Library

7 December 2015

Multimedia resources to enrich your teaching

Have you wanted to engage students with relevant and interesting multimedia course materials, but concerned about copyright or felt you lack the technical skills?  Information research staff Carlie Nekrasov and Tracey Whyte have some suggestions.




The Multimedia Resources Library guide provides a gateway to subject specific and multidisciplinary video databases as well as tips for accessing, using and integrating them into your teaching.
  
The guide includes tips on how to:
  • Generate stable links for Moodle, reading lists, lecture slides
  • Save favourites into playlists 
  • Create clips for YouTube from selected databases
  • Link to or embed multimedia content
  • Understand copyright rules when using YouTube and other digital materials.
The following three resources provide a small sample of what is available through the Multimedia resources Library guide.

Resources available online

Alexander Street Press provides access to thousands of video and audio resources as well as texts across a wide range of disciplines, including film, music and performing arts, art and architecture, ethnographics, health and society, nursing and more. ASP includes contemporary as well as historical resources.

The collections available to Monash staff and students are listed under the 'My collections' link. You can also search by subject or topic, or browse by discipline. The Alexander Street Press platform offers you the flexibility to use entire videos, or to select segments or short clips.

 Photograph by Dennis Mayor 1972.
Courtesy State Library of Victoria

Detailed, step by step instructions are provided for:
  • Making a clip
  • Creating a playlist
  • Searching effectively 
  • Using the video player
  • Using the audio player 
Informit Edu TV is a TV online streaming resource that provides over 10,000 television programs to watch across a range of subject areas. You can also embed clips from the television programs into your course materials.

After setting up an individual registration to Informit EduTV you will be able to create a project file for storing your favourite shows, episodes and clips. After registering you will receive a username, and option to create a password, as well as information to help you search and create clips. You can read more about Informit EduTV in this Library blog post.

Kanopy provides a collection of around 26,000 documentaries and movies as well as selected television programs. You can for search for individual titles or browse subjects within Kanopy and individual titles are also available via Search. Further information about creating and managing clips and embedding excerpts in Kanopy can be found in this document.

Advice and tips

The Multimedia Resources Library Guide provides you with access to a world of audio, video and text resources to enhance your student’s learning experience. It provides tips on creating and maintaining a personalised set of playlists, and resources to guide you through creating clips and embedding these excerpts into your teaching materials. It even helps you find the right advice on copyright.
If you need further advice on how to best utilise these resources please contact the subject librarian in your relevant discipline or the copyright adviser.
  
The multimedia resources featured in the Multimedia Resources Library Guide are also available via Search and the Library Databases page.
  

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3 December 2015

Matheson Library to close for four weeks in early 2016

The refurbishment of the Sir Louis Matheson Library at the Clayton campus is progressing well and the first stage will be completed before Christmas. The next stage is now underway and heavy demolition will be carried out in January. 

To allow the demolition to be completed more efficiently, Matheson Library will be closed from Monday 11 January and will reopen on Monday 8 February 2016.

During this four-week closure, Monash staff and students can:
  • use Search to request items held at Matheson Library for pick up at any other library including at the Law Library and Hargrave-Andrew Library on the Clayton campus. There may be some delays as Matheson staff will only have access to the collections for short periods each day.
  • return items due at any other library or via the after-hours returns outside Matheson Library.
  • find study spaces at the two other libraries on the campus.
  • get advice and ask questions at an Information point at any other library, through ask.monash.edu, or by telephone (03 9905 5054).
Due to the closure, Search temporarily does not allow staff and students to select 'Matheson' as the pick-up location when requesting items from other libraries.

From Friday, 8 January, all Matheson holds available for collection can be picked up at the Law Library or Hargrave-Andrew Library.

Members of the public may wish to visit our other libraries on campus. Please consult the map.
  • Law Library – 15 Ancora Imparo Way
  • Hargrave-Andrew Library – 13 College Walk
We apologise for this disruption and ask for your patience through the coming months as this exciting project takes shape.

Visit the Library website for more information. If you have any comments or concerns about the Matheson Library refurbishment project, please email fsd.feedback@monash.edu.


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2 December 2015

SciFinder a powerful biochemistry tool

Revisit a powerful discovery tool for biochemistry and molecular biology, writes Jennifer Kain, a subject librarian at the Hargrave-Andrew Library.


