Five reasons you should use LibSmart to prep for your assignments

Here we are midway through the first semester, and you may start to feel like you should be looking ahead to your end of semester assessments. Often students feel a bit overwhelmed before their first hand in, but here at the library we’re keen to help you feel confident from the start. Read on to find out why LibSmart is one of the best ways to prepare for your research and writing….

1. LibSmart shows you the basics of finding information in easy-to-follow lessons

Split into five simple sections, LibSmart I takes you through everything you need to find good material to base your assignments on. You’ll learn about how to search the library catalogue, how to double check your course reading, and suggestions of where to go for follow up resources.

2. You can dip in and out of it any time that suits you

One of the great things about LibSmart is all new students are already enrolled! You just need to log in to learn and click on the ‘Essentials’ tab on the left to find it. It’s there whenever you need it all year long, so if you’re feeling like you need to be productive at 11pm one evening then log on and complete a module. We’re sure you’ll either learn something new or you’ll feel more confident that you’re on the right track.

3. The whole of LibSmart I can take less than one afternoon to work through

We designed LibSmart I so that it’s not a huge effort for you to complete. We know your time is precious and that you may have classes to get to, work shifts to make or social activities that are a huge and important part of your student experience. We wanted to make the information in LibSmart as accessible as possible, and while you can take it at whatever pace you like, we know that some students like to rattle through it in just one day. Whichever route you chose, we appreciate the time you spend there.

4. You’ll learn valuable skills on how to get started with referencing

Referencing is one of the top enquiries we Academic Support Librarians receive – people are confused by it or don’t understand what, where and how to do it properly. LibSmart I has a really useful introductory module that can help you get to grips with the foundations of referencing, and offers top advice on how to find the right style and systems for you. If you’re feeling stuck with where to start then this is the place to go.

5. It’s so much more than just library stuff! 

We know it’s a lot to ask students to spend a few hours on looking specifically at library catalogues and databases especially when this isn’t prescribed reading on any particular course. However, students who’ve spent time on LibSmart believe it’s really made a difference to their experience as a student.

When I signed up, I assumed the course was just an introduction to the library but it has really been a guide to how academic research works. I wonder if more people would have signed up for this if they had realised it was not just a tour of the library to see where the books were kept. Along with the one hour “Study Skills” course I did, which was also surprisingly useful in its content, I feel I got as much learning from these free courses as the main one I paid for.

 


If you’re interested in giving LibSmart a go, you can find out more on our website.

Alternatively if you’re keen to get started straight away, just visit Learn and click on the Essentials tab on the left hand navigation. It’s all there ready for whenever you need it!

Screenshot of Learn Ultra platform, displaying the Essentials tab where LibSmart can be found

Student job opportunity!

Interested in paid business experience with a global publisher? The Gale Ambassador Library Support Program may be just what you’re looking for!
The deadline for applications has been extended, so you now have until 13 August 2023 to apply.

Through the Library you have access to a wide range of digital archives and digital primary source databases to help you with your learning and research. Continue reading

Artificial Intelligence : where does it fit into library strategy?

Metal sign outside the Main Library, taken from a low angle at the bottom of the stairs. The word Library is spelled out in silver coloured letters mounted on a large stone wall.

UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH CENTRAL CAMPUS, LIBRARY.

Everybody’s talking about AI and Chat GPT – what will they mean? I attended an event on 20.4.2023 organised by the Information School Sheffield University which explored this question for libraries.

Dr Andrew Cox introduced the session, reminding us that chatbots & AI have featured heavily in the news recently, and of course have existed in scifi for some time.

What might AI look like in the library?

From what we’ve learnt about AI it will have a wide and deep impact on library service and backend operations and library information literacy. We’ll see new features like library chatbots, text and datamining support and automation of systematic reviews. Knowledge discovery of collections will change, with a new paradigm of search : instead of giving a list of results, ChatGPT will give an answer. Users expectations of what a search looks like will change dramatically. There may be an impact on library jobs (although the decline of the librarian has been forecast for many years since the arrival of the internet, and librarians have evolved and thrived). Changes to the workforce will probably be complex and driven by sector.

