Library

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

4 July 2017

Welcome to all new students

Hello to those who are newly enrolled. We hope you are looking forward to your time at University, despite the cold weather we are experiencing at the moment.


If you're new to Monash, we've put together the Library orientation guide to give you the basics about using the Library.  You will also find Library activities in the Orientation planner.

But first, some interesting facts: did you know that research shows that students who use the Library achieve better results than those who don't? [1]

At Monash 79% of students who used the Library achieved at least a Distinction, based on students' best estimates of their academic results. In the user survey, “Library use” meant either coming in to the Library or accessing it online daily or 2-4 days a week. [2]


Study spaces and facilities

New students will find that they are using smart refurbished areas with facilities like bookable discussion rooms for group projects and study, in the Caulfield and Matheson libraries. 

At Caulfield some inconvenience may apply until the building project is finalised. At present you will enter the library from the arcade level 1 between Buildings A and B (opposite Monash Connect), but very soon the main entrance facing the Caulfield Green will be open.
    
Programs, resources and activities
As well as working with you in your courses and units, we provide a range of programs and drop-in sessions related to your assignments and other tasks. Drop-ins begin from Week 2.

We’ve developed a new Research and Learning Online site as your gateway to the Library’s online learning materials. Check it out to access online modules such as academic integrity, citing and referencing, and more.

Visit the Students’ page for a complete list of Library programs, resources and activities.

Don’t forget to check this blog for useful articles with tips and advice for your study. You can also find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.


1   Soria, K. M., Fransen, J., & Nackerud, S. (2013). Library use and undergraduate student outcomes: New evidence for students’ retention and academic success.  Portal : Libraries and the Academy, 13(2), 147-164.  

2  2015 Monash University Library User survey

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15 May 2017

Presentation skills: You need them, and the Library can help!

Whether you're an international or domestic student, speaking in front of your class can be daunting! If you need a bit of help, the Library is here for you, says subject librarian Romany Manuell.



Presentation skills: useful for work and life


Some people just love performing in front of a group! For others, delivering an oral presentation can be anxiety-provoking. Firstly, it can help to remember why you're being asked to deliver an oral presentation. Your lecturers and tutors are not trying to make you feel stressed out. It's all about helping you prepare for life outside the university. You'll probably be asked to give presentations to colleagues and peers in the workforce (if you haven’t already done so!). Why not start developing your employability skills now?

Watch and learn (and read)


The Library has plenty of self-help resources to help you improve your public speaking skills. A big favourite is the Lynda.com video tutorial platform (search for “presentation skills”). Set a time limit for yourself when venturing onto Lynda, or you might find it becomes an easy way to procrastinate.

 If you have more time (and you’re absolutely sure you’re not procrastinating… be honest, now!) why not peruse the Library’s extensive collection of books on the topic. In Search, try “public speaking” or “presentation skills” as keywords.


Plan, prepare, practise and present


If you’re just beginning to research for your oral presentation, this downloadable guide developed by the Library will point you in the right direction. It’s all about The Four Ps! If you’ve already finished your plan, why not use the dot points on this previous library blog post as a checklist to make sure you’re ready to go.

If you are still feeling anxious, you’re not alone! Monash University’s mindfulness programs and resources can really help. Or, perhaps it’s your English that’s giving you nerves? Check out what English Connect has to offer. Finally, don’t forget that Learning Skills Advisers are available at the Library’s drop-in sessions, whether you want tips and tricks, or just a quick run-through of your presentation. Good luck!



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13 March 2017

Stay ahead with Research and Learning Online

Want to get the best marks for your assignments? Worried you might not know how to write an academic essay or a lab report? Never fear! Check the tips in this article.



At Monash, you are independently managing your own learning. Arm yourself early on with the necessary skills to achieve your learning goals by using our online modules. Designed to help you keep on top of your studies, the modules have strategies, advice and examples of writing in subject areas.

Our learning skills advisers and librarians have been hard at work creating tutorials, guides and activities for the Research and Learning Online (RLO) website, providing you with the tools you need to stay ahead of the game.

These RLO e-learning materials cover effective study strategies including note taking in lectures, reading critically, and how best to tackle your labs to get the most out of them. There’s advice on brainstorming for assignments, thinking critically, communicating clearly and which citing and referencing method you’ll need. They also have heaps of tips on how to write academically, manage your time, and approach your exams with confidence.