SciFinder is a research discovery application that provides access to the world's most comprehensive
and  authoritative source of references (including journals, conferences and patents), substances and reactions  in chemistry and the related sciences; including biochemistry and  molecular biology, pharmacology, chemical  engineering and chemical physics.  Content is updated daily.

SciFinder’s search features offer fast and convenient access to comprehensive sources in a single tool designed for a more efficient workflow. 

Content information available in SciFinder includes:
  • Substances – a trusted resource for substance information including chemical structures, chemical names, CAS Registry Numbers®, properties, commercial availability and regulatory information.
  • Reactions – dependable and current chemical reaction information including reaction schemes, experimental procedures, conditions, yields, solvents, catalysts, as well as commercial availability of substances with direct links to leading producer and supplier sites.
  • References – found in journals, patents, dissertations and more. SciFinder can bring you information from early discovery through clinical trials with the combined coverage of  CAplusSM and MEDLINE®. Links to full text version of articles  may be embedded.

Users report that SciFinder facilitates access to not only the chemistry, but also allows searching for the right structures and physical properties of compounds that they are interested in. Using the Synthetic Planning Tools they can find intermediates that eventually lead to the molecules of interest, seeing different synthetic methodologies and how to make this particular compound.


SciFinder is particularly strong in molecular biology. When you search for chemicals and substances,
you can do it with the molecular formula, or using the structure.  Check out the SciFinder application overview .

SciFinder  is available to Monash staff & students via a link from the Database pages.  SciFinder is now web based and easy to use, once you have registered on their system.  It provides online demonstration tutorials and  help.


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1 December 2015

All you need to know about reading lists and digitisation for your teaching

Reading lists created by the Library provide students with direct access to their essential recommended readings and can even be integrated with Moodle. Let the Library do the work for you!... by Adam Duke and Beth Pearson.



Who creates the reading lists?
The Library’s Readings and Reserve Services team works within the University’s seven libraries to create online reading lists using the Talis Aspire Software.

Aspire is currently used by 77 universities in seven countries worldwide.

When should I submit my reading list request to the Library?
Requests to create a reading list must be received at least four weeks before the start of the teaching period.

Submitting your requests early is important to enable your students to have access to the resources they need at the required time. Reading lists will be processed in the order in which they are received.

Minor updates and changes can be submitted any time during the year, by contacting the Readings and Reserve Services

How can students access the online reading list?
There are three simple ways:
  • Enter the unit code in Search.
  • Follow the reading lists link on the Library’s home page.
  • Visit the unit's Moodle page.
Moodle Integration
Library reading lists can now be integrated with Moodle and can be set to display from within the Moodle environment in a number of different ways. This
  • simplifies access for your students - no need to leave Moodle.
  • places the reading list resources in the most relevant section of their course unit pages.
Watch the video and contact your Faculty admin  to get started.

What are the benefits to students?
Online reading lists allow students to access all their unit readings from the one place throughout the teaching period.

Using the Aspire reading list software, students can:
  • view real time availability of the Library’s physical collection
  • gain direct access to online journal articles and databases
  • view digitised materials
  • login to add personal study notes and track their reading progress.

How does digitisation work?
The Library’s Digitisation Centre can reproduce works that are otherwise unavailable in a digital form. These digitisations are created under the provisions of Part VB of the Copyright Act (1968). The documents are stored in a central repository and made available to students via their online reading lists.

All digitisation requests are made via the Library’s Readings and Reserve Services.
When a digitisation request is received by the Library it will be checked to ensure it is copyright compliant.

What are the advantages of the Library’s digitisation service over faculty photocopying?
  • University copyright compliance
  • high quality, digital reproductions with increased functionality (searchable text, commenting, and highlighting enabled)
  • easily accessible online through unit reading list
  • track usage of digitised items via the Aspire software.

How long will a reading list, and any digitised content, remain online?
Reading lists, and any associated digitised content, will remain available online throughout the unit’s teaching and exam periods.

What happens to reading lists at the end of semester?
Reading lists and any digitised items will be archived to comply with University copyright regulations.

What happens if an item can’t be digitised?
Essential readings can be placed onto restricted loan by the Library to manage student demand through the teaching period. New materials can also be purchased upon request.

Around 1,000 reading lists are created each year so we encourage you to send your request to the Library as early as possible.

