Posts about: Environment and Life Sciences

Is formatting your dissertation/thesis harder than you expected?

17 July 2017

If you’re struggling with word processing your dissertation/thesis, then you’re not alone. It can be a demanding task, with many students find this aspect of the process more time consuming and stressful than they anticipated. But MS Word provides tools and features that make this task so much easier to manage. You can save time, learn the skills to work more effectively and reduce your anxiety levels too.

Do you know how to…?

  • Create an automatic table of contents for your document headings?
  • Apply Word’s ‘Captions’ for figures and tables, and create automatic listings for them?
  • Apply different page numbering formats to the different parts of your document?
  • Change page orientation mid-document, e.g. to accommodate a large chart?

No? What??? Then you need to check out our handbook and video resources…

Handbook and Videos

These resources focus on the key MS Word tools and features that you should know about and use when Formatting your dissertation/thesis.

Image of video screens

 

Email etiquette tips

30 June 2017

 

Email etiquette cartoon

Cham, J. (2015). How to write an e-mail to your instructor or T.A. Retrieved from http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1795

 

 

When emailing friends it is fine to use an a familiar and informal style, however, when you write an email about a job application or internship, an interview or when emailing your tutors it is good practice to adopt a more formal style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for writing a formal email:

  • First impressions count – Think about your email address a prospective employer might remember you for all the wrong reasons if you contact them using an email address such as wildandcrazygeek@gmail.com.  It is a much better idea to use your university email account – you can forward emails from this account to your personal email using the instructions here.
  • Include a greeting– if you know your tutor using their first name in the greeting is fine. If you do not have a familiar relationship with them then use their family name e.g. Dear Dr. Smith.  If you are applying for a job and don’t know the name of the person who will be reading your email it is good practice to include the greeting Dear Sir or Madam.
  • Use the subject line and be informative – try to avoid just typing “hello” or “help”. If emailing your tutor tell them why you are contacting them e.g. Query about case study in Clinical Skills lecture.  If you are applying for a job include details about the job being applied for e.g. Application for Library Assistant post ref: LIB/6291.
  • Avoid text speak – Save ROFL and YOLO for emails to friends. Use full sentences and punctuation when emailing tutors and prospective employers.  Use the spell check to make sure your message is correct before pressing send.
  • DON’T SHOUT – Names, dates, places, most acronyms and the start of a new sentence should be capitalised, entire sentences shouldn’t.
  • Size matters – Tutors and employers are busy people so be as concise as possible. Also avoid sending large attachments – find information about compressing files here.
  • Provide details – Give the person you are contacting the information they need to answer your query effectively e.g. if you are querying something that was said in a lecture include the date and time.
  • Good manners cost nothing but are always appreciated – include a please and thank you when making a request.

    Photo of Sue

    Sue is blogging about email etiquette.

  • Include a sign off:
    1. To a tutor – “best wishes” or “regards”
    2. To a prospective employer you have addressed as Dear Sir or Madam the sign off should be “Yours faithfully”.
    3. To a prospective employer when the name is known e.g. Dear Mr. Smith the sign off should be “Yours sincerely”.

The sign off should be followed by your full name.

 

Looking for dissertations and theses? Library Search can help.

29 May 2017
Tracy Breheny

Tracy talks you through finding and accessing dissertations and theses.

During the course of your studies, you may find that you need to look for dissertations or theses.  Maybe you would like to see what other research has been undertaken in relation to your topic, or perhaps you would like to see what a dissertation or thesis looks like.

You can use Library Search to help you find them and there are a number of different ways to search depending on what you want.

Finding University of Salford dissertations and theses

You can use the ‘Advanced Search’ option in Library Search to find the dissertations and theses by previous University of Salford students.

To find out how to do this, take a look here: http://salford.libanswers.com/faq/94021

Using databases to find other dissertations and theses

There are a number of databases you can use to find dissertations and theses from other academic insitutions.  You can access these through Library Search.

