Category Archives: Citation

RefME or Not

A new citation app, RefME,  is appealingly straight forward to use, I thought it might actually be the easiest for students to learn, although I myself already use Mendeley regularly, and have also tried Zotero and – at one stage – had a subscription to EndNote.  I arranged for the rep to give a presentation to myself, and colleagues from across the institution.  The app is good. The cost of becoming an institutional partner was too high.  I could not get my phone to do the ISBN recognition which is a key part of the app, and I’ve since found the support back up to be sadly wanting, so I won’t be recommending it. Nonetheless, the subject of referencing might be a good one for a trial intervention, and I have not dismissed the idea of creating a quick and basic introduction to referencing.   I did blog about RefME – ‘When a tweet provokes thought’, 18th December:-  and I remember my frustration.  I like Mendeley. I trust it.  I believe Zotero is equally good. I’m sorry, RefME – I won’t be recommending you.  It’s a shame.

El Hakim, Yaz, et al, ‘The impact of RefME on the student experience’, report on research by University of Greenwich and Sheffield Hallam University, 2016, 11 pp.


When a Tweet Provokes Thought

I’ve just found this tweet in my feed, and it set me thinking.  The person who posted it (Cristina Costa, at the University of Strathclyde) has been at a Scottish information literacy event.  I was aware of it through following Twitter, but didn’t hear about it in time to consider attending.

The image attached is a circle divided into four quadrants:-

  • Develop Skills – Educators, Skills and Confidence
  • Improve Access – Learners,  Access [??]
  • Empower – Leaders, Drive Innovation
  • Enhance – Curriculum and Assessment

So, in my rather unique position as simultaneously academic librarian, postdoc researcher and PGCert student, where do I fit in?  Today, I was talking to third year undergraduates about online resources, referencing and bibliographic referencing software.  We didn’t go into any details about how exactly RefMe,  Mendeley or Zotero work – in an hour to cover all the above, it was enough to mention that they all do roughly the same thing, and are worth considering.  In a sense, it was ME developing my skills as an educator (1), at the same time as I was improving the learners’ access (2) by informing them about what was available and how best to exploit it.

Their regular course-leader was sharing the seminar with me, so I like to think that sharing knowledge about the library’s online resource provision was empowering my colleague (3), whether by providing reminders about facilities or imparting new knowledge.  That, naturally enough, would (hopefully!) enhance the curriculum (4), and the assessment of student projects will in due course also demonstrate just how much they used the information we had given them (4 again).  However, I am not involved in the final assessments, so on this occasion I just have to hope that what I shared will prove worthwhile.


On the subject of RefMe, I should mention that although we looked into the institutional, enhanced version, the cost was too high, so students will have to make do with individual free access.  RefMe does have impressive capabilities, and is easy to use.  I haven’t embraced it fully myself, because really, one needs only one bibliographic referencing tool, and I have Mendeley on every single device I ever use.

However, I downloaded RefMe to my android phone earlier this week.  I wanted at least to be able to demonstrate it to students.  Disappointingly, it wouldn’t scan ISBNs, wouldn’t retrieve details of books that I was pretty sure should have been retrieved, and although I’ve emailed the RefMe helpdesk, they haven’t responded yet.  I hope there will be an easy, obvious answer, because I hesitate to recommend it to students if there’s an android glitch that isn’t being talked about.  Meanwhile, I’ve uninstalled it, and await a reply!  I’ve also tweeted a query. No reply to that, either.

I downloaded a research paper about RefMe, a couple of months ago. Sat down to read it properly just now, and – well, yes, I had already added it to my Mendeley bibliography. (Shh, don’t tell RefMe!)  But it’s impressive, it really is.  The accuracy rate is hugely better than asking students to do their referencing manually using sample templates.  Here’s the report.

Hakim, Yaz El et al, 2016, The impact of RefME on the student experience. Online. (Accessed 2016.11.20)



But I’m still waiting for my reply as to why I can’t scan barcodes or search for items on my Android. So I’m still wondering whether I ought to recommend it to Android users!  Frustrating.



Half a Day in the Life of an Academic Librarian

I was working from 1-5 today, because I was owed a few hours.  So, I had planned two meetings, one in my capacity as music librarian, and the other regarding a research grant application.