For further information, contact the Library’s Readings and Reserve Services.




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4 November 2015

Factiva - News and information from round the world




Find out what is happening in Australia and internationally with Factiva, writes David Horne, Subject Librarian for Business and Economics.


Factiva is an invaluable tool for keeping up to date with current and business affairs in a particular part of the world, for investigating past events, or for studying the way news is reported.  It is a database of over 30,000 news sources, encompassing print, electronic media transcripts and free Web-based publications.  Content is added daily.

Australian coverage includes not only the major city and national papers, such as The Australian and The Australian Financial Review, but regional and local newspapers.

Search results can be readily sorted by date, or filtered according to a range of criteria, including source, article author, company, industry, and region. The articles from print publications do not include images.

While the key content is news, Factiva also provides brief company and industry profiles and global financial market data.

Accessing Factiva











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20 October 2015

How to succeed on exam day

Whether you’ve studied a lot or a little, taking the right approach on exam day itself can really help improve your marks. Make a plan beforehand. ....by Clinton Bell


Doing well on an exam isn’t just about what you know - it’s about understanding what’s being asked of you, managing your time, and performing under pressure.  So take a deep breath and try to stay calm as we go over some strategies for exam success!

Read the question


This may seem obvious, but when you’re in the grip of exam-day panic it’s easy to skim over instructions or miss important information. Take a deep breath, slow down, and read the question and any other instructions carefully. Pay close attention to direction words (e.g. “compare”, “identify”, “discuss”) and any limitations placed on your answer (“in Australia”, “since the year 2000”, “using differentiation by parts”).

Marks are based on how well you address the question you were asked, and there is a set number of marks for each question, so make sure your answers are on target. A detailed and beautifully-written response which doesn’t answer the question at all is worth nothing, and you won’t get extra marks for “showing off” by including information which isn’t relevant.

Don’t try to reproduce long passages from the textbook word-for-word. It may be tempting if you’re not confident about your writing skills, but it won’t get you good marks. Examiners usually want evidence that you understand the material, not that you have memorised the text. They may deliberately set questions which are just different enough from what’s in the book that copying won’t work. If you don’t acknowledge your source properly, you also risk being accused of plagiarism!

Time is of the essence

As well as reading the question itself, look at how many marks it is worth - this indicates how much time you should spend on each question. The more marks a question is worth, the longer and more detailed your response is expected to be. Don’t spend an hour agonising over a question which is worth very little!

Most exams don’t require you to answer the questions in the order they are presented, so if you get stuck on a question, don’t waste too much time - move on to the next one. You can come back to it later after you have finished the questions you can answer more easily. Sometimes working on other questions will even jog your memory!

Stay to the end

The only time you should leave an exam early is if the building is on fire. If you finish before the time is over, congratulations! Check your answers and see if there’s anything you can improve. If you’re completely stuck and don’t think you can answer any more questions, try anyway.

Think about related information, imagine your lecturer talking about the topic, draw a diagram… use any strategy you can think of. If you still can’t do it, go over your other answers and try to improve them. As long as you have time left, you still have a chance to get a few extra marks!

When it’s over, it’s over

So the exam is over, for better or for worse. You’ve used the strategies here and hopefully you’re feeling confident! Even if you’re not, there’s no point stressing about it - you can’t go back in time and change how you did. So my final tip is that when the exam is over, you’re done with it. Relax and take a well-deserved break!

Sources of help and information
What are your tips for exam day? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @monashunilib

 

Photo:
Studying math by Steven S.
Used under CC 2.0 licence.

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19 October 2015

Matheson Library extended hours and bus


Get more study done with late night opening at the Matheson Library.


From Monday 26 October 2015, until the end of the exam period, the Sir Louis Matheson Library will offer extended exam study time.

During this four-week period:
  • The Matheson Library will be open from 8am until 2am Monday to Thursday inclusive.
  • There will be security and a security bus in operation until 2 am on the days the library is operating on extended hours.
  • Fridays and weekends will operate on normal hours.
  • The extended hours will finish on Thursday 19 November. 
Check the opening hours for all libraries.

More study spaces are available on campus. The airport lounge on level 1 of the Campus Centre will be open 24 hours during Swot Vac and throughout the exam period.