Fundamentally we should remember that AI is only as good as the data it relies upon. Our library expertise in finding and managing data in a complex information landscape, and in determining the provenance and quality of data remains key. Also, libraries’ work in supporting sharing, openness and interoperability of data is vital as this data becomes available for AI to use.

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E-Resource trial: Skills for study

As we’re midway through the second semester, many eyes are turning to assignments and thinking ahead to final exams. Did you know that we’ve recently secured a trial of the interactive resource Skills for Study?

Screengrab from the homepage of the Skills for Study website. An image of a student studying with headphones on is overlaid with some text which reads 'Successful study starts here! Help students build the skills for success in their studies and beyond with their own personalised learning pathway.'

Based on the bestselling The Study Skills Handbook by Stella Cottrell, Skills for Study offers an interactive and personalised solution to help students hone their academic skills while developing skills required by employers:

  • Confidence with Numbers
  • Getting Ready for Academic Study
  • Referencing and Understanding Plagiarism
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Group Work and Presentations
  • Research Principles
  • Employability and Personal Development
  • Projects, Dissertations and Reports
  • Time Management
  • Exam Skills
  • Reading and Note-making
  • Writing Skills

Each of the modules comes complete with exercises, activities, and module assessments along with supplementary videos, articles and blogs. We know how popular the Study Skills Handbook is for students from a range of disciplines, so here’s how to access this interactive resource:

That’s it, it’s that easy! More information about the trial is available on the E-Resources trials page. Our trial ends on the 24th April so have a good look before then, and if you want to offer any comments on this or any of our other E-Resource trials then please consider filling in the trial feedback form.

Resolving to reference in 2023

Whether you’re the type of person who makes New Years resolutions or not, we hope you’ll consider resolving to get comfortable with referencing this year. We have lots of resources available to help you with citations in your assignments, and we know it’s something many students struggle with and so can often leave to the end of their work. Some top tips for getting ahead of the referencing panic:

  1. Record the information you read as you go. You can do this using a reference manager, bookmarking tools in your browser or DiscoverEd, or good old pen and paper. Whatever method you’re comfortable with, starting off with good organisation will help you down the line.
  2. Leave more time than you think you’ll need. Do you usually give yourself a day or two before the assignment deadline to sort references? Double it! Triple it! Build in contingency time for writing up and correcting references – and for asking for help if you need it – and if you end up not needing all that time then submit early and then reward yourself with a treat for being ahead of the game!
  3. Be consistent. There are lots of referencing styles out there (you may already be familiar with Harvard, APA, Chicago, OSCOLA), but whichever one you use for your work, be consistent in how you reference. Make sure you have all the component parts of each type of reference and then style them in the same way each time – this helps you spot when information is missing as well as looking good.
  4. Use the tools available to you. This includes reference managers like Endnote, Zotero and Mendeley (or any others!), or even ‘quick’ citation engines like ZoteroBib or Cite This For Me. We highly recommend you use Cite Them Right Online which is a database we subscribe to for all staff and students to use – it will show you how to construct references for every type of material in a huge range of styles. Not sure how to reference a personal email, a blog post or a youtube clip? Use Cite Them Right to check! NOTE: Please make sure you check any reference that is created by a citation tool, as they are not guaranteed to be accurate.
  5. Get help in plenty of time! Still feeling lost at sea? We’ve got training sessions on the MyEd booking system and also recordings on Media Hopper (click on ‘174 media’ below the title card for the full list of videos) designed specifically to help you. There’s also part of the LibSmart online information literacy course dedicated to the basics of referencing, and we have a whole subject guide on the topic. If all else fails, contact your Academic Support Librarian and ask for a one-to-one appointment where we can sit down with you and work through the problems you’re facing.

