29 April 2016

More study spaces opened at Caulfield

The good news for students at Caulfield campus is there are now a range of available study spaces, in addition to those in the Caulfield Library.

The Caulfield Library refurbishment works have reduced the number of available seating and the noise and disruption associated with the works has discouraged many students from studying in the library.

It is timely that other study spaces have been opened as we approach the end of semester one and the beginning of Swot Vac and exam period.

View the Caulfield campus map.

You may also want to check out 'Quiet study spaces at Clayton'.

Additional study spaces are also available at our other campus libraries. These include:
Berwick Library (120 spaces)
Peninsula Library (250 spaces)
CL Butchers Pharmacy Library at Parkville (120 spaces)

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26 April 2016

Strategies for group work

Group work can be a positive experience in your studies if you work as a team and follow some of these straight-forward strategies, says Emma Price, Learning Skills Adviser.

It is common to feel a bit discouraged or pessimistic when set a group assignment. Students often prefer to work individually due to previous negative experiences of group work. This could involve some kind of conflict within the group, people dropping off and leaving others to do all the work, or difficulties negotiating time or ideas amongst the group members. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Group work can be a very positive experience in your studies; it just takes a few easy steps to manage it effectively.

As an extra incentive, effective group work is essential to learn, as this is an increasingly important skill required by employers. Students who have experience working in groups are better prepared for the collaborative nature of work in their future careers. It also means you can demonstrate this skill in job interviews using your experiences at university. So it makes sense to develop these skills while studying.

So with all that in mind, here are some straightforward strategies you can use whenever you have to work in a group:

Set ground rules

Always do this first. This could be more formal in a ‘group contract’ or through an informal discussion/email agreement. You’ll want to decide on:

  • how often you will meet,
  • how you will maintain regular communication,
  • what roles or tasks each person will complete, and
  • assignment goals and a timeline for completion.

Make sure everyone agrees and understands how the group will work.

If everyone is involved in this planning stage and has their thoughts considered, they are less likely to disengage from the group.

Regular meetings are essential

Try to organise your meetings and their individual goals from the beginning of the assignment. This way you will all know what you are aiming for as a group with set milestones and tasks to be completed for each meeting. If availability is causing problems, you might want to discuss if online meetings or a combination with face-to-face meetings will suit all of your group better.
Always record any decisions made, task allocations and assignment progress in every meeting.

Dividing up work

Before you can allocate tasks, your group will need to analyse the assignment closely to decide what is required and how you will achieve this. Once you have a clear picture on the assignment, you can then determine a fair and equal way of dividing the workload. Sometimes this isn’t always clear at the outset, so you may want to share some earlier tasks (such as initial research) and then divide up later tasks once you have a better idea of what is involved.


It might seem obvious to mention but all of your group communication should be polite and respectful. Not only is this common etiquette but will also help to maintain good relationships between the group members and potentially avoid problems. Listening to everyone’s thoughts on the assignment and keeping an open mind to suggestions is essential to effective completion. Be aware of your non-verbal communication (body language) when meeting together and focus on giving each other constructive feedback rather than negative criticism or ‘nit-picking’. At the same time, always consider any constructive feedback or suggestions you receive from your fellow group members and don’t take it personally.

Managing any problems

Problems will often happen due to group dynamics or slow progress. If conflict does arise, clearly identify the problem as a group and avoid negative ‘finger-pointing’. Focus your discussion on constructive ideas (rather than on individuals) and consider practical solutions to address the problem. You may need to revise your plans or change your goals, but remember, this is all part of working in a team.

Group work can be challenging but it is also rewarding. Through careful planning, active participation and good communication, your group work experience can be effective and positive.

Don’t forget the friendly Learning Skills Advisers at the Research and Learning Point drop-ins are available if you have any questions on effective group work, and remember to check for any upcoming workshops.

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20 April 2016

Latest on Matheson Library spaces

We're making progress in restoring the areas affected by last week's flooding in the Matheson Library. We're aiming to have the Asian Collections and the rest of the study spaces on level one available on Thursday afternoon this week. Some spaces on level two may be reopened on Friday, with access to some of the journals. Please check here again for more updates.

