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Showing posts with label research skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label research skills. Show all posts

5 October 2017

Getting to Grips with Citing & Referencing

Academic integrity is one of the key skills you need to develop during your university studies. This includes acknowledging the work of others and disclosing the sources of your research. Bei-En Zou, a learning skills adviser, writes about the importance of citing and referencing and offers some tips to mastering this skill. 

Before we talk about the importance of citing and referencing, we need a few definitions! Most people often use these terms interchangeably, but they do in fact refer to two different things.

Citations are sources that you mention within your research. They're accompanied by a footnote or an in-text reference. A citation can be a key piece of information that you've drawn from someone else's work or a direct quote from a text. 

Referencing, on the other hand, refers to a list of all the resources you've used in your research at the end of an essay or article. This is also known as a bibliography.

Why do we need to cite and reference?


You probably know that it's a requirement to cite and reference properly in your assignments, but why is it important? Citing and Referencing is important because universities want to train you in thinking originally, and to contribute your own ideas about your subject areas and to produce original work. It's therefore important to distinguish which is your work, and which is the work of others. 

Acknowledging the sources that you have used in your work highlights where you have contributed your own ideas and research. 

Citing and referencing have other important roles too! Referencing is a way of providing evidence to support the claims that you are making in your essay. You can use the work of experts in your field to lend weight to your own research, to show how your work is built upon previous intellectual endeavours or how your work challenges and deviates from the traditional understanding in your field. An essay or report with appropriate and accurate references is always more convincing and persuasive than one without any!

A good set of citations and references also enables your marker to track down all the material you used and get a sense of how widely you've researched. You are showing your marker that you are aware of the breadth and depth of your field. Referencing also gives you a chance to acknowledge the hard work of others before you. 

Using different citing and referencing styles. 


Harvard, Chicago, IEEE, APA... there are at least a dozen citing and referencing styles that are used at Monash. Each faculty has their own preferences, and even within the one course, you might find yourself using different styles for each of your subjects! You can usually find all the information you need about citing and referencing styles in the Unit Guide for your subject, or by asking your tutor, demonstrator or lecturer. The key is to maintain consistency and watch out for the finicky little details in the commas, italics and ampersands. 

Resources to help you.


Referencing can be a fiddly and frustrating process, as you come to grips with all the intricacies and variations among different styles. The library has created a number of excellent resources to help you navigate all elements of citing and referencing. 

Here are our top links:

This is your go-to place for all things citing and referencing. Bookmark it on your computer and refer to it frequently for all examples and explanations of all the referencing conventions for you to follow. 

If you're feeling a little unsure about citing and referencing, this is a great tutorial that will explain the basic principles, and you can test out your knowledge at the end with quizzes.

One of the most common citing and referencing styles used at Monash is APA (American Psychological Association). If that's you, APA Central is a great resource. It contains videos, quizzes, templates and quick guides for you to get on top of APA style. 

  • Research and learning point - drop-in sessions
Drop in without an appointment to see a librarian or learning skills advisor for some advice on researching for your assignment, including citing and referencing. You can find a list of session times here. 

(*) Please use either Firefox or Internet Explorer to complete this tutorial. 

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13 September 2017

Knovel for engineering research

When researching projects, engineering students and researchers can be confronted with a deluge of information which may often be irrelevant. Subject Librarian Nhan Le writes about how students can use Knovel, an engineering database, to narrow their searches and enhance their research.



Knovel is an engineering database that provides a platform for e-books and gives searchable online access to books, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and technical reference books. The database provides access to material from leading publishers and professional societies like AIAA, AIChE, ASME, IEEENACE, Elsevier, McGraw-Hill, Earthscan, and Wiley. It is used by industry professionals as well as academics and can provide research material for the following fields:
  • Aerospace and radar technology
  • Earth sciences
  • Chemistry and chemical engineering
  • Electrical and power engineering
  • Nanotechnology
  • Mechanics and mechanical engineering
  • Environment and environmental engineering
  • Sustainable energy and development
  • Transportation engineering
  • Biochemistry, biology and biotechnology
The technical information available within Knovel covers materials properties, best practices, safety, corrosion and process improvement.


