Wednesday, 11 January 2017

UXLibs - Love your Library: The Results

Finally here is the results from our first foray into the world of UX and user experience, which unfortunately appears later in this blog than our second UX project - the survey.

The library staff undertook a UX project in Lent term 2015 which was very successful as we had more responses than we expected - 92!  The students gave some excellent feedback about the library and IT services we offer.

Lego Library heaters made at Andy Priestners Lego workshop

The students identified the following things that the library does well:
·         Tea & coffee breaks, especially during Easter term
·         Our Book stock
·         The dvd collection
·         The under table heaters
·         Comfy sofa
·         Booksale of previous editions
·         Cleanliness
·         Welcoming and friendly library staff

Students commented that the library felt like a ‘home away from home’,

The following measures were implemented as a result of the study:

Issues raised
No book rests
20 book rests purchased, now heavily used
Uncomfortable chairs
20 cushions purchased, now heavily used
No access directly into IT Resource Centre
IT Resource Centre door now allows student access
Lack of colour
Worked with the Art Curator to introduce more of the New Hall art collection into the library. 

New cushions also provide more colour
Tea break snacks – during exam term
Introduced fresh and dried fruit
Stationary - stapler, hole punch
Purchased for IT Resource Centre
Policing of noise done by library staff and put into May library newsletter, encouraging self-policing by students
Desk lamps not working on the ground floor
Lamps provided, not possible to make repairs until after exam term as the electrics are embedded in the desk casing.
Blinds not working
Blinds checked – students asked to seek help from library staff
Internet explorer not working
Forwarded to IT staff

We're aware that this project only covered students who used the library and doesn’t tap into those who prefer to work elsewhere.  We are currently undertaking a second UX project surveying students in the Dome at lunch, to find out more about their favourite places to work, as well at discussing library use.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Uxlibs Project - The Survey

Following on from our first UXLibs project in Lent 2016 - "Love your Library", we thought we would try and gain some further insight to our students study patterns during autumn 2016.  Having seen how other Cambridge libraries had successfully used interviewing techniques, we thought we would give it go and devised a list of questions.

I was keen to ensure that the survey questions weren't initially about the library and were more based on where our students liked to work, what they liked about that particular space, what work they did there and what would improve the space for them.  We then went on to ask questions about the library and whether they used it & why and if not, why?  We also wanted to find out information about the students use of resources, and therefore didn't specifically refer to any particular one, such as library catalogue, ejournals, books, etc, as we wanted to see what they would say.  We were also interested in how they found retrieving the resources, whether in print or online. Finally as the college IT Suite is attached the library we also included questions on their use of the IT Suite and technology, did they used the IT Suite, what for and how long did they stay in the room; where did they do their printing did they use the college wifi and did they use social media?

Sam, @Samaanth70, (my Assistant Librarian) and I decided to do the questioning in pairs to start to see how it went, with the understanding that we would then split up on other days.  However after our first day's surveys we both thought that having someone else to scribe was extremely useful. It meant that the person interviewing could be more engaged with the participants, actively listening, responding to points and asking further probing questions, rather than writing down answers.  The interviews were therefore very fluid, and allowed the interviewer to change the focus of the questions or jump a few questions if the responses related to another issue we wanted to discuss later on.

Image result for groups
Taken from the EBTA website
We had also anticipated that we would interview people individually, however in practice most students sit in the Dome (our cafeteria) in groups.  We therefore decided to interview the students in their groups of 3 or 4.  We found this worked very well, it meant that the students encouraged each other to answer the questions and it demonstrated quickly the very different working patterns between different subjects and individuals.  It became apparent during the transcribing afterwards that we needed to remember which students gave what answer.  This wasn't too bad today as we typed up the responses the same day.  However if we don't have time to do that straight away in future we need to give students numbers and number the responses in relation to whose talking.