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19 April 2016

Creating a thorough search strategy

Finding every possible article relevant to a particular research topic is something that researchers and graduate research students may need to do. Get some expert tips on how to go about it from Subject Librarian Tracey Whyte.

Photo: Got Credit
When conducting research you may be wondering: Has this research been conducted previously? Have I reviewed all the literature on this discipline? Have I retrieved the most recent research conducted? Are there gaps in my research?

One way to resolve these questions is to plan a search strategy. A search strategy is a systematic method of searching for information. There are a few steps in this process.

Step 1
Prepare your search strategy by first brainstorming what you know about the topic already, defining terms or identifying particular resources to include.

Step 2
From the keywords you’ve hopefully identified already, think of similar words or phrases and group the similar terms together. This will broaden your search as you can choose from these alternative words if you can’t find information using the one term provided. Steps 1 and 2 are described in more detail in the ‘Developing a search strategy’ section of the Graduate Research Library guide.

Step 3
Next, test your search strategy across relevant Library databases or search tools. You can access Library databases from the Database Library guide or from the Databases tab on other subject Library guides. Highlight relevant resources and read the information about the resource from the abstract or summary and select relevant records to review more closely.

Step 4
Another useful tip to guide your searching is to identify the subject terms in the record. The subject terms are terms the database uses to describe what the article is about. You can replace your keywords with these subject headings to broaden or narrow your search. You may find alternative subject headings that are relevant so include those in your search too.

At right is an example of subject terms displayed in a complete record. This process of identifying terms, testing in a database and identifying subject headings relevant can be repeated until you have enough relevant information. Most search strategies use a combination of subject heading and keyword searching so use the method that retrieves the most relevant results.

Remember you may not be able to find all this information in one search, you might need to break down the components of the topic further into several searches or try a combination. There will be trial and error before you perfect your strategy.

Step 5
Lastly, you may also find it useful to create saved searches or alerts particularly if you will be viewing resources at another time or reusing the search. Login to the database or search tool to be able to save the search. Follow the database prompts and check the search tool or database Help screens for more information about how to do this. You can save and retrieve your searches as long as you sign in.

Need more information? The Library has also developed a comprehensive, interactive tutorial to guide you in the search process and don’t forget you can contact your subject librarian for advice about developing a systematic search strategy.

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18 April 2016

How to write critically

Have you ever been told that your writing is “too descriptive”, or that you need to “show more analysis” or “adopt a more critical approach”? You may need to work on your critical thinking skills or be more direct in your academic expression when writing about your arguments, writes Clinton Bell.

In an academic context, being critical means going beyond explaining information, theories and ideas that you have learned in your studies. There is more emphasis on you clearly demonstrating your considered point of view.

To do this, you need to go beyond just describing what other people have said and thought, and start asking questions. There are a lot of questions you can ask, but let’s start with two big ones: “What do I think?” and “What does that mean?”

What do I think?

Critical analysis involves considering all viewpoints and then deciding what you think. This means two things for your writing:
  • You need to explain why your reader should agree with your point of view
  • You need to consider how credible your sources are that you use to support your point of view.
As a student, the most common way to support what you say is by referring to evidence from other sources and making a logical argument based on that evidence. This leads directly into the second point – you need to choose your sources carefully, because the strength of your own argument depends on them.

If you’re not sure how to do this, check out the "Evaluating sources" section of the Library’s Academic research on the internet tutorial. Although it’s aimed at internet sources, it’s a useful guide in general.

What does that mean?

So you’ve got some high-quality sources. Great! But remember, we’re trying to make an argument based on evidence, not just provide a big list of information. That means you need to link your sources back to your topic and to each other. Again, asking questions is a great way to do this:

How does this information relate to the topic at hand? What conclusions can we draw from it? Are there any alternative explanations? These two sources disagree. Why is that? Should we believe one over the other – or perhaps they both have some merit? What are the implications of accepting one or the other?

Don’t be afraid to show original thought! If you just repeat what someone else has said, what do you accomplish? Why wouldn’t I just read the original source? Instead, you need to build on your sources and add value through analysis critique, or interpretation.

