Posts about: Environment and Life Sciences

Getting the most out of Library Search

16 April 2018
Tracy Breheny

Tracy tells you how to use Library Search smarter!

Trying to find sources for your academic work can be difficult, time consuming and overwhelming.  Sometimes, even deciding where to look can be tricky!  But fear not, help is at hand!

Library Search can make your academic life easier by helping you to find a range of reliable and trustworthy sources for your work.  It contains a wealth of information to help you make the most of your studies, including books/eBooks, journals/eJournals, articles, databases, past exam papers, the University’s research, the University’s Archives and Special Collections and more. read more

Using Dictionaries and Encyclopaedias

12 January 2018

Want to use something better than Wikipedia for your assignments? Anne suggests some alternatives.

When you get given a new assignment do you head straight to Wikipedia to find out what the words mean?

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – if you’re going to research a topic and write about it you need to know what it is, right? However, Wikipedia is a crowd-sourced resource – meaning you don’t know who has written the information, or more importantly, if they know what they’re writing about.

The Library provides online access to a wealth of dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and other publications such as directories and handbooks, which are known as reference works.

They are usually arranged in alphabetical order and provide short, factual articles to give you a brief overview of a topic – just like Wikipedia, but from a reliable, academic source.

what you can find in an encyclopaedia

  • A dictionary is a book providing definitions of words and phrases. It can be a language dictionary or a specialist subject dictionary. You can use dictionaries to help you understand the words and concepts in your essay question.
  • An encyclopaedia is a book, or set of books, giving information on either many branches of knowledge or a specific subject. You can use encyclopaedias to get an overview of your subject before you move on to more detailed research.
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    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:

    Video on finding Salford dissertations and theses

    Further information can be found here.

    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:

    Video on finding dissertations and theses using ProQuest and EThOS.

    Further information can be found here.

    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.
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    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. read more

    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 (,, 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.
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    What is Critical Analysis?

    27 March 2017

    Want to improve your critical analysis skills? Anne shows you how.

    and why do I need it?


    During your time at university you will often be asked to critically analyse things – in your reading and writing, in essay titles, assignment instructions and exam questions.

    Also, when your assignment is marked your tutor might comment that your work is “too descriptive” or that “there isn’t enough critical analysis”.

    What does it all mean?

    Descriptive writing is simply describing a situation or summarising what you have read.

    Critical analysis shows that you have examined the evidence, understood the arguments and analysed the conclusions – and can discuss these in your own writing.
    examine the evidence

    You need to use both. If you are discussing a book, article or report you will need to provide some description of what it is about before you can analyse it, but the critical or analytical element of your writing is more important.


    Because the ability to show that you can identify arguments, clearly analyse, evaluate and compare ideas, and synthesise the information to support your own arguments shows that you have learnt something.

    This what your tutors want to see!

    Unsurprisingly, the better your skills are, the better your grades will be.

    Want to learn more?

    This e-Learning will introduce you to critical analysis and help you to understand the difference between descriptive and critical writing.

    Play Critical Analysis e-Learning


    Finding books in the library

    30 January 2017
    Tracy Breheny
    Tracy discusses finding books in the library.

    Finding books in the library can be a little bit daunting, especially if you are new to an academic library. In this blog post, we will talk you through the easiest way to find the books you need for your studies.

    Library Search

    Library Search is the portal into all of The Library’s print and electronic academic resources.

    When you search for a book in Library Search, it will tell you if it is available electronically, in print or in both formats. If it is available in print, you will see a location, which tells you which library the book is in, and a subject number followed by some letters that appear under the title of the book you want to find: read more

    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)
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