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    13 October 2015

    How to make the most of exam revision

    Even if you tried these tips for effective study last semester, have a read of them again ! It might be helpful...by Clinton Bell



    With end-of-semester exams rapidly approaching, it’s time for some serious study… but it can be difficult to juggle the exam-time crunch with the rest of your life.

    Keep it regular

    Waiting until the day before the exam to start revising is a terrible idea - and not just because it means less study time. Research has shown that you’re more likely to remember things if you spread your revision sessions out. In other words, it’s better to study a subject one hour a day for seven days than to study it for seven hours in one day.

    If time is short, you can try changing between tasks to break up your study. After reading a chapter, instead of doing the exercises immediately, try studying a different topic for an hour before coming back to them. This helps you practise holding what you’ve learned in long-term memory, instead of forgetting it the moment you’re done with that chapter!

    Student, test thyself

    Speaking of exercises, one of the best ways to prepare for an exam is by testing yourself. Practice makes perfect, after all! Flash cards are a popular way to do this, but you can also do the exercises from your books, get someone else to ask you questions, or do past exams. You could check with your lecturer if you can't find previous exams for your unit.

    If you want to take things a step further, try doing a past exam in exam conditions. Turn off your phone, turn off the music, sit at your desk, and set the same time limit as the actual exam. This can help you avoid exam-day nerves by getting used to the conditions you will be working in on the day. It also gives you a feel for how long you have to complete the exam.

    Be practical

    Knowing the material is all well and good, but don’t forget to look after practical concerns as well! If there’s any equipment you need, buy or borrow it before exam day - and if you need a calculator, check that the batteries work. Also make sure you know exactly when and where your exam is, and how to get there. If you’ve never been to the exam venue before, try making the trip next time you need a study break!

    Above all, remember that successful study is about how much you learn, not how much time you spend hunched over your desk. So use these tips, or the Library's quick guide to Exam revision strategies, to make your time count, and good luck on your exams!

    Got a study strategy that works well for you? Share it in the comments or on Twitter @monashunilib



    Photo: Cookie study, by David Simonetti, 2007

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    12 October 2015

    Study spaces at Caulfield

    We're making every effort to make as many study seats available as we can in the Caulfield Library and elsewhere on campus during this critical period of the semester.

    Level 4 of the library is now closed for refurbishment and all furniture has been redistributed to levels 2 and 3. We have provided larger tables in some of the rooms in the corridor on level 2 which should make these spaces more usable.

    Library access restricted to Monash users only

    A temporary exclusion period is now in operation until 13 November. This means that non-Monash visitors will not be able to access the library during this period. Please make sure you have your ID card with you when you come to the library.

    Other study spaces on campus

    Additionally, alternative study spaces will be available in Buildings B, T and F during Swot Vac and the exam period.

    Buildings B and T

    The following rooms will be available from 26 October to 20 November, Monday to Friday 8am – 12 midnight and Saturday and Sunday 10am – 9pm:

    • Building B: Rooms 220–222, 224, 226, 445, 448, 450, 457–459, 471, 476, 477
    • Building T: Rooms 305 and 309.
    Student kitchens and toilets are available in Buildings B and T.

    Building F

    The following rooms will be available (from 27 October) Monday to Friday 7am – 7pm:

    • Building F: Rooms 441 and 648.

    Toilets are available in Building F.

    Campus security will be increased as more students stay on campus later during this period.


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    8 October 2015

    Study at uni can be fun

    It is always worth remembering that your studies can be not only rewarding but also enjoyable. This blog post focuses on the possibilities for fun while actually learning something...by Damian Gleeson, Learning Skills Adviser, Caulfield Library. 




    As you approach the end of semester you may find that most of your work is due at the same time. Yikes! Not only that - you may have exams looming and approaching fast. This can be stressful, especially if this is your first time, or if you haven’t done so well in past semesters.