Further reading

If you’re still not sure where to start, there are several resources on the web that can help!

Dr Joe Lau at the University of Hong Kong has produced an excellent series of online tutorials which cover critical thinking and logic in detail.

If you prefer something more audio-visual, try this video introduction to critical thinking from QualiaSoup.

You can also chat to a Learning Skills Adviser at one of our Research & Learning Points. Bring along your assignment (either one you have completed, or one you’re writing), and they can give you some tips about how to improve your critical voice.

Do you know of any other useful resources? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @monashunilib

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14 April 2016

Update on Matheson Library

The ground floor and part of level 1 in the northern section of the Sir Louis Matheson Library are now open, while the rest of level 1 and all of level 2 remain closed as these are the most heavily affected by the flooding on Tuesday night.

Clean-up and recovery operation on Wednesday

Students can use the study spaces on the ground level, including the discussion rooms and teaching rooms. Bookings previously made for Thursday and Friday this week will be reinstated. The rooms are now available on the system for new bookings.
  • Items for collection in the Holds section can be retrieved by students.
  • The study spaces and the toilet in the Ada Booth Slavic and the Teaching Materials Collections on level 1 are also open.
  • The Asian Collection on level 1 and the Journals and the Music and Multimedia Collection on level 2 are still closed. Items from these collections may be requested at the information point and Library staff will try to retrieve items if they can. 

Thank you for your understanding. We are aiming to reopen the affected areas by Monday. 

Please check here again for more updates.

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13 April 2016

Sections of Matheson Library closed due to flooding

Flooding has occurred overnight on Tuesday in the northern section (level 2 down to ground level) of the Sir Louis Matheson Library on Clayton campus. The section is closed as the clean-up and recovery is underway.

Although the General Collection area is open from level 1 to 5, study space availability is restricted and students are advised to use our other libraries.

  • Bookings for the new discussion rooms for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week have had to be cancelled. No new bookings for these rooms can be made until the affected section is reopened.
  • Items for collection in the Holds section will require staff assistance. Please ask at the information point.
  • Journals on level 2 and special collections on level 1 will not be accessible.
We apologise for the inconvenience. We're doing everything as quickly as possible to get back to business as usual.

Please check the Library blog for updates.

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12 April 2016

What you need to know about publishing in an open access journal

You’ve identified a couple of journals that might be suitable for submitting your journal article. One of them is an open access journal. Should this be the journal you choose? ... by Katrina Tepper, the Library's Science faculty team leader.

What are open access journals?

Articles published in open access journals are made freely available on the journal website. No passwords or payment are required, allowing anyone around the world to access and read the articles.

This is in contrast to subscription journals, in which articles can only be accessed by those with a subscription (either individual or via a library), although some journals make articles freely available one year or more after publication.

Quality scholarly journals generally have a peer review process in place, regardless of whether they are subscription or open access journals.

Are there any advantages to publishing in an open access journal?

One of the main advantages is that anyone around the world can access and read your article, potentially exposing your article to a larger audience than if it was published in a subscription journal.

In turn, there is some evidence this might lead to your article being cited more often. See The effect of open access and downloads (‘hits’) on citation impact.

That sounds great! Are there any catches?

While not a catch exactly, be aware that some open access journals charge authors a fee to publish their article if it’s accepted. This can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for a single article. You can usually find this information on the journal website.
 Beall's List  provides information like
this about questionable publishers

Also, while there are many high quality open access journals, there are some fairly questionable open access publishers appearing on the scene (see Beall’s list). These journals charge fees to publish articles and make them freely available, however don’t have rigorous peer review or editing processes in place, so should be avoided.

The Directory of Open Access Journals lists high quality, peer reviewed, open access journals. Check this directory to confirm if the journal you’re interested is on this list.

The journal website says I need to make the associated research data available too. Any tips?

This is becoming more common, particularly with journals in the science, technology, engineering and medicine fields. There might be a discipline specific repository that’s suitable for making your data available, however another option is Monash figshare. Some of the benefits include that you can upload data yourself and the data is stored on Monash servers. For more information see What is Monash.figshare?