How to use Knovel

Users can perform keyword searching to locate search items in full-text documents and interactive tables. 

Search results can be refined by document types, for example, text sections, conference proceedings, interactive tables, and regulatory information. They are also ranked by relevance or date, and grouped by publication.

Data searching is a key strength of Knovel and allows you to find specific materials property information. Once found, search results can then be exported to another application (Microsoft Excel, HTML or ASCII Text). Citations can also be exported to EndNote.

How to access Knovel

Monash staff and students can access Knovel via the Monash databases page or via Search.

If you have any queries on using Knovel please get in touch with your contact librarians for Engineering.


Nhan Le is a subject librarian for Chemical, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. 

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31 July 2017

Beyond Google

Many students get into the habit of turning to Google when they need information for their assignments and it's not a bad place to start if you need an idea or two. The problems begin when you start using such general information to inform a university assignment, says librarian Sophie Wright.  


Much of what Google has to offer just will not be good enough. In addition, as with anything you find on a Google Search, the information you read could be fake. You need well-researched scholarly sources, such as academic books and journal articles in order to write from an academic perspective.


How do I find better information?

You may ask: but where do I find this information? And how do I navigate my way through the thousands of results returned in Search or databases to find resources specifically on my topic? This is a librarian's area of expertise and we are here to support you in this journey.

Being smart about how you go about locating resources for your assessment has many benefits. The main one is the hours (potentially hundreds over a standard Bachelor's degree) that you will save if you choose to invest just an hour or two learning some tips and tricks for information searching. Secondly, you will increase your marks. Your lecturer will be looking very carefully to see what you have read to inform your arguments and conclusions in your written work. Sometimes you will be expected to pay close attention to prescribed readings from your reading list. Other times, you will be expected to locate your own resources.

Can I take a class?


There is a bit to do here - but do not fear we've got you covered. Firstly, please come along to a free class run by the Library called Beyond Google. This class will teach you the basics to get you up and running and finding the resources you need straightaway. We'll take you through it step by step and answer all your questions.

Alternatively, we have prepared some Quick Study Guides to help you on you way. If you are an online student you would gain a lot from completing our tutorial on Developing a Search Strategy.

Remember, librarians are available at the drop-in sessions Monday to Friday to answer any specific questions you have as well. In many academic courses we offer programs in consultation with the lecturer which cover finding information as part of the curriculum. We also have other free classes running in the library to help you, depending on your study needs. We look forward to meeting you soon!

In summary- some options for you:

Beyond Google: Classes on searching & databases - Sign up here

Quick Study guides on the library website - Here

Online tutorial on developing a search strategy - Here

Attend a 15 minute drop-in with a librarian - At these times / places

Attend another class on study skills in the library - Sign up here

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3 January 2017

SAGE Research Methods Online

Undertaking research for a project is an exciting prospect - but it can also be intimidating, especially when starting out, says librarian Romney Adams. SAGE Research Methods Online (SRMO) is a powerful tool researchers can use throughout their journey - from familiarising yourself with methodological concepts via the Methods Map, to materials designed to inform your practice.


For new researchers, a fascinating place to begin is with the Methods Map - an interactive component of SRMO which allows you to ‘drill down’ to a set of methodologies that may best suit your needs. For example, perhaps you are undertaking a qualitative study, but are unsure of the data collection options available to you. Using the Methods Map, you can obtain an overview of a number of qualitative data collection methods - including ethnography, narrative research, and interviewing - and determine which may be best-suited to your needs. Or, perhaps you’d like to learn more about research design? Again, using the Methods Map, you can explore different research design theories and principles - including phenomenology, longitudinal research, and systematic reviews. You can choose to get a basic overview, or drill down to more specific information concerning these types of research design.