See? We’ve got you covered.

Stuck on that BusEco essay? No worries! There’s a sample assignment for that for you to refer to, with lecturer’s comments and activities to enhance your understanding. There are guides for whichever field you’re in, with detailed instructions and advice.

For research and postgraduate students, there’s plenty of information about how to manage your research process, the trick to writing a great proposal, navigating copyright and demystifying the peer review process.

And the best part? It’s totally free, and accessible by you around the clock! Just visit monash.edu/rlo and find the help you need. Don’t forget that if you have any questions about your assignment or need some clarification, our learning skills advisers and librarians are available at our drop-in sessions.



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9 March 2017

Looking for advice on English grammar?

Are you looking for advice on English grammar for your assignments? Then come to a drop-in session with a Peer Support facilitator from English Connect!




The English Connect Peer Support drop-in sessions are now co-located alongside the Library’s Research and Learning point in the Matheson, Hargrave-Andrew, Caulfield and Peninsula libraries on an ongoing basis. This comes after a successful trial last semester.

Students have found the co-location to be means that you can drop in at the Research and Learning point for professional advice from Library staff on your research, citing and referencing and assignments, then visit the Peer Support table for all your grammar questions. Please note that neither the Library nor Peer Support offer proofreading services.


In the free 20 minute Peer Support session you can speak to a trained student-facilitator one-on-one. If you bring along one or two paragraphs of the assignment or essay you’re working on, you’ll be able to read through them together to get advice about your English grammar. You will also get tips and resources to help you in the future.


Drop-in sessions are available at the following times:
  • Matheson Library Monday to Friday: 11am to 3pm
  • Hargrave-Andrew Library (HAL) Monday and Wednesday: 11am to 3pm
  • Caulfield Library Monday to Thursday: 11am to 3pm
  • Peninsula Library Tuesday and Thursday: 1pm to 3pm

Visit the Peer Support website for more information.

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3 March 2017

First in family – A world of opportunities

If you are the first in your family to start at Monash University, you might feel you are embarking on the most thrilling and yet frightening journey of your life, says Roland Clements, Learning Skills Adviser. In this post he shares with you the ‘absolute essentials’ that will help you during your first year at university.



You may be the first in your family to have ever thought about going to university. Whatever inspired you to want to study, you are here, which is wonderful - so make the most of it because education and learning can be joyous!

Until the early part of the 20th century, people went for higher education because their subjects fascinated them. They were passionate about what they were studying and intensely curious about the world around them. You are such a person, so don’t be scared or have any reservations.

I’m not going to give you an Alice in Wonderland-style tour of fascinating facts and tricks on how to get the most out of your studies. Our Library offers you a wide range of resources and services which can help you in many of these areas, and they have online tutorials to help you with your study and assignments. What I can share with you are the ‘absolute essentials’ that will help ease the stress of your first year at university. If you have these on hand you won’t feel like a castaway on a desert island (remember Tom Hanks and Mr. Wilson!).

Here are a few essentials you will need for your survival at university at the start of the year. 

1. Campus maps and Library opening hours - Good to have if you need to visit other libraries - Monash students can visit any of our branches.

2. Your Library - Get to know your Library and what it offers: computers, printers, photocopiers, physical items (such as books and DVDs), and online eResources (such as databases and academic journals). The Library staff are always here to work with you through any queries you have, no matter how trivial or complex.

3. Librarians and Learning Skills Advisers - They can work with you to build a number of skills that will be useful both during your time at Monash, and beyond! Librarians have expertise in selecting appropriate databases, searching for academic resources, evaluating sources and citing and referencing. Learning Skills Advisers can build your skills in understanding assignment tasks, structuring your work, academic writing, effective reading, and note taking.

4. Monash M-Pass -Your M-Pass is linked to an online account - you can use it to add credit, copy, print, and pay fines at the Library. You’ll also need it for exams as your student ID!

5. Your username and password - You’ll need this to log in to computers, your my.monash, and to access electronic resources (such as databases) through Library Search.

