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How to solve a problem like researching for your first science assignment!

1. What will I learn in this section?

We will cover:

  • How to identify your information landscape.
  • What types of information are available to you.
  • The usefulness of your library subject guide.
  • How to find out what different type of resources are!
  • The benefits of using Reading Lists Online.

2. Identify your information landscape

This is a picture of books and book shelves.

What is an information landscape?

An information landscape is not a physical item! Its a way to think about what sources you use to find information. For example, my information landscape would be:

  • Library Search - books and journal articles
  • Specialist databases like PubMed
  • relevant websites via the internet

There are sources I am confident that I can use and evaluate the information I find. We will talk about evaluation in a later section!

Now, we know what an information landscape is, take time to reflect on these questions

  • What sources or resources are in your information landscape?
  • Where do you look for information?
  • What sources are you familiar with already?

It is helpful to know what type of information is available to you and what you need when writing your assignments.

We always need accurate factual information but we may also need:

  • background or introductory information from textbooks
  • primary research like original research articles
  • secondary research like review articles or systematic reviews
  • diagrams or images
  • classic research papers which describes something ground breaking
  • protocols
  • clinical, pharmacological or chemical data

We may not need all those information types for one assignment but the list gives you a good overview of what is available!

You need to know what this information is to be able to recognise it and decide if it is suitable to use to answer your assignment question. It is also really useful to know the differences between primary and secondary literature to help distinguish between the wide range of article types.

Some types of information are easier to spot than others!

For example... a book is a book... isn't it? Well not quite as even within the field of books there are different types of books aimed at different levels of expertise and purposes:

  • fiction
  • non fiction
  • textbooks
  • introductory books about a subject
  • specialist books
  • monographs

It can be confusing but this guide is here to help you understand the wonderful world of information!

3. Use your subject guide and specialist resources!

What is a subject guide?

Subject guides  are written by your subject librarian and designed to help you find and use specific academic resources. Use the guide to help understand what academic resources that cover your subject! Building your knowledge using the guide is a quick way to understand where to search when working on assignments.

You'll find information regarding books, eBooks, specific journals and key databases that are relevant to your subject. 

                             Activity 1: Watch these short videos to find out how subject guides can make you research days easier!

Lets take a look at the Biosciences and Chemistry subject guide.



4. Understand the range of academic sources

                             Activity 1: Know your sources

  • Read through the list of different types of information below.
  • Tick the boxes against the items that you know what they are.

Look up any terms that are new to you in the Academic Glossary to find out what that type of information is.



Why am I doing this?

This is a really useful exercise to do because it helps you build up your academic vocabulary.

For example, when class and your tutor begins talking about journals and a review article... you will now be confident about the information type they are referring to!

5. Why use Reading Lists Online?

Image of Reading List Online (RLO) logo

You can find your modules Reading List Online (RLO) list on the homepage of your Blackboard module.

Think of the reading list as your starting point within each subject! The list has been designed by your teaching team who are experts within these areas to help you develop your subject knowledge.

A reading list will include:

  • links to our online resources, including e-books and journal articles.
  • information about the books’ availability.
  • links to subject relevant websites like professional bodies or guidelines.

Will each reading list look the same?

  • Unlikely, as lists are flexible, adaptable and tailored to the needs of each module.

But lists should follow basic principles!

  • Each module should have a reading list.
  • It should list the details of the resources you need to use.
  • It should Include a link to the resource including the importance of the resource e.g. is it background or essential reading.
  • Some lists may include notes on a resource explaining why you need to read it.
  • Some lists may be broken into weeks or seminar reading.

                             Activity 2: Choose any module and access your reading list

You can find your Reading List Online on the homepage of your Blackboard module. You can find a module using the following instructions:

  • Go to My Hallam. You can find the web link to My Hallam below!
  • Login with your Hallam login.
  • Go to any module and take a look at your reading list.

You will be able to find information about the books’ availability e.g. where it is shelved in the Library if it is a print resource, links to online resources, including e-books and journal articles.

Take time to look at your essential texts and JoVE: Science Education which will help you prepare for your lab sessions.

6. Take a break

Congratulations you have completed two sections! 

Time to take a break - maybe some fresh air or a chat with a friend or a cup of tea!