When beginning your research, you can move on and access some of the materials housed in SRMO. These include case study examples from researchers in the field, video tutorials showing chosen research methods in action, and full-text items. SRMO houses over 1,000 academic books, reference works, and journal articles, all with full-text online access - with a particular strength in the social sciences. To access these materials, enter your search terms into the simple box on the SRMO homepage - you’ll be able to tweak your search by specifying date ranges, material types, and other limiters once your results have been returned.

By running a simple search on ‘ethnography’, for example, you can then refine the returned materials by using the limiters. This will make the results more relevant to your needs - from ~4,000 items relating to ‘ethnography’, to ~150 eBooks relating specifically to ethnographic research in the field of education, published in the last 10 years. As you can see, a quick and easy way to be connected to high-quality materials!

If you think your search is complex, just use the Advanced option to use multiple terms and construct a more robust approach to exploring SRMO’s collections.

SAGE Research Methods Online can be found through Library Search, and Databases A-Z.

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23 August 2016

Assignment tips: how to use research and give it your voice

So you’ve done all your research and you’ve found a lot of great information, but how do you use it in your assignment while still presenting your own ideas? How can you toe the line between using the research for authority, while still having the assignment project your ‘voice’? This blog post will answer your questions!



Is your voice being heard?
Pixabay/CC0
When writing an assignment, it’s no use simply summarising what all the experts out there think. The person who marks your assignment wants to know what argument you are putting forward, which will be supported by the research you have done. Be confident that what you have to say is important!

What are your thoughts?

The best place to start is by reading through the literature. When you read the author’s opinions, what do you think? Do you think “that sounds unfair” or “I totally agree with that”? Perhaps you think of something that hasn’t been addressed by any authors but is important to discuss. From these thoughts, you can start to develop what you are going to argue - this is called your ‘voice’.


However, it is important not to just waffle on about what you think without any support from experts and authoritative sources. What you say should be supported by what you have read, this gives your argument authority. Remember that your lecturers are experts in this field - they know what the literature says and probably even wrote some of it!


Organise those thoughts

Now you know what you want to say, and you have research to back up your opinion. It’s time to structure these ideas so that your ‘voice’ comes out clearly. Let’s look at some steps to success:
  1. The first sentence is called a topic sentence and sets the tone for the paragraph's main point. It should therefore reflect your voice and ideas. It’s usually not a good idea to begin a paragraph with someone else’s ideas. For example, you shouldn’t start with a quote.
  2. After you've written a topic sentence that states your point for the paragraph, you can now explain further. The resources you have found should be used as evidence to support your argument. The resources you are using to support your arguments and topic sentence must be relevant, as well as of high academic quality. Use the Library Guides in your subject area to direct you to academic databases and strategies rather than just relying on Google!
  3. Make sure to link this argument back to the main topic to bring it all together. You need to make it clear how your point is relevant to the overarching topic. Explain how your evidence supports your point, argument, or explanation.
  4. The dominant voice in each paragraph should be yours. You need to show that you are interpreting the research not just regurgitating it. If you start and end each paragraph with your points and ideas, you make your voice clearer.


Using the expert's thoughts

You have three choices when you want to incorporate information from another source. You can quote, paraphrase, or summarise.


  • Quoting should not be overused, as it shows the least amount of interpretation. If you do use quotes, make sure to explain them and what their relevance to your argument is.
  • Paraphrasing means you express the author’s ideas in your own words. It does not count if you copy over the quote and then change a few of the words to synonyms! Paraphrasing should demonstrate your understanding of what the author is saying. Writing out key ideas in your own words makes it less likely you will plagiarise and helps develop your own academic voice as well.
  • Summarising involves reducing the amount of words used by the author but still expressing their main points. You can add your own comments to provide analysis.


You can read more information about these techniques on the UNSW website.


For each of these techniques, you can introduce the author’s thoughts using ‘reporting verbs’, For example, “argued”, “claimed”, or “observed”. You can find a handy list of these online.