For me the most interesting findings from our first day were that students don't tend to report the problems they face and assume that it's stuff they have to put up with!  ie. slow computers in the IT Suite, heaters not working in rooms.  Fortunately this seemed more prevalent for students working in their own rooms rather than our library.  Students told us they did come and ask library staff for help, presumably because we are on hand and hopefully approachable.

An unsurprising point that came out is that students were conditioned by previous interactions with people and library staff in particular.  A previous bad experience, still resides when using a new library, for example, scared of coming in when they had overdue books.
Image result for overdue books
Taken from The Cotton Ball Conspiracy Word Press Site (22.04.2014)

Another common element was the minimal use of the IT Suite.  All the students, except one said they only logged onto  the managed cluster machines to print.  This meant they were only in the Room for 5 minutes each time.  One student said that if printing could be sent from her laptop to the library printer that would be better.  This evidence coincidences with the data usage of the room obtained from the IT Manager.  The one student, who said they would use the IT Suite didn't, as the machines were too slow and it was easier to use her laptop.

Lego heater model produced at Lego Workshop in Cambridge
We found the surroundings were very important for different individuals wherever they preferred to work, although they had common elements such as warmth and light. Some students commented they could control the heating in their rooms, where as another had the under desk heaters on in the library. Our under desk heaters also came to light at Andy Priestner's Lego Workshop, as one student there said it was their favourite thing about our library. Another commented that students moved within the library at night, as it was warmer in the basement.  3 students loved the light, bright space of the library and found it helped them study during the day, although they also made comments about the desk lighting at night being too low and not throwing enough light upwards.  As this is an original feature I'm not sure how we'll be able to resolve this.

Another common aspect which mirrored the findings of the UL Futurelib project was that students don't like sitting next to each other and prefer to have the desk to themselves.  Space wise this does pose a problem as most of our seating is a desk surrounded by four seats.

We could see there was a definite divide between the arts & humanities and the science & technology students. The arts and humanities students we surveyed today mainly used the library to work, unless they wanted to type up an essay, whereas the science students preferred working in their rooms, where they had their notes and didn't use the library that much as they didn't tend to borrow books.

One comment which was lovely to hear was that Wednesday tea and coffee was "a big draw" for working in the library.  Another commented that they came to tea and coffee for the break even if they were working in their room.

After such an interesting day speaking to our students, I'm excited to see what else comes to light as our project progresses this month.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Teaching Skills: Peer Support course Day 3

Day 3, saw the arrival of the possibly dreaded nanoteach for the participants but we knew they could do it.  We felt it was important for them to have the opportunity to use the information given and deliver their own session for a number of reasons; firstly, so that we could assess their learning, secondly, so they could receive valuable practice in a supported environment and finally that they could receive confidential constructive feedback in order to make improvements to their performance.

The organisation of the nanoteach's was probably the most complicated aspect of the course, working out which planning team members were available when and how many nanoteach's we could fit into a morning or afternoon slot.  To facilitate this we emailed  the participants in advance of the course and asked whether they would prefer morning or afternoon slots.  We ended up with five groups in total during the day and one group on the following Monday morning, who were unable to make the Friday's sessions. Each group consisted of four participants and one planning team member who facilitated the proceedings.

The format for each group, was two nanoteach's, followed by a break and then the remaining two nanoteach's.  Each participant was given 30 minutes in total which broke down into:

  • 5 minutes set up and say who the audience was
  • 15 minutes for the nanoteach
  • 5 minutes to pack up while the audience filled in their constructive feedback sheets 
  • 5 minutes for the participant to evaluate and reflect on their own performance

My participants were quite concerned about running over time so we came up with signals to indicate that they had 2 minutes left and that they had gone over time, which helped them to stick to their time scales, although I don't think the other groups did this.  This could possibly be something to make sure we all do next year.  Running to time is extremely important for presentations, as I find the audience can have tendency to get fed up if you go over, especially if you can always see that one student clock watching - demonstrating they would rather be somewhere else!  This can be very off putting.  A good plan, practice and the use of a watch are ways to ensure you don't overrun.
In relation to the topic of the nanoteach, we left that up to the individuals and specified that we weren't necessarily interested in the content, more their teaching style and how they delivered the session.  To give people more confidence we suggested that they talked about something they were familiar with rather than library/information literacy topics if they preferred.  Some examples of the topics covered were map cataloguing, geocaching, understanding your reading list, knitting, over coming language barriers when dealing with international students, social activism, animal care and salsa dancing (with practical exercises)!

