Dissertation videos, guides and 1-2-1 support

It’s February which means if you’re a final year student, you’re probably frantically trying to complete your dissertation. Over the past few weeks, the Study Advice Team and your Academic Liaison Librarians have been running webinars to support you to find resources and write up your projects and dissertations. But don’t worry if you missed them, we have a plan….

Plan #1: watch our videos

We have recorded short videos on all aspects of dissertation research and writing which summarise what was discussed in the webinars. These short videos cover tips on critical thinking for dissertations, writing your literature review and discussion chapters, and managing the final stages. We also have a video on finding resources online, if you’re at this stage of your research.

Plan #2: check out our guides

We have a range of study guides that support you with various aspects of your dissertation:

  • Our Study Advice dissertation guide covers everything from planning your project to finishing off your dissertation. And our guide on literature reviews will support you to write this important chapter.
  • We also have a suite of Study Advice videos on major projects and dissertations, if you’d rather watch a video than read a guide.
  • Our Library guide on systematic reviews will be of interest to those of your conducting this type of research. We also have a guide to help you with searching databases.
  • Managing your references – whether you need help referencing a resource in a particular referencing style, or using reference management software, our online guides can help you with referencing and your dissertation bibliography.

Plan #3: book a 1-2-1

You can book a 1-2-1 appointment with a Study Adviser or your Academic Liaison Librarian to discuss your own specific questions. Remember we are not subject experts, but we can help you with the following:

  • If you need some support with managing your time for your dissertation, academic writing style, using evidence or overcoming writer’s block and procrastination, you could book a Study Advice appointment
  • If you’re struggling to find the resources you need, navigate the library databases or manage your references, book an appointment with your Academic Liaison Librarian. You can find your Librarian’s contact details and request an ALL appointment online.

Study Advice and Liaison Librarian Teams

How to avoid screen fatigue

Girl with head in hands looking at laptop screenIf you find that your eyes feel tired, you feel headachy, struggle to concentrate or have neck and back pain, one possible explanation could be screen fatigue, say our Study Advisers.

Our devices help us to study and stay connected to each other but, unfortunately, they can also tire us out and limit our productivity. Screen fatigue can be avoided by putting some simple strategies in place, read on to find out more!

Tip #1: Take breaks

As with any kind of study, it is important to take regular breaks. To avoid screen fatigue, making clever use of your breaks can help. For example:

  • If you take a ten-minute study break from writing up an essay on your laptop, try to take that break away from screens. Avoid the temptation to look at your phone in your break and instead try to do something physical, even if it’s just emptying the dishwasher or making a cup of tea.
  • If you have time for longer breaks, try taking a walk or going for a run. This will give your brain and eyes a rest from the screen but can also relieve aches and pains from poor posture adopted while working on a screen.

Tip #2: Plan screen and non-screen time into your studying

Planning your studying with a timetable, to-do lists or planners is a useful practice and might be something you are already doing (see our advice on Organising your studies). However, have you considered planning your study with regards to screen time? For example, you could:

  • Mix and match your studying activities for the day to include some screen and some non-screen activities. For example, you could spend an hour searching for journal articles for an essay, take a break and then spend another half an hour sketching out an essay plan on a piece of paper.
  • Think about activities that you could switch from online to offline. Could you print out a paper to read instead of reading it from the screen? Could you make that meeting a telephone call instead of a video call?

Tip #3: Watch out for triggers

You will, of course, need screens every day to study and stay connected, but look out for situations where you end up online unnecessarily:

  • Turn off notifications. Do notifications on your email or phone pull you back to screen? Could you turn some of them off? Even just turning off notifications temporarily while you are working, off-screen can help.
  • Buy an alarm clock. If you use your phone as an alarm in the morning, it can be very easy to drift onto the internet after turning it off. Buy a simple alarm clock instead and remove the temptation.
  • Seek offline distractions. If boredom finds you picking up your phone or opening an internet browser, watch out for this, and try to replace these activities with something else – listening to the radio, calling a friend or even doing some colouring in a book will give you a break from the screen.