Throughout the course of a regular day at university, you will meet students and lecturers from various corners of the globe who bring their educational knowledge and experience with them. You will learn to work with people from various disciplines and how to work as a team member. No matter what stage in life or circumstances you find yourself, remember that we are all human beings and always learning. So think about the events that brought you to Monash University and make the most of it - persistence and perseverance will lead to success!

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28 February 2017

Planning your PhD journey

What does it take to go through the journey to a PhD successfully?  Learning Skills Adviser Anita Dewi offers answers to key questions asked by new candidates.


Are you commencing a PhD journey at Monash? A PhD is a great avenue to build your career in academia and other areas as well - the penultimate qualification! Through a PhD you have opportunities to share ideas and knowledge in your relevant field. But what does it take to go through the journey successfully?

One of the keywords in your PhD journey is planning. Your plan needs to cover  all aspects relevant to your PhD journey. Below are some key questions that you should ask yourself and find the answers when planning your PhD:

1. How do I manage my supervision?

Your PhD is YOUR journey! This means that you need to take the responsibility for these aspects in managing your supervision:
  • Maintain good communication with your supervisors.
  • Negotiate how frequently you will need to meet with your supervisor (this will vary over time).
  • Take responsibility for scheduling supervisor meetings.
  • Take notes from these meetings and send your supervisor(s) emails that confirm mutual understanding of what is or is not expected after each discussion.
  • Think of a few alternative solutions to issues arising, and then discuss them with your supervisor.
  • DON’T rely on your supervisor(s) to solve your problems for you.
Keep reminding yourself that you’re in charge of your own journey.

2. How do I manage my 3-4 year candidature?

Managing time is not always easy. A PhD journey is a “marathon” rather than a “sprint”. A key tip is to prioritise your tasks. One of the best ways to prioritise your tasks is by implementing, and possibly modifying, the Eisenhower method to suit your needs. To give you an idea of how this method can be implemented in real life situation, have a look at this link.

3. Where can I find relevant resources and advice?

The Library has a great range of resources that you can use to facilitate your PhD journey. Below are some examples that the Library provides:
Also keep in mind that the Library provides you with one-on-one consultations with a learning skills adviser or a subject librarian dedicated to your discipline. Highly motivating writing groups are also available at different campuses. The list of these contact people are here.

4. What will I do after completing my PhD?

Don’t forget to consider what kind of career you will seek upon completing your PhD. Understanding what responsibilities and skills needed to function in this dream role or job will help you in incorporating relevant skills development into your PhD journey plan.

5. What skills do I need to develop for my PhD to be a successful journey?

Here is a researcher skills questionnaire that you will find useful. Feel free to download, fill out, and hang on to it for the duration of your PhD journey. Get back to it and reflect on it from time to time, as a reminder of the skills you need to maintain and perhaps develop to enable you to succeed in your PhD.

6. What do I need to do and when should I do them?

It is best to have a map of your PhD timeline, along with the relevant milestones, e.g. confirmation seminar, progress review, pre-submission seminar, and the thesis submission at the end of the journey.

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact learning skills advisers and subject librarians at the Library for advice. All the best with your PhD journey!


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20 February 2017

First-day memories

Are you excited for your first day of university? Or perhaps nervous? Believe it or not, once upon a time all our librarians were freshers too! This week, four staff  - Romney Adams, Clinton Bell, Roland Clements and Romany Manuell - share their memories from when they started uni.



Clinton:

The main thing I remember about my first day at uni is getting lost. I went to the University of Melbourne, where there were three nearby buildings called the Richard Berry, Redmond Barry and Raymond Priestly Buildings. I had lectures in both the “Lowe Theatre, Redmond Barry Building” and “Love Theatre, Richard Berry Building” - and of course, on my first day I ended up at the wrong one.

The other thing I remember is that at orientation there was a company handing out free cans of their new super-strong iced coffee, which they were trying to promote as an energy drink. It was basically a can of really awful, cold espresso. Not only did it taste terrible, anyone who actually finished one ended up with a headache from caffeine overload. Don’t drink weird things just because they’re free!

Romany:

I was from the country, and I didn’t know anyone! The city kids seemed so cool, and I was wearing beige cargo pants (hey, it was the 1990s!). But I struck up a conversation with the other conscientious students who were WAY too early for First Year Anthropology and we all went to see Frenzel Rhomb together. It was the best of days, it was the blurst of days.