I also found that the participants in my group wanted my feedback, although this was something that we as a team had not envisaged, preferring that feedback was given by peer review not the facilitators.  In practice however I found that I did end up giving some constructive feedback which was appreciated and evaluation forms from the day showed that participants wanted that to be a feature.  I therefore think we should definitely include our own comments in the constructive feedback next time.

The final stage of the nanoteach for each participant was asking them to re-assess where their confidence lay after the course.  This was facilitated differently this time as we weren't together as a whole group.  Isla had produced certificates with their confidence level at the beginning of the course and we asked them to mark their confidence on a new line underneath, which would show whether they felt their confidence had improved, stayed the same or got worse.

I personally think that the nanoteach's gave the participants a chance to practice and hopefully showed them that they could give a brief training session with little notice.  I also loved the variety of topics that I listened to and definitely learned a lot from the different talks, such as re-discovering that I can knit one pearl one!

Looking at some of the comments from the course evaluation shows that the course was a success, which is brilliant news:

1.  I thought the content and encouragement from teaching staff first class.  It certainly filled a need for staff at Cambridge.

2.  Thank you for an inspiring week.  The format of 3 half days in one week worked really well for me as it made the business of thinking about and preparing for the nanoteach session more realistic since it was interspersed with other things.

3.  I feel much more confident about the mechanics of teaching. Would have been good too if as well as peer feedback on the practical sessions we got a bit of "expert" feedback from those running sessions. 

4.  Many thanks for my certificate. I did find the course quite useful, it was great to hear from a variety of people with their various teaching styles. It was also good fun as well as helpful.

5. Thank you all for the wonderful effort you put in to giving us such a useful and enjoyable course.  A lot of work went into the preparation and, of course, delivering it. I really appreciated it; I learned a lot and will definitely put it into practice.

6.   I took part in the Teaching Skills for Librarians course, organised by the Librarians in Training group. This was a new type of course, and an interesting experiment: after two days of lecture type sessions, we were asked to put together a ten minute long session, and present it to a group of fellow participants, in order to get immediate feedback on our teaching style. It sounded a bit daunting but, as we were in it all together, we accepted the challenge and enjoyed the peer support aspect of the course. For example, I learnt that handouts are very important, and they should provide additional information rather than just repeating what you said in your session. I also discovered that I am able to put a quick session together from scratch in a very short amount of time. And I finally learnt that I come across as confident (I must be a good actress then!), that my non-native English isn’t a problem at all (another thing that honestly surprised me), that I need to make sure I don’t laugh too much during my presentation as I might give the impression I don’t believe in what I’m saying, and that I need to slow down a lot when talking.

I applied what I learnt when delivering the Portfolio Building course last September, and I was really happy to hear that I spoke more slowly, and that attendees found the session clear and easy to follow. The course gave me the confidence to face classroom speaking in a calmer and more controlled way.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Teaching Skills: Peer Support course - Day 2

Day 2 started with the teaching activity audit, (see the introduction ), followed by a useful session on creating handouts. This was definitely something that I thought I need to work on in future.  Ryan informed us that handouts are the "lasting manifestation of our teaching" and part of the students overall learning, particularly in the case of the theorist learner.  Handy tips given were:
  • plan your handouts in advance
  • don't just print out your slides - this is one I know I can be guilty of!
  • ensure your handout reflects your presentation
  • make sure your handout can stand alone
  • know when to distribute your handout

We were pointed to the key principles of Edward Tufte for designing documents: the design should be invisible, content counts most of all and maximize your users recognition time. We were therefore advised to use plain language and not library jargon, ie. OPAC, etc.