For more

Watch the Study Advisers’ new short videos on Organising your studies and Taking notes from videos and see our Covid-19 Guide.

Visit our Study Advice website for more resources, to book a 1-2-1 or attend a webinar this spring term.

Study Advisers

This article is also available on the Student Services News Blog as How to avoid screen fatigue.

New Year Study Advice: have a plan

Computer-generated laptop,, file, calendar, diary imagesCovid-19 has brought with it new ways of working and learning for all of us. A term in, it’s time to reflect on what has worked and what new strategies we need to try to keep on top of our studies. Our Study Advisers have some new videos to help you and some top tips to starting the New Year on the right track.

Tip #1: Make a plan

If you don’t have a study timetable, now’s the time to make one. Follow these 5 steps to make a workable weekly plan and ensure you keep on top of your studies this term:

  1. Make a note of everything you need to complete each week. For instance: watching videos, attending seminars, working on assignments, and reading around your subject.
  2. Allocate time. Work out how much time you have for each task each week. You should see studying as a full-time job, so aim to allocate 35-40 hours a week to studying.
  3. Schedule in time. Using a weekly planner, add in your fixed appointments, then begin slotting in your other study activities. Use the times that you are motivated for study and mix up reading, writing, and listening task within a day.
  4. Making it easy to stick to. Try to have a set routine, starting study at the same time each day, plan in regular breaks and move things around if your plan is not working for you.
  5. Plan backwards from assignments. Give yourself weekly targets to work towards. Try using a termly planner and put it up near to where you study.

Tip #2: Take more effective notes

With lecture content now likely to be recorded, you need to develop different note taking skills to what you might be used to. If you’re finding that watching this content is taking longer than you hoped it would, try these things before, during and after watching:

  • Before: Access the slides and familiarise yourself with the content. Decide if you will write on the slides or pre-format a document with some headings on.
  • During: Decide whether you will hand write notes or create them online (perhaps using OneNote). Watch the video without pausing, if you miss something critical just jot down the time and re-watch that bit. Your notes must have a meaning to you, so just note down anything that springs to mind when your lecturer is talking.
  • After: Spend a few moments summarising what you have just learned. Consider how it fits in with what you already know and other areas within the module. Pattern notes or a mind maps work well for this. Remember to file your notes away in an organised way,

For more

Watch our new short videos on Organising your studies  and Taking notes from videos and see our Covid-19 Guide

Visit our Study Advice website for more resources, to book a 1-2-1 or attend a webinar this spring term.

Study Advice

Disability guide for UK Disability History Month

This UK Disabilty History Month, check out the Library’s guide to disability and inclusion-related topics. The guide takes the same format as our other subject guides but focuses on materials across from the Library and Special Collections, as well as point you towards other useful online resources, libraries and archives.

Suggest more diverse library resources

You can help us diversify Library collections further by suggesting books, DVDs, topics or authors for purchase in an area you feel is currently underreprested. We’ll do the rest! Just complete our Diversify our collections suggestion form.

You can see Diversity fund titles purchased in current and previous academic years on our dedicated Library Diversity fund reading lists.

(If you would like to suggest other items for the Library, please complete our regular book suggestion form.)

Library Diversity & Inclusion Group

Using the Library over the Christmas holidays

Paper angel on top of book tree in the Library foyer

Be like our book angel and stay on top of your library books this Christmas!

Whether you’re heading home soon or staying on campus over the vacation, this summary of available Library services can help you plan ahead. We wish you happy holidays and effective studying – stay safe everyone!

Library opening

Term ends on Friday 11 December, so after this date the Library will be operating reduced opening hours. This will affect the times that you are able to book study space, Click & Collect loans, book IT Service Desk appointments and use the Library Cafe.

From Saturday 12 December till Monday 21 December, the Library will be open from 08:30 to early evening on weekdays only. There are no weekend services available.

Along with the rest of the campus, the Library closes completely on Tuesday 22 December until Sunday 3 January for the University Christmas closure.

From Monday 4 January till Friday 8 January, we resume vacation-hours opening, and from Saturday 9 January we’ll be open for term-time hours again.

