Tag Archives: Research skills

I wrote an article once …

Actually, I’ve written at least a couple of dozen articles and published my thesis as a book, but this weekend I decided to write an article for submission to the Scottish Journal of Performance.  I started roughing it out yesterday, and sat down to work at it properly, late this afternoon.  Suddenly, a light went on.  Hang on, hadn’t I written an article about library ‘user education’ once before? Sure enough, there it was in my CV: ‘But how do I tell them?’, in the librarianship journal, Personnel Training and Education 8.3 (1991).  I was fascinated to discover that not only had it been cited in a lengthy Australian study, but I was even quoted as observing, 23 years ago!, the lack of pedagogical theory in librarianship writings on user education!

Image

Judith Peacock, From Trainers to Educators: Librarians and the challenge of change (1999)

Emboldened by my early success, I’m now feeling much more optimistic about the paper I’m working on today.  Today’s effort is so very obviously better – I can tell that my writing has matured – although, after 23 years, I shouldn’t really be surprised.

However, this is interesting:  Peacock quotes me noting the absence of something that I’ve only just, THIS YEAR, had the opportunity to make good.  The wheel comes full circle, you could say!  Except that, in one sense, it’s like looking down the other end of a telescope.  23 years ago, it was six years since my postgraduate diploma at library school, four since I’d reluctantly abandoned the PhD that I’d set aside during my librarianship training, and electronic resources consisted largely of databases for scientists and lawyers.  Now, having completed a PhD on a totally different subject, and gained Fellowship in my professional body (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), I’m in the mature years of my career.  E-resources are for everyone, and I’ve finally had the opportunity to do the Teaching Artist short credit-rated course that occasioned the writing of this blog.  In the article I’ve been writing,I’m addressing the same subject again.  But it’s like standing outside the Conservatoire knowing the land was once occupied by tenements.  Same territory, but completely different environment!

Debriefing: the Research and Bibliographic Skills Seminar

My session with the research students went well last night.  There were six students, a few apologies, and the course leader was present.

I had been asked to cover research skills using electronic databases, and also to talk about bibliographic software.  My one-hour lesson-plan accomodated all this, but in retrospect, it was all rather tightly packed in. The feedback afterwards was practically unanimous in this regard; and it has been suggested to me today that it would have been good to have had a similar session, or two similar sessions, at the start of the academic year in September.  I’m inclined to think that we could have occupied two, two-hour sessions, perhaps a week or two apart.

My major change to the session, which I’ve now given several times, was in endeavouring to embrace constructive alignment theory, and to have the students much more involved.  I was delighted how successful it was, to divide the students in pairs, getting them to ask each other three simple questions and then to report back to the group (a) what their partner found to be the most useful e-resource; (b) how their bibliography was progressing; and (c) whether there were any aspects of digital resources that they found challenging.  Discussion was frank and animated, and I partnered with the course leader to talk about similar questions meanwhile.

I took notes as the students shared each others’ answers; some were quite surprising to me.  The students make much use of the University of St Andrews’ e-resources (being far more numerous and interdisciplinary than we, a small institution, can afford); they also make quite a bit of use of Google Scholar.  Naxos and JSTOR featured, not surprisingly, and also a couple of unique resources suiting the researchers’ own subjects – one from the Piobaireachd (Pibroch) Society, and the Chinese National Library.  We don’t have a large enough research cohort to expect every e-resource on offer to be mentioned; it obviously depends on postgraduates’ research subjects as to what they will find useful.

More students had encountered Zotero, but were interested in what Mendeley could do; and the less technically-adept students were content with their Word document bibliographies, but again, hopefully emboldened to experiment with bibliographic software once they’d heard me and their peers talking encouragingly about their advantages.

The students’ course leader talked a little about Prezi as an alternative to PowerPoint, and one of the students engaged in dialogue with me about Scrivener as a writing tool for constructing and envisaging large pieces of written work.

Surprisingly, out of six postgraduate students, two had learned the hard way about the urgency of backing up documents and preferably keeping a copy on a USB stick, or using some kind of cloud storage.  That’s 33%, which I found quite a worrying percentage!

FEEDBACK FROM THE RESEARCH AND BIBLIOGRAPHIC SKILLS SEMINAR

Peer-reviewFeedback form 001 from the course leader: “Many thanks for a lively and helpful session last night, I am interested to view the feedback
with you…”

I was keen to get feedback from the students themselves, and decided that a simple 3-question survey would give the best chance of everyone completing it on the spot.

Liked:-

  • overall structure very clear;
  • hearing what my colleagues use to create their biblios and find articles;
  • lots of experiences about bibliography software.  I haven’t used any before, but it sounds very convenient and easy to produce the thesis later;
  • hearing about Zotero and Mendeley;
  • the useful information about software of bibliography;
  • diversity of resources.