The main section of day 2 focused on reflective practice, peer review and constructive feedback, as we really wanted to emphasize the peer support element of the course moving forward. Time for reflection is extremely valuable in our daily activities and enables us to think about how things went or whether something needs changing.  Reflective practice was therefore introduced as a useful technique which went alongside delivering teaching sessions allowing individuals to evaluate their performance:
  • What went well?
  • What went wrong?
  • Why?
  • What could be done to make improvements

Best practice informs us that reflective practice should be a continuous cycle and not just a one time thing, so plan, do and review.  

Isla talked participants through peer review and giving constructive feedback. Our aim being to build confidence and improve support of both peers and students.  The underlying principles were to be constructive, developmental (not judgmental), formative  (not summative) and most importantly confidential to both parties.  Isla stressed the importance to comment on people's behaviours, such as, "I liked it when you did...." and "what I liked was when you said...." rather than " it was nice" or "your competent".

Participants were then given the opportunity to think about comments that had made them change their behaviours. After this exercise they were invited to watch and comment on a presentation given by myself, where I had deliberately included good and bad elements into the 5 minute demonstration. (I found this demonstration more difficult than giving usual presentations due to remembering to include the bad bits!) Participants were given a feedback form upon which they were asked to write down 3 positive points, 3 developmental points and 3 aspects to take away from the session.  The feedback from the participants was excellent, and demonstrated that they had taken on board a lot of points raised over the previous talks and picked up on all my mistakes. Feedback after day 2,

"it was a great idea to ask one of the trainers to give a wrong presentation, to teach us how to give constructive feedback",

showed that participants felt this was a useful exercise which would stand them in good stead for commenting on the individual nanoteach's during day 3 of the course.

Afterwards we moved on to what to do when it all goes wrong!  One of the other experienced guest speakers led this talk which went down very well.  This was broken down into two elements: technology and people.

The speaker asked for contributions and participants experiences throughout the talk to highlight those dreaded moments during a teaching session, when the computers don't work, the projector has broken or websites have changed overnight.  Tips for smooth sailing were as follows:
  • practice in the classroom beforehand
  • have the phone number of the IT department
  • bring an extra memory stick
  • put a copy of the presentation in the cloud
  • be able to do the class without a presentation

People issues included, students grandstanding, texting or using the internet.  Above all we were advised to keep calm and take charge.

Participants were then giving a briefing about the "nanoteach" and what was expected of them for their individual presentations on day 3.

From my own perspective, day 2 seemed quite rushed.  We had listened feedback from the previous day and had included the "teaching activity audit".  This was a very worthwhile thing to do as it gave the participants and myself a more holistic view of the teaching going on in Cambridge libraries.  I hope it also allowed participants to think about the possibility of working together and sharing resources or collaborating with teaching.  This inclusion  meant that we cut down some of other aspects of the course, which was easy enough to do on the spur of the moment.  Hopefully this demonstrated the ability to be flexible. If we run this course again, we won't have this problem so we will be able to stick to the original lesson plan for that day.

The participants evaluation showed that they appreciated that we had listened to their feedback and had moved the projectors position and included the activity audit.  There was also a sense that the activity audit, Isla's teaching style and the what to do when it all goes wrong presentation allowed more discussion and made participants feel that everyone was in the same boat;

"Wednesday involved a lot more discussion from the group and I really enjoyed hearing from my colleagues/peers about what they were doing, ideas that they had, etc",

"it was reassuring to hear that even people with lots of teaching experience face difficulties and fears sometimes."

However there was also a sense of wanting more discussion time and a longer break in order to reflect on teaching:

"I know discussion can/and hopefully will continue beyond the sessions but it's often harder to take time out once you leave the classroom. Incorporating that time into the sessions would mean we would have a captive audience and dedicated time to discuss things further".

