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).

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.

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.

Adjusting to study in UK higher education – info tip

Two international graduandsFor international students, preparing for success in UK study means more than just learning the language. You will have many questions about the culture and expectations of universities in the UK, which can be quite different to what you have been used to. Even if you’ve been successful when studying in your home country, you will need to develop and adapt the way you study to succeed in the UK. We have plenty of suggestions that can help – and you can always get in touch with the Study Advice team or your subject Liaison Librarian if you have more questions.

Understanding university study in the UK

The University Study Advisers have developed a guide to help those moving up to higher education in the UK to understand what is expected through exercises and tips. This is one of a whole series of study guides and video tutorials to help you develop the skills you will need for study success, including dedicated advice on assessment by examination in UK Higher Education and guidance on academic writing. You may find the Academic Phrasebank (University of Manchester) helpful when starting out with your academic writing.

Other useful guides include UKCISA’s study tips and the Prepare for Success website (University of Southampton).

If you are starting undergraduate study at the University, remember to complete the Study Smart course which is aimed at helping all new undergraduates feel more prepared for study. You can return to the course throughout your first year if you want to remind yourself of what you’ve learnt.

Developing effective practices for UK study

There are various books in the Library written for students on developing your study skills. Many can be found on the 2nd Floor with Call Numbers beginning 378. Why not have a look on the shelves to see what is available? Or search the online Library catalogue, Enterprise for “study skills”.

You may find referencing and citation practices in the UK are quite different to those you have been used to. See our Citing References guide for tips on how and when to use references correctly in your writing.

To make the most of the Library, check out the following guides:

Building your cultural and language knowledge

student reading newspaperA good way to practise your language skills and, at the same time, learn something about UK culture is to read newspapers. The Library subscribes to a number of newspapers in print and online.

The Library has many resources that can help you to build your language skills, including books to help with IELTS (International English Language Test Score), language dictionaries, and films on DVD which you could watch to help your listening skills. Alternatively, you may prefer to improve your reading skills by using the Teaching Practice Collection which includes an extensive collection of children’s literature in English, both fiction and non-fiction. The language learning books, films on DVD and Teaching Practice Collection can be found on the 3rd Floor, while on the 2nd Floor you might wish to consult the English literature books and borrow a novel to practise your reading for pleasure.

A useful online resource for developing your English language is Learn English (British Council). You may also find the English for Uni website helpful. This aims to make difficult grammar and academic writing concepts easier to understand.

There is also general information for International students at the University, including links to advice on visas, accommodation and getting involved in University activities.

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

This tip was written by Kim Shahabudin, Study Adviser and Charlie Carpenter, ISLI Liaison Librarian/International Student Support Coordinator.

Get ahead by reading around your subject – info tip

Boy reading in sunshineDuring a busy term there’s not much time for reflection, so the long vacation is a good time to do some wider reading around your subject. You may want to catch up, build your in-depth knowledge of topics you’ve already covered, or put your previous reading in a wider context. You might want to get ahead and prepare for next year’s modules, or you may be starting to work on your dissertation.

Whatever your reason for reading around your subject, it will be more effective if you know how to find appropriate resources and how to make the most of them once you have found them. The Library and Study Advice can help with this.

How will it help me?

Reading around your subject will help you to develop an overview of key themes and issues in your topics. You will be able to compare what different scholars think about topics, and what evidence they are using to support their ideas. To get the most out of it, you should be reading critically and thoughtfully.

How can we help you?

The Library has plenty of tools to help you find materials that are not on your reading lists.

Start by looking for your subject guide. This lists the essential things you need to know to get you started on wider reading: where you can find books on your topics in the Library; dictionaries and encyclopaedias for your topic; how to search for journal articles and the appropriate databases to use; and some evaluated web sites.

If you already know a key text for your topic, search for it in the Library catalogue, Enterprise. Once you’ve found it you can click on the author’s name to find their other works, or click on the subject to find similar titles.

Searching Summon can give you a different angle. Enter a search term and it will show you e-book chapters, online journal articles, and even news items on your topic that might get you thinking.

Don’t forget to think beyond books and journal articles, especially if you’re researching for your dissertation. Our databases can point you to newspaper articles, reports and primary texts including letters and ephemera – often offering the full text online. Plus our Special Collections have archived material and rare books to explore from Brian Aldiss to The Wizard of Oz.

Getting the most out of your reading

The Study Advice guide on managing academic reading includes ideas on how to select materials, reading techniques and common abbreviations you may come across. There is also a brief video tutorial on reading academic texts that includes guidance on reading strategies to help you make the most of your reading time.

Make sure you keep records of the bibliographic details in case you want to refer to the text later in your assignments. We have guidance on effective note-making so you can avoid having more notes than the book you’ve just read. Or watch our video on critical note-taking to help you develop your thinking about what you’ve just read.

If you’re reading for your dissertation, we have a video tutorial on starting research for your dissertation for tips and strategies.

Let us take you somewhere you’ve never been this summer and help you to make the most of reading around your subject!

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

This info tip was written by Katie Moore, Trainee Liaison Librarian for Education and MLES.

Polishing up your Masters dissertation – info tip

Student studyingAs you get into the last few weeks of work on your Masters dissertation or major project, it should all be coming together. This info tip 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 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 Copac. Ask at a Library Information Desk for help. 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 Liaison Librarian.Female student writing

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

Staying 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 Liaison Librarian or a Study Adviser.

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, Study Adviser and Caitlin McCulloch, Trainee Liaison Librarian for Chemistry and Pharmacy.

What are the Study Advisers up to? (March 2017)

This post is the first in a planned series of regular updates and timely tips from the Study Advice team. For more on any topic, see our website or contact us at studyadvice@reading.ac.uk.

Thinking about dissertations?

With undergraduates hopefully reaching the final stages of their dissertations and Masters students starting to embark upon theirs, it’s a good time to remind you of our guides and video tutorials to help make dissertations and longer research projects more successful. These include:

Students are also welcome to book one-to-one appointments with us for more individual advice on the process of planning, researching and writing their dissertations (all contact details on our website). Study Advice will be available during Easter and Summer vacations when many people stay on campus to work on their projects. So for dissertation advice and support, do come our way!

New team member

Erika Delbecque has joined the Study Advice Team as a Part-Time Study Adviser. She is no stranger to the University of Reading having previously worked at the University Library as a Trainee Liaison Librarian, and will continue to work as a Part-Time Librarian at the University’s Museums and Special Collections Services alongside her new role.

Her first degree is in English and Dutch Literature, and she has gained postgraduate qualifications in Education and in Librarianship. Erika is particularly interested in digital literacies and the impact of technology on student learning, innovative pedagogical practices, and in supporting international students.

Making exam revision more effective

Spring is on its way and so too are university exams. With this in mind, it’s worth remembering Study Advice resources to help with exam revision. We have a range of information in our study guide and a suite of video tutorials. These cover topics including:

Tutors are welcome to link to any of these resources in revision sessions.

We also have two seminars on exams, both in Palmer 105 from 2-3:

  • Wed 8 March: Revising for Exams
  • Wed 15 March: Writing for Exams

You don’t need to book for these informal workshops; just turn up. In addition, students can book a one-to-one appointment with a Study Adviser to discuss revision plans and strategies on an individual basis.