Research, reading & writing tips


Supporting materials

  • Slides/materials: PowerPoint slides
  • Online session materials: Mentimeter


  • Group: 57
  • Length: 50 minutes
  • Room: Large lecture theatre
  • Discipline: Business and Management
  • Level: PGT

Learning outcomes

  • Identify an appropriate tool to use for finding information for your specific purpose
  • Develop strategies for assessing the appropriateness of sources to use in your assignments
  • Discriminate between good-quality academic sources and other sources
  • Understand the conventions for citation styles and bibliographies required for your assignment

Suggested online resources

  • Being critical: thinking, reading and writing critically
  • Finding the good stuff: evaluating your sources
  • Knowing where to look: your search toolkit
  • Planning ahead: making your search work
  • Start to finish: essay writing
  • Links to SLS referencing and Business data menus

Session content

The purpose of this session is to introduce PGT students of Operations Management to the principles and practice needed to locate and evaluate high quality information resources for their dissertation. The session will also introduce techniques that can be used to interrogate the sources in a critical fashion and the best way to incorporate these into your writing.

Introduction (Slides 1–3)
Introduce the aims for the session (slide 2) and introduce Mentimeter through the use of the icebreaker question . Explain that Menti will be used throughout the session to allow students to interact with the lecture content.

My Learning Essentials (Slides 4–5)
Highlight the MLE online resources location in Blackboard, and explain we will refer to relevant resources throughout the presentation to show how these will help students to develop the skills they need to produce their dissertation.

Finding relevant literature (Slides 6–9)
Explain that the Library’s information sources can be used to provide supporting evidence for the claims made throughout the dissertation (Slide 6). Introduce the topic which will be used throughout the rest of the session as an example:

“What methods can the service sector employ to make its operations more lean?”

Use slides 8 and 9 to highlight that simply using a standard internet search is likely to yield too many results to be meaningful, and that many of the results will not be of sufficient academic rigour. Explain that Wikipedia can be used as a starting point, but that academic and professional sources will need to be consulted in order to score higher marks (Slides 8–9)

Introducing a search strategy (Slide 10)
Introduce how the strategy of What, Where and How can be used in order to locate relevant materials for the assignment. Explain that we will study each component in detail in order to discover the basic principles of effective searching.

What are we looking for? (Slides 11–17)
Introduce the concepts of keywords and synonyms using the example of a settee / sofa (Slide 12). Highlight keywords from the essay title, then using Mentimeter, ask attendees to come up with alternative words / phrases for the following key phrases from the essay title (Slides 13–15):

  • Methods
  • Service sector
  • Operations
  • Lean

Use the word cloud display in Mentimeter to explain that this is how a comprehensive search strategy should start, and explain that they as students of the University of Manchester they will have access to mind-mapping software such as Mindview which can also help them with this.

Demonstrate how the MLE online resource “Planning ahead” is a key resource in developing this skill (Slides 16–17).

Where will you look for it? (Slides 18–22)
Ask students where they currently search for information using Mentimeter (Slide 18). Follow up the activity with discussion of the the iceberg analogy (Slide 19) to introduce the differences between different types of information available to them via UML (freely available and subscription based). Use slide 22 to outline possible sources of information which could usefully be consulted in order to score well in the dissertation:

  • Online sources
  • News
  • Textbooks / Academic journals
  • Databases

How will I look for it? — Official literature (Slides 23 -24)
This section should focus on demonstrating how students can search the web intelligently using domain searches — The following examples can be entered into google or Bing to highlight some potentially useful online search results:

  • lean service sector
  • lean service sector site:edu
  • lean financial services

How will I look for it? — News (Slides 25–26)
Similar to the above but focus on news sources this time, demonstrating the following searches:

  • lean service industries
  • lean service industries

Activity: Ask students to try out similar searches on their own devices and submit any questions for discussion using Mentimeter

How will I look for it? — Textbooks and Academic journals (Slides 27–37)
Using Library search run a search for “lean operations management” (Slide 28). Demonstrate the various limiting options which can be used and also promote relevant services such as order a book and inter-library loan.

Slides 29–33 should be used to introduce journal articles. Slides 29 and 30 should talk about the background to what a journal article is, and how these can be used to be identify the latest research and developments in a particular field. Slides 31 -33 should talk about the types of language commonly used in journal articles and suggest some active reading strategies which students can use to better engage with some of the more complex material e.g.