And of course, any sources you use in your assignment must be cited and referenced appropriately. This helps differentiate between what is your voice and what is from your resources, as well as avoiding plagiarism.


Don’t forget the friendly librarians and learning skills advisers at the research and learning point! Drop-ins are available if you have any questions on how to incorporate research into your assignments.




Michelle De Aizpurua, Librarian
Emma Price, Learning Skills Adviser
Damian Gleeson, Learning Skills Adviser

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9 March 2016

Get started on your writing task


Sometimes just sitting down and starting to type is the toughest hurdle to clear when you are submitting an assignment. The steps in this blog entry will help you fly over it, leaving it far behind you, write Tami Castillo and Damian Gleeson.



You’ve been working for days now and you still don’t have one word of your essay or report written. You really have worked hard but have nothing to show for it. Fear not! All the groundwork has prepared you well, and the writing should take nowhere near as long as the preparation. Sometimes just sitting down and starting to type is the toughest hurdle to clear. The steps in this blog entry will help you fly over it, leaving it far behind you!

Have you fully analysed the topic?

If you don’t analyse it fully, you may not avail yourself of all marks on offer. Assessment topics always have the same key ingredients: direction words that tell you what to do, topic words and limiting words that set the required scope. Be very clear that you understand what your topic is asking you to do and what your tutor requires from you. There are several possible genres that might form part of your writing assessment. Be sure that you know what each genre entails. The Library’s Research and Learning Online is a useful resource to guide you. Several faculties at Monash have their own style guides, like BusEco’s Q Manual and IT’s Style Guide. Check your unit guide and Moodle sites for further information.


Have you done your research?


This does not mean using Google - anyone can do that. The Library spends millions of dollars on subscriptions to databases and journals, and it is your privilege as a Monash student to use them. So use them! Library Guides are a good starting point for finding discipline-specific databases and journals, but a librarian can help you choose some great databases to start with, and also work with you to build your skills so you can get the most out of your searches. Also, don’t forget your lecture and tutorial notes and required/recommended weekly readings. When you start writing you’ll probably find you’ll need to go back and research some aspects of your topic more. This is normal and to be expected. It means you are becoming suitably focused on key aspects that require rigour. Good for you!


Make a plan, Stan. Then use it to structure your work, Björk.

An unplanned essay is potentially a recipe for disaster. As a bare minimum, note your academic position/thesis and the subject of each body paragraph. This should assist you in maintaining a clear, structured response to the assignment question. Remember that each paragraph should consist of one idea that is explained in detail, supported by evidence and examples and linked back to the topic in order to prove its relevance. To do this in 1 - 3 sentences is impossible. If your paragraph is longer than a page, there is probably more than one main idea or there is too much detail. Don’t forget a clear introduction that
  • provides a general intro to the topic
  • tells your reader about your particular focus
  • offers a thesis statement indicating your academic position
  • previews your work’s structure, showing how you intend to achieve your stated goal. 
A conclusion is also necessary, summarising what you achieved and how you achieved it in your assignment, as well as providing a big picture statement of what is all means in the wider context.

Ready? Set? Write!

There are countless excuses to stop you from sitting down and typing your assignment. None of them is likely to justify your inertia. Once you actually start writing, you should find all that research, reading, planning and thinking has put you in a position where the flow quickly becomes a torrent. Get it all out of you as fast as you can! You can edit and proofread it all later. Go!

You may have doubts about whether your work is at the level your tutor expects or not. This may be because you are new to university, the first in your family or your friends to undertake tertiary study, or you are returning to study after a long break. See our Librarians and Learning Skills Advisers in your library’s Research and Learning Point -- they are available a few hours a day to see students or groups. At drop-ins, experts can provide tips, advice and feedback on all the research and academic work you need to do. There is no need for an appointment and you’ll be seen on a first-come, first-served basis.


Tami Castillo is a Learning Skills Adviser and Damian Gleeson is a Research and Learning Coordinator.



Images: Monash Image Library


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