Posts about: Environment and Life Sciences

Exams… preparation is the key!

24 April 2017
Tracy Breheny

Tracy tells you how to find past exam papers to help with your exam preparation.

Got exams coming up?  Looking over past exam papers can be really useful when preparing for an exam.   The Library has a collection of past exam papers which are all available electronically.

To find past exam papers, you need to:

  1. Go to our past exam paper webpage here:
  2. Type in a couple of keywords to limit your search; often words from the module title bring back useful results.
  3. You will then be presented with a list of past exam papers we have access to that match your search. When you find the one you would like to look at, click on the title and you will be able to open it.
  4. If you are off-campus, you will be requested to sign in with your network username and password to view them.

If you have any problem accessing past exam papers, please contact your Academic Support Librarian for further help:

There is also lots of help with exam preparation and revision tecniques available on our Skills for Learning webpage here: so take a look!

Good luck with your exams!

Alexander Street Video – great resource for all subject areas

11 April 2017
Andy Callen

Andy describes how Alexander Street Video might be a useful audio-visual resource for you.

Do you need to get hold of video material for your study or teaching, but it’s not on Box of Broadcasts or in the Library’s DVD collection?

Try Alexander Street Video, an online collection of non-fiction video material for educational use, potentially useful across all subject areas. It includes:

  • News clips from ITN
  • Instructional videos for teachers
  • Over 1,000 films on psychology and counselling
  • Numerous documentary films on artists and designers.

Access Alexander Street Video from the Databases link on Library Search, OR directly from Your Network username and password are required.

Any questions? Contact me at

Do you know how to eSubmit your work?

3 April 2017
Amy Pearson

Amy points out handy resources to help you with e-Submission

Turnitin is used for the e-submission of your assignments. It is an online tool that you use to upload your work so that it can be marked by your tutor. You access Turnitin from Blackboard.

Important things you need to know about submitting your work for marking

  1. Use the correct naming convention for your files – your school may specify a particular format.
  2. Submit your completed assignment to the correct, FINAL submissions folder when it is ready for marking. Work submitted mistakenly to the DRAFT folder at this stage will not be marked.
  3. When you submit work for marking, you are accepting the submission declaration.
  4. Keep copies of email receipts from Turnitin as proof of submission.
  5. Check the file size. Files must be less than 40Mb. Contact your lecturer if your file is greater than 40Mb.
  6. Use an accepted file type. File types accepted are: MS Word, WordPerfect, PostScript, PDF, HTML, RTF or plain text. You can ask at The Library for help if you are not sure about a file type. For non text-based assessments (e.g. audio/video, etc.) your tutor may use the Blackboard Assignment Tool.

If you are unsure how to use Turnitin we have videos and guidance on the Skills for Learning website.

Planning and writing your assignment – your 5 steps to essay success!

20 March 2017
Amy Pearson

This time of year is all about assignments. Amy has shared the Skills for Learning 5 steps to essay success!

It’s that time of year again when deadlines are looming so we thought we’d share with you our 5 steps to essay success.

  • Step 1: Analyse and Plan
  • Step 2: Search and Evaluate
  • Step 3: Read and Make Notes
  • Step 4: Write your Essay
  • Step 5: Review and Submit

Read on to learn more about each step!




Step 1: Analyse and PlanStep 1: Analyse and Plan

When you are given a question or task to complete you need to make sure that you understand what you are being asked to do and then plan how you will approach it. If you don’t answer the question being set you are more likely to get a low mark. With this in mind, the first step to essay success is to ANALYSE and PLAN. This involves analysing your task, making a plan and identifying useful words that describe your topic. You need to make sure that you pay attention to the instructions you have been given, be clear about the topic you have been asked to explore and any restrictions to the scope of your answer.

Step 2: Search and EvaluateStep 2: Search and Evaluate

Next you need to search for information and evaluate the usefulness of what you find. You need to think about what you already know and where you could search for information. A useful way of evaluating sources is to ask yourself these questions:
1. How up-to-date is the information? Is it still CURRENT?
2. Is this information source going to help me write my essay? Is it RELEVANT to my topic?
3. Is this “the right sort” of information – is it suitable for academic purposes? Is the author an expert in this subject area? Is the information reliable and ACCURATE?
4. Why has this information been written? What is its PURPOSE? Is there any bias I need to take account of?

Step 3: Read and Make NotesStep 3: Read and Make Notes

Now you have your materials together, it’s time to start getting the information that you need from them. There are different ways to approach this task depending on what you are reading. If it is books then you might want to start by looking at the chapter headings to decide which will be most useful. If it is a journal article then it is a good idea to read the abstract first as this help you decide whether it is worth reading in detail. Next you need to read the introduction as this will tell you about the main argument of the article. Read the conclusion next for a summary of the main ideas and finally if you still think it is relevant you may want to read the rest in detail. Make sure you annotate and summarise as you read.


Step 4: Write your EssayStep 4: Write your Essay

By now you should have a good idea about how you are going to answer the question. It is a good idea to re-visit your plan as it may have changed as a result of all the research and reading you have done! Give some thought to how you will structure your essay – it will need an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. The introduction tells the reader how you will answer the question. The main body is the ideas and analysis to support your argument, it is your opportunity to critically analyse the topic. Finally, the conclusion tells the reader how you have answered the question. Don’t forget to paraphrase, summarise and reference correctly as you write.


Step 5: Review and SubmitStep 5: Review and submit

Leave plenty of time to proofread your work paying particular attention to spelling, grammar, the question, word count and references and citations. When you are happy with your essay and confident that you have done your best to answer the question you can submit it.