    Form a study group

    Study at university can be a lonely business. Sure, there are certain tasks like individual essays, reports and presentations that require you to work independently, but that only applies to those tasks. You probably have 12 - 15 people in your tutorial or lab group with whom you definitely have something in common!
    Ideally, a study group consists of 4 or 5 members, though this is flexible. Something like a DISC questionnaire can be a useful tool for determining the personality and approach to work of your group’s members. This can help you to identify the variety of strengths and areas that need work among your team mates. Once you’ve worked all this out, you may find something like this:
    • Student A is quiet, but takes meticulous lecture notes. Student A is a useful resource for the group for this reason. He’s a top record-keeper of key lecture content.
    • Student B is talkative and energetic. She is great at remembering conversations and important insights from your tutor. She’s both likeable and a natural leader. Combined with Student A’s lecture notes, you have the lecture and tute materials covered.
    • Student C’s strength is research and reading. He got a HD for the first assignment and your tutor singled out his excellent research, citing and referencing skills. Someone with this much attention to detail is a great resource to ensure that your group is at its most effective when revising the semester’s content.
    • Student D is also quiet and is not confident about her English language skills. However, she has work experience in the field you are studying, which allows her to clearly see and explain why the unit’s content is relevant to your group’s future professions.
    So there is a wide range of personalities, skills and knowledge in your group. Cool! This means any areas that individual members think are weaknesses for them can be overcome by the members who are strong in those areas. It also means your strengths are not just an advantage for you - your team mates can also reap the benefits. That’s a great boost for your confidence. Put it to use reviewing the reading, lecture and tutorial materials. Put it to the test by working on past exam questions together.

    Revision - turn a boring chore into an enjoyable endeavour

    If this describes you and the way you like to work (left), take advantage of it (right). Your learning style is yours and no one else’s, so why not take advantage of it?
    • I like setting and meeting goals    -     Use a to-do list.
    • I work best against the clock  -      Try the Pomodoro technique.
    • I like to draw or doodle  -    Use mind maps to outline how to solve a problem.
    • I like music  -   Write songs about important information that you need to remember. More here.
    • I’m a night owl. I enjoy staying up late   -  Study when you are most alert and do mundane tasks when you are least alert.
    • Solve questions from the textbook   -  A no-brainer
    • If there are few questions, turn chapter titles into questions then practise answering them  - Requires thought.  See example below:

    Possible questions

    What issues arise for managers in a global environment?

    What is social responsibility and how do managerial ethics apply to it?

    How are change and innovation best managed?

    Why and how do managers motivate employees?

    If you remain uncertain about how to be efficient and take joy in your academic work, don’t forget a friendly Librarian or Learning Skills Adviser is available to speak with you at a drop in.

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    7 October 2015

    Math Tutor

    Get a handle on those concepts in maths that you missed out on at school, or can't remember, writes Tracey Whyte, Subject Librarian for Education at Berwick.


    If you want to build your mathematical skills and confidence then go to Math Tutor online.

    The Library provides access to this excellent resource via the Kanopy streaming database and you can access it via the Library's Search tool.

    "The Math Tutor Collection offers a selection offers video tutorials on topics from secondary mathematics, aimed at students who wish to revise these topics in preparation for study at University, but equally useful for those meeting this content for the first time.

    "I recommended some of the videos in the 'Sequences and Series' topic to my students, because I thought the content was clearly and thoroughly explained, and might support those students who were meeting this content for the first time."

    (Monica Baker, lecturer, PhD student and maths teacher)

    The content covers over 80 mathematics topics and provides diagrams and worked examples to clearly explain mathematical concepts. There are a series of eight videos to watch:
    • Geometry and Vectors
    • Algebra
    • Integration
    • Arithmetic
    • Trigonometry
    • Functions and graphs
    • Sequences and series
    • Differentiation
    Each topic describes the subjects taught within each video and displays between five and 11 clips ranging from 10 minutes to over an hour.

    For those who want to challenge their skills a bit more, Math Tutor has created a website that contains these videos with diagnostic tests, exercises and a pdf text version. These resources are available from the Math Tutor website.


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    5 October 2015

    Library refurbishments update


    Architect's design for new entry, Caulfield Library
    While the refurbishment of the Caulfield and Matheson libraries may cause some inconvenience, in the long run the transformation of these libraries will contribute to improved student facilities at the University. We apologise for any current inconvenience.

    At Caulfield Library the work is expected to start on Thursday 15 October. The builders will be working on level four and on two sides of level three. This will affect study facilities and collections:

    Level four will be a construction zone. The postgraduate rooms, the meeting room and the quiet study area on that level are no longer available. Study desks and chairs have also been moved down to other floors for students to use.
    • On level three, 24 computers have been moved from the west side of the library to the east side, so that students can still use them.
    • Books, journals and audio-visual collections are being moved down to the ground level. If you can’t find an item, ask at the information point for its new location.
    • The library lift is closed except to users with a disability.
    At the Matheson Library, Clayton Campus, building work is well underway in the north end of the library. Ask at the information point to request material from the Matheson Store and the Asian Studies Research Collection. Toilets on the lower ground floor are temporarily unavailable during this stage of the building works.