I don’t think I found the library until week 6… Go to the library early, and go often!

Roland:

My first day at a tertiary institution was a very long time ago, and what I remember was not the best at first. I felt lost, bewildered, beguiled and bedevilled. I remember it was a very, very hot day and I walked on to the campus grounds and all I saw was a mass of people heading somewhere, I had no idea. I saw a conga line and decided to just join the queue not knowing what the line was for and when I reached the table they were handing out lollies and a pen, “big deal”.


So, I turned around and saw a big sign saying “Library”. I expected to be told that you needed some sort of ID to get in but it wasn’t the case and found it to be the ‘coolest’ place on campus...as in ‘cold’. The librarians in there looked the way I felt. I found a nice spot and watched the madness outside. I saw a lot of students sitting in the sun to get a tan and that is one problem I sure did not have. So, I hung around for a while and then decided to see what tomorrow would bring. Things changed for the better as time went by and I met other students in my Psychology and other classes. You quickly settle into a routine and happy times follow!

Romney:


My most vivid memory was having a free can of Red Bull thrust into my hand by an overly-enthusiastic salesperson (who was probably some second-year marketing student trying to make ends meet) wheeling around a cart full of the stuff. I would love to write an emotional tale of spiral into addiction and eventual triumph through my rise from rock-bottom, but the reality is that Red Bull tastes vile. Seriously, if you haven’t tried it already…just don’t. I had to rely on a more traditional route - coffee - to maintain stimulation through the wee hours while desperately finishing off assignments.

What would have been more beneficial was visiting the library, and speaking to staff to find out how I could research effectively, so I didn’t have to rush everything in a mad panic three days before my essays were due. But I was young! Nobody told me! I didn’t know! But now that you’ve read this, you can’t use that excuse. Come visit, we’re here to work with you so you can get the most out of your time with us at Monash!



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14 February 2017

Are you a Library lover?


Did you know February 14 is also Library Lovers’ Day? Declared so by the Australian Library and Information Association, it is a day of spreading library love.


Having a healthy relationship with your library while studying means you're significantly more likely to achieve higher grades. A healthy relationship means that while you engage with the Library by using information resources and spaces available, the Library cares for you in return by providing a welcoming and inspiring place of study and the resources you need so you can do your tasks efficiently and achieve your learning outcomes. 

Not only will your grades improve, you'll be less stressed while you're working on them, too. Library staff work with you so you can develop skills to research your topic, write your assignment, finish that dreaded reference list or prepare for an oral presentation.

So for Library Lovers' Day, we're taking a moment to step back and share with you the many ways Monash students love the Library, and some "love letters" we've received over the past year. This day only happens once a year, but our staff are working hard every day to find that elusive resource, answer the difficult questions, and solve all (well, most) of your information problems.


Love letters

One of our librarians received this glowing praise from the VCAL coordinator who appreciated how she engaged well with the students.


“Today I took a group of my students to Monash to participate in a library session.  I have been bringing my students to Monash since 2010 and really appreciate the library staff giving these students an introduction to library skills.

I teach students who attend an alternative school and can be quite difficult to engage.  Romney had great presence in the classroom and was able to very quickly form a connection to the students.  She made the session both fun and informative for my students and really engaged them in the process.  The students tested her on a few occasions and she handled it with grace, humour and professionalism.  All of the students found the day to be highly engaging and enjoyable and Romney really helped to set the tone for that with the introductory session.” - Mark Hunt, VCAL Coordinator
One of our learning skills advisers got a special mention in a SETU survey last semester. In their comments students singled her out and the session she delivered as some of the aspects of the SCI2010 unit that they found most effective. The unit had its best ever ranking.
The Library workshop and tutorial
The Library classes that helped with the assessment tasks
I really enjoyed the Library session and would encourage future students to attend
Tami and the Library staff are extremely helpful and lovely
Another learning skills adviser received this feedback from a grateful student – we’ve got more than just research tips up our sleeves!
“Thank you so much. I have backed up all my work just as you taught me this morning. That is really helpful and I will not worry about that anymore. You and all the Library and eSolutions staff do such an excellent job for us. Many thanks.”
One of our Law subject librarians received a heartfelt thank you from a postgraduate student. A great example of Library staff helping students achieve greater learning outcomes.
“I just wanted to say, thank you so much for helping me with research. There was a notable difference in my marks because I had improved on research. I couldn’t have done that without your help. So I truly appreciate what you do for students!”
And this Arts student was able to find what she was looking for through our Library services:
Thank you all so much for making my research easier and more worthwhile – today I found ten much-needed books in the Holds section. This is an excellent service and so helpful and prompt.”
So go on, share something with us! We appreciate any and all comments here at the Library, and are continually aiming to improve our services for both staff and students alike, as well as the wider Monash community and all who enter our doors.

