Comments from the survey

Thanks again for all the comments in the Library survey. They are really the most helpful part to improve your Library experience. I’m going to use this blog post to address comments and requests from the survey. I will address a couple of items raised by a number of people in separate posts.

The temperature of the library/too stuffy  temperature

The library can get stuffy at times, but you are welcome to open windows or use the fans located on the upper floors to deal with this. All we ask is that when you leave you close and turn off what you have opened and turned on, to prevent the library getting cold overnight.

Power sockets

There were some comments about power sockets not working on tables upstairs. This is an ongoing issue when the socket fuses blow. Please let us know which table is affected so we can report it to maintenance.

Harsh lighting

I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do about the lighting in the Library at present. You may find that some seats or areas are more or less brightly lit than others to suit your needs.

Use doors on upper floors

Sorry, this isn’t going to happen. The doors on the upper floors only exist as emergency exits.

More computers

We will look into the possibilities for more computers in the Library, but finding table space may be difficult. If all the computers are taken on the ground floor don’t forget about those on the upper floors, or the quiet study room in the Cavendish Building that has some too. If you don’t think there are enough machines around College entirely then please report this to IT.

Mac not logging in

We were informed in the survey that one of the Mac machines was not logging on. Please report problems like this to a member of Library staff or IT so that they can be resolved as quickly as possible. If the problem occurs overnight you can email library@homerton.cam.ac.uk or leave a note on the enquiry desk for us.

Double sided printer

We know it is a frustration that the printer in the library no longer does double-sided printing. A new printer has been on order for quite some time now, but there have been some issues with supply. We will continue to chase this up until we have the new one installed.

Printer paperpaper

We always try to ensure that enough paper is left by the printer to last until staff return to the library. This may not have worked recently due to the printer not providing double sided printing. Apologies if this has caused a problem to you. We are leaving extra paper out.

Guillotine

We were asked for a guillotine. We have a paper cutter that lives at the back of the library on the ground floor. It was moved there from by the photocopier as it can be quite noisy. We will ensure there are some signs telling you where to find it.

Beanbags

English students love the beanbags available at the Faculty, and have asked for similar here. We don’t have a budget to buy any extra furniture at the moment and, being 24/7 I’m not keen on providing anything which is too appealing to sleep on – much better to make it to your bed!

Desk on ground floor

We were asked about the possibilities of a desk on the ground floor to assist any users with mobility issues. We have a portable table, which is currently laid out to create extra study space for Easter term. We will look at locating it permanently on the ground floor as a study area, with priority given to those with mobility issues.

Desk hogging

A few respondents mentioned the hogging of desks. We have different procedures that come into force for Easter term to try to ensure there is study space available, and we continually monitor this to look for further improvements. We welcome further feedback. For the rest of the year, we will try to monitor desk tidiness a bit more.

Wifi signal

There are small areas in the library where the wifi signal is poor due to the architecture of the building. We already have two routers in the library in an attempt to improve signal. We will mention the report to IT, but the quickest answer may be to move seats. If you know of anywhere that is always a problem please let a member of library staff know so we can pass this information onto IT.

Information bookletsinfo

This year a range of information booklets are available from the top of the drop boxes. You can also find online versions on this blog, under “Library guides and leaflets”. If there’s something we haven’t covered that you’d like to see in leaflet form please let us know.

How to request items

We have a request book that sits on top of the enquiry desk. You can fill in details of anything that you would like the library to buy, and we will let you know our decision. We do want to look into having an online form available too, but for the moment please use the book.

More renewals/renew on machine

We were asked about allowing more renewals than currently. It is unlikely we will do that as the current policy of renewals already means you can keep a book for over a term if it isn’t requested. We will look at extending the grace period that you can renew books online once they have become overdue. We were asked about making it possible to renew on the self-issue machine. This is possible by going into the Account screen, but we have now made this clearer by renaming the button on the front screen to “account/renew”.

Information about new books

Details of what new books have been purchased can be seen on our Pinterest site http://www.pinterest.com/homlib/ and you can also see new books on the Heritage catalogue http://heritage.homerton.cam.ac.uk, by looking at the What’s new section on the main page (though this includes anything recently added to the Library, which may include donations of older material etc). We also sometimes have small displays of new books on the ground floor.

Enough copies

We always try to ensure there are adequate copies of key books available across subjects. We always try to act when we can see there are a lot of requests for a book, or when we are told that it is in high demand. But if that isn’t clear, we will assume we do have enough copies. Please tell us whenever there’s a problem getting hold of a book and we’ll see what we can do. Don’t forget that you have access to other libraries too though, and if they have a copy it will be quicker to go and borrow that one, rather than wait for one we buy to arrive.

Books disappearing

It was mentioned that books in some subjects disappear. Please let us know if you can’t find something that should be on the shelf, as we can then look for it, and even replace it if necessary. We also have a special handheld device that can go in search of hidden books, but we need to know they’re missing first.

Comprehensive DVD sectionCD

We know that some users borrow a lot of DVDs, and that’s great. We are always looking for new films and tv shows to add to the shelves. However, we allocate a small percentage of the budget to non-academic DVDs (ie those not on reading lists) and once that is spent then that’s it for the year. Let us know what you’d like to watch and we’ll try to ensure we’re buying the right stuff.

Focusing wider than part 1

It’s nice to see that some respondents think we should look to provide resources beyond Part 1 of courses, but I know students in other subjects would disagree. At present the provision across Part 1 is varied by subject and certainly not comprehensive throughout, so we need to continue focusing on improving Part 1 in all Triposes before we can consider a wider remit.

Academic skills session in Michaelmas

We hope that the introductory academic skills session which we gave this year can be moved to Michaelmas term next year, and thus prove more timely for freshers.

