Friday, 19 December 2014

The Christmas Truce

If you've not heard of the Christmas Truce before now, you probably have since Sainsbury's have requisitioned it for a seasonal advert on the 100th anniversary of the event. Christmas Day 1914, and the men fighting in the First World War are hunkered down in the trenches, when one side begins to sing carols, with the other joining in. Gradually both sides emerge, hands up, and they meet in No Man's Land, wishing each other season's greetings, sharing cigarettes, and playing a game of football, before returning to the trenches and resuming fighting the next day. It's a touching story of humanity which brings home the tragedy of the ordinary lives lost in the war, but there has been disagreement ever since it apparently happened about whether the accounts of the football match were genuine (Adams and Petney, 2005). Adams and Petney (2005) include several in their chapter on the event if you want to read more about it, but they also point out that the letters and diary entries came from observers, not those participating, and that none of the photographs which were apparently taken by men on both sides have ever emerged. They do also suggest, however, that accounts of "fraternisation" may have been censored as it was frowned upon (Adams and Petney, 2005, p. 37); similarly, Moore argues that the truce was not publicised back home as "it did not reflect the public mood, or the propaganda needs of the Government" (2014, p. 649). 

Whether the football match actually happened or not, it has captured public imagination in recent years, featuring in popular music and books (Moore, 2014), and now receiving further attention on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War; this week the British and German army football teams played a commemorative match. The BBC have also created an interesting tutorial on the role of football during the War.

Have a restful Christmas break; look after yourselves and your loved ones, take some time to focus on the things that are important to you, and I look forward to seeing you in 2015.

Adams, I. and Petney, T. (2005) 'Germany 3-Scotland 2, No Man's Land, 25th December, 1914: Fact or Fiction?', in Magee, J., Bairner, A. and Tomlinson, A. (eds.). The Bountiful Game? Football Identities and Finances. Oxford: Meyer & Meyer Sport pp. 21-42.

Moore, K. (2014) 'Football and the Olympics and Paralympics', Sport in Society, 17 (5), pp. 640-655.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Can you proofread my work?

As deadlines are upon us, I'm getting lots of requests to check or proofread work. This isn't something that I or any other Learning Resources staff can do...but we do offer some advice on how you can check your own work. Log into BREO, and on your Gateway front page you'll see the Study Hub: Online. Click through to this (it's a BREO Community) and you'll find lots of resources to help you with your academic skills, including checking and proofreading (find the proofreading section under "Dissertation").

Good luck with those final pre-Christmas deadlines - you're nearly there!

Friday, 5 December 2014

How does school PE influence adult physical activity levels?

Researchers at the University of Birmingham have launched a survey to find out how our experiences of PE at school affect our levels of physical activity as adults. They're hoping that the results of the survey can be used to develop PE in schools in a way that will encourage lifelong participation in sport and exercise. You can read more here and take part in the survey here.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Getting hold of stuff we don't have

When you’re searching for stuff for your dissertation literature review, you’re going to find things we don’t have access to; books we don’t have in the Library, or journal articles to which we don’t have a subscription. You’re researching a specialist area and we can’t possibly stock everything, so it’s pretty much inevitable this will happen to you. It’s not a case of tough luck though – we can help you to get hold of what you need.

We have a Document Supply Service which is available to final-year undergraduates, and all postgraduates and staff. This is where you fill out a form online and we’ll ask the British Library for the book, book chapter, or journal article that you need. Here’s the link.  Final-year undergrads can have 5 requests, and postgraduates can have 20. Books will usually arrive in hard copy and you’ll get an email saying it’s available to pick up. Journal articles will usually arrive as a PDF by email to your student email account (, will only be available for 14 days, and can only be downloaded and printed once – so please make sure you check your email regularly and print it straightaway.

Another option you can use is the SCONUL Access scheme, where you can go and access other university libraries. You will not normally be able to gain access to their online resources or IT facilities (due to licensing restrictions) and undergraduates do not usually get any borrowing rights, but once you’ve filled out the application online and received your access confirmation, you can go and use the print collections on a reference basis; so, for example, if you’re after a book we don’t have, and you live near another university library, you may well be able to get sight of it there (most libraries will have their catalogues available through their webpages, or you could use Copac to search across lots of libraries at the same time).  Alternatively, you might just want to go and make use of their study space if they’re closer to you than any of the UoB libraries. 