From a personal point of view I think this would be difficult to incorporate fully into the day and I think we were hoping that the peer support element would continue beyond the course, although I readily take the point that once you leave a course it can be difficult to find time to reflect on teaching.  Also if we do want time to discuss teaching as a whole in Cambridge and possibly collaborate, that might be better in a different event, as there are lots of librarians teaching within Cambridge who wouldn't be able to participate in that conversation, were it held as part of our course. However there would be no harm in organising a bit of both.


Edward Tufte, 2006, Beautiful evidence, Graphics Press.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Teaching Skills: Peer Support Course - Day 1

During the introduction on day 1, we emphasized the peer support element of the course. We felt it was important that participants learnt from each other.  Alongside this we asked that everyone contributed in order to get the most out of the program.

very confident----------------little confidence
Before starting we wanted to gauge participants experience in delivering teaching sessions and more importantly their confidence in teaching. as we wanted to measure their confidence after the course and 3-6 months later to see if there was a longitudinal improvement. We measured both experience and confidence using "string theory"; literally a long piece of string placed along the floor, one end being very experienced/confident and the other end being little experience/confidence.  We then asked participants to position themselves along the line and to write their name on a post it note, which we then collected up in order.

Our first session used a story technique developed by the English Faculty Library to identify who are students were, what their skills were and what we should teach them. The skills were then linked to ANCIL Information Literacy strands. There wasn't time to cover Information Literacy in depth but links were given to the main theories, such as ANCILSCONUL 7 PillarsInformAll, etc, for participants to look at in their own time.

We then discussed the importance of learning styles in relation to the students learning and the way in which we choose to deliver our teaching sessions, as our own preferred learning style may have a bearing on our teaching.  We found out our own learning styles by using an activity example from Gravells, thinking about how you learned to use a new mobile phone.  This was a very quick and dirty method of demonstrating Honey & Mumford's learning styles: activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist and I felt it worked really well without taking up too much time. We also looked at what exercises went best with each style and that it was best to use a mixture whilst delivering our sessions, to ensure we included all the students.

The rest of the first day's content looked at lesson planning, smart objectives, teaching methods and session evaluation.  The importance of having a session plan was discussed in order to give structure and confidence by ensuring that all the elements of a session were thought about in advance. Catherine also mentioned that creating one standard plan and re-using it saved time overall.  Key elements to this were the the learning aims and objectives.  Aims should state the purpose of the session and the learning need being met.  Objectives show the students the knowledge they should be able to take away at the end of the session.  These should be:

SMART objectives
are they clearly defined?

how will you know they've been met?

can they be met by your participants?

do they relate to the aim and needs of the participant?

can they be achieved in the time available?

The merits of different types of teaching method, such as lectures, demonstrations, discussions and assorted practical activities were discussed among the participants as an interactive activity. Participants were asked to think of advantages and disadvantages of  using each one from both the teacher and learner perspective.

Assessment methods were also talked about, as its important to know how you will assess the learners knowledge.  This is sometimes something which is perhaps left out when designing library sessions due to time practicalities, so choosing something suitable is vital.  Practical activities, quizzes, discussions, question & answer and group work can all be done during the session with time given for feedback and explanations of the answers.  Online assessment, peer assessment and learner presentations take longer as preparation time is needed by either the teacher or learner.  However once set up, this type of assessment can give more useful feedback on how the learner has processed the information given.

We finally introduced the idea of reflective practice by asking the participants to reflect on the sessions they'd seen and the different speakers. We deliberately used a variety a speakers throughout the course, so participants were able to see different delivery styles and methods. We wanted participants to see that each person has their own unique presentation style and that it was possible to get ideas for teaching from watching other presentations and presenters.

The participants evaluation of the first day was very positive which we were pleased about, especially the fact that they had liked the variety of speakers.  The Story technique was also very popular, one participant said "it was inspiring and interesting".  The planning team felt this was a great interactive session which was different to the usual lecture style of delivery and we are hoping to use it again this summer if we re-run the course.