“No information available” when looking at catalogue

If you use LibrarySearch to look for items (rather than the Heritage catalogue, which is only for Homerton) any items Homerton does have will come up saying “no information available”. This confusing phrase simply means that the catalogue can’t tell you more about our copy of the book eg whether it is currently on loan or not. We can’t currently do anything about creating a live link between LibrarySearch and Heritage so the phrase will remain but when you see it remember the following: 1) we do have a copy of that item 2) you can check if it’s on the shelf using Heritage or by contacting the College Library.

Poster detailing differences in catalogues

This is a great suggestion and we will look into providing something nice and visual.

Inter-Library Loans for books not available in Cambridge

This is not a service that we are currently able to provide at College Library level, but the University Library does offer an inter-library loans service for any items not available in Cambridge. More information available here http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/ill/. Don’t forget, if the book is in just one library in Cambridge contact the Librarian, as usually they will allow you access to read it.

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Survey requests

Thanks to all of you who responded to the Library survey. I look forward to using the data to see how we are doing, and what we can do for you.buy now post-it note

As a first step, I thought I’d respond to some of the purchase requests that you put down. We will look into getting as many as we can, where they are available. I’m afraid for some older texts we may have trouble sourcing even a second hand copy, but we’ll do our best.

If you’ve since thought of something you’d like to request there’s still an easy way to tell Library staff. There is a request book on top of the enquiry desk where you can fill in all the details of anything you’d like us to buy.

There were a number of items on the survey which we do have in the Library, and I list them below, alongside their classmark so you can find them on the shelf. A few are very new additions, overlapping with the survey, but others we have had for some time. You can always check the Heritage catalogue http://heritage.homerton.cam.ac.uk/ as we are constantly buying new material. And do let us know if there aren’t enough copies of a particular book so we can get more where possible.

A couple of people mentioned wanting more book rests. I know this is something that some students value highly, but we have had problems with a number of rests being taken from the Library and never returned. We’ve also had at least one that was dismantled, with only part of it being found. Unfortunately this behaviour does not encourage me to spend more Library budget on them at present.

Titles the Library has:

Grande Grammatica Italiana di consultazione (Salvi and Renzi, 2001) – 455 GRA, all 3 volumes
The Dialects of Italy (Maiden and Parry, 1997) – 457 DIA, also available as an ebook
A Linguistic History of Italian (Maiden, 1995) – 450.9 MAI
Books by Amartya Sen – We have a number of titles, please put any specific requests in the request book
Early Irish Myths and Sagas (Harmondsworth, 1981) – A891.6 EAR
The Complete Sagas of Icelanders I-V (Hreinsson) – reprinted as The Sagas of Icelanders: a Selection, Jane Smiley, A839 SAG – we will look into getting the earlier edition if possible
The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought – recent acquisition, 320.09 CAM(3)
Unsettling Narrative, Clare Bradford – recent acquisition, children’s literature collection 809.89282 BRA
History of Life, R Cowen – 560 COW
Up (Disney) – multimedia collection, 791.4334 DIS(UP) – this is hard to find using the basic search as the title is a common word, best to limit the search to DVDs
A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People, Boyd Hilton – 942.07 HIL, also available as an ebook
The Making of the Modern Self, Wahrman – we don’t have a copy yet, but it is available as an ebook
A History of the Vikings, G. Jones – 948.022 JON
The Cult of the Saints, Peter Brown – 270.2 BRO, also available as an ebook
Surfaces, Attard and Barnes – 541.33 ATT
A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan – E813 EGA(VIS)
Parade’s End, Ford Madox Ford – D823 FOR(BOD3) – within an anthology of works
Hercules DVD – multimedia collection, 791.4334 DIS(HER) – if it isn’t the Disney version that was wanted please fill in the request book with details eg director.
Engineering Data Books – Reference section 620 CAM – these are now up to date

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CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medal shortlists 2014

The shortlists for the 2014 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals were announced yesterday. We have several of the shortlisted books already, and the rest are on order and should be on the shelves very soon. Update: all of these titles are now in the Library except ‘The Dark’ by Lemony Snicket & Jon Klassen, which is still on order.

The Carnegie Medal shortlist:

The Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist:

Have you read any of the shortlisted books? Which would you like to see win?

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Using the Library during Easter Term

The Easter vacation has arrived, and with it are a number of temporary changes in the Library to hopefully improve everyone’s ability to revise and work there.

First of all, from Monday 17th March, the 3-day slips used to keep books and papers on tables will be replaced by 24 hour slips. Any piles that do not have an up to date slip will be removed to trolleys positioned by the stairs on each floor.

When you leave any material on a desk, whether books, papers or other belongings, they should be left neatly in a single pile, allowing the rest of the desk space to be used by someone else. Untidy piles may be tidied or moved to the trolleys by library staff. We will leave a note if we have done this.

Please be aware that the desks and computers are for the use of all students, and are not reservable for extended periods of time. Also, whilst we appreciate you may wish to have good luck cards or other personal items around you whilst you study, please tidy them away into your pile when you leave for the day.

water bottleFood and drink rules remain the same (only bottled water allowed). We will remove any other items down to the Library office, where you can reclaim them. This includes, but is not limited to, cans of energy drinks, crisps, biscuits etc. Squash and biscuits at 3.30pm on weekdays will start from Tuesday 22nd April. This is your one legitimate excuse to eat biscuits in the library, though only by the door!

Particularly throughout this approaching revision period, please respect all other users of the Library and keep noise to a minimum. Conversations should all be taken outside and phones should be on silent. During the College quiet period it can be a disciplinary offence to disturb your fellow students. During squash and biscuits sessions noise levels may rise slightly for a few minutes, but anyone wanting a proper break and conversation should collect their refreshments and head outside.

biscuit stack with books

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Exam success and study skills

Easter Vacation is drawing near and many of you will be starting to think about exams and revision. We are here to help!