    Alternative toilet facilities are available on the upper floors of the library, opposite the Den Café in the underpass, and in nearby buildings including the Rotunda and the Menzies Building. After 5pm students may use toilet facilities on level one of the Information Services Building.
    If you require any assistance please ask at the information point.

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    22 September 2015

    Critical thinking at university

    At school you might have focused on learning the “right” answer, but in the real world things aren’t always so clear-cut. That’s why it’s essential to develop your ability to think and write critically. By Clinton Bell


    The world is complex, and filled with conflicting information. It’s not always clear what’s true, and even ideas which seem plausible and are widely accepted can turn out to be wrong (the geocentric model of the solar system is a famous example). Often there is no answer which is objectively correct - only different approaches with different benefits and tradeoffs.


    Because of this uncertainty, it’s important that we don’t just accept information or ideas at face value. Instead, we need to establish how strongly they are supported by evidence, what the alternatives are, and what the broader implications of accepting an idea might be.

    This kind of evidence-seeking and analysis is what we call “critical thinking”. It’s also what your lecturers want when they say your work is “too descriptive” or that you need to “show more analysis”!
    Evaluating sources of evidence

    When you’re looking at the evidence for a position, you’ll often rely on information from sources such as research articles, media reports, and others. However, not all sources provide the same level of evidence, and no single source ever provides all the evidence you need. This means you need to look at a variety of sources and carefully consider what evidence they provide.
    One way to evaluate your sources is to ask “What, Who, Why, How, and When?”
    • What is this source?
      • What type of source is it - opinion piece, research article, statistical information, case study, something else?
      • What does it say?
      • What doesn’t it say?
    • Who created this source?
      • Do they have any expertise in this field?
      • Do they have biases or interests which might influence their work?
    • Why was this source created?
      • What is its purpose?
      • Who is it aimed at?
    • How did the creators of this source formulate their position?
      • What evidence do they use to support it?
      • Are there any weaknesses or limitations in that evidence?
      • If they conducted research, was it done in a rigorous manner?
        • If they refer to other sources, are those sources reliable? Are they represented accurately and fairly?
        • Are their conclusions logical, based on the evidence they’ve used?
    • When was this created?
      • Is it still relevant?
      • Are there more recent sources or events which cast doubt on its findings?
    (Adapted from Woolliams, M, Williams, K, Butcher, R & Pye, J, 2009, ‘Be more critical!’: a practical guide for health and social care students, School of Health and Social Care, Oxford Brooks University, Oxford.)

    Putting things together

    As well as being able to compile and evaluate evidence, you also need to be able to interpret what you’ve found. This means considering how each piece of information relates to the others, as well as developing an overall assessment of what you’ve discovered and how it relates to the topic at hand.
    Some key questions might be:
    • What are the alternatives you’ve identified?
      • Are there any similarities between them?
      • What are the major differences?
    • On the whole, how strong is the evidence for each alternative?
      • Are some better supported than others?
      • Is there strong evidence for any of them?
    • If there are conflicting opinions or evidence, why might that be?
    • Based on your analysis, what actions should we take, or what viewpoint should we adopt?
      • What result do you expect from those actions, or what are the implications of that viewpoint?

    If you’re writing an essay or a report, don’t be afraid to show original thought when performing this analysis. While you need to ground your work with the evidence you’ve found, in most units you’re expected to build on what you’ve learned rather than simply describing it.

    Want to know more?

    If you want to know how critical thinking is like choosing an apartment, check out this video on being a critical student from the University of Leicester.
    If you prefer the written word, try this helpful introduction to critical thinking from Edinburgh Napier University.

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    15 September 2015

    5 strategies to manage your group assignment

    Nearly every unit requires some type of group project or assignment and it can be challenging, no matter how many times you've done it. If you missed this article written by Sebastian Borutta, one of our Learning Skills Advisers, we are publishing it again to give you practical strategies to manage the challenges of working in a group.


    Do you dread working on a group assignment?  Are you sick of group members dropping off the radar, and having to carry the group across the line? 