What happened? Two more people came asking for help in the 15 minutes before my first meeting. I helped the first – it was a quick question – and asked the second to come back later.  The first scheduled meeting happened, the second didn’t happen for unavoidable reasons, and then I had what I hope was a helpful second student consultation with the person whom I hadn’t time to help earlier.

And then I blogged some notes on my afternoon, on the library blog – Whittaker Live. Reproduced here, to avoid duplication of effort.  But before I do that, I’m just going to comment that it made me realise – again – how enthusiastic our postgraduates are, and how eager to get things right.  Also, I was reminded that logging into e-resources, and referencing and citation, are things we librarians just take in our stride.  They’re much bigger hurdles for our students, especially if they’ve been out of education for even just a few years.

In library terms, we would refer to these incidents as queries, though ‘consultation’ is probably closer to the mark.  In actual fact, it’s 1:1 teaching, though some of our RCS teachers probably assume that teaching only takes place in classrooms or studios!

Day in the Life of a Music Librarian

This afternoon saw a quick question about our students accessing online resources from outside the Conservatoire – and a quick answer.  RCS staff and students need to go to our Library web-pages, click on the appropriate e-resources link, and then pick their chosen e-resource (or e-book, or e-journal).  Use Shibboleth institutional access from there – pick the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, then your usual RCS login.  We don’t use Athens – so avoid anything mentioning it.

Then came two two individual consultations about Karen’s favourite things.  First, a fairly in-depth discussion about saving citations, then using the Harvard referencing style, and creating a bibliography.  The Whittaker Library has guidelines about Harvard referencing on our part of the RCS Portal.  (Find them here.  If you need more, just Google “Harvard Referencing”, and you’ll find plenty of other guides!)

If you’re referencing a lot of non-standard formats, the best advice is to find an example for something approximately close to your reference, then tweak the example to fit your purposes, making sure the author’s name and date of the source are listed first.  If you’re referencing something online, then you’ll need to give a hyperlink, and also the date you accessed the item.  All this is in our guide.


The next query was back to e-resources again, but this time about content rather than access.  We talked about finding info about specific musical works.  Naxos sleeve notes are useful.  JSTOR can be useful, too. Oxford Music Online is better for facts about the works’ composition dates, opus numbers, where they stand in the composers’ output, etc, but may not necessarily give you anything in-depth about individual works.

So, having delved briefly into online resources, we also looked at CD and vinyl sleeve notes – plenty more info in that direction!  And good old Cobbett’s Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music.  It may be old, but could be a good starting place.

Referencing Advice: A Query

I had a query about referencing online and audiovisual resources, yesterday.  We have advice via our Library pages on the RCS Portal, so I directed my enquirer there in the first instance.  I’m not sure if there’s a call for any other documentation – I’m undecided whether I could devise any other online material to help our students in this way.  The document – not one I authored – looks fairly comprehensive.  I’d be interested to know if students think we could offer any other support via Moodle and the Portal.

“On the Portal, go to the Whittaker Library page, and then click on Referencing, which you’ll find in the right-hand column under Navigation Menu. To make it easier, here’s the direct link (you’ll have to login to access it):-

“And then if you click on Citing and Referencing Advice, you will be taken to a lengthy document which talks about all aspects of referencing.  (It’s a Word document, and the info about citing audiovisual and electronic resources is on screen 7 onwards.  Why not try citing a couple of things …?)”

Informal Teaching Opportunities

Informal? Well, should I just say, this posting concerns normal teaching opportunities rather than events deliberately set up for my PGCert studies.  In the past week, I’ve spoken to our research students about bibliographic referencing tools and general good practice – that turned into a great discussion lasting just under and hour – and two groups of first year undergraduates (one surprisingly large class and one small), about useful online resources for their first proper essay assignments.  Even the course-leader was gratified by the turn-out for the first session, and although I only had 10-15 minutes, I thought I got quite a lot across.

I’ve also done two 1:1 sessions on citation and referencing for an undergraduate with particularly challenging reference sources, and a distance-learner on one of our taught postgrad courses.  These were more like tutorials than lessons, obviously.  The students provided details of the materials they needed to cite, and I helped them to format them.  We encourage students to use the Harvard system at the Conservatoire – it’s not the system I use myself, but hey, it’s just a question of formulating the citations and bibliography in accordance with a set of rules.  I’ve spent decades with cataloguing rules, so citation and referencing really isn’t a problem for me!  Hopefully I’ve made things a bit clearer for our students.