Study skills guidesSome of our borrowable study skills guides are displayed by the self-issue kiosk, and you can find more in our Quick Reference collection (classmark 378).

We have also created a Research Methods & Study Guides board on our Pinterest page for new additions to the collection.

We have a variety of University Counselling Service leaflets on the table by library entrance for you to take away, including topics such as procrastination, perfectionism, and coping with exams.

As always, speak to a member of staff if you have any questions or problems. If you’ve come across a great study guide and would like to recommend it as an addition to the collection, drop us an email at library@homerton.cam.ac.uk, or fill in the request book at the enquiry desk!

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Research Survival Guide: Slides, links and resources

‘Research Survival Guide: Mastering Your Dissertation or Project’ was an Academic Skills session we ran on 19th February. The slides and links to resources mentioned during the session are below, and we have written up the content of the session in a series of blog posts which are also linked to below.

Links to blog posts:

Resources:

  • Literature Search Plan - you may find that filling in this plan helps you to structure your literature search in a methodical way.
  • Reference Template - keep a record of the books and articles you are reading so that you have all of the details you need when it comes to referencing them.

Links:

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Research Survival Guide Part 3: References and bibliographies

This post follows on from Part 1: The Literature Search and Part 2: Evaluating Resources

Once you are starting to find sources to support your dissertation, you need to think about how you are going to credit these sources in your work.

In this post we will explain why referencing is important, how to go about it, and show you some tools that will make it all a lot easier.

In a Varsity survey, 49% of students admitted to plagiarising while at Cambridge. Some of the reasons given included heavy workloads and pressure to meet deadlines, but many of the people responding to the survey said it hadn’t been made clear to them what counted as plagiarism and what was okay. 13% did not know that failing to cite their sources would be considered plagiarism. If you use someone else’s ideas or argument, whether it is directly quoted or paraphrased in your own words, whether the other person is an author or one of your friends that you have collaborated with, you must give a proper acknowledgement to that person.

The reason for this is that all academic writing is a dialogue. Your arguments will have more weight if they are supported by other authors. You are building on other people’s work so you must give them credit, and give enough information that your reader could follow up the reference to find out more. In turn, you would expect to get recognition for the hard work you’ve done yourself. One day in the not too distant future your dissertation, thesis or articles you write may be being quoted by others, including students.

There are lots of different referencing styles you can use, which will differ in how the references are laid out on the page, the punctuation and so on. Whichever style you use the purpose is the same, to acknowledge wherever in your essay you are using someone else’s ideas. However most departments will have a preferred referencing style. Check with your departmental secretary or department library if you are not sure.

Referencing requires two things. Firstly, you need in-text references. These can either be in brackets in the text itself, or you can use footnotes or endnotes.

In-text referencesFootnotes and endnotes are pretty much the same thing, footnotes come at the bottom of each page and endnotes all come together at the end of the document.

As well as in-text references whenever you cite a source, you will also need a list of all the sources you used when researching the essay. This is called a bibliography, and it will usually come right at the end of the essay with any appendices.

BibliographyA lot of people leave referencing and the bibliography until last, doing it right before they hand in their essay. But it is so much easier if you keep track of references as you go along. When you’re making notes, every time you write down a quote or jot down a paraphrase of the author’s argument, also make a note of where it came from and the page number. Every time you read a new article or book on your topic, make a note of all the details you will need to cite this source in your essay. This is the information you need to jot down:

  • For books… author/editor, full title, page numbers, publisher, date and location of publication, edition
  • For essays/chapters in an edited work… author and title of the essay/chapter, editor of whole book, full title of the book, page numbers, publisher, date and location of publication, edition.
  • For articles… author, article title, page numbers, journal title, date, volume/issue/number of the journal.
  • For websites… author, date of publication, website title, full web address, date accessed.

As you can see, you are giving your reader enough information to find the exact passage you are referring to if they want to read more. The exact format of your references will depend on what style you are using, so find out what your department’s preferred style is. You can then have a look at a style guide to see what the exact format should be for each different type of source.

You can keep track of your references manually, and you may find this template useful for recording your references. Other methods for keeping track of references manually include index cards, or a spreadsheet or word document. If you’re keeping your list in electronic form I’d recommend keeping it in cloud storage for example Dropbox or Google Drive, so that you can view it and add to it whenever you like, from any computer.

However another option is to use a reference management app that will do all of the hard work for you. It will even create your bibliographies automatically. There are lots of tools available, all of which do a similar thing with various bells and whistles. At a basic level, a reference manager is a database of your references, which will allow you to easily export them into bibliographies. Zotero and Mendeley are two of the most popular free options, and they’re quite powerful little programmes.

Both Zotero and Mendeley have the following features in common:

  • Desktop application – Windows/Mac/Linux
  • ‘Cite while you write’ plug-ins for the most popular word-processing programmes
  • Ability to create groups to share references, PDFs, comments etc. with peers
  • Back-up and synchronisation across different devices

The main difference between these two is the interface, and you’ll probably naturally prefer one over the other. However these other feature differences are worth noting:

  • Zotero is alternatively available as a Firefox extension (data is still stored locally)
  • Mendeley has an official iPad/iPhone app, with 3rd party apps available for Android. No official Zotero apps, but 3rd party available for both Android and iOS.
  • Mendeley has a PDF annotation feature.

This table gives a detailed comparison of 5 different reference managers, including Zotero and Mendeley.

We have made a screencast of Zotero in action, so you can get an idea of how easy it is to drop references into your essay and create a bibliography at the end. (This is the Firefox add-on version of Zotero with the Microsoft Word plug-in. Other versions will look slightly different but do the same thing.) For best results view full-screen and in HD (click on the settings wheel in the bottom right and select 720p or higher).

