Monthly Archives: January 2015

Critical reading online

Teaching the researchers of tomorrow

For the past year I’ve been involved with the Library’s My Learning Essentials (MLE) Open Training programme, which involves facilitation of workshops on academic and study skills. In addition to the regular offer of sessions on effective academic writing and organisational techniques, January’s sessions include a focus on revision as part of the Library’s Exam Extra offer.

The MLE workshops are used by students and researchers at all stages of their academic careers. Over the last year, 39% of MLE workshop attendees have been Taught Postgraduate students, with Postgraduate Researchers representing 18% of delegates, and Undergraduates making up 38%. I love being able to offer constructive, tangible support to both current researchers and those who may consider further study or research after graduation.

Jam-packed workshops and engaging online resources

MLE homepage
MLE homepage with links to online resources for all and workshops for students and staff at Manchester

The workshop format is intended to make the best use of students’ and researchers’ precious time, with a jam-packed 20-30 minutes of information provision, instruction, discussion and activities. The rest of the hour-long session is left open, so attendees can work alone or in groups, on their own past papers or using example documents provided. There is also the opportunity to talk directly to facilitators like myself for advice. I enjoy being able to work with students 1:1 or in small groups, and discuss resources that can develop their ideas or answer their questions. It’s great to be able to point students to the Library’s fantastic suite of online tutorials. Designed by the Library’s award-winning MLE Development Team, these interactive resources are available for anyone to use, and offer instruction combined with the opportunity to put skills into practice. Some of my colleagues in the Research Services team have contributed to the latest online resource which provides an introduction to statistics.

Critical reading online resource
MLE ‘Being critical’ online resource

One of my favourite sessions to deliver is Critical Reading, where I suggest ways to ensure that reading is engaged and effective. When setting the agenda at the start of the session I delivered in the first week of January, people attending asked how they could possibly read everything for their topics, or if there was a better way to approach their work. I was able to suggest strategies to determine whether a text is worth reading, through setting a goal on what you wish to get out of a text before you begin, and predicting content and relevance based on title, abstract and introduction. Once you have decided that something is worth reading, I explained the strategies of reflecting on the main ideas being communicated as you are reading, clarifying anything you don’t understand, and summarising the paper and your interpretation of its ideas. As well as checking that you have really understood and engaged with the material, this creates a neat synopsis to refer to throughout your revision, and to look back on for those who go on to further study and research.

Communicating ideas

The most important message I have learnt from delivering MLE sessions, and the one I try to impress upon all workshop attendees, is that whether scribbling a 20-minute exam answer, drafting a 20,000 word dissertation or defending your argument during a viva, we are not tested on what we know, but what we are able to communicate about what we know. The ability to communicate is key to engaging with complex ideas and debates that may have raged for centuries, or are perhaps brand new.  I love being part of the MLE Open Training programme which I hope will instil a deeper understanding of methods and approaches to scholarly work, and encourage confidence to challenge and contribute to discussions at all levels of study.

Check out MLE resources on the library website.

 

OA Advocacy banner

Open Access Advocacy

Open Access iconOff we go, Lucy and I, out into the Yorkshire cold to attend an Open Access (OA) advocacy event held at The University of Bradford. We are warmly welcomed to a great afternoon with engaging speakers, and a fun exercise from the man behind the OA innovations at the University of Huddersfield, Graham Stone.

Deadly diseases and healthy profits

Our first speaker was Professor Charles Oppenheim who shared an overview of OA and its importance for academic libraries. He opened with some punchy headlines (which had all the delegates mumbling in their seats) about the monopoly of publishers and their reluctance to share scholarly work for free – using the Ebola crisis as an example. Some publishers have been withholding integral research on the subject unless subscriptions and fees are paid; stating even with a terrible crisis developing there was still the need for a ‘healthy’ profit margin. This led very nicely to his second headline that Elsevier had made a bigger profit in the past 12 months than Google! Despite these alarming headlines, he did emphasise that he was not anti-publisher but there are still some important guidelines that needed to be solidified, using the help of government mandates and institutional gumption!

OA Advocacy 1 - To return to the role of llibraries

Professor Oppenheim described the uptake of OA has been slow and hesitant over the past few years, with only 20-30% of research output in the country being OA. He highlighted the responsibility on the funders and institutions to encourage authors to engage with OA. This could be through different means like incentives, as well as a few sticks, and to directly quote our second speaker Nick Sheppard:

‘Carrots don’t work, please give me a stick.’

OA Advocacy 2 - What I learned

Nick Sheppard and Jennie Wilson from Leeds Beckett summarised their technical challenges and new workflows. Nick took us through the difficulties of advocating green OA in response to the HEFCE announcement and the jump for institutions to embrace new software and repository infrastructure. Nick went on to highlight the importance of social media and altmetrics in drawing attention to the importance of OA and the academic world, and the impact on citations.

OA Advocacy 3 - Other tools & network effects

Jennie gave the audience a glimpse into the new pressures she has dealt with.  Leeds Beckett didn’t receive any RCUK funding so her team had to come up with innovative strategies to encourage authors to engage with OA and explained their use of social media to promote services and encourage authors to deposit in their repository. Their use of LibGuides really had the room buzzing. Jennie explained how they used Twitter feeds about hot topics, such as World Diabetes Day, to capture articles relevant to the discussions. and had a rolling feed on their LibGuide website. This turned out to be an effective incentive for authors to deposit their papers, as well as a way to showcase research taking place at their institute, a ‘win-win’ all round!

OA Advocacy 4 - Using Symplectic & Libguides

Our final speaker was the enthusiastic Graham Stone. We were introduced to the OAWAL project (pronounced like the bird!), a new initiative sourcing workflows and best practices for the OA community which aspires to develop into the ‘go to’ place for management of OA in institutions.

OA Advocacy 5 - What is OAWAL?

Graham then led an exercise to highlight the negatives and positives we face in the OA world. In groups we figured out ways of resolving the issues, highlighting the top 3 priorities. In our group the negatives were things like lack of consistency among publishers, staffing and money. We did find some good positives such as strong mandates and buy in and enthusiasm, and high profile support and advocacy. We came up with a few solutions such as having a more collaborative approach, more mandates and the use of ‘sticks’. Our top 3 priorities were 1) a more collaborative approach supported by mandates, 2) publisher consistency and 3) encouraging academics to refuse to carry out peer-review for publishers that don’t allow authors to comply with funder policies. This exercise was useful as it highlighted that everyone seems to be dealing with the same issues and having the same pain points, and that there is a community out there who can provide advice, personal experience and hopefully a network on best practice and standards. Developing communities and sharing experience is also a focus for Manchester as the lead institution on the opeNWorks JISC pathfinder project.

OA Advocacy 6 - workshop

Lucy and I really enjoyed the session and thought the choices of speakers were well thought out and varied. There were a few questions and answers and an opportunity to network with colleagues in similar roles, so all in all a useful session.