Library Resources, Academic Writing, Critical Reading and Referencing Skills

Supporting materials

  • Slides/materials: Slides, KWH handout
  • Some of the slides were originally taken from the My Learning Essentials Academic Writing and Critical Reading workshops
  • The group consists of people with previous research experience and those with none


  • Group size: 40
  • Length: 2 hours
  • Room: Lecture theatre
  • Discipline: Humanitarian practice
  • Level: MSc Year 1

Learning outcomes

After engaging with this support, you will be able to:

  • Locate core library resources
  • Understand where to find different types of information
  • Understand the purpose of developing good critical reading and writing skills
  • Understand the importance of evaluating information, avoiding plagiarism and referencing correctly
  • Understand the importance of accurate referencing and avoiding plagiarism
  • Know where to find additional help

Suggested online resources

Being critical: thinking, reading and writing critically

Finding the good stuff: evaluating your sources

Original thinking allowed: avoiding plagiarism

Finding the good stuff

Knowing where to look: introducing your search toolkit

Planning ahead: making your search work

Search operators: refine AND combine OR NOT?

Session content

Introduction and session outline: (Slides 1–2)

Introduction to Library resources and subject databases (Slide 3)

Slide 4 — explain that academic research involves a series of searching, reading, reflecting and writing exercises that take time to perfect. Some steps will need to be refined as research progresses

Searching for information (slide 5) — introduce the three core information sources.

Activity — before showing slide 6, ask the group to shout out good and bad thing about google

Google (slides 6–8) — read out the pros and cons and explain that it is important to think how google sources should be evaluated

Library Search (slide 9) — demonstrate a search using “risk factors AND humanitarian aid” as search terms. Show some of the functions of library search

Activity — if the researchers have laptops, invite them to add some sources to their library e-shelf

Humanitarian and Conflict subject page (slides 10–12) — show the group where the databases are

Activity — split the researchers up and get small groups to search for “risk factors AND humanitarian aid” on different databases (1 database per group) — Medline, GeoBase, Web of Science, Sociological Abstracts — do not take more than 10 minutes for this

Planning A Search (side 13) — the purpose of the activity above was to demonstrate how similar keywords can produce very different results depending on the target audience of the database etc.

Before your start (slides 14–16) — this gets the researchers to think more specifically about their own topic and anticipate that some terms will not be applicable to their research interests.

Activity — ask the researchers to shout what they see (sofa, couch, settee) Ask them to shout out what risk factor and complex humanitarian emergencies means to them (they may give an example — Syria, Coronavirus, Flooding in the UK, Fires in Australia etc.) — do not take more than 5 minutes for this

Search tools (slides 17–18) — talk through these (search operators and truncation)

Using Search frameworks (slides 19–21) — talk through these slides — explain frameworks can be useful to structure a search question but these are a tool and should not dictate the remit of the research

Academic Writing and Critical Reading (slides 22)

Critical Reading (slide 23)

Activity — ask the group;

WHY do you read? — explain that people read — for information, to understand and to form an analysis (Slide 24) — do not take more than 3 minutes for this

Slide 25 — The group are asked to reconsider the following question;

Activity — ask the group to think about this research question and ask them — if they were to answer that question what would they focus on? Get them to discuss briefly with the person next to them (think back to earlier activity when the researchers considered words that could be used to tackle the question) — 15 minutes. Use the KWH handout.

WHAT information are you looking for? (to answer the research question)

WHERE will you look? — Think about what you already know and what you need to know…

Critical reading a proactive approach (slide 25) — read this out

Slides 26–27 — Check list for Critical reading, Identify the Main idea/s — read these out

Slides 28–30 — Evaluating Information, information inventory and identifying knowledge gaps — talk through these and emphasise the need for active reading — revisit the evaluation checklist referred to earlier

Show slide 31 — Connecting critical reading with academic writing

Academic Writing (slide 32)

Show slide 32

Activity — ask the group — WHY do you write? — do not take more than 3 minutes for this

Explain that people write — to impart information, to show understanding and to demonstrate analysis (Slide 32)

Explain the considerations for writing are not that different to the consideration for reading.

RAFT Role — Audience — Format — Topic (Slide 33) — read this out

Activity — ask the group to think about their own research questions and ask them -

WHAT information are you looking to convey? (to answer their research question/s)

WHAT do you need to do to present a balanced argument? — Think about what you already know and what you need to know…

Research Plan (Slide 34)

Activity –ask the students — how do you keep track of the points made by authors of articles etc. you have read? What evidence do you need to use to support your learned knowledge?

Building your arguments and constructing paragraphs (Slides 35–38)

Talk through slides 35–38

Lost for words? (Slide 39) — refer to the Academic Phrasebank

Referencing and Plagiarism (Slides 40–41)

Activity — Ask the students — What is the purpose of referencing to the reader and writer? — 2 minutes

Talk through slides 42–44

Quotation, summary or citation? (Slides 45–52)

Activity — Ask the students which examples is quotation, summary or citation?

Show slide of referencing page (Slide 53)

Additional help (Slides 54–62)

Wrap up: slides 63–64

Ask the SCONUL/RLUK question (Slide 64)

Internal ID: R20–0681

Written 3 March 2020




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