Clicking on the Zotero icon in the bottom right corner of the browser window opens up your reference database. Every reference you’ve ever saved is stored in your library, and you can also sort them into collections, which allows you to group references for a particular essay together.

When you are on a webpage which has information that you might want to cite, an icon will appear in the address bar. For example when you are looking at a book on LibrarySearch or Amazon, a blue book icon will appear. When you are looking at a journal article on JSTOR or reading an article on the Guardian website, an article icon will appear. Clicking on the icon will add the reference to Zotero. You will now find it in your unfiled items, and you can drag it into a collection.

There are cite-while-you-write plug-ins for all of the common word-processing programs, which allow you to drop the references into your essay while you’re typing it. Whenever you want to insert a citation you just click a button in the toolbar and a window will pop up with options for choosing the referencing style you want. Then you can search for the reference you want within your library, and in seconds the reference is there in your essay.

At the end of your essay you need to include a bibliography with all of the sources you used. Again, Zotero makes this very easy. As you’ve grouped your references into collections for each essay, you can just right click on the collection folder and generate a bibliography of everything in that collection. You can choose the referencing style, and you have the option to save the bibliography as a new file, print it, or copy and paste it directly into your essay.

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Research Survival Guide Part 2: Evaluating Resources

This post follows on from Part 1: The Literature Search

Once you’ve gathered results you need to consider what to do with them. In most instances there is no way you can read everything on the list, and some of it won’t turn out to be relevant. So, ask first, is it for an essay or for a dissertation? This will impact on how many sources you should look at.

You then need to evaluate your sources.

For books and ebooks use Heritage or LibrarySearch to find copies. If you are unsure whether the book will be useful, take a look at the ebook where one is available. This will save having to get hold of a physical copy of the book from the Library.

Ask questions such as:

  • Why was the book written? – was it to inform, to persuade, to entertain, to teach or to provide an overview of an area?
  • Who published the book? – was it a university press, commercial publisher, government, professional association, a campaign group?
  • Is the book well organised? Do the contents or index indicate you are likely to find material you need?
  • When was it published? Consider the date if this is relevant to your subject. For English literature, history, theology, age may be no barrier to good content, for science subjects and law etc., making sure you have the most up to date information on the subject is key to a good piece of work.
  • Has the book got a bibliography? If so, does it cover primary sources? If you find a good book that has a bibliography don’t forget to use that as another source for finding useful material.
  • For what sort of audience is the book aimed? i.e general reader, students, specialists, researchers?

Many of the questions above apply equally well to journal articles. We recommend accessing articles via LibrarySearch+, and within the results you can limit your search to ‘peer reviewed’ articles which have been evaluated by other academics. You can also use the options on the left to limit your search in a number of other ways, including date ranges.

Peer-reviewed journals in LibrarySearch+

Bear in mind that the majority of articles in LibrarySearch+ are available to you, but for some you can only access an abstract. Again, if in doubt ask a librarian to avoid paying wherever possible.

In some subjects, particularly the social science subjects, you made need to find more current information than journal articles can provide. Newspapers are a good source of recent information, and you can find newspaper articles on LibrarySearch+ and also through the LexisNexis database.

Bias in newspapers is definitely to be considered, particularly political bias. Most papers are fairly openly and obviously in support of one political party over another, so bear that in mind and look at multiple sources rather than relying on just one.

Google and Google Scholar can be incredibly powerful tools for gathering together resources that might be useful for your literature search. But what you need to recognise and compensate for, is that Google, and even Google Scholar, have no academic filters. They will bring you results, but with no indication of how trustworthy or accurate the contents are.

However you can use Google’s Advanced Search to limit searches. A particularly good one for some of you will be to limit the results to sites with certain web address endings such as .ac.uk and .edu for University sites, or .gov, .gov.uk for official government sites. .org sites are more complicated – they tend to signify charities or other non-profit organisations, but this does not mean the content is without quite heavy bias at times.

So what can you do when faced with websites that you need to assess?

Let’s say you need to find out information about Homeopathy. A quick google search will bring up lots of results, including quite a number of official sounding bodies. Let’s have a closer look at some of these sites to see how you can assess them.

Start off with some of the same questions you asked of a book:

  • Why was the site written?
  • Who wrote the site?
  • When was it last updated?
  • Who is the target audience?

Let’s start with Wikipedia:

Homeopathy article on WikipediaWe’ve got a long article here, but in the opening paragraphs we can see homeopathy described as “nonsense, quackery or a sham”. That’s a fairly good indicator of the attitude of this article, but of course bear in mind that many people can edit this page, so the bias of it may change at intervals. Usually Wikipedia notes at the top of a page if the article seems to be particularly contentious, but don’t assume because the information is crowd sourced and indeed well-referenced at times, that it is entirely correct. It can change in an instant.

So how about the NHS, their page must be neutral surely?

Well yes, pretty much, but of course the NHS bases its opinion on scientific evidence and medical opinion, hence their description of homeopathy as a ‘treatment’ in inverted commas…

Homeopathy page on the NHS websiteSo what about other official organisations?

The Homeopathy Research Institute has an entire research database listing relevant articles:

Homeopathy Research InstituteBut consider, what journals have these articles been published in? And are they peer-reviewed or likely to have a bias. Also, does this research database contain references to any articles which give negative conclusions?

How about other groups with a viewpoint? The 10.23 group has a clear bias that you can’t miss…

10.23 Group websiteTheir information is one-sided and not referenced with any sources. However, it may be worth taking note of their mass overdose protest as a form of evidence against the effects of homeopathy.

So what are we to conclude? Well, for homeopathy at least, most websites have an intentional or discrete bias, so looking at a number of sites is advisable. This will be true for any even slightly contentious topic – consider political research into the Arab Spring, the continuing, though discredited, furore around the MMR vaccine and autism, or even historical portrayals of prominent figures like Richard III.

