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.

Overwhelmed by reading? – info tip

If 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, use 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 and Erika Delbecque, Study Advisers.

We can help you keep your New Year resolutions – info tip

Ahhh, it’s New Year, when so many of us wake up and resolve never to do *that* again… But it’s also a chance to look back over the year, and think about what we could be doing differently. If you’re resolving to change your ways this year, the Library and Study Advice can help!

Making this year the year you meet new people?

Maybe you’ve decided you really ought to meet some actual real life people and not just their avatars? You could start with your friendly, professional Liaison Librarians. They can help you with finding resources, using referencing software, e-resources and any other library queries. Find their details on the Liaison Librarians page, and maybe book a meeting. Get to know the experts and what they can do to help you study more successfully and more effectively.

Resolving to spend less time studying?

If you feel like you’re spending all your time studying, you may need to think about how you can make sure you’re using your time most efficiently. Study Advice have a guide to managing your time with suggestions and strategies to make more hours in your day. Two things that often eat up your time are reading and note-taking – see if our strategies can help you conquer these time-eating monsters! Finally, we have some new video tutorials on various time management topics, including overcoming procrastination – and they’ll only take up a few minutes of your precious time.

pile of booksWant to get on top of your references?

Making sure your referencing is correct can be confusing, so if you’ve resolved to get on top of this have a look at our comprehensive guide on citing references. It has all the information you need to understand what to do and when to do it. It might also be a good time to set up a reference management program to keep track of all of your references in the future. We offer support, guides and training on EndNote, but do be aware that there are other programs you can use.

Or make sure you prepare for exams in good time?

Resolved to be more prepared for exams this year? Start by looking at the tips in the Study Advice Preparing for Exams guide on planning your revision. Get started now, and you could be the most relaxed person in the exam room! It’s also a good time to sit back and watch our brief video showing you how to place a hold on a Library book. Be the person who knows how to get their hands on the revision reading they need when they need it…

Do you want to boost your marks this year?

If 2018 is the year you’re going to get that 2.1, or that First, or another First (but this time knowing why you got it), you’ll probably find it helpful to book a one-to-one chat with a Study Adviser. We can look at how you’re studying and suggest ways to develop your skills, or go through your feedback with you to see what you might need to focus on. Or you could have a look at the Study Advice guides and video tutorials – 24/7 advice for successful studying! And while you’re getting to know us, check out how to find the Liaison Librarian for your subject; they can help you find the best resources for studying in your subject area.

And finally, if you want to make sure you stay well-informed?

Did you miss our study seminar on writing an excellent essay? Wondering why people are talking about Hodor the Duck? A good way to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the Library and Study Advice is to follow us on social media. You can find Study Advice on Twitter at @UniRdg_Study, and the Library at @UniRdg_Library. The Library is also on Facebook at /universityofreadinglibrary and Instagram at @unirdg_library.

happynewyearSo, no excuses to miss all the good things coming your way in 2018. Happy New Year from all of us to all of you!

 

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 Katie Moore, Trainee Liaison Librarian.

 

Challenge yourself to maximise your Library and Study Skills – info tip

Student studyingWant to make sure you get the best possible marks by working smarter, not harder? Week 6 is the perfect time to review and develop the skills you need to succeed and work effectively in your studies. The Library and Study Advice teams have guides and videos that will help you achieve just this. And why not take one of our challenges and learn a new skill that will make your studying more successful and help you to find excellent resources?

What do you need to develop?

Everyone starts from a different place and progresses through their studies at a different pace, so you will need to consider what your own needs are and how they are best met, but the suggestions below should have something for you.

Ten challenges to try something new

  1. Learn how to access and use an e-book.
  2. Sign up to an app like Forest, Evernote, Tomato-Timer or Remember the Milk to keep yourself organised and on schedule.
  3. Use Summon to find a newspaper article or book review that’s related to your subject.
  4. Try a new learning technique – video or record yourself talking for three minutes on a topic from your course.
  5. Set up an EndNote Web account to store your references.
  6. Start a reading diary to record your reflections on what you’ve read (use a paper notebook or set up a private blog).
  7. Find a map that will help with your subject – they’re not just for geographers!
  8. Watch a video tutorial on an aspect of study that you need to develop.
  9. Pick up a free year planner from Study Advice and get control over your deadlines.
  10. And finally, take a break from studying and use Enterprise to find and borrow a film on DVD – we’ve lots to choose from.

Alarm clock“I don’t have time to develop my skills!”

It can be hard to develop new skills when you’re already busy using the old ones – but it’s worth doing to save lots of time in the future. If you don’t have much time, try these quick ideas:

If you’ve got 5 minutes…

If you’ve got 10 minutes…

  • Record yourself recapping the main points of your last lecture – it’s more effective than rewriting your notes.
  • Open an EndNote Web account to manage your references, then bookmark our guides and training sessions to find out how to use it.

If you’ve got 30 minutes…

  • Enrol on a LibLearn tutorial to learn how to get the most out of your library – there are advanced versions if you’ve already tried one.
  • Book a session with a Study Adviser to review your study practices and see if there’s anything your could develop.
  • If you’re a Part 1 undergraduate who hasn’t enrolled in Study Smart yet, now’s your last chance – free enrolment only remains open till 12 Nov. Check your emails for details of how to do this: once you’re enrolled you retain access to the resources for the whole year. If you’re already enrolled, re-read any sections that are more directly relevant to what you’re doing now in your studies.

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 Sally Smith, Liaison Librarian.

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.

Engage with Cengage primary sources event: 20 January

Blue rectangles arranged in a circle next to the word 'Cengage'Looking for ideas for your dissertation? Drop in to the Library’s Ground Floor this Friday 20 January 2017, anytime 10:00-16:00, to explore some full-text, primary sources available via the Artemis Primary Sources Platform, from one of our main suppliers, Cengage. Cengage staff will be on hand to demonstrate these resources to help you discover primary sources and possible topics for your dissertation:

To see the full range of e-resources to which the University of Reading Library subscribes, see our Databases by subject or Databases A-Z lists.

Rachel Redrup, Marketing Co-ordinator