The things to improve we took away to work on for day 2 were; an activity audit of what was already being done within Cambridge, the use of too many post it notes and the positioning of the projector which meant we had to stand in front of the screen.  However these are all things which the participants in turn will need to think about when delivering their own sessions.  Handouts and whether to give them before or after a session seemed to be split into the yes and no camp.  I don't think there is any right or wrong answers, it just depends on the individuals taking your course on that particular day.

Gravells, 2013, The award in education and training, Sage.

Honey & Mumford, 2006, Learning Styles questionnaire: 40 item version, Peter Honey Publishing.

Teaching Skills: Peer Support Course - Introduction

The idea for the Teaching Skills: Peer Support course came about after I attended LILAC 2012.  I remember listening to one presentation about the teaching identity and how their library staff had a support group, where they read and discussed articles on teaching to help their development as teachers.  I realised that whilst we do have a support group for librarians within Cambridge through our Brown Bag lunches, where articles on a variety of topics are discussed, we didn't specifically have anything for teaching.  As more and more librarians are now being asked to teach information literacy sessions to students, teaching is quickly becoming associated with a librarians role, especially for subject librarians and departmental staff who demonstrate electronic resources to students.  Even inductions and library tours need a certain degree of confidence and teaching or public speaking ability in order to impart information on your library to students and visitors, etc.  However it's fair to say that although some librarians undertake brief teaching skills course organised by libraries, CILIP and CPD groups, teaching is not taught in depth at library school.  More and more librarians are undertaking a postgraduate diploma or MA course in Teaching and Learning, have a PGCE or B.Ed degree or undertake a teaching qualification at regional colleges.  There are also a number of librarians who do not have teaching qualifications. Therefore Librarians can find themselves adrift when faced with delivering inductions and teaching sessions on a variety of subjects, such as, information skills, search techniques or referencing software.

Being the Chair of the Librarians in Training Group at Cambridge also gave me an insight into what training our librarians requested.  Top of the list was always teaching skills, how to teach and presentation skills.  I thought that with all the expertise and experience in Cambridge we could put on a teaching skills course in-house.  The planning team was formed of both college and departmental librarians (Ryan Cronin, St Johns College; Isla Kuhn, Medical Library; Catherine Reid, Lucy Cavendish College (now Clare College) and myself, Kirstie Preest, Murray Edwards College), with some assistance from 3 guest speakers, also from within Cambridge libraries.

The course itself took a lot of organising and planning but this didn't seem too onerous with four team members.  The team members all had something different to contribute in light of their experience; academic, NHS, & schools and in the different skills we had, for example, advertising, writing, presenting, etc.  We envisaged the course as a pilot project upon which we could build further after the first year, so were keen to ensure that the course was fully evaluated by ourselves and the participants.  We also demonstrated this aspect in practice by evaluating each day ourselves and by asking participants to do the same. This enabled us to change the course as we went along, taking into account any feedback received.  We felt it was important to demonstrate the fluidity, flexibility and a requirement "to think on your feet" which is sometimes required during a teaching session, when things don't always go to plan.

Activity Audit of Information Literacy Sessions
Another example of this flexibility is that we had not planned on discovering what teaching already existed in Cambridge libraries, rather just concentrate on the teaching skills itself.  However our first day's feedback showed that participants wanted this information to see if any overlap occurred.  So armed with this knowledge Isla and I changed the format of day two and included a "teaching activity audit".  Not only did this allow us to show that changing your session with limited time was feasible, it also allowed us to gain some useful data on what teaching already existed.  The image shown, details some of the data collected.

The main aims of the program were to:
  • Build confidence and skills for librarians involved in teaching
  • Cover the whole process of a teaching session from planning through to evaluation and reflection
  • Establish teaching peer support within Cambridge for librarians 

For a reflection on each day of the course please see the other blog posts in the series. 

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Writing research proposals and publications

After meeting with one of my mentees this week and saying that she should try to write about courses and events as she went along instead of way after the event, I thought I should practice what I preach, especially as I'm working towards my Fellowship.