It’s important to ask why a webpage has been created? What is the motivation of the author? And it’s always worth clicking around a few pages of a site to understand their argument or confirm their neutrality. If there is an about us or FAQ page that may quickly provide you with that information.

What else? These days, the design quality of a website says nothing for the credibility of content, lots of people have the ability to put together a shiny website. Neither does the web address. A healthy level of cynicism is the best way to approach websites, even something like the BBC.

One final thing to note with websites. Statistics in particular are something to be wary of online, unless coming from an official website (and even then keep a critical head on as to how they may have been manipulated to show the best result), or from a website clearly citing their sources or numbers. Wherever possible try to locate the raw data from which the statistics have been derived. Remember, 74% of statistics are made up on the spot.*

*that may have been made up.

Read on for Part 3: References and Bibliographies

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Research Survival Guide Part 1: The Literature Search

You all use libraries and electronic resources to complete work for supervisions, so you may feel quite confident in your ability to find material – but how often are you simply finding material from a reading list provided to you? What we want to do in these blog posts is give you extra tools to ensure that you find as much material as possible for your dissertation or project but also for your general weekly work.

Let’s first think about where you are going to be looking for material.

For physical material, like books, the University library catalogues are the best place to start. LibrarySearch collates information on material held in most of the libraries across Cambridge. You will have access to your College Library, departmental or faculty Library and the University Library. You may also be able to gain access to other departmental or faculty libraries if there is material they hold that you can’t otherwise read. The same may be true of College libraries as well. The best thing is always to contact a library and ask whether you can come to look at the material – the worst that can happen is they say no, but often they will say yes.

Ask us to buy books!If there is material that is not available anywhere in Cambridge it’s also worth talking to faculty or departmental librarians, and your College librarians about whether it is something they would purchase or could order in using an inter-library loan. A lot will depend on how expensive an item is and whether it is in print. In College libraries we tend to want to buy books that will be of use to a number of students over the years, some more obscure texts are usually better placed in faculty libraries.

For electronic material there is nothing wrong with starting to search using Google or Google Scholar. Both will bring back an awful lot of references, but bear in mind that not all results may be freely available to you. If there is an article or database that you can’t seem to access do ask a librarian so we can check whether you can get free access. Whatever you do don’t get your credit card out before double-checking!

Particularly in some art subjects, also consider whether there are primary sources that you can access. For History of Art that might be a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum, for Music or English lit there might be something in the University Library, or for History don’t forget that there are practically as many archives as libraries in Cambridge.

So let’s start the literature search. When you are starting a dissertation or project, perhaps even before you settle on a title, you will need to do a thorough literature search. Firstly, is there enough material relating to your subject for you to be able to produce the piece of work required? If your literature search only turns up a couple of articles, perhaps that is a topic for PhD-level research instead! You need to ensure that the topic you choose is realistic. Your supervisor may steer you on this to some extent, but looking at what has already been written round the subject will also give you a good guide. There’s no need to make life difficult for yourself from the start!

If you set yourself a really broad topic, there will obviously be a lot more literature out there to sift through. It’s very unlikely that you can read everything, so a bit later on you need to be discerning. But first of all you need to cast your net as wide as possible to find everything that might be useful. Then you can filter it down.

Knowing exactly what to search for can be tricky. Randomly putting search terms into the catalogue as you think of them is not the best strategy! In order to show you have a good grasp of your topic, you will need to conduct your research methodically. Think about your research topic – what question are you asking? Or, if you don’t quite know yet, what is your topic area. Break the research question or topic down into the key concepts that you will need to search for, like this:

Concept map for literature searches

Think of different ways to express each concept. Identify synonyms and variant spellings to make sure your search is as thorough as possible. Consider whether American or European researchers use slightly different terms.

Here’s an example:

Concept map for literature searches - example

In the example above there are question marks after ‘youth’, ‘adolescent’ and ‘teen’. In Heritage or LibrarySearch the ? is a wildcard character so if you search for Teen? you will get results containing the words teen, teenage, teenager, teenagers etc. If you were to put the ? at the start of the word you would get results including thirteen, fourteen, fifteen etc.

At the start of your literature search, make a list like this (You can use this template to help you), and use these terms to search the catalogue. Go through the list methodically, crossing off search terms when you have exhausted them. You will almost certainly come across new terms while you are reading, which you can add to the list. You may also want to note down any specific authors or journals that you are already aware of in your research area, authors’ names in particular can be very useful search terms.

If you are getting too many irrelevant search results you may need to refine your search – think about whether the terms you are using may be too general.

On the other hand if you’re not getting many results or aren’t getting any at all, try removing keywords or choosing a more general term. And don’t forget to check your spelling!

And remember there are more resources out there for you than books – consider journal articles, newspaper reports, databases, Google scholar, the web. Depending on your topic you may need to look quite widely.

Read on for Part 2: Evaluating Resources

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Navigating the Information Jungle: Slides, links and resources

‘Navigating the Information Jungle’ was an Academic Skills session we ran on 5th February. The slides and links to resources mentioned during the session are below, and we have written up the content of the session in a series of blog posts which are also linked to below.

Links to blog posts:

Links:

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Navigating the Information Jungle Part 3: Referencing and Plagiarism

This post follows on from Part 1: Knowing What’s Out There and Part 2: Making Sense of Your Reading Lists

Okay, so you’ve found everything you were looking for – but what about actually including it in your piece of work?

One thing you need to be very careful about is plagiarism. You probably have no intention of committing plagiarism, however a lot of people worry about it anyway, mainly because they are not sure exactly what it is to know how to avoid it.

