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!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Secondary referencing

I’ve been getting loads of queries about secondary referencing recently; this is where you want to reference something that the book or journal article you are reading has referenced…so you’ve not read the original source, you’ve found it quoted or paraphrased in something else, but it’s really useful or relevant so you still want to use it.

We’ve got guidance on how to do this on our referencing webpages. However, it’s not considered good academic practice to do lots of secondary referencing in a piece of work. Ideally you should be going to the reference list at the end of the book or article you’re reading, working out what the original source is, then tracking it down, reading it yourself, and then referencing that, not the item in which it is referenced. There may of course be times when you cannot locate the original source – maybe because it’s out of print, or we don’t have a copy and you can't get hold of one elsewhere – in which case it is OK to use secondary referencing. Try not to do too much of it though; your work should reflect your ability to locate appropriate sources and to compare and apply arguments yourself.

If you want any help with tracking down original sources, finding things for your work, or referencing, come into the Library and ask, or send me an email.