Borrow until January 2021

To help borrowers heading home early due to UK government guidance, we’re lending everything to all Library members until Tuesday 12 January. Any items borrowed or renewed from Monday 30 November will issue until 12 January. These vacation loans include standard, 7-day, overnight loans and journals.

Store and Closed Access requests

If you need materials from the off-site Store or from our Closed Access shelves, be aware of the final dates of collection and make sure you place your request in time.

  • Store collections finish for Christmas on Thursday 17 December – get your request in before 08:30 on this day.
  • Closed Access collections will finish for Christmas on Friday 18 December – get your request in before 13:45.

We will next collect from Closed Access on 4 January and from Store on 7 January (these dates might be subject to change if there is a shortage of available staff). For more information, see Requesting items from Store and Closed Access.

Online help

All our expert staff are available online to help and advise you throughout the vacation (except during the Christmas closure period).

If you have a general enquiry, email library@reading.ac.uk or phone 0118 378 8770.

More info

Check our Current Library Services guide for up-to-date information, especially if there are changes to current government guidelines.

Library User Services

Keeping the Library COVID-secure

This is a reminder about COVID-secure measures within the Library:

  • There are no group study spaces. Independent study only is supported – you must be seated alone.
  • All seating has been arranged to allow for social distancing. Please do not move any furniture.
  • Signs about COVID-secure measures are there to protect your health and safety and are not to be removed.
  • The study space booking system has been introduced to allow all students to book a space on an equal basis. Any misuse of the system may prevent students with legitimate bookings from entering the building irrespective of their having a booking, and will be addressed.
  • All study seat bookings will be checked before giving entry to the Library in order to avoid misuse of the system.

Working together, we can ensure that the Library is a safe place for all to work and study in. We rely on your co-operation to make this happen. Thank you.

Stuart Hunt
Director of University Library & Collections Services and University Librarian

Library open daily but not overnight during lockdown

Book ahead to visit the Library  daytime or evenings in lockdown, but not overnight.

Due to the new lockdown period in England, 5 November to 2 December 2020, the University Library opening hours will be changing. We will close overnight and reopen again at 08:30 each morning, except Saturdays when we’ll close at 21:00 as usual.

Starting from 00:01 Thursday 5 November our revised opening hours will be:

  • Sunday to Friday  08:30 – 00:00
  • Saturdays            08:30 – 21:00

Any study space bookings already scheduled for nights affected will be cancelled – we apologise for the inconvenience.

However, all our services and facilities remain operating as normal during our opening hours so you can still use the Click & Collect service, book study spaces, and book an IT Service Desk appointment. All our online services remain unchanged. See our Current Library Services guide for further information.

Sue Egleton, Associate Director (Systems and User Services)

Library Click & Collect service

Your Library team is excited to announce that from Monday 13 July Library members will be able to borrow some print books via a new ‘Click & Collect’ style service.

Yellow tape on door mat marks social distancing queue points

Please enter the front door and queue two metres apart

We’ve rearranged things so you’ll be able to place holds via Enterprise (the Library catalogue) on items that are ‘on the shelf’, just like you do with items on loan. We’ll fetch requested books from the shelves each day and you’ll get an email from us when your items are ready for you to collect.

You’ll be able to place holds from Thursday 9 July and the Library will be open for collections only 11:00 – 14:00 Monday to Friday from 13 July. We’ll keep your items available for up to five days as usual.

Barrier tape marks route to collection point

There’s a one-way route to your collection point

We’ve worked hard to put procedures in place that will keep you and our staff safe whilst participating with this service. When you arrive at the Library you’ll find a queuing system in place providing a one-way contactless route in and out of the building, and signs showing you where to stand to maintain your social distance from others.

You’ll be able to engage with staff at a collection point in the foyer, one at a time. We’ll ask you to put your Campus Card down and then step back so we can step forward to read your name and card number. Once we’ve issued your books to you we’ll put them down and step back so you can come forward to collect your books and card.

Barrier tape marks route to exit

Exit by the side door

We’ll wipe the collection point in between each person. We’ll also be wearing gloves when we handle your books.