So here goes..... After studying the PKSB I identified desk research and publication as being an area I was interested in and wanted to work towards for my Fellowship.  One of the reasons being that criteria three asks you to demonstrate what you've done for the library profession.  Research and publications are both ways of achieving that goal.  Not having many written many publications myself, other than brief write ups for various library newsletters, I thought I needed to find out more.

I was fortunate that Cilip ILG (Information Literacy Group) and Cilip LIRG (Library and Information Research Group) organised a workshop on writing for publication in September 2014 at Cilip which fitted the bill.  I must admit I was very dubious about the day as I'm certainly not much of a writer and thought this course might be over my head. 

The course was good and approached the subject of research and publishing articles, step by step:
  • decide subject focus
  • develop the question
  • choose your strategy
  • select your method
  • arrange the practicalities
  • collect data
  • analyse findings
  • report your findings

Quite a lot of this I knew, in relation to doing a literature review, searching for journal articles, collecting data, obtaining ethics permissions, etc, but it was useful to see the whole process.  As librarians we often help students or researchers find information and show them search techniques which will help their retrieval of articles, however we only see a very small part of the research process.  We don't see how they come up with their research question, or the statistical data they find or how they choose whether to use qualitative or quantitative methodology to analyse their findings.  This course was going to make us do just that! So armed with this methodology we delved deeper into the practicalities of doing the above steps.  I found this much harder than I imagined.

Writing the research question which would help answer our hypothesis was extremely difficult.  It needed to be concise, direct, focused on central issues and could be broken down into multiple smaller questions.  I think I failed miserably and was very grateful to the rest of my group who seemed to have more of an idea than me.  (It was at this point that I felt a lot of the other participants had done a lot of research already in their library roles and I felt out of my depth.)  For the rest of the morning we went on in groups to focus our question and think about the methods we could employ to find out the information we needed.

We also talked about the importance of doing a literature review to see if someone else had already done that research. We discussed what to do if your findings confirmed other studies and how a new angle could be looked at instead.  We also talked about finding that your piece of research broke new ground and the importance of identifying gaps in subject areas that hadn't been looked at previously.

The afternoon turned to writing proposals.  A good research proposal needs to be:
  • pitched correctly
  • clear and concise
  • have the wow factor
  • be achievable and realistic
  • feasible
  • have a degree of originality
  • be intelligible to readers with no jargon
  • *follow the guidelines given*

We then practiced writing that killer headline, like the Daily Mail which has an immediate impact, followed by a longer sentence with the key points.  Again this wasn't as easy as it sounded.

Writing for publication was next.  The presenter spoke about where to publish, who our audience was and most importantly to read the journal guidelines.  Another tip was to read other articles from the particular journal to give you an idea of how others had written their articles.  We were also told that if you were collaborating with other writers that it was easier for one person to write the first draft and the second person to review it, rather than trying to write it together. Otherwise the article could sound like it had two voices rather than one.  This was useful advice and I will hopefully put this into practice.

The day ended with a run down of some of the library journals we might want to publish in:
  • Journal of Information Literacy
  • Library and Information Research
  • Innovative Practice in Higher Education
  • New Review of Academic Librarianship
  • Evidence Based Library and Information Practice

The course was very useful, although at the end I wondered if this was more in depth than I wanted. The research and teaching skills course which we had done over the summer, wasn't going to fit into this model as we hadn't sought ethics permission and come up with a research question and proposal.  Perhaps writing it up for Cilip Update or on a blog would be better.  Although if we were doing it a second time perhaps we could think about getting these things ready in case we wanted to publish something.

Having said that in November we did write a proposal for LILAC 2015 to talk about our in-house teaching skills course for librarians, as I felt it was a gap in the information literacy area.  The writing proposals section came in handy for this and must have helped as our submission was accepted.

The presentations for the course are all on slideshare:
Getting started - Alison Brettle

Writing a research proposal - Geoff Walton & Graham Walton

Tips for aspiring authors & meet the journal editors - Jane Secker & Angharad Roberts