    Research into attitudes towards group work among undergraduate students would suggest that you are not alone.  One study revealed that more than half of undergraduate students surveyed had a negative attitude towards group work, with around 40% stating that they would rather work alone[i].

    According to the study, the most significant factors that contributed towards negative attitudes were difficulty coordinating schedules and “free riders” in the group, followed by members not contributing equally and differing grade expectations[ii].

    Why have group assignments at all?

    Unsurprisingly, the ability to work in a group is an increasingly important skill required by employers; therefore, students who have experience working in groups are better prepared for the collaborative nature of work in their future careers.[i]  Consequently, as a student it is useful to develop strategies to effectively work in a group setting.

    So how can we try to manage these challenges?

    The following five-part plan will offer prompts to consider when you embark on your next group task.


    1.  Group formation and expectations
    • If given the choice, select group members who you can work with effectively. Friends are not necessarily the best option.
    • Develop ground rules to guide your group’s behaviour and activities.
    • Assign roles based on members’ strengths and weaknesses.
    • Ensure that all members are involved in initial planning discussions. Members who feel that their voice is heard during these discussions are less likely to disengage from the group.
    • Ensure members have compatible availability, or options to maintain regular contact with the group.
    • Set goals such as grade expectations early, and together as a group.
    2.  Scheduling and meetings
    • Organise regular meeting times from the beginning of the task, including expected outcomes for each meeting.
    • Consider the advantages and disadvantages of face-to-face VS online meetings when deciding on meeting format.
    • Record decisions made, and the allocation and progress of tasks.
    3.  Division of work
    • Before dividing work, ensure that the group has a clear understanding of the task, and all the associated work involved in the task’s completion.
    • Determine an equitable method of dividing work.
    • If this is difficult or not immediately obvious, share initial tasks and then divide the workload. For example, share the initial research stage of a task and then divide up the written component once you have a better idea of task expectations.
    4. Communication
    • Be polite and respectful when communicating with each other.
    • Ensure team members listen carefully, and with an open mind to each other’s suggestions.
    • Be aware of your non-verbal communication when engaging with the group
    • When giving feedback, also focus on positive aspects rather than only negative aspects.
    • Don’t take constructive feedback personally.
    5. Dealing with conflict
    • Be polite and respectful when communicating with each other. 
    • Problems usually arise due to group dynamics or task progression.
    • If conflict arises, as a group, clearly identify the problem.
    • Consider solutions to address the problem, allowing specific and constructive discussion.
    • Focus discussion on ideas rather than individuals.
    • As a group, make necessary changes and revise initial plans. 
    Group work can be challenging and rewarding, both in an educational setting and in the workplace. Through planning and by anticipating and managing potential challenges, you can help your group work experience be a more positive one.

    For more information on group work, or any other aspects of your approach to learning, take a look at the Library’s online resources, meet with a learning skills adviser at a drop-in session, or attend a workshop.



    [i] Gottschall, H. & Garcia-Bayonas, M. (2008). Student attitudes towards group work among undergraduates in Business Administration, Education and Mathematics. Educational Research Quarterly, 32(1), 2-28.
    [ii] ibid
    [iii) Hansen R. (2006) Benefits and problems with student teams: Suggestions for improving team projects. The Journal of Education for Business, 82(1), 9-11.



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    10 September 2015

    How to make databases work for you!


    Whether you’ve been given an article as a starting point or are embarking on a detailed literature review, databases can take some of the hard work out of finding quality articles that are relevant to your topic… By Catherine Hocking



    Snowballing your results with citation searching

    You’ve been recommended an article? Great – let’s get started! You can grow your results quickly, just like rolling a snowball, by looking at just one article. A quality article - like one your  supervisor has recommended - is a great starting point for your search.

    Firstly, you can look at the reference list at the end of your article – this will point you towards earlier materials that helped the author(s) to write the article. But what a database like Scopus or Web of Science can do is allow you to look  forward in time, discovering how others have built upon this research with the "database citation tracking" feature.

    Here’s how it looks in Web of Science: Click on the ‘Times Cited’ number and instantly you have a whole new list of related resources at your fingertips!

    If you haven’t been given an article, never fear, as you can find out how to get started by taking our tutorial on Developing a search strategy or contacting a subject librarian for expert advice. Once you have found a good article or two you can get on with citation searching!