This service is take-away only and the Library building remains closed for general use. For full details of all aspects of this service visit our Click & Collect FAQs webpage.

Sue Egleton, Associate Director (Systems & User Services)

COVID-19 update: Your Library this summer

Refurbished Library building with extensive glass front and silvered cladding, behind young, llight green trees

You can borrow print items from the Library building with our ‘Click & Collect’ service.

Library services online

All of our existing support and electronic resources will continue to be available and delivered to you online over the summer. This means that you can still:

Loans and returns

Return loans in the Book Drop flap to the right of the Library front doors

We will renew all books for the entire summer vacation so do not worry as you will not have anything overdue or running up fines! All items will be due on 30 September 2020. If you have already returned items via our Book Drop (right of Library entrance) be assured they will be removed from your Library account as soon as we are able to get back in the building to process them.

We are investigating whether we can accept postal returns of books over the summer and will provide more information if we are able to do so.

Click & Collect service for print items. For those of you writing dissertations, we understand accessing materials is very important. We are providing a service for you to request items (from 13 July 2020). You can still ask your Academic Liaison Librarians whether they can source an alternative option for you.

Further information

Any updates on access to the books or changes to any services will be publicised on our website and Library blog so keep an eye out for news.

Stuart Hunt, Director

5 tips for starting your dissertation

So, you may have just finished your exams but now you have to turn your attention to your dissertation. Where do you begin and how can you ensure you stay on track? Below are our Study Advice and Library tips to help you get started and stay focused.

Tip #1: Have a plan

Having a plan not only helps you to stay on track but weekly goals keep you motivated. Work backwards from your hand-in date and remember to build in extra time for proof reading and final touches. Our videos on managing your time offer some tips to get you started.

Tip #2: Start with something small

To help you get going, start with a task that you can get done easily. This might be something simple, like setting up a Word template or printing off a couple of key articles. Being able to complete one task can give you a sense of achievement and motivate you to tackle more challenging ones.

Tip #3: Think about the information that you need…

….and how to access it! If you are carrying out a literature review, or analysing documents or literature, make sure that you are familiar with the key online resources in your subject area. You can find out more about what’s available to you, as well as contact details for your Academic Liaison Librarian, on your Library subject guide. Look at the COVID-19 page in the guide for top tips on how to access resources when off-campus.

Tip #4: Think more, read less

It’s important that you think critically about you’re reading. This requires you to see the links between various theories and consider what they mean for your research question. So, when taking notes remember to not only record a summary of your reading but more importantly note what you think about what you have read. This will help you when you come to write up. Our video on critical note taking offers some advice on this.

Tip #5: Attend our webinars

In Week 7, the Study Advice and Library teams are offering a series of webinars just for Master’s students. These will help you to get to grips with:

  • developing your research question,
  • planning your literature review,
  • finding information, and
  • managing your references.

Our short webinars run at 11:00 and 14:00 each day, Monday 1 June – Friday 5 June. To find out more and join the webinar check out our Master’s Dissertation Fair guide.

Study Advice and Academic Liaison Teams

Online Master’s Dissertation Fair: 1-5 June

Web page screen shotWondering how to start researching and writing your dissertation? Why not drop into the Master’s Dissertation Fair, run online by the Academic Liaison and Study Advice Teams!

Choose from a selection of different webinars at 11:00 and 14:00, Monday 1 to Friday 5 June offering advice on all elements of your dissertation planning, searching for literature, and writing. From choosing a research methodology to using reference management tools, these friendly webinars provide tips from the experts to put your dissertation on track for success.

​No need to book, just follow the links in the Master’s Dissertation Fair guide. Please connect 5-10 minutes prior to the session to ensure your access is working correctly.

More help available

Alternatively, you can also book a 1-2-1 session with a Study Adviser or Academic Liaison Librarian.

If you prefer self-paced online resources from Study Advice, try their suite of guides and video tutorials on literature searching, dissertations and major projects,

Discover key resources in your subject area in the liaison team’s guides: note the new COVID-19 tab showing additional relevant resources made available online during the lockdown period.