So, is it better to publish in an open access journal or a subscription journal?

Choose the best journal for your research, regardless of whether it’s an open access or subscription journal. The scope of the journal and the audience are key things to consider, to make sure your research and journal articles reach the best audience for your work.

Want more information?

Refer to the Research impact and publishing library guide or get in touch with your contact librarian.

Image CC h_pampel,2009

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11 April 2016

The why, what and how of citing and referencing

In this post we’ll go through the basics of citing and referencing, and introduce you to some resources that will make it a much more manageable process for you to complete! ... by Romney Adams

We get lots of questions at our Research and Learning points about citing and referencing - “What style can I use?”, “If I cite something, do I always have to reference it?”, “What’s a reference list?” There’s no doubt citing and referencing is a confusing area for a lot of you, and it’s especially difficult if you’re new to the process.

Why do I need to do it?

So to start with, why do you need to bother with citing and referencing? Can’t your lecturers just trust that you’ve based your assignments on strong evidence? Well, the short answer is no! But there’s more to it than that…

 First, check out this short clip:

Why is citing and referencing important

It’s important to cite and reference your work, for a number of reasons - when done correctly, anyone reading your assignment (including the person marking it!) can see where you have used an expert’s research to support your own. As well as this, they should be able to locate the materials you used, enabling them to determine how widely you’ve read, and on what evidence you’ve based your work. It also means you’re showing respect to those experts who have completed research before you, by acknowledging their hard work. You wouldn’t like it if you spent years researching and writing a paper, only to have someone else come along and pass off your work as their own! This is plagiarism, which the University takes very seriously. Have a look at the Library’s Academic Integrity Modules - they contain examples of mistakes that can be easy to make, such as remix and retweet plagiarism. The good news is it also shows how these mistakes can be avoided.

What do I need to do?

Citing and referencing is essentially made up of two things...citing, and referencing (bonus points if you had guessed that already!). Citations refer to the brief attributions you make throughout the body of your assignment, while references contain more detail, and are situated at the end of your assignment - and yes, you do need to do both! The Demystifying Citing and Referencing Tutorial explains the basic principles behind citing and referencing, and is great if you’re feeling a little unsure or confused.

Citations can be made either in-text, or through the use of footnotes. To know which of these options to use, and to also be aware of exactly how your citations and references should be formatted, you first need to know what style of citing and referencing you need to use. This is very important, as there are an array of styles used at Monash, and you don’t want to use the wrong style for the wrong assignment! If you can’t see a clear indication of which style to use on your assignment specifications sheet, double-check with your tutor or lecturer.

How can I remember everything?

The Library fully understands how complicated citing and referencing is...particularly all the finicky formatting rules! We can’t remember every rule, and you’re certainly not expected to either. Instead, we have a variety of useful resources for you to use so you know you’re following the rules exactly as you’re meant to. The most useful resource is our Citing and Referencing Library Guide, which contains dedicated sections for each style used at Monash, and features detailed coverage of style rules, with examples for you to follow. If you use this Guide, you really can’t go wrong! You can also check out the referencing section of some faculty-specific resources, such as the Faculty of Business and Economics’ Q Manual, and the Faculty of Information Technology’s Style Guide.

As tempting as it may seem, please don’t Google information about citing and referencing, or use an online generator. Styles are updated all the time, and some have been modified slightly to better suit the institution (for example, Monash uses its own version of the Harvard style). Information you find on Google may be out-of-date, or incorrect, and seeing as citing and referencing is usually worth between 5-10% of an assignment, getting it right can be the difference between a D and HD...or an N and P.

While citing and referencing can be challenging, it does need to be done - and with the Library’s help, you’ll have no trouble at all! You can always get help with citing and referencing from a librarian at the Library’s Research and Learning point - you’ll find the listed times for your library here.

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5 April 2016

Keep track of parliaments, policy and legislation

LexisNexis Capital Monitor provides expert monitoring of Australian parliaments, policy and legislation and is at your fingertips, says Caroline Knaggs, a subject librarian at the Law Library.

