All 4 entries tagged Postgraduates

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October 12, 2011

My top tips for a new PhD student, on literature searching

Here is an adapted excerpt from some recent correspondence with a new PhD student at Warwick:

If I were you then I would start by building your list of places you wish to search...

...then look at the keywords you wish to use,

...then start searching in earnest.

Don’t underestimate how long it will take you to do all of this!

Do be organised so that you can refer to your records at a later stage, and set up accounts and alerts as you go along so that you don’t have to do the same searches over and over again.

Do also record places that you choose not to search and why, and keywords that you choose not to use, and why.

There is often a strange, panicky moment when you think you’ve discovered a new source of information or search strategy, a year or two down the line… and then it turns out that you did know about it but had good reasons not to use it then which might still apply or not, as your research evolves.

It’s quite easy to forget what you did at this stage so recording things is important: you’ll probably find your own system for this, although we suggest some useful methods at the RSSP workshops for PhD students:

June 13, 2011

PhD Life

Writing about web page

A quick post to point you to the PhD Life blog, written by PhD students at Warwick. It's a great read!

March 07, 2011

Postgraduate Information Needs and Online Tools Awareness (PINOLTA) – a project report

Writing about web page

I've finally got around to reading this report that came out in June last year. It describes surveying and focus group activity amongst Cambridge University Postgraduate students, to find out about their information skills needs, attitudes and awareness. It often divides information skills into three categories:

Information Search
Information Management
Online Tools

I found the description of PhD students' reported differences in information needs from their Undergraduate days. Issues raised were:

  • Volume of Info they need to handle, leading to feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed
  • Independence expected of them
  • Depth and specificity of the information they are using
  • Timescale: the fact that their project is over 3 years and how to plan and work over such a timescale.
  • Crossing disciplines
  • Need to use different types of information resources
  • Less information is available at the cutting edge
  • Complexity of different library systems, moving from one institution where they are familiar, to another.

The majority of Science students reported that their information resources could be found online, whilst Social Science students were more evenly distributed in their agreement/disagreement with this perspective and Arts and Humanities students did not agree that most of their information resources were online. No surprise there!

Sources that PhD students reported using included: Google, Google Scholar, Google Books, JSTOR, Web of Knowledge and PubMed. I'd agree that all of these are good starting places for PhD students, but that those at the cutting edge or crossing disciplines or looking for depth and specificity will need to look at other sources as well!

I also found it interesting that only about 10% of those surveyed reported that a Librarian had advised them on how to "manage (organise, store, reference) their sources". Respondents could tick all sources that applied and the majority of those who had had advice had got it from other students (59.44%) or from supervisors (48.38%), although there were a variety of other options which were reported as sources by more respondents than the Librarian, including friends and family! (see page 28 for other options.) Of course, this is a Cambridge University survey, so it might be different at other libraries.

When considering online tools it seems that the postgraduate students were most interested in finding ways to filter all the stuff that might be relevant to them.  I like the way the questions were asked, with students able to tick from the following options for each type of tool:

  • I'm unsure how to use it effectively
  • I don't think it would benefit me
  • I'm happy with my current strategies
  • I'm too busy to investigate
  • None of my colleagues use it
  • I am not confident using online technology
  • My supervisor would not approve

Online tools were divided into the following categories:

  • RSS feed readers and aggregators
  • Web bookmarking tools
  • Citation / referencing tools
  • Social / academic networks and discussion forums
  • Micro‐blogging

In general, respondents seemed unsure of how to effectively use RSS feeds, and don't think that social networks will benefit them.

I also found it interesting that, when asked about experiences of Library training, it seems that PhD students reported that it was too basic for them and more tailored towards Undergraduate needs than their own.

I think that's one of the advantages of us having a Library team dedicated to looking at the needs of Researchers and I believe that our own offering for Research Students through the RSSP is at the appropriate level, but we do need to keep listening to the needs of our community and developing our offering to suit.

February 23, 2010

ESRC PG training framework & guidelines

Writing about web page

I'm just starting as the Library's Academic Support Manager (Research) and this is my blog to record the things I'm reading about and doing.

These guidelines from ESRC look particularly interesting for when I speak to our Graduate School about PG skills and whether there is anything that the library can contribute.

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Most recent comments

  • Oh yes, I'm writing that too! And tidying up my paperwork, plastering each piece with post–it notes … by Jenny Delasalle on this entry
  • A useful list, thanks Jen. I would add "it's never too early to start writing your handover document… by Emma Cragg on this entry
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  • Hi Peter, I see that you practice what you preach… and indeed the point that you make about being … by Jenny Delasalle on this entry

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