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.

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.