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.
Focusing 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.
Try 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.
You 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.
It’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.