Finally, if it’s a journal article you’re after, it’s always worth Googling (or Binging, or whatever your preferred search engine-ing) the title. Increasingly, publishers are allowing authors to make a pre-publication version of their article available for free online, through institutional repositories. As they’re pre-publication versions they won’t usually look like the articles you see published in journals – they’ll usually be a Word document – but the significant content will be the same as the published version.

As ever, if you need help finding something, please come and ask!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Make sure you update your SPSS licence

If you're using SPSS downloaded from the Library, your current licence will expire on the 1st December. Not to worry though...if you find SPSS in the Library Catalogue, click on "SPSS 21" and log in, you'll get the code to update your licence for another year (go straight to step C and follow from there).

Come in and ask at the desk if you have any problems with the download or update.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Should I be using Google Scholar for my dissertation?

I’m going to write a few blog posts aimed at those of you working towards your dissertations or research projects at the moment, and here’s the first: Google Scholar.

I’ll start off by saying that it shouldn’t be your starting point for any piece of research; that should be DISCOVER, our search engine which searches across most of our databases at the same time. DISCOVER contains a huge amount of scholarly material which you can use in your work, gives you lots of options to filter and limit what you find by publication date, source type, subject, geography and more, which will help you to manage the resources you find (in comparison, you’ll notice that Google Scholar has very few options for refining and filtering search results), contains loads of full-text articles (articles which you can download and read in full right there and then) and clearly indicates at a glance what is available in full-text. Whatever level you are or whatever assignment you’re working on, DISCOVER should be the first place that you search. If you need any help with this, please come into the Library and ask, or send me an email.

For those of you working on your dissertations or research projects, I would suggest using Google Scholar in addition to DISCOVER, as it does have a couple of useful features:

  • You’ll notice that under each search result, there is a link saying “Cited by 46” or similar. This means that there are 46 articles in Google Scholar which have cited that article – clicking on this link will take you forward to them. This can be a really good way of discovering newer material on your topic. You can also search within those articles (make sure that the “Search within citing articles” box is ticked) for your keywords, to really narrow down those articles which might be relevant.
  • Scholar also has a handy option to create alerts for your search terms; this means that you’ll get an email when a new article matching your terms comes into Google Scholar. Just click the “Create alert” option on the left-hand side of the screen. This is a good way of maintaining a current awareness in your area – particularly useful for those of you doing dissertations – although it doesn’t excuse you from going back and doing a search again in the future!
It’s worth mentioning at this point that there are a couple of other databases which you can access through the Library which also allow you to look at citations and save alerts; Scopus and Web of Science. Do spend some time on these as well.

There are several downsides to searching in Google Scholar. As I mentioned above, it has very few options for narrowing down your search; basically just publication date. This means that you will have to do a lot of trawling through to find what you’re after; you can’t refine your results to journal articles only, for example, or narrow down by subject or geography, as you can in DISCOVER and other databases such as Web of Science. Similarly, there is no quick and easy way to see what is available in full-text; DISCOVER will tell you at a glance at the record, and will take you into the article automatically when you click on the “Full-text” link, and you can also narrow down your search to full-text material only, so that you don’t find anything that you can’t access immediately. Scholar does not have these options. All of this is why I’d say that Scholar should never be used as an alternative to DISCOVER. 

If you are going to use it, then I’d also suggest doing a couple of things to make it act a bit more like a Library database, to make it a bit easier to manage what you find:
  • First, from the Scholar homepage go to Settings, then click on Library links. You’ll see a search box to add library access links: type in “Bedfordshire” and you’ll be given an option to select “University of Bedfordshire – UoB access”. Do this, and click Save. When you do a search, you’ll now see a clickable option of “UoB access” appear next to each search result, which will, upon clicking, search our online holdings for that item, to let you know whether we have access to it or not.
  • If you use RefWorks to manage your references, you can add an “Import into RefWorks” option for your results. Again, from the homepage, go into Settings, and then under Bibliography Manager, select Show links to import citations into RefWorks, and save. You’ll now see “Import into RefWorks" under each search result, which will work exactly as it does when you import a reference from DISCOVER.

If you need any help with finding material for your dissertation, in DISCOVER or elsewhere, please send me an email, and we can make sure you’re on the right track. Happy searching!