you find the information you need. Please contact your subject liaison librarian if you would like more help. You can also check out the Help tab in your subject guide for more advice.

This is one of a series of tips to help you save time and effort finding or using information.

This tip was written by Kerry Webb, Associate Director (Academic Liaison & Support).

Referencing headaches? Online tools can help – info tip

Laptop, book and glassesDo you struggle with referencing? Have you been marked down for incomplete or inconsistent references? There are some online tools that can help!

Why use online referencing tools?

  1. You can use them to store accurate details of publications to use in your assignments.
  2. They can save you time compiling, checking and correcting references – just insert the citation and a bibliography is created automatically. You can also reformat your citations in a different style at the click of a button.
  3. You can add notes to your references, to remind yourself of specific parts you might want to use.
  4. Some allow you to store PDFs of the sources with your references, so that everything is together and in most cases available on any computer.

If you use an online tool you still need to know when to include a citation, and understand the principles of referencing. You can find help on this in Study Advice’s referencing guide or referencing video tutorials. You also need to be aware of which style your department requires you to use – consult your course handbook for details.

Which one should I use?

If you are an undergraduate or masters student…

… we recommend using EndNote online. This is free to use and you can use it both on campus PCs and your own PC or laptop.

You can get accurate reference details into it from Library catalogues such as Enterprise and Summon, databases such as Web of Science, or you can manually create your own references for web pages. If you’re not sure whether your preferred database supports EndNote, check our database A-Z list for details of the individual resource.

EndNote online also works with Microsoft Word – you can install a free toolbar which helps you automatically create both in-text citations and your full bibliography. You can choose from a list of common referencing styles (including the University’s own ‘Harvard for Reading’ style) to format your bibliography.

EndNote online is fully supported by the Library and we can provide 1-1 help.

To get started, come along to a workshop, try our step-by-step guide to using EndNote online, or watch an introductory video.

If you are a research postgraduate or member of staff…

… we recommend using Desktop EndNote. This is available on any campus PC through Apps Anywhere. A personal copy can be purchased at the discounted price of around £98.

References can be easily captured from many databases, and you can use the ‘Find full-text’ feature to automatically attach article PDFs to those references. A very large number of referencing styles are provided, including those for specific journals. You can download other ones from the EndNote website, or create your own by editing existing styles. It is also possible to share your EndNote library by synchronising with an EndNote online account – useful for collaboration.

Find out more by coming along to a workshop, trying our step-by-step guides, or watching a brief introductory video.

Other options

There are a number of other referencing tools available, including Mendeley, Zotero and Word’s own referencing facility. Although we do not provide support for these, we have provided links to online guidance and videos via our managing references guide.

Help

If you need help with using EndNote, or with any aspect of citing references, contact your subject liaison librarian who will be happy to help.

This is one of a series of tips to help you save time and effort finding or using information.

This tip was written by Jackie Skinner, Library Web Manager & Liaison Librarian, and Caitlin McCulloch, Trainee Liaison Librarian.

Cite it right – and avoid unintentional plagiarism! – info tip

You may think that advice on avoiding plagiarism doesn’t apply to you, because you’re not planning to buy an essay from the internet, or copy someone else’s work. But you may not be aware that it is possible to plagiarise unintentionally if:

  • you’re not aware of the differences between referencing at university and any referencing you may have been used to doing previously;
  • you haven’t been meticulous about keeping records of your reading;
  • you don’t know how to use references in your academic writing to support your discussion and critical analysis.

It’s important to take referencing seriously and not just guess, or assume that you know how to do it. The consequences can be serious with marks deducted – it can even lead to accusations of academic misconduct.

However, it can be confusing when you have advice and guidance on referencing from so many different sources. It’s tempting to just Google it! But that’s far less likely to give you the right answer than guidance produced at your own university. You should always check your own Course Handbook first for advice (it will be on Blackboard).

Our Citing References guide combines previous guidance from the Library and Study Advice to cover the why, what, when and how of referencing in a single place. Study Advice video tutorials on referencing are embedded in the guide, which includes:

You could also look at The Academic Integrity Toolkit, which shows how understanding referencing is an important part of studying at university and ‘becoming a graduate’ generally. The Toolkit includes tips, explanations and exercises (with answers) to help you develop your understanding of essential skills including:

If you’re a Part 1 undergraduate and have enrolled on Study Smart, you could also go back over the relevant guidance in Week 1.

The guidance below focuses on three important points to help you avoid unintentional plagiarism.