Learn more

  1. Have a look at our 5 Steps to Essay Success online resource for more detail about each step.
  2. Read our study guides:
    – Writing your assignment
    – Reading and note making
    – Spelling and apostrophes
    – Proof Reading
  3. Book on to the Planning and Writing your Assignment workshop

Find your library books easily using ‘Locate’!

30 January 2017

Not sure where to find a book you need?  You can now find out exactly where your library book is located using our ‘Locate’ tab.

First of all, look for resources in Library Search and when you find a book you would like to find, click on the title:

Book search in Library Search


See if copies are avaiable, and if they are click on the ‘Locate’ tab:

Locate tab.


You will then be shown a map with the location of your book highlighted, so you know exactly where to find it!


Map for book location.


Want to learn more?  Take a look at ou short video which explains how to find books in the library:

Check out the new look Library Search!

25 January 2017

SOLAR Library Search has recently undergone a revamp. It is now Library Search and the interface has been improved.

Here are a couple of tips on how to start using the new-look Library Search…

In Library Search, you can now ‘pin’ the resources you find so you can go back to them:

  • ‘Pin’ resources to go back to them by signing into Library Search.  Then run your search and click on the pin icon to save it. 
  • You can then see all of your pinned resources together in your favourites area. 

In Library Search, you can now save your search query (so the keywords you have searched for) so you can go back to it:

  • Save your search query by clicking 
  • Your saved search query is then stored in your favourites area.

In Library Search, you can now locate books you want to find using our virtual map:

  • When you find a resource you want to find, locate it by clicking on   and viewing the map.

Map for book location.


Take a look and see what you think!


Have you tried Box of Broadcasts?

10 January 2017


Students/ researchers/ teaching staff, if you’re looking for audio-visual resources for your research, need something visual to illustrate a presentation, or want to make clip of a television programme to include in a lecture, look no further than Box of Broadcasts (or BoB for short). BoB is an electronic resource for playing back and recording tv and radio programmes for educational purposes. You can access it from the Databases link on SOLAR, then choose Box of Broadcasts from the A-Z list; or from You’ll need your Network username and password to access it. You can link to it from PowerPoint, Word or BlackBoard, and you can now label your own clips. It is useful across all subject areas, and is a great resource for watching feature films if we don’t have a particular film in the Library’s DVD collection.

BoB is fairly intuitive to use at a basic level, but please see our guide if you need further help.

Some great tools for presenting and sharing

13 December 2016

At some point during your studies you may be asked to create a presentation or a video about a topic to share with your classmates. PowerPoint is a great starting point (did you know you can turn a PowerPoint presentation into a video? File > Export > Create Video)

But, if you fancy trying something a bit different to wow your audience or just want to learn about some fun, versatile tools then read on.

Book Creator

Book Creator LogoFirst up is Book Creator.

This is an app that allows you to make your own media rich eBooks on a mobile device.  You can add images, text, sound and links. Your finished eBook can be shared as an iBook for viewing or for more flexibility you can and publish it as a PDF or an MP4. The drag and drop interface makes this a really simple tool to use. You can download it for Apple, Android and Windows devices. Learn more about his app on the Book Creator website

Microsoft Sway

Sway logoMicrosoft Sway can be used to create interactive presentations and websites to  share your reports, personal stories, projects and much more. You can combine text, images, video and social media and then share your Sway with others via a link. There are loads of templates to choose from and once again the drag and drop interface makes this an easy tool to learn to use. There are also some good video tutorials. Go to the Sway website to get started.


Stop Motion Studio

Stop Motion StudioIf you are feeling really creative then have a look at Stop Motion Studio. This app is a really simple tool for creating stop motion animations. You wouldn’t want to use it for a long presentation but it could work really well if you need to capture and share something shorter – ideas from groups work for example. You don’t need to model your own plastersine figures – a bit of lego, a few stuffed toys, some paper and pens along with a bit of creative thinking will do just fine. Have a look at this example of stop motion animation ‘Twitter in Plain English’ for some inspiration. Learn more about this fun tool on the Stop Motion Studio website.

What’s your tool of choice?

Share your favourite apps and presentation tools on this blog or via @skillupUS

[Thanks #12AoC for the inspiration!]

Assess your skills!

30 October 2015

Assess your skills imageBefore you start searching for information for your assignments, you may find it useful to assess your information finding skills first. We have created a short skills assessment that you can work through which will help you identify any areas you could develop further and it will guide you to sources of further help and guidance where needed.

Give it a try!  It only takes up to 15 minutes to work through and it can save you time by pointing you in the direction of help and guidance where you need it most.



Tips for evaluating websites

21 August 2014

web searchingAre you using information from websites in your research and wondering how you can tell if it’s a good resource to use?  If so, there are a number of checks you can run  through when evaluating a website which will tell you if it’s a reliable and trustworthy resource suitable for your academic work.


Firstly, ask yourself a couple of questions:

Is the website from a credible source?

Does the website help advance your argument?

Is it relevant to your topic?

Then, run a few checks when reviewing the website…

  • Check the source of the information (You can often look at the domain name for some help with this; does it have an .edu, or a .gov domain name for example?)
  • Check when the website was last updated (Is it recent?  Does it even have a date?  If not, you need to be cautious about using it)
  • Check the author out (Is there an authors name attached to it?  Do you recognize the author as an expert in the field? Remember, an author can be a company or an organization as well as an individual person.  again, if there is no author evident you need to be cautious about using it)
  • Check the content and look for any possible bias (Is the author trying to promote, publicise or sell anything?  Is the website heavily biased towards one side of an argument?  If so, take this into account when using it in your work)

These short checks should help you to evaluate a website and will assist you when deciding how reliable a website is.

Finally, don’t forget to reference anything you use in your academic work that you have found on the web!