It is plagiarism if you do any of the following things without acknowledging the other person:

  • Quoting someone else’s work
  • Repeating someone else’s argument in different words (paraphrasing)
  • Using ideas taken from someone else
  • Collaborating with someone else
  • Submiting someone else’s work as your own

XKCD ‘Wikipedian Protester’, http://xkcd.com/285/

XKCD ‘Wikipedian Protester’, http://xkcd.com/285/

If you use an argument you have read, whether you directly quote it or whether you paraphrase it in completely different words, if you use someone else’s ideas, whether it’s an author or a classmate you’ve collaborated with, you MUST acknowledge the other person properly otherwise it is plagiarism. Obviously if you submit someone else’s work and try to pass it off as your own that’s outright cheating!

If you are caught plagiarising, even without intent, this could have serious consequences for your academic career. If you submit an assessed piece of work to the University that includes plagiarised elements the best case scenario is that you will be given a 0 for that paper. In many cases that will mean you stand no chance of a good final grade for your course. Don’t be scared by this, but perhaps cultivate a healthy low level of paranoia when it comes to crediting sources.

Basically academic writing is a dialogue. You are building on other people’s work so you must give them credit. In turn, you would expect to get recognition for the hard work you’ve done yourself. One day in the not too distant future your dissertation, thesis or articles you write may be being quoted by others, including undergraduates.

Our ‘Research Survival Guide’ session goes into more detail on how to go about referencing, and explores some tools that will make it a lot more painless. But there are a couple of easy things you can start doing now, that will make your life a lot easier when it comes to putting references in your work.

Firstly, find out what referencing style you should use. Most departments will have a preferred (or even a required) referencing style. If you don’t know what style to use, ask your departmental secretary or at your department library.

The other thing to start doing right away is to make sure you make good notes. As you are taking notes from a book or article, make sure that it is clear which parts are direct quotes, what is you paraphrasing what the author said, and which parts are genuinely your own responses to what you’ve been reading. Use colours/symbols/whatever works for you. And remember, whenever you write down a quote or paraphrase in your notes, also jot down where it came from – and that includes page numbers!

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Navigating the Information Jungle Part 2: Making Sense of Reading Lists

This post follows on from Part 1: Knowing What’s Out There

So now you know how to find things, but can you identify what it is you’re actually searching for in the first place?

When approaching a reading list there are two main things that may cause you problems: identifying what type of item you are looking for, and then understanding how best to search for it.

The three main types of item that you will encounter on your reading lists are:

  1. Normal books (sometimes called ‘monographs’)
  2. Specific chapters in books
  3. Journal articles

The normal books are of course the commonest and most easily identifiable items, but the others can potentially cause confusion, not least because different reading list compilers’ have different styles of listing, and they tend to make assumptions about a level of knowledge of a subject.

Here is an example of a chapter from a book, as it features on a reading list:
Reference for book chapterIt is important to know that you cannot usually search using the chapter name or chapter author in library catalogues. You need to identify that this is part of a book, and search for that book title and author. Usually it will say ‘…’ in ‘…’ so look out for that.
Here is an example of a journal article:

Reference for a journal articleOften the reading list will state the title and author of the article, alongside the acronym and issue of the journal, or the full title and issue.

If the full journal title is there it is usually easy to recognise that it is a journal, and the presence of the issue or volume information also indicates this. Acronyms will almost exclusively be journals, but the problem here is identifying which journal it is. Again, like for chapters in books, you cannot necessarily search for the article title, you have to search for that journal, then find the article within that. So acronyms obviously make that tricky!

Often those making the reading list may not think to remember that undergraduates won’t have encountered these acronyms before, and so they may not make a key of what the journal titles are. There is also no one entirely reliable online directory of all journal acronyms as there are so many journals across different subjects using the same acronyms. You can try googling it, looking for the article title may provide the journal information, but it may be easiest to ask the person who set you the reading list, or your department librarian.

Once you have identified what kind of item you are searching for, how do you use the catalogues to search for it? There are many guides for how to get the most out of the different catalogues available, for example on the UL website, on our blog and in our info sheet found above the drop boxes. We really recommend looking there, but for now I just want to draw your attention to a couple of things to bear in mind.

It is important to know that for the majority of reading lists, which provide quite full details about each item, you should avoid copy and pasting the whole line of information or typing the whole reference out as is, because usually reading lists do not lay the information out in the same way that the catalogue does. Here is what happens if you do that in Heritage for example:

Copying & pasting from reading listHowever in the example above you can see that when Heritage does not find any results for your search, it shows you how many results appear for each of the keywords in your search string. We can see therefore that it is best to search using key words such as the author’s name or unusual words from the title. In the example above, Heritage has found 3 results for ‘Bockmuehl’ compared to nearly 5,000 for ‘Cambridge’.

When to use each catalogueIn general we recommend that you use the Heritage catalogue if you want to find out if the item is in Homerton, and LibrarySearch for the faculties and UL, as this is better than the Newton catalogues in many ways. LibrarySearch+ is brilliant for articles, but will bring back an enormous set of results, and that may include things that the University does not have full access to.

Libraries may have paper copies of some journals (e.g. on our second floor) but mostly you will be looking at online material. Not all academics are fully aware of what you can access for free – I have seen reading lists say that you will need to pay to view newspapers – this is not true – just search for LexisNexis on the e-resources page!

The other thing to remember when tackling reading lists is that they do quite often contain mistakes. Misspellings, particularly of author surnames do happen, so finding no results for your search may not be accurate. If you are surprised that no library in the whole of Cambridge has something then check in Google to see if the author is slightly wrong.

Titles do also get mixed up. The person compiling the list may be putting the title down from memory and get it slightly wrong, or more often the subtitle changes between editions, even though the book is the same. So sometimes just searching for the main title is a safer bet.