Disliked:-

  • The timing – prefer stretch over 2 or 3 hours;
  • the session felt slightly rushed, but I would rather see a longer session than less content;
  • —–
  • that it was so short;
  • —–
  • too brief focus on each element!

Would like more of:-

  • Bibliographical information (Zotero, etc);
  • … this session! It was hugely helpful;
  • practical sessions or more longer session for experiencing softwares together;
  • Zotero/Mendeley training;
  • details of bibliography (the way of how to use it).

LESSON PLAN: RESEARCH AND BIBLIOGRAPHIC SKILLS

I’ve embedded my Word document, but I am not very confident that it will look presentable in blog form.  Here goes … (You can follow comments from our shared space by clicking HERE.)

SAMPLE LESSON PLAN TEMPLATE

 CLASS DETAILS (adapt headings in this section to suit your learning / teaching context)

Programme / Course Title : Research Degrees at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Project / Topic  Lesson is linked to (if relevant):
Learning Outcome Lesson is linked to: Research Skills

 STUDENT DETAILS

Student Group: Doctoral and MPhil Students
Level (eg: P5 / S1) or context (Intergenerational..) SCQF Levels 11-12, Masters and Doctoral Degrees.
No. of students in Session 8-10

LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

Venue / Room: Research Lab, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Learning Materials / Resources Online databases (RCS subscriptions and others that are freely available)
Equipment 2 x PCs, and students’ own laptops
Learning Technologies Various interactions with online databases

 

LESSON DETAILS/ PLANNED ACTIVITIES:

 

Lesson Title: Research and Bibliographic Skills
Context: Annual seminar providing instruction on research and bibliographic skills to the research students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Monday 19th May, 6-7 pm.  Although one of a series of evening events run for our research community, this particular session is not publicly advertised, but is offered to students engaged in research. It is stand-alone, insofar as it does not fit into a formal curriculum or structured series of classes.
Lesson Learning Outcomes* The verbs used to describe the learning outcome should be appropriate to the level and stage of development of the learners the lesson is for (Use CfE Outcomes / SCQF level descriptors or other Indicators as appropriate). SCQF Characteristic 2 (PRACTICE: APPLIED KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND UNDERSTANDING) requiresstudents at Levels 11 and 12 to demonstrate competence ‘in applying a range of standard and specialised research and/or equivalent instruments and techniques of enquiry.’The research students will explore some key databases and bibliographic tools, and learn to exploit them as techniques of enquiry and documentation.
By the end of this session students should be able to:  
Recognise key research resources and freely available bibliographic citation software
Devise search strategies to retrieve relevant research literature
Compile a bibliography suitable for scholarly writing.
  1. .
Recognise these research capabilities as essential for a future academic career, but also as employability skills in the wider sense.
Time Available: 60’
Notes   

 

Tutor will email research students in advance of the seminar, advising them of the topics to be covered, and inviting them to come prepared to discuss web applications and methodologies that they have already encountered.

 

Lesson Structure*

 

Estimated Time for Completion Teacher Activity Learner Activity Resources/Notes
17.00-17.05 Introduction to the learning outcomes and structure of the seminar
17.05-17.10 Overview of some key sources
17.10-17.20 Tutor moves between pairs, inviting students to use computers as appropriate to demonstrate resources they already know Students discuss in pairs: share with each other one research database you find useful; the steps you have taken to begin your bibliography; any concerns about using e-resources PCs and laptops
17.20-17.30 Tutor calls group back, inviting each pair to introduce each other’s favourite web resource and bibliographic methodology, and any concerns about e-resources Students describe each other’s favourite web resource and bibliographic methodology, and any concerns about e-resources PCs and laptops
17.30-17.40 Tutor picks up and addresses issues arising from the discussion. Students’ earlier observations direct the nature of the discussion. Students are invited to suggest topics for demo searches PCs and laptops
17.40-17.55 Tutor demonstrates her own use of Mendeley as a bibliographic tool, and introduces Zotero. Also Diigo; and a low-tech alternative to online technologies for bibliography. Any student using Zotero invited to demo how they use it. PC
17.55-18.00 Summary: recap on topics covered in this session.To conclude, explain that tutor will email all students to follow-up this session; further training can be arranged if requested directly or via Research Lecturer. Students invited to identify which of these resources they might find worthy of further exploration.Any questions?

 

* Your Lesson structure should include:

 

Time to introduce tasks/activities to the group

Time for students to engage in the activities (either independently, or in groups).

Time for formative assessment/feedback (to check learning and understanding).

Time to link lesson to other activities and time to set out any independent learning tasks learners are expected to engage in before your next session with them.