Happy Library Lovers’ Day!


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30 August 2016

Why do citing and referencing and how not to freak out

It’s that time of the semester where lines start to form at the Research and Learning point. Many of the questions we get are about citing and referencing: “Do I need to include a reference for this?”, “Am I doing this correctly?”, “What on earth is ‘Turabian Style’?”. There’s no doubt citing and referencing can be confusing. Don’t freak out! Romany Manuell is here to help...  

Why do I need to do it?
Well, I don’t want to make you panic, but when writing a piece of work at university, you actually have some pretty serious moral and legal responsibilities in terms of giving appropriate credit to the ideas of others.
Throughout your time at university, you will be developing your own “academic voice”. When you cite and reference correctly, your readers will be able to hear that voice, and see where you have used the work of experts to support your ideas. If you’ve integrated your sources well, it will also allow your readers to see how well you’ve understood the material, and if necessary, they will be able to track down the items you have mentioned. In a sense, you are also showing respect to those researchers who have come before you, as you are acknowledging their hard work by referring to it. Have a look at the Library’s Academic integrity modules - they contain examples of what to do, as well as what to avoid (e.g. remix and retweet plagiarism).

You can gain more understanding of citing and referencing by watching this video:

What do I need to do?
Firstly, you need to find out what style of referencing you should be using. This information is usually in the Unit Guide for your subject, but if in doubt, ask your tutor or lecturer. Common styles at Monash Uni include APA 6th, Harvard, and Chicago/Turabian (but many others are also used!). The Demystifying citing and referencing tutorial explains the basic principles behind all the different styles of citing and referencing, and is great if you’re feeling a little unsure or just want to test your knowledge.


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. You’re going to have to look up the requirements of the style using the Library’s Citing & Referencing Library Guide and find the appropriate example to follow. You can also check out some faculty-specific resources, such as the Faculty of Business and Economics’ Q Manual, MADA Creative Integrity and FIT Academic Integrity.
There are some things you can do to make the citing and referencing experience a bit easier. To protect your privacy, the Library doesn’t keep a list of the items you’ve borrowed, so maintain your own list by using the e-Shelf in Search. Make sure you are logged in to Search, and click on the tiny star next to an item to add it to your e-Shelf:



Then, you’ll always have the details of the items you’ve used when it’s time to write up your Reference List or Bibliography! Even if you don’t use e-Shelf, try to keep your references organised right from the start by adding them to a Word document, or trying out a bibliographic software package such as EndNote.
You can always get help with citing and referencing from a Learning Skills Adviser or Librarian at your Library’s Research & Learning Point - you’ll find the listed times for your library here.


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20 July 2016

Time management - Many approaches, one goal

This post points you in the direction of some great time-management tools, whether you’re a first year returning for second semester, a PhD candidate, or one of our brand-new students! Librarian Romney Adams has a wealth of ideas. 



With semester one a speck in the distance, you're probably feeling more confident balancing your uni workload with other parts of your life. The mid-year break and the boundless freedom it offered may still be fresh in your mind and it can be tricky re-adjusting to uni and all its expectations.

Keeping short-term and long-term plans are a great way to manage your time well, and to avoid situations with nasty last-minute discoveries - you know, the “I had no idea I had three assignments due next week! I thought I only had one! Is it time for mid-semester break yet?!” kind of situations. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your progress both at a week-to-week, as well as semester-long level. For some people, planning ahead and setting goals comes naturally - they’re born organisers. For others, it can be more of a chore. If you fall into the latter category, why not check out some apps?