Academics make mistakes too!Sometimes the Library doesn’t have the book you want, and that will be the same for any library in Cambridge. We don’t have bottomless funds, or staff working 24/7. Please do request books for us to buy (send us an email or write your request in the book at the Enquiry Desk), but realise at the very least they will take a day or two to arrive, and often longer. We want to know what’s missing so we build our collections with the right material, but a last minute recommendation for this week’s essay topic may not arrive in time. But, we might just have a few pieces of advice to help you get what you need.

First off, have you checked if the book is anywhere in a Cambridge library? If a library does have a copy and you get in touch with them, you can often arrange to go and read the book in the library, even if you can’t borrow it.

Maybe that isn’t the case though, and all the copies are out from the libraries you have access to. Make sure you check whether an ebook is available. It should come up in the results on LibrarySearch and Heritage, but if you are using Newton it won’t display the ebook result. So unless you have a really good reason to use Newton we’d recommend looking elsewhere.

Another option is to check Google Books. They may have either a complete, or more often a partial version of the book. If you’ve been told to look at just a particular chapter or two you may find all of it available to you there.

Along similar lines is Amazon’s look inside feature. You need to be logged into an Amazon account, but you can then look inside many books. And, whilst what you get as a preview is limited, this can help if you’ve got your quotation but don’t know what page it was from, as you can put it into the search inside box and often get the page number that way.

Read on for Part 3: Referencing and Plagiarism

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Navigating the Information Jungle Part 1: Knowing What’s Out There

So, you’ve survived your first term, done your first pieces of work successfully and come back for more – congratulations! That is no mean feat in itself. But how can you build on that start and continue to succeed reading lists grow, and supervisors expect more independent research and thought? This series of blog posts is based around our recent Academic Skills session on this topic.

One of the great strengths and opportunities of Cambridge is the breadth of resources available to you, both physically and electronically.

There are over 100 libraries in CambridgeFocusing physically first, there are over 100 libraries within the University, and if you need to consult material in them, the answer is usually that you can. You have your College library and your main faculty library, and they should be able to cater for many of your book needs, but don’t feel limited to them – so much of the learning and research going on in Cambridge is inter-disciplinary, so expect to move between libraries for material.

There are a couple of caveats, in that College and Faculty libraries are generally reserved for students of that College or subject, think particularly of somewhere like the English faculty library where they cannot accommodate students just wanting to read some fiction. But if they hold material not available elsewhere that you need, you just need to ask the librarian, and you can usually at least gain access to read it there and sometimes more. If you are studying a subject like HSPS you may already have 3 or more departmental libraries that you go to for different papers on your course anyway! As your interests shift, broaden or focus during your University career always keep in mind the possibilities other libraries may be able to offer you.

The University Library is a copyright library, which means by law it receives a copy of every book published within the UK. It also has extensive journal collections, newspapers and large collections of non-UK English and foreign language academic books selected for the quality of their research. Academic books and bound journals can be borrowed, and everything else can be consulted in the Library. If you’re a historian, or perhaps a theologian or literature student, or indeed anyone else, you may be able to access rare books too. Understandably these are on restricted access, so you need to show your academic need, and probably need the support of a DoS or supervisor, but don’t be afraid to ask.

That covers in brief the physical collections available to you, but there are also the electronic resources.

Certainly when it comes to journal articles, the University has electronic access to an enormous amount, but you may not discover that it is available to you free of charge if you use Google as your only search tool. Don’t get me wrong, Google is an incredibly powerful way to find things, but it can’t tell you whether you can get that information for free. Use Google to find things you want to read if you like, but then use the University webpages to check if you can gain that information for free.

Let’s look at an example of a journal article you might be trying to find. One of the items on your reading list is an article by Adriana Vlachou on The EU’s emissions trading system in the Cambridge Journal of Economics. You’d like to have a look at it.

First of all you try Google. You find a result, but when you click through and select the full text you are prompted to login or pay. This article costs $38 for a single day’s access. This login box will not recognise your Raven credentials.

Journal subscription required when accessed through GoogleTry again by going to the University Library’s webpages. You can use LibrarySearch, LibrarySearch+ or the ejournals page to search for the Cambridge Journal of Economics – only LibrarySearch+ allows you to search for actual article titles, but if you have information on the journal it was published in there’s no problem. Newton will give you information on any paper copies of the journal held in libraries, but won’t give the e-journal information.

Use the Library catalogue to find journal articles rather than googleYou select the resource and try to click through. If you are on an MCS machine it will recognise you as part of the University and log you straight in, and would probably do the same straight from Google, but for laptops and other wireless devices and when you aren’t in Cambridge, going in via University webpages will trigger a prompt for you to login to Raven. Once you’ve done this the article and indeed the whole journal will be accessible for free.

You are now recognised as being a member of the UniversityIt’s worth bearing in mind that the University spends over £5million each year on e-resources – that’s access to e-journals, e-books and databases, so take advantage of that by gaining your access for free.

Read on for Part 2: Making Sense of Your Reading Lists

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Academic Skills Session – Research Survival Guide

Research Survival Guide advertThis Wednesday’s Academic Skills session is aimed at those thinking about a dissertation, thesis or other large-scale research project. The session will be run by Liz Osman (College Librarian) and Annie Gleeson (Senior Library Assistant) and is on Wednesday 19th February at 17.30 in the Horobin Room.

Liz says:

Working on a longer piece of research can be daunting, and you need to find and evaluate the literature around the subject. This session will provide you with tools to do a comprehensive literature search, to assess the material to identify the most useful and appropriate items, and some tools to help with compiling a bibliography.

All are welcome, and the session should last around 45 minutes. We hope to see you there!

This is the penultimate session in this year’s Academic Skills Programme; the final session on Wednesday 26th February will be ‘Revision Tips’.