Do you have any top tips for referencing? We’d love to hear them, you can leave them in the comments or tweet us @EdUniLibraries

LILAC 2022 : Student transitions in information literacy :  from school to HE, from learners to researchers

Ruth Jenkins, SarahLouise McDonald and Christine Love-Rodgers at LILAC 2022

Ruth Jenkins, SarahLouise McDonald and Christine Love-Rodgers at LILAC 2022

The LILAC 2022 conference in Manchester this April was a challenge and a pleasure to attend :  my first real life, in person conference for two years! I put aside my laptop with the distraction of its constant stream of email to concentrate on being present in the conference and using my LILAC notebook and pen.

Alongside my colleagues, I was there to present papers about the projects we’d delivered in the COVID years, including LibSmart, our online information literacy course. We’ve developed LibSmart I to develop student information literacy skills to support student transition into the first years of an undergraduate course, and LibSmart II to support student transition into Honours and PG dissertation research. We had lots of great questions about the courses, and interest from Uppsala and Gothenberg Universities in Sweden who are keen to develop similar projects.

Student transitions in information literacy was a key theme of the conference. I attended a session by Paul Newnham on Information literacy and the transition to university education : Reflections and initial findings from Lancaster University. This research study aimed to understand student needs for information literacy and how the Library can support students with information literacy and critical thinking skills. Using qualitative data from groups in Blackpool Sixth Form College and Lancaster University, the study found that both lecturers and teachers thought that students’ ability to find information had deteriorated over the last 10-15 years. However there was wide understanding of the importance of referencing and plagiarism.

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Dissertation Festival: Exploring library resources for dissertations in gender studies

As part of the 2022 Dissertation Festival, running from 7th-18th March and facilitated by the Academic Support Librarians, Digital Skills and IAD teams, I was invited to attend an online event exploring how to make the most out of resources related to Gender Studies in your dissertation. A recording of the event is available to watch (42 minutes):
Opening slide from the presentation on 'exploring library resources for dissertations in gender studies'. Image includes the University crest offset on the right hand side, and the title of the presentation on the left of the image.

Beginning your search with Subject Guides 

Throughout my time as both a Digital Engagement Intern within Library & University Collections and an undergraduate student, I’ve become aware of just how valuable the virtual Subject Guides are for beginning your research, whatever your field of study. The Gender Studies Subject Guide provides access to databases, journals, periodicals, bibliographies and so much more, as well as initiatives and research projects conducted at the university. 

Going beyond DiscoverEd 

Of course, DiscoverEd is a fantastic tool for navigating the rich resources available through the university, and this event was a great reminder than you can improve the scope of your searches further through Boolean operators and considering the terminology you use. Although the terms we use around gender and sexuality have progressed, it’s worth recognising archaic terms, particularly when accessing historical databases. This event also highlighted the new Yewno service which allows you to build visual maps through cross-referencing keyword searches across library databases. All you need to do to access it is log-in via your institution and there are lots of handy instructional videos to help you get started! 

Accessing the Centre for Research Collections 

The second half of the event discussed some of the collections held by the university, including the Lothian Health Service Archive which contains a wealth of health-related material. A key takeaway for me was in recognising the multidisciplinary nature of Gender Studies and how much material is available in other historical archives and databases. I was a bit daunted about accessing the Centre for Research Collections at first but having a clear idea of what you’re looking for and using the support materials available online will help you get the most of it the rich resources within them. 

Whatever your topic, the Dissertation Festival has a wide range of online events which will help you get the most out of the resources available to you. 

Tristan Craig 
Digital Engagement Intern (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion)  

 

Training with the ASL team

A laptop is placed, open, on a table in a living space. Next to the laptop is a notebook with pen on top. Visible on the laptop screen is the message 'Join us online'.

Image by Samantha Borges, from Unsplash.