There's an app for that

Todoist has a simple design - no frills, yet visually appealing, which is great if you’re the type of person who gets distracted easily by shiny things. Habitica is a tool for those who get motivated by the idea of collecting points and winning rewards for chipping away at bigger tasks in smaller doses - and you get to create your own avatar! Producteev is great to use for group work, allowing for multiple people to manage tasks and deadlines.

These apps may help make time management more fun (or just more doable), but to really make them work for you, you need to build your own time management skills. Staff at the Library are real task masters, and we offer plenty of online resources and face-to-face sessions to put you on the right track.

Library resources

Our Research & Learning Online site has some great infographics on short- and long-term time management, as well as some time-friendly study strategies for you to consider. We also have some information on optimising your study space, and the difference between research and writing, and how you can approach both.

If talking things through in person is what you like best, come along to one of our workshops! Log in to the Library Class Booking System and search for ‘time’ or ‘study skills’ to see what's on offer from our expert staff. Or, if you don't have time to attend a workshop (how ironic!), you can chat to a Learning Skills Adviser at your Library’s Research & Learning Point. At 15 minutes, these sessions are shorter, but provide one-on-one time with expert staff. You don't need to book, just check out our advertised times and turn up!

It can seem like a boring topic, but nailing time management early on really does make your life so much easier, and enjoyable. It doesn't matter how you go about it, just do it!

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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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21 April 2015

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..... By Clinton Bell


‘Critical thinking’ does not mean being negative! In an academic context, being critical means that you don’t just accept things at face value. At school you might have focused on memorising the ‘right answer’, but at university there is more emphasis on being able to determine for yourself whether you should believe something and how certain you can be.


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

Why should I believe a particular article?

It’s a sad fact that you can’t believe everything you read. This means two things for your writing:
  • you need to explain why your reader should believe you
  • you need to consider how credible your sources are.
As a student, the most common way to support what you say is to refer 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 we need to link our sources back to our 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 or critique or interpretation.

Further reading


If you’re still not sure where to start, there are several resources on the web that can help!
Do you know of any other useful resources? Let us know by commenting here or on Twitter @monashunilib.






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31 March 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:

a)      to show off all the reading, note-taking, critiquing, evaluating and synthesising you’ve done
b)      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 drop in.

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13 March 2015

Numbers tell a story

 It was a very busy start of the semester for the Library and we know why... by Heidi Binghay



The start of semester is a much anticipated time not only for students but for Monash staff. As with other areas of the university, Library staff put in a huge effort during Orientation Week and Week 1, and in the weeks beforehand in preparation.

We know that this is just the beginning and the momentum will continue to build through the semester, past survival week, through assignment deadlines and towards exam time. We are there with students every step of the way.

Some key insights drawn from collecting the data:

  • The number of people coming to the libraries confirms that our libraries are some of the largest learning spaces on campus where students spend time doing academic work outside of lectures. 
  • The use of our collection in print and electronic formats and the number of recorded lectures streamed is evidence of the availability and accessibility of the scholarly collections and resources provided by the Library. 
  • The skills development programs delivered by the Library are increasingly built on partnerships with faculty to ensure students develop the information research and learning skills within disciplinary content. 

Here is a neat little summary of what happened in O-Week and Week 1.




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25 February 2015

Designing rubrics for learning


Rubrics, are they a tool for making marking easier and more consistent? Or are they also a powerful tool for learning? by Katalin Mindum

Rubrics are designed to make marking easier and more consistent and they provide students with the expectations for each assignment.  A rubric which has been well designed and either marked-up or accompanied by verbal feedback on the assessment task, will provide students with a tool for self-evaluation, reflection and valuable insight on how they should proceed with subsequent learning activities.  

This short Rubrics for Learning video outlines how to design learning rubrics that will serve both the person marking the assessment and the student. 






Links to get you started:

 1.RSD Generic Skills Rubric (PDF) - links to Monash Arts Assessment Portfolio
 2.
Blank Rubric Template (Word Doc)  - links to Monash Arts Assessment Portfolio
 3.
Constructive Alignment and the Research Skills Development Framework (article)
 4.
RSD Framework
website


The video and handouts have also been included in the Arts Assessment Portfolio site (Monash staff only).


Why not transform your marking rubrics into a powerful tool for your students to enhance their learning.








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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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