Study Advice and Academic Liaison Teams

‘Library recommends’ … fun productions and healthy walks

Feet in trainers and grey trousers walk on grey wooden path

Fancy treading the boards inside or out this Bank Holiday with Library online access?

Need something enjoyable to relax with this weekend? Why not take up these suggestions from Library staff, who point out that you can also use Library resources to enhance your wellbeing, not only for serious research!

Entertainment for staying in

We can all access some excellent film, theatre and television resources with our University username and passwords to take our minds away from worry. Particularly good are Box of broadcasts and Drama Online, the latter also giving us COVID-time access to National Theatre productions. Below, Sarah and Kim review their favourite productions.

One Man, Two Guvnors (National Theatre)

In this play by Richard Bean, recorded by National Theatre Live, 15 September, 2011, Tony Award-winning James Corden plays Francis Henshall in the hilarious West End and Broadway hit. I recommend this play as one of the funniest things I have watched in ages. James Corden gives the role 110% as the play descends into a chaotic, high energy farce. With various members of the audience on stage, James’s character, Francis, tries to serve dinner to his two guvnors without either catching sight of the other and with the ‘help’ of the waiting staff, who keep falling down stairs, popping up at the wrong time and generally providing a perfect spectacle of mishaps! If you enjoyed ‘The Goes Wrong Show’, you’ll love this.

Go to: https://www.dramaonlinelibrary.com/plays/one-man-two-guvnors-nt-iid-190503 Select ‘Log In’ at the top right of the page, then ‘Log in via your institution’, search for ‘University of Reading’ and log in with your University or Reading username and password.

Sarah Hatcher, Library User Services

Good Omens (BBC Radio adaptation 2014)

Good Omens is a surreal and insightful story about the end of the world, written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and with a host of supernatural and incredibly human characters. You may already be aware of the recent Amazon Prime-BBC television adaptation which aired last year (and can still be streamed online). But BBC Radio 4’s radio dramatisation starring Mark Heap and Peter Serafinowicz as Aziraphale and Crowley was broadcast a few years earlier, and is a really great adaptation – including not only some excellent performances (Heap is brilliant) and cameos (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, notably), but some great scenes from the book which didn’t make it to the television adaptation.

You can listen to the radio adaptation (and find the BBC television broadcasts too) on Box of Broadcasts – a TV and radio archive service, that includes a whole host of fantastic programmes, great for researchers and those of us wanting to catch up on favourites alike. I find listening to the radio while working from home really helps my concentration, as I’m not a fan of silence, and so I’m enjoying discovering and re-discovering programmes using Box of Broadcasts. For the next few weeks, you can also enjoy the service from across the EU, so if you’re not based in the UK at the moment, you can still listen and enjoy!

Go to: Box of Broadcasts. If you’re a new user you may need to register using your University username and password. Good Omens Episode 1 is here.

Kim Coles, Academic Liaison Librarian

Guidance for going out

A valid reason for going outside during lock-down is for health-giving exercise. Judith and Jackie advocate making use of online map resources to search out a new local experience.

Digimap

Getting bored walking the same old route every day? We all know how important it is to get regular exercise, but after a while you want a change from the routine. Jackie was fed up with her usual local walks so decided to see if she could find some alternative routes with Digimap to explore more widely without getting lost! Digimap is an online collection of maps of Great Britain, including current and old Ordnance survey maps, geology and aerial photographs.

You too can use Digimap Ordnance Survey to create and print a map of your local area – take it on your daily walk to discover new routes, whether you’re in an urban area or the countryside. If you’re feeling adventurous, print out a map from Digimap Historic to discover the area as it was in the past! Using the Roam service, search for your town or village, then zoom in. You will need to register the first time you use it but then the (lockdown) world is your oyster! Enjoy exploring!

Judith Fox, Academic Liaison Librarian/Map Librarian;
Jackie Skinner, Academic Liaison Librarian

More about Library resources

Look out for further Library information on the Library website, University Library News blog, Twitter and Facebook.

Kim Coles and Rachel Redrup, Academic Liaison Librarians