References in a footnote1.Know when to include a reference

Whenever you include an idea that you have gained from your reading in an assignment, you must ensure that you reference it correctly, both in the text and at the end in your reference list or bibliography. If you use the original words you have found in your reading, you must mark them with quotation marks, even if you only use part of the sentence. It is not enough to give the details of where the words came from; they must be marked out, or it will look as if you are claiming them as your own words. If you are writing the idea up in your own words, don’t be tempted to just change a few words. If you use quotations inadequately or paraphrase badly it will certainly be viewed as poor academic practice and may subject your work to penalties. It may even be seen as plagiarism.

Watch this brief video tutorial on using paraphrases.

See Library and Study Advice guidance on using quotes and paraphrases.

2. Develop good note-taking practices

Ever looked at your notes and thought, “I wonder where that came from?” or “I wonder if those are my words or copied from the text?” It’s frustrating when you can’t be sure – but it could cause you problems if you use the material without being able to reference it accurately. To avoid this, make it a habit to have good record-keeping practices. Always note the details of each text you use (author, title, year) when you start writing notes on your reading; include page numbers as you go along, even if you are not copying text directly but writing the ideas in your own words; have a system of markers to indicate if something is a quote (put in quotation marks), an idea explained in your own words, or a query or new idea stemming from what you’re read (perhaps an asterisk *). The Study Advisers have guidance on effective note-taking and a brief video tutorial on critical note-taking with more suggestions.

If you’re using an e-book, you may be able to make notes electronically as you’re reading the text. See the section in our LibGuide on Studying with e-books for more information. If you have an online reading list, you can also make brief notes on this – our LibGuide page on What else can I do with my list? has details.

You might also consider using reference management software to keep details of your reading including all the bibliographic information. EndNote online is a basic tool that works with Word to add citations to your written work and constructs a bibliography at the end. It is free too.  If you have a large number of references to manage you might choose the more sophisticated Desktop EndNote. For advice on which version to use, and for self-paced training guides on EndNote, or book a place on a training workshop, see the Library’s web pages.

3. Know what to do if you can’t find all the details of a reference

bibliographic details screencast screencapIf you have a quote but don’t know where it came from, try typing it into Google. You may find it’s better to use a short phrase rather than the whole quote; try to find a grouping of words that is less common. If you have some details of the text, you could try looking at your reading list or searching the Library catalogue. You can also look back through your Library account to see the titles of books you’ve borrowed. If you have the author and title of a journal article or even just the title of the journal and a date it may be possible to find the complete reference in Summon or one of the Library’s databases. What you must never do is invent details, or include things in your assignment if you cannot be sure about the source. This may lead to accusations of academic misconduct.

For more help watch this brief video tutorial on how to find bibliographic details.

Need more help?

If you’re still confused, or you have a specific question about referencing that isn’t answered in our guide, you can always contact your Liaison Librarian or the Study Advice team to discuss this in person. Just remember to do it in plenty of time – the day your assignment is due to be submitted is not ideal!

This is one of a series of tips to help you save time and effort finding or using information.

This tip was written by Dr Kim Shahabudin, Study Adviser and Caitlin McCulloch, Trainee Liaison Librarian.

Can’t find the item you need in the Library? – info tip

It’s every student’s worst nightmare – you’ve finally found the perfect item for your assignment, only to discover that the Library doesn’t have it. But don’t despair! We’ve got lots of ways for you to get your hands on the information you need…

All the copies are on loan

The 'Place Hold' button.

You’ll see the ‘Place Hold’ button on the top right-hand side of the catalogue record.

  • Place a hold. When you’re on the catalogue page with details of the item, click the Place Hold button in the top right-hand side. Log in with your University details and click Place Hold again. That’s all you need to do! Whoever’s had the book out the longest will be asked to return it, and we’ll send you an email when the book is ready for you to collect on the Hold Shelf of the URS Building. We’ll automatically buy more copies of books with lots of holds. Note: you’ll only be able to place a hold when there are no copies on the shelf.
  • Check for an e-book version. Where possible we buy both print and digital copies of titles to make sure everyone can access them. Anything that’s available online will have a link saying Click here for online access – click that and sign in with your University details to start reading. E-books are particularly useful because you can access them anywhere: on campus, at home, on holiday – the choice is yours!
  • Check our Course Collection. This is a collection of high-demand items available for short loan – you can borrow any item in this section until 11am the following day. This can be really useful if you’re needing to read a particular chapter of a book before a tutorial, for example. Course Collection Books are listed as OVERNIGHT books on the catalogue, and their Status will be ‘Course Collection Ground Floor@URS’.
  • Check other books in the same section. Our books are arranged by Call Number, and books with the same Call Number will cover the same topic (for example, all books shelved at 658.8 are about marketing). If you can’t find the exact title you need, it’s worth browsing the area to see if you can find a similar book. Check the Books tab of your subject guide to find out where to find particular topics. You might also be able to find an earlier edition of your title – they will be shelved at the same place.

