Support for your studies

1 hour session with activities

  • Group: anything up to around 50 students
  • Room: anything appropriate to the group size
  • Discipline: any, can be tailored
  • Level: UG/PGT, any stage

Session materials:

Learning outcomes:

  • Effectively plan and manage assignments, projects and other pieces of work.
  • Develop an awareness of a wide range of information sources available to use in academic work.
  • Evaluate reference management tools, identify one to use if appropriate and learn how to use it effectively.

Suggested online resources:

Session outline:

Session overview

  • How to access information
  • Your key subject resources
  • Your training support: My Learning Essentials
  • Next steps

Activity 1: Group/Pair activity — What do you see?

Facilitator shows a picture of a selection of veggies and fruit and asks the pairs to write down everything that they see on the page.

This activity is designed to get students thinking about all the different words that they can use to search for information on their topic.

What am i looking for?

Students are asked to think about what they are looking for and following on from this is a breakdown of the processes you can use to find relevant quality information on the library resources.

Taking a systematic approach

“Taking a systematic approach”, Image of mind map. License CC By NC 4.0

This introduces the next activity about why its important to be systematic when you are looking for information for your studies.

1. Searching for information step 1

In this part of the session students are introduced to the strategy of searching systematically by breaking down their topic and research question.

An example dissertation question is shown such as the one below:

“ Sisterhood as a Critical Tool within Feminist Art History Examining Saint Catherine of Bologna and the Feminist Art Program”

Students are asked to consider which keywords would form part of their search. They are also asked to list the relevant synonyms they may need to consider during their search.

Searching for information step 2 — Traffic light approach

The groups are next asked to use the Traffic Light Approach to highlight the terms that they don’t want (red), terms they might want (yellow) and terms that they definitely want (green).

Photo of traffic light on green by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

TIP — If you don’t have red, yellow or green pens then ask them to cross out for red, write a question mark for yellow and a tick for green.

This activity is designed to get students refining their search terms so that they only using the specific ones they need to quickly find relevant information.

What am I looking for?

Search strategy

“What, how & where will you look?” Image license CC By NC 4.0

Different types of information

This slide is used to talk about the different types of information that the students can access using the Library resources.

Activity 2: Mentimeter Quiz

At this point they only answer the first question — Where do you currently look for information?

How to access information

This section of the presentation introduces the cohort to the key resources for their subject. Explain that it is important to use a wide range of resources. formation you need you will need to use a range of sources. Library Search, the subject guide, subject database are introduced and their uses outlined to the cohort when locating information for their dissertation.

  • Library Search

Key access point for information, easy to use and locate relevant information — i emphasise that its important to use the advanced search option to refine the results and increase relevance.

  • Your subject guide

2nd key access point for information — all your resources in one place. I emphasise that all subjects taught at the University of Manchester have a subject guide and that they can find specific databases for their subject.

  • Your subject databases

Here I emphasise that its important to not search in isolation e.g. never use one resource to find information. In a comprehensive search the student should use a wide range of resources in order to find relevant and high quality articles for their studies.

  • Google Scholar

3rd key access point for information — In addition to the library resources they should also use Google Scholar. I ask them if they use it as a key resource and there are always some that hold their hands up. I emphasise here the nature of Google Scholar and its access to information that we don’t necessarily have in the library such as pre-prints, research material and grey literature.

Activity 3: Searching with your keywords

In this activity the students are tasked with finding 3 articles that are relevant to their dissertation using the techniques and resources outlined in this session.

Lets start searching

The students are divided into three groups and allocated either using Library Search, Subject databases and Google Scholar to find information. I generally give the students 10–15 minutes for this activity.


Ask the 3 groups to feed back on the success of the searches and quality of the information they found on their allocated resource.

My Learning Essentials: Blackboard

“Start to finish online resources for Dissertations & Essay writing” — Image license CC by NC 4.0.

These slides refer to the support that is available in the students Blackboard space, My Learning Essentials workshops and shows specific examples that they will find particularly useful e.g. Start to Finish Dissertations.

Activity 4: Mentimeter Quiz

At this point they are reintroduced to Menti and are asked a number of questions about what they have learnt in the session such as:

  • Where will they now search for information?
  • Can you trust the information you find?
  • Why should you only use resources from “trusted” sources for your dissertation?

These questions are testing on them on the information in the session and also asking them to think about evaluating the information they find — being critical of the information and not just accepting it at face value.

What if I am still stuck?

This reminds the students that they can get support in our 1 to 1’s at the AGLC and the Main Library and through our MLE service.

Thank you for listening and happy writing!

2018 AHVS30000 (R18–0437)

2019 AHCP30000 (R19–0619)



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