    Want to know when the latest cutting edge research is published?

    Setting up an alert can help.  Most databases offer some form of alert service.  By setting up a Personal Account in your favourite databases you can access alert services for your saved searches, new citations for a particular author or journal article, TOC (table of contents) for new issues of a specific journal or RSS feeds.

    There are so many ways in which databases can  help you keep on top of your research.  Read our basic guide on Alert services and check out the Help in your favourite database for specific details.



    Image: Snowball, Oxford UK 2007 Kaymar Adl, CC/2.0/

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    8 September 2015

    Incorporating research into your assignment

    How much of the assignment should consist of my ideas about the topic, and how much should consist of researched ideas? When my tutor’s feedback says “Where is your voice?”, what does that mean? How will my tutor know what my thoughts are in contrast with those of the authors I’ve read? This blog post will answer these questions and more …  by Damian Gleeson

    It’s (mostly) all about you


    Your tutors are interested in your response to the assignment topic. They are more than familiar with the experts’ thoughts on the matter; they may indeed have contributed significantly to the body of expert knowledge on the issue themselves. What your tutor wants to know is: after listening to the lectures, attending tutorials or labs and reading widely on the topic, what do you think about it? What is your stance? What can you prove and how can you prove it? For these reasons, the majority of most assignments should consist of your considered response to the topic.

    Show your working

    In terms of attribution, the majority of your assignment should comprise your particular response, but not all of it. Of course you need to incorporate the research you’ve done

    • to show off all the reading, note-taking, critiquing, evaluating and synthesising you’ve done
    • to have published experts support what you want to say, adding weight and credibility to your academic position.
    The voice

    So the majority of your assignment comprises your response. The research you’ve done is introduced to back up your contribution. In doing so, you demonstrate your control and authority. Nice! Of course the ideas you’ve borrowed need to be acknowledged in-text with citations and at the end of your assignment with referencing. Check out the blog post on this, see the Library’s guides to citing and referencing to learn more, and always have one of these guides open when you are writing.

    Some points about incorporating research

    Borrowed ideas should generally not appear in the first sentence of a paragraph. You should show control of the topic by stating the point you want to make first. In simple terms, your paragraph should consist of

    • a topic sentence summing up your main point,
    • further explanation of that main point,
    • evidence and examples to demonstrate the point in action and
    • a link back to the topic and your point’s relevance to it.

    Paraphrasing is preferred to quoting as it shows deeper understanding of the literature. Your choice of reporting verb (‘state’, ‘claim’, ‘assert’,  etc.) also demonstrates deeper understanding, and reminds your reader that you have processed published ideas and incorporated a response to them in your work.

    If you remain uncertain about how to incorporate the thoughts and work of others, don’t forget a friendly librarian or learning skills adviser is available to speak with you at a Library drop in.


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    2 September 2015

    Explore old texts in new ways

    Read old texts as they were originally intended by their famous or non-famous authors, with Oxford Scholarly Editions Online , says Anne Melles, Subject Librarian for Literary Studies.


    Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO) has recently added three new modules of literature to its collection. These are extensive collections of Romantics Poetry and Romantics Prose, and a very limited collection of Romantics Drama.

    Works from the most famous English and European Romantic authors and poets are included, for example, Byron, Goethe, Shelley,  and Dorothy and William Wordsworth.  In addition the modules contain the works of selected philosophers of the time, including Bolzano, Godwin, and Hegel.  The collection contains fascinating insights into the world of that time:
    • Lord Byron saw the waltz as "a sign of indecorum, even depravity", and his poem, Waltz: An Apostrophic Hymn By Horace Hornem, Esq, conveys his distaste.
    • What did Percy Bysshe Shelley have to say of Frankenstein, the famous Gothic horror penned by his wife, Mary Shelley? Read his review of her book.
    • An alderman meets his untimely demise during a fantastical feast in this prose, attributed to William Hazlitt and inspired by the opulence of the Lord Mayor's Banquet.

    Primary texts in OSEO are annotated by respected scholars, for example many of the Shakespeare texts are edited by Stanley Wells.  The annotations are both textual and background in nature and provide a much useful information for students working on assignments and scholars researching this period.

    Oxford provide some excellent material to help researchers learn about OSEO. You can browse A-Z and chronologically by Author, Work and Edition. Click here to take a tour of the collection. 





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