 

We don’t stock the book in the Library

 

I need a specific article or book for an assignment and the Library doesn’t have access

  • Place a free inter-library loan (ILL) request. We’ll then ask other libraries if they can give us a copy of the article or book. For articles, you can often have the PDF sent straight to your University email address. Undergraduate and taught postgraduate students can have up to 5 free requests per year; this number is higher for research students and staff – check out our ILL pages for more information. If you’d like to place a request, log in and fill in a short online form with details of the item you need.

This is one of a series of tips designed to help you save time and effort finding or using information

This tip was written by Caitlin McCulloch, Trainee Liaison Librarian for Architecture, Chemistry, Construction Management & Engineering and Pharmacy.

Making the most of your Library – info tip

You don’t need to visit the Library to discover the range of resources we provide!

  • Need to know how to find things in the Library?
  • Unsure how to search for books and journals on Enterprise?
  • Need to find books on your subject which aren’t on your reading lists?

Try LibLearn!

LibLearn is an online course that you can do when you have time and at your own pace. It is available 24/7 via Blackboard, the University’s online learning system. Divided into three sections, LibLearn includes documents to read, and quizzes to test yourself on how much you’ve learnt and to provide more tips.

New to the University?

Then LibLearn One is for you. It will help you to:

  • find your way around the Library
  • search for books on your reading lists on Enterprise
  • locate books in the Library

Been at the University for a while or doing a Masters or PhD?

LibLearn Two and LibLearn Three will help you to:

  • find and access journals in the Library
  • find material on a subject using Enterprise and Summon
  • find academically reliable material on the web
  • evaluate what you find
  • understand the principles of copyright and referencing
  • develop effective search strategies
  • search databases for information, particularly journal articles

How do you access LibLearn?

  1. Go to the LibLearn course in Blackboard
  2. Click on the Enrol button on the left-hand-side of the screen
  3. Click on the submit button on the Self Enrolment screen and OK at the bottom of the next screen

You will now be taken to the course pages. Next time you log on to Blackboard the course will be in your list of  Courses in My modules.

Or watch one of our videos!

If you were unable to come to one of our ‘Finding your way’ workshops for new students, or just want to find out more about the Library and what we do, then check out our series of introductory videos.

Some of the videos currently available are:

Library staff…happy to help!

Although there is a wealth of information and help on our website, Library staff are here to help you, so please ask if you have any questions. You can always contact your subject liaison librarian for guidance on locating resources in your subject.

This is one of a series of tips to help save you time and effort finding or using information

This tip was written by Learning Support Co-ordinator Sally Smith.

Get to know your online reading list – info tip

Now that lecturBlackboard menu with Reading Lists option highlightedes have started, you might be wondering where to find materials for your new modules. Many lecturers use online reading lists to recommend books, journal articles, and other useful materials to read each week and to help you find materials for your assignments.

You should find your online reading list via the left-hand menu on Blackboard, and it will contain real-time information on the availability of print materials in the Library, as well as links to e-books, e-journal articles, videos, and scanned extracts of key readings that your lecturer recommends.

Watch our quick video introduction with all the key features of your online reading list.

New-look online reading lists

If you’re a returning student, you might have spotted that your reading lists look a little different… Over Spring Term last year we trialled a new look and it received positive feedback.

The new look now displays:

  • Real-time information on library availability without leaving the main list – click on the title of the book you’re interested in, and you’ll see the call number and number of copies displayed below.

A particular item on a reading list with its availability highlighted

  • Online resources (including scanned chapters) are available via the ‘View Online’ button on the right.

An item on a reading list with the View Online option highlighted

  • You can use the drop-down menu at the top of the page to filter by physical/online resource; importance level (Essential, Recommended or Further reading); or by Week if this is available. This can help you to manage your readings week by week – but if you’re looking for a specific item use the Search at the top of the page.

The drop-down menu on Talis for choosing resource typesYou are also able to create an online reading lists account and make notes on items, or mark items as ‘Read’ – these notes and labels are only visible to you, and you can use these to manage and keep track of your readings.

For more information on using these features of your online reading list, or for any other questions, take a look at our guide for students.

This is one of a series of tips to help you save time and effort finding or using information

This tip was written by Kim Coles, Course Support Co-ordinator.