To find out how to do this, take a look here: http://salford.libanswers.com/e-resources/faq/137926

 

Helpful tips when looking for dissertations and theses:

  • Select a couple of keywords and use these when searching.  Don’t try to enter too many keywords all at once as it’s often useful to see what else there is around your topic.  Also, entering too many keywords can make your search too specific and you may struggle to fnd what you need.
  • Can’t find what you need? Many databases only contain PhD level manuscripts.  Using advanced search options within certain databases can sometimes allow you to specify other manuscript levels.
  • Don’t worry about topic area too much if you just want to see what one looks like.  Looking at any of them should give you an idea of layout and format.  Always check any guidelines you have been given by your school.

 

 

Writing a dissertation ?  Need further help?

There is lots of help available for students writing or preparing to write a dissertation.  Check out our Skills for Learning webpage here for further support:   http://www.salford.ac.uk/skills-for-learning/home/reading-and-writing.

 

Looking for newspaper articles? – Try Nexis Business and News

22 May 2017

If you are searching for full text newspaper articles on almost any topic, Nexis Business and News is a great place to start. It provides content from local, regional and national papers from around the world.

You can find Nexis via Library search, which gives access to all the Library’s resources.

  1. Connect to Library Search
  2. Search for Nexis Business and News
  3. The database should be the first item in the search results. Click on the link for online access

You can use the search box to type in keywords, but your search will be more focussed, if you set some other criteria.

It may be helpful l to –

  • Select where your keywords must appear – either in the headline, at the start of the article, or maybe as “major mentions”
  • Select which dates you want to search.
  • Select what which news publications you want to search. For example you may want to restrict your search to UK National Newspapers, or to Major World Publications (English)

The full text of any articles you find can be read on screen, or downloaded as a file for you to save.

For more guidance, look for the links to help screens and video tutorials on the main search page.

 

 

Surviving your exam

1 May 2017

If you have exams coming up, here are some top tips to help you do your best

  1. Double check the time, date and location of the exam. You don’t want to go to the wrong building or miss the exam! Also check what you’re allowed to take in with you.
  2. Try not to stay up late the night before doing last-minute revision.
  3. Eat a good breakfast / lunch beforehand.
  4. In the exam, make sure you read the paper thoroughly from start to finish before you try to answer anything. Check the instructions (e.g. do you have to answer all of part A and choose one question from part B?) Don’t rush!
  5. If it’s an essay-based exam, look at how many marks each part is worth, and split the time between the questions accordingly.
  6. Plan your answer – jot down the main points you want to include, and think about how you’ll structure your answer before you start writing. If your mind’s gone blank, try and write down anything relevant you can think of, and hopefully this will help you to remember more information.
  7. You don’t always have to answer the questions in order, as long as it’s clear which answer goes with which question. This is particularly useful for short answer papers, where you might want to leave a tricky question out and come back to it later.
  8. Answer the question! Don’t just waffle on and tell the marker everything you know about the topic.
  9. Read it through afterwards to check your answers make sense.
  10. Ignore everyone else! The person next to you might have filled four answer booklets, but they could have written complete rubbish…

For more help, see the Skills for Learning exam pages. Good luck!

Tips, tools and apps to help with revision

26 April 2017
Amy Pearson

Need help with revision? Here are some tips and tools to help you.

We all know that revising is tough. It is difficult to know where to start and very easy to get drawn into other things. Here are a few tips, tools and apps to help you ace your revision!

Tips

The trick to revision is to use more than one strategy to give yourself some variation on how you are revising. It is better to revise ‘actively’ (giving your brain something to do with the information) than revise ‘passively’ (just reading things through). This should make revision less boring, as well as helping you remember material!

You can try the following:

  1. Using colour coded highlighters or sticky notes to draw your attention to main themes or topics in your notes
  2. Summarise your notes. Then, when ,you are confident with the material, summarise again, until you have a set of cue cards or one A4 crib sheet per topic
  3. Use spider diagrams (or mind maps), timelines, pros and cons lists or any other kind of diagrammatical note-taking techniques to see the information in a different, condensed way
  4. Practice doing exam questions from past papers under exam conditions
  5. If there are ‘facts’ or ‘figures’ you need to memorise, try writing them on sticky notes and leaving them in places you see them all the time (e.g. your kitchen cupboard or by your mirror)
  6. Try making up exam questions (although do be careful not just to make up ones which you’d like to answer!). This helps to put yourself in the mind-set of your tutors. If you were them, what would you test student on?