Parliament House, Canberra
Capital Monitor is a long established, extensive database which collects parliamentary, policy, legislative, regulatory and judicial news and information from both Federal and State Governments. 

It includes:

● Press releases, transcripts and additional related statements by government, opposition, and other parties, as well as industry reaction;

● Parliamentary papers, committee and inquiry reports, digests, and other official documents;

● Legislation and associated information such as second reading speeches, explanatory memoranda and/or statements, schedule of amendments, etc;

● Hansard;

● Cases from a range of courts including the High Court, Federal Court and the Victorian Supreme Court;

● ... and much more!!!

Capital Monitor is a great way to obtain a broad overview of an issue which conveniently brings information together. It enables you to research the background and context of a topic and track its development through to implementation and legislation.

Materials are added in full text almost as soon as they are made available. Coverage starts from 1996 for many of the materials.

Keyword searching is the most effective way to access this extensive collection. You can search across everything or limit your research to specific collections and jurisdictions. You will be presented with a selection of results, with your keywords highlighted. Browsing is also possible over a specific selection of resources

Access LexisNexis Capital Monitor through the A-Z Databases page or Search.

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4 April 2016

Incorporating research into your assignment

Ever wondered how much of an assignment should consist of your own ideas on a topic and how much should be ideas you’ve found through research? How do you show this in your assignment?  Read on for some tips from a Learning Skills Adviser.

CCO Public Domain
How about when your assignment feedback says ‘where is your voice’? What should you do?

The key to incorporating research into your assignment is working out your argument on the topic, and how your sources can be best used to support it.

Here are four strategies:

It’s your paper (mostly).  

Your lecturers and tutors will most likely know what the experts in the field have written in your topic area, and they may well have contributed to this themselves.What they are interested in reading in your assignment is your response to the topic.

Your ‘voice’ is your response to the topic, not just what others have said, and this needs to be evident throughout your assignment. But be careful here: academic writing is about informed argument, not opinion. Use your research to give credibility and authority to the argument you are building on the topic. Of course, any sources you use in your assignment must be cited and referenced appropriately.
Use your sources wisely.

The research you incorporate into your assignments could be for facts or statistics, as supporting evidence or examples, or to provide different perspectives on a topic. Just always make sure the research you include is relevant to your topic so it gives you the best possible support in your argument.

Keep in mind you should always evaluate your sources for their quality and usefulness. The Library Guides in your subject area can help direct you to academic databases and strategies here.
It’s all about structure.

Ideas from other sources should generally not appear in the first sentence of your paragraph. Rather you should use the first sentence to set the theme for that paragraph. This shows greater command of the assignment topic too.
Here’s a simple guide to paragraph structure for incorporating research:
  • A ‘topic sentence’ summing up the main point of the paragraph,
  • Further explanation of that main point,
  • Evidence and examples to demonstrate the point in action (your research), and
  • A link back to the topic and your point’s relevance to it.
As you can see, your research features in just one part out of the four here. Mastering this kind of paragraph structure can help you develop and illustrate your assignment ‘voice’.

Summarise, paraphrase or quote?

Summarising and paraphrasing are preferred in your assignments as it shows your deeper understanding and engagement with the research you’ve done. You can use ‘reporting verbs’ to help introduce and discuss your sources, and this also is part of good academic writing. For example, ‘Smith (2010) argues...’ or ‘Jones (2012) states…’. Remember, keeping effective notes as you research will help you out here when you start to write your assignment.

You may need to check if you can include quotes in your assignments (not all faculties or units let you). If you can use them, it’s best to keep any direct quotes to a minimum. Overuse of quotes might suggest that you have rushed your assignment and just cut and pasted to save time. Any quotes should be situated in your sentences to give them some context and explanation. This way they work for your argument rather than making the quotes speak for themselves.

And again, of course, any sources you use in your assignment must be cited and referenced appropriately. Stay tuned to the study blog for more tips on referencing.
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.

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Welcome to the Monash University Library blog. Whether you are engaged in learning, teaching or research activities, the Library and its range of programs, activities and resources will contribute to your success. Here you will find useful information, ideas, tips and inspiration. Your comments on any of the articles are welcome.

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