  • Use the abstract
  • Make notes as you go along — “I don’t understand” this is a valid response!
  • Check the list of references at the end

Outline the 3 major options for locating journal articles at UML (Library search / Google Scholar / Bibliographic database)

  • Library search: Run a search for “lean operations” then use the “Peer reviewed journals” filter. Access the article — The relationship between lean operations and sustainable operations
  • Google Scholar: Run a search for “lean operations service sector”. Apply the “2016” filter to reduce the number of results. Access the article “Empirical analysis of existing lean service frameworks in a developing economy” — Demonstrate the Citation button which allows students to generate citations in a variety of popular styles. Use Slide 37 to highlight that Google Scholar may identify content UML does not have. Promote inter library loan service as a means for obtaining any content for which we do not have a subscription
  • Bibliographic database — Run the search below on Business Source Premier

How will I look for it? Databases (Slides 38–39)
Explain that students have access to a large range of professional databases (providing access to market research, economic and demographic data etc) which will add an extra layer of depth to the research they are able to conduct.

Activity — Ask students to explore the Business and Management subject pages and to search for information on their topic using a database such as Mintel or Statista. Questions abut the resources to be submitted via Mentimeter

Source Evaluation (Slides 42 —47)
Explain the importance of asking the right questions when considering the value of information sources using Slide 43.

The Lecture should then provide examples of how certain sources are not always the most accurate / objective, although they can still be a useful source of information for basic discussion and garnering ideas for areas to research further (Slides 45–47). This should lead into a further discussion of criticality (Slide 48). Use slide 49 to demonstrate how certain sources are appropriate for use but may require further corroboration from different sources.

Activity -Ask students to assess the value of some of the sources located in the previous activity using the checklist on slide 43. Ask students to post comments about this using Mentimeter

Strategies for reading (Slides 50–58)
Use the slides to introduce some strategies for reading critically. Ask students to think about how they might usefully employ these to the text provided on slide 55. Highlight that further support is provided in this area via Blackboard (Slides 56–58)

Academic Writing (Slide 59)
Explain that the remainder of the session will focus on academic writing

Introduction (Slides 60–68)

  • Introduce a typical assignment structure (Slide 60)
  • Introduce general functions of the introduction (slide 61)
  • Provide examples of extra content which will usually be required in the introduction to a dissertation (Slide 62)
  • Introduce the CARS model as an effective writing tool for the dissertation (Slide 63)
  • Demonstrate different steps of the CARS model in the writing on the screen (Steps 64–66)
  • Highlight MLE support available for academic writing (66–68)

Body text (Slides 70–76)

  • Talk about the different elements that can be used to structure a paragraph — Topic Sentence — Evidence — Analysis — Transition (Slide 71)
  • Introduce the function of the Topic sentence and provide an example from a piece of academic writing (Slides 70–71)
  • Use slides 74 and 75 to highlight the importance of providing accurate citations for any evidence we choose to use within our paragraph.
  • Use slide 76 to demonstrate how Google Scholar can be used to create citations easily

Making your voice heard (Slides 77–85)

How many references do I need? (Slides 78–79)

Activity: Ask students how many references would be needed in order to produce a 1000 word essay (Less than 5, 5–10, 10–15, 15–20)

Making your voice heard (Slides 80–81)
Introduce the “It says, I say and so” model, which students can choose to employ when thinking about how to integrate references into their writing.

  • It says — The Data or the citation — This is information provided by others which must be attributed
  • I say — Analysis — This is where you should explain to your reader what your take, or opinion, on the information you have referenced is
  • And so — Connection to ideas / themes — Why is the analysis you have provided significant or important?What will change as a result of what you have just told the reader? This should connect back to the central theme or contention which is running throughout your assignment.

Example: “Planet” Pluto (Slides 82–83)

Show how the photographs taken by NASA’s New Horizons space probe to Pluto could be used to support the contention that “Pluto should be classed as a planet again”

  • “It says” — The Data / reference — In this case pictures demonstrated that there are mountain formations on Pluto
  • “I say” — There are Mountain ranges are present on Venus, Earth, and Mars — all classed as planets
  • “And So” — We can use this information to support our central thesis that Pluto should be classed as a planet again

Building your argument (Slides 84–85)
Explain that simply using one piece of information to support a contention (as above) will not be effective. However using it as a building block to construct a connected argument, can help to write a well structured and argued essay

  • Slide 84— Briefly outline other arguments in favour of Pluto’s re-classification, the orbital mechanics debate is briefly explained here. The main point to make is that there are a number of arguments in favour of our contention
  • Slide 85— Provide a quick example of how we might use what we have just discussed in relation to the Precy and Rich article which we highlighted earlier in the lecture.

Transition sentences (Slides 86–89)
Use the slides to provide a quick definition and example of a transitional sentence. The main purpose of this section is to introduce students to the academic phrasebank

Activity — ask students to locate the academic phrasebank and look for some good examples of transitional phrases they could use (N.B. If time permits!)

Further support (Slides 90–92)
Provide examples of further resources which provide support with academic writing (in addition to the MLE online resources). Highlight workshops and drop in support available via MLE, and support via Library enquiry services.

Internal ID: R20–0669



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