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Academic Skills Session – Critical Evaluation of Journal Articles

Critical Evaluation of Journal Articles advertContinuing the Academic Skills Programme, this week’s topic is critical evaluation of journal articles. This will be divided into two sessions on 12th February at 17.30, with Dr Liz Duignan leading the Arts & Humanities session in Horobin Room and Dr Paul Elliott with Sciences in Paston Brown.

These sessions will be useful to anyone using journal articles in their research. The sessions should last around 45 minutes.

Upcoming sessions in the Academic Skills Programme:

  • Wednesday 19th February 17.30 – Research Survival Guide: Mastering Your Dissertation or Project, Horobin Room
  • Wednesday 26th February 17.30 – Revision Tips, Horobin Room
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Academic Skills Session – Navigating the Information Jungle

Navigating the information jungle advert

The Academic Skills Programme runs throughout February. Every Wednesday evening at 17.30 there will be a session in the Horobin Room. The sessions cover research, referencing, revision, and much more.

Liz Osman, the College Librarian, is running the next session on Wednesday 5th February:

You’ve survived your first term, but where do you go from here to continue and build on your success? Liz will run through the wide variety of resources available to you through Cambridge libraries (both print and online), how to make sense of your reading lists and other tips and tricks to help you make the most of your time and get what you need.

The session will be aimed at first year undergraduates, however anyone wishing to learn more about finding resources is welcome to attend. The session should last approximately 45 minutes.

Other upcoming sessions in the Academic Skills Programme:

  • Wednesday 12th February 17.30 – Critical Evaluation of Journal Articles: Arts & Humanities, Horobin Room
  • Wednesday 12th February 17.30 – Critical Evaluation of Journal Articles: Sciences, Paston Brown
  • Wednesday 19th February 17.30 – Research Survival Guide: Mastering Your Dissertation or Project, Horobin Room
  • Wednesday 26th February 17.30 – Revision Tips, Horobin Room
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Homerton College Library is now on Pinterest!

In last year’s survey, several of you said that you wanted to hear more about new books and DVDs being added to the Library’s collections. You can now follow us on Pinterest to see items that we have recently added to the catalogue.

As more new books come in, we will create more and more subject specific boards (like this one for English and Drama), so you can see what we’re adding for your course. We also have a board for new DVDs, and because we know you love them, there’s a board for new Disney DVDs!

If you don’t have a Pinterest account, don’t worry! You don’t need to sign up for Pinterest to see what we’re adding, you can bookmark our page or an individual board such as the Children’s Literature Collection, and check back every now and then to see what we’ve added. Alternatively you can subscribe to an RSS feed of our new pins.

Pinterest Pinboard

Image by Mike Wheatley

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Alice in Wonderland collection comes to Homerton Library

Selection of Alice in Wonderland coversThanks to a generous donation by Professor Maria Nikolajeva, we now have over 150 versions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in the Children’s Literature Collection. Many of these are foreign language editions, including Russian, Spanish, Croatian and Hebrew, as well as over 50 different English editions. The selection of covers above shows just a little of the range of languages and illustration styles on display in the collection.

Selection of Alice in Wonderland books in the Rare Books Collection

Selection of Alice in Wonderland books in the Rare Books Collection

We have decided that some of the older and more valuable books in the collection would be best housed in the rare books collection. You can see a selection of these in the photo on the right. Any items which are in the rare books collection will be marked with a location of ‘Stack (Ask at desk)’ in the catalogue. Just speak to a member of staff and we will be happy to get them out to show you. All of the rare books are for reference use only.

A pop up book from the collection (illustrated by Robert Sabuda)

A pop up book from the collection (illustrated by Robert Sabuda)

The donation also included a number of Alice in Wonderland related artefacts including games, music, and postcards, and we are still working on getting these catalogued.

You can find all of the borrowable books from this donation on the 2nd floor at shelf mark 823 CAR/NIK. We are sure that this will be a very useful collection for Children’s Literature researchers, particularly for those studying illustration or translations.

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Colour-coded class marks

Over the vacation, we fiddled around a bit with Heritage so that the classmarks are now colour-coded to match the appropriate sections on our floor plans, and also to match the new signs we have put up on the ends of shelves. Hopefully this will make books easier to find!

So now when you have found a book in Heritage, each Dewey Decimal main class will be a different colour (700s are lime green for example):

colour coding in HeritageIf you’re not sure where this is and are checking the floor plan, the 700 section is the same colour:

Library floorplans

…and so are the shelves!

colour coding on shelves

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Feeling festive in the Library!

Beautifully decorated Christmas trees have appeared all around College, and there are tinsel garlands and lurid singing snowmen all over the place. We have of course jazzed up the enquiry desk with tinsel and stuck snowflakes on the office windows, but we are fortunate in the Library and Archive to some really lovely Christmassy books and artefacts to put on display as well!

Svetlana Paterson is our relatively new College Archivist, and she has provided these wonderful hand-written and illustrated programmes from the Homerton Juniors’ Social of 1899:

Programmes from Homerton Juniors' Christmas Social 1899

Programmes from Homerton Juniors’ Christmas Social 1899

Girl's Crystal Annual 1953

Girl’s Crystal Annual 1953

In the Children’s Rare Books Collection we have quite a lot of Christmas- and winter-themed books. Besides the two pictured below our display includes Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans, and The Christmas Tree by Charles Dickens.

Our Rare Books Collection has grown a lot over the last few months thanks to several large donations of books. Over the Christmas Vacation we will be working to get records for all of our Rare Books onto the Library catalogue, to open up the collection to researchers for reference use. We will give you more details about this once the records are on the catalogue!

'Poulterer' from The Book of Shops, by Edward Verall Lucas [no date]

‘Poulterer’ from The Book of Shops, by Edward Verall Lucas

In the meantime please take the opportunity to have a closer look at the display next time you are in the Library, and we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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