A large part of the work that the Academic Support Librarian team complete relates to training and providing Information Skills guidance, whether that’s in our individual schools or sessions which are open to all. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll already know about LibSmart, our online information skills course, but did you also know about some of the other training on offer?

Have you heard about Library Bitesize? 

These short introductory sessions deal with a range of topics that we think will provide a good foundation in areas our students need to know about. They’re 30 minutes long and are run by ASLs and the Digital Skills team to help you get more information about skills and resources you might need to support your studying. While they’re aimed at beginner level and are particularly appropriate for Undergraduates, we think these are of use to students at any level of study. Just some of the topics include:

  • Building complex searches for systematic reviews
  • Choosing a reference manager
  • Finding historical documents online
  • How to reference and avoid plagiarism
  • Introduction to copyright
  • Introduction to resources for film studies
  • Introduction to China-related information resources

For more information on upcoming sessions and information on how to register, visit the Digital Skills Resource Finder and search for ‘Bitesize’, or view the upcoming sessions directly on the MyEd Event Booking System.

We also record these sessions and upload them to our Media Hopper channel. You can view a playlist of past sessions here.


What if you need more in-depth training?

If you’re looking for advanced training sessions, you may be interested in our collaboration with the Institute for Academic Development. Together we run longer sessions which are usually attended by postgraduate students, though undergraduates are welcome too! These are themed around research and referencing. For example:

We also run ‘Getting the best out of the library’ sessions for PGT and PGR students at the start of term, and are part of the IAD’s mid-semester welcome event for postgraduate students. For more information visit the IAD’s Postgraduate pages.


If training sessions don’t work for you, what about a one-to-one appointment? 

All our ASLs offer individual appointments to help students address specific questions about their work or research. A range of appointments are available via the MyEd Event Booking System – search for ‘literature search clinic’ to find available appointments with librarians from each college, or find the subject area specific to your needs.

Alternatively you can contact us directly by locating the ASL which works with your subject area. There’s more information about the one-to-one appointment system here.

We hope that with all these options for training available you will find something useful to support your studies. If we don’t offer a suitable session for your preferred learning style, why not get in touch with us to discuss?

Library Bitesize Session Review

Introduction

Despite being in my fourth and final year, I am still constantly discovering resources offered to students by the University! Most recently, I attended a Library Bitesize course for “Online Resources for Literary Studies”.

In the past, I have completed Bitesize courses. However, they were in person and not subject-specific. For those interested, it was on referencing and avoiding plagiarism (and I would highly recommend it)! Therefore, this was a bit of a new experience for me and I did ask myself when signing up how learning about literary resources would benefit me. However, by the end of the session, I was extremely glad I went! Reading this blog you will understand why and hopefully be encouraged to attend a session for yourself.

The Session

The session was hosted on blackboard collaborate by Academic Support Librarian (ASL) Shenxiao Tong.  It was easy to follow and informative – and fortunately, there were no technology issues during the event!

 

The session began with a helpful introduction to the online library resources made available to university staff and students. It is easy to forget that the Library has such a vast collection of e-books, databases, streaming videos and e-journals. The definitions of primary and secondary resources were also provided! This allowed the rest of the presentation to flow as I was shown which databases to use for primary and secondary resources, with demonstrations given on key resources. Other online resources were also covered including internet resources like google scholar, bibliographies and book reviews. Throughout the session, the usefulness and drawbacks of the different materials were highlighted meaning you would be able to draw your own conclusions to what resource would be most effective for you. This tied in well with the conclusion of the presentation which covered next steps such as how to construct your own research strategy!

 

Conclusion

You can never go wrong learning new digital skills and resources that can help you with your work! Even if you don’t explicitly need to know about these literary resources for your studies – they may be useful for your extracurricular activities! Plays, poems and novels can all be found using the resources covered in the Bitesize session I attended. If you still aren’t convinced, why not look at what other topics Library Bitesize sessions cover, and I am sure you will find a subject that information needs!