(From our Revision Study Guide)

Apps and Online Tools

If you like your technology then you might find these apps and online tools helpful.

ThingLink

With ThingLink you can make your images come alive with video, text, images, links and music. Such a great tool for revision if you are a visual learner. Pick an image that you associate with the topic and then add text, links, videos to it that cover the key information. When you need to recall the topic you can mentally work your way around the image and visualise the information you added to it. You can download the app or access it online. Simply go to the ThingLink website to get started.

Padlet

You use Padlet to post text, video, images or links onto a virtual wall. Your Padlets can be visible just to you or you can let others read and contribute to them. You can use it online or download an App. This could be a really useful tool for revision as you can summarise topics and use the Padlet app to access your summaries whilst you are on the bus! Go to the Padlet website to get started.

Flashcards+

According to the website you will be able to ‘memorize like a pro when you’ve got flashcards in your pocket’. This app is handy for revision as you can create flashcards for key topics or theories and use these to test your recall of the topic. If you are studying a subject that requires you to memorize images then you can easily add them to the flashcard. This is a great app if you like to learn in this way. Find out more about it on the Flashcard+ website.

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: http://www.salford.ac.uk/library/research/exam-papers
  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: http://www.salford.ac.uk/library/help/academic-support

There is also lots of help with exam preparation and revision tecniques available on our Skills for Learning webpage here: http://www.salford.ac.uk/skills-for-learning/home/assessment-revision-and-exams so take a look!

Good luck with your exams!

Assignment feedback: the good, the bad and the ugly…

10 April 2017
Catherine Tomlin

Catherine explains how to use your feedback.

So you’ve received your assignment mark and feedback. Happy? Disappointed? Shocked?

 

 

 

Here are a few tips on making use of feedback so your next essay is epic!

 

  • Don’t ignore your feedback. Your tutor has spent time explaining how you can improve. Although criticism is hard to take, it is the best way to learn and develop.

  • Confused by your feedback? Use our Feedback Glossary for commonly used feedback terms. Alternatively, get in touch with your tutor to discuss.

  • Take action. Think about what you can do to make improvements; Workshops? Online resources? Talking with tutors, friends, library support?

  • Spot patterns. It may be that a similar problem keeps popping up. Get support from your tutor or the Skills for Learning team to tackle the issue once and for all!

  • Create an action plan/checklist so you are clear on what you need to do and when you plan to do it.

  • Recognise you are at university to learn. You are here to develop skills and knowledge by making mistakes and learning from them. Our Student Diaries blog shows you aren’t on your own!

 

Fake News

7 April 2017

Be a savvy news consumer – Joanna gives some useful reminders.

Fake news has become a hot news topic! We all want our news to be accurate, truthful, and honest, so how do you sort out truth from lies, or identify exaggerated stories, or facts reported out of context?

The simplest strategy is to make sure you get your news from a variety of sources – don’t get stuck in your own media “bubble”. Be critical and analyse any news you share on social media.  We all have a responsibility not to spread lies.

There are no hard and fast rules, but here are some things to think about –

  • Beware sensational headlines. Not every shocking headline is associated with fake news – but it’s a warning sign.
  • Be very cautious about stories intended to prompt an extreme emotional response, particularly anger. Verify the story from other known, reliable sources.
  • Check whether other “mainstream” news sources are reporting the story.
  • Take a look at the domain name. Does it suggest a bias, or potential unreliability?
  • Check out the “About us” tab, or look at the contact details. Is the content attributable to a “real” person, or an identifiable organisation? Do they have a particular agenda? Look for more information about the author or organisation.
  • Look for supporting evidence. Use a fact checking site if appropriate (FullFact.org Factcheck.org, Politifact.com, Snopes.com etc). Follow up links to research studies, or data sources. Ask yourself if they are authoritative. Look for other reports about the same study. Remember fake news doesn’t have to be “made up”. Facts reported selectively can be dangerously misleading.

Looking for more?

For a more comprehensive overview of Fake News and how to spot it, check out the University of Rhode Island’s excellent resource

News Literacy and Alternative Facts: How to Be a Responsible Information Consumer

And Remember –

As University students you should routinely evaluate all the resources you use for your own research and assignments, particularly anything found via internet sources.

  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?

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.