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Dr. Kusha Anand on information and digital literacies for life

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 7 November 2019

Dr. Kusha Anand, who took the Information and Digital Literacies in 2014, writes about her experience of the course and the long-term benefits of developing research skills.

About the course

A specialised course on what is expected of the literature review at doctoral level is an important addition as it allows one to gain insights into the dos and don’ts of searching and developing a systematic way of working with a huge digital library of subscribed electronic resources.  This blog presents my reflections on the course “Information and literature searching” (now aptly renamed ‘Information and Digital Literacies) given by Nazlin Bhimani. This course incorporated information and digital literacies and looked at ways of searching, finding, accessing, evaluating, managing and using literature.  It was delivered through presentations and exercises, with adequate time set aside for questions and answers.

Nazlin encouraged information searching in a structured manner so that we were able to map our keywords to our research topics, and after thorough systematic searching were able to add relevant literature to visual maps. By visualising our topics by keywords and then attaching the relevant literature, we were able to see the links from various keywords and concepts and fine-tune our research questions. In the process, we were introduced to the different information portals in order to find specific literature to the various themes.  Another area that was effective was the discussion on issues such as credibility of the research, its integrity, comprehensiveness and depth. This broadened my understanding of matters relating to scholarly communication (including authors’ rights and open access). I was also able to pick up some useful tips which I now find invaluable.

Engagement with the tutor

The course enabled me to understand the need to consider depth and scope and to prioritise my reading – I took the most important and relevant literature first rather than downloading lots of articles and not knowing where to start.  Nazlin also provided advice on numerous bibliographic management software tools and taught us ways in which we could stay current. The course showed me not only how to identify relevant literature but also how to evaluate it in order to gauge its usefulness for my research and to understand where the gaps might be.  This was important in terms of checking to see whether my research would be original and would be an addition to the existing knowledge in the area.

In addition, Nazlin has been instrumental in strengthening my understanding of literature searching and the types of resources available to me. Due to the complexity of my research topic, she offered to give me a one-on-one tutorial in which she elaborated on effective information/literature search strategies that I could use on the myriad search interfaces so that I was able to find relevant resources.

Outcomes

Overall, this course has benefited me enormously as I have so much more confidence in handling print and online information sources and this in itself adds to my mental wellbeing. The course has acted as a catalyst to my approach to information and literature searching and it has to be emphasised that these skills were not simply relevant to my thesis but are now being used in my postdoc work.

A question that has no easy answers – or perhaps it does?

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 3 April 2019

Congratulations! You have completed your thesis, gone through the viva and have passed with flying colours (with or without corrections). At this stage, you are expected to upload the digital copy of the thesis into UCL’s Research Publications System (RPS) together with the ‘Thesis Deposit Agreement Form’. And it is also at this stage when you have to decide on whether the thesis will be open access, which of the various open access licenses is appropriate for your work, and whether you want to impose an embargo on the thesis for 6-12 months. Your supervisor(s) may advise but many will leave the decision to you.

It is reasonable to put an embargo on your thesis if you are planning on converting the thesis into a book. Some publishers will ask you to take down your thesis before they will publish your work. You may consider an embargo if your thesis contains material that will be patented or is confidential in nature. However, before you put an embargo on your work, check your funder’s terms and conditions. Most funders want the research they have funded to be open access.

If I am asked for advice on whether to put an embargo or not, I usually list the advantages of making the thesis openly accessible. I may be biased in my response but I do believe the advantages far outweigh the disadvances. Quite apart from the ethical issue of making information freely and openly available, there are advantages to society too. Aside from independent scholars, who don’t have access to large libraries or cannot travel to a country where a source is held, the policymaker and the taxpayer will have access  – and, consequently, you will have more readers, and perhaps even more citations. Further, the thesis will not gather dust on your shelves or languish in a vault in the Library. There are other advantages too:

  • Your work will have greater visibility with the UCL brand as the URL will be yourthesis.discovery.ucl.ac.uk.
  • The UCL brand offers credibility to your work as a researcher.
  • Your thesis will be discoverable via Google Scholar, eThOS and on DART (European theses portal).
  • You will be providing scholars in your area with a service by promoting and flagging your research so that they are aware of it but also do not waste time duplicating the research.
  • This means you will get cited more quickly.
  • A publisher may find your thesis and offer to publish it as a book – saving you the time to look for one.
  • It is not likely that all the content in your thesis will be published in book or article format. For instance, your methodology chapter will be read more widely and this is the chapter that is not likely to be published fully in a book unless the basis for the thesis is a new methodology.
  • Future employers, co-authors and your network can have evidence of the quality of your research.
  • The law will protect against misuse of your intellectual property and the University will ensure that any misappropriation is actioned.
  • You will be adhering to the UCL Publications Policy which favours open access. See: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/open-access/ucl-publications-policy-2012

The disadvantages are as follows:

  • Your work may be plagiarised – but this is a risk for all online content.
  • Your work is sold on Amazon or eBay without your knowledge – and again, this is a risk with all online content.
  • You will get harassed by predatory publishers to publish with them. Use your information literacy skills and investigate them and please, don’t give your intellectual property away.
  • You won’t get known for the great researcher you are if your work stays hidden!

As you can see from the list there are more advantages to making your thesis openly available than there are disadvantages. Given the rate at which scholarship is produced and available on the internet, you may want to re-consider an embargo  – at least a lengthy embargo.  Fundamentally, UCL is committed to open access and we have the first open-access university press here in the UK – see UCL Press. Once your thesis and the form are uploaded and available on UCL’s research repository, UCL Discovery, it is considered to be published. Double congratulations, for you have now contributed new knowledge and, it is available for the rest of the world to read!

 

 

A new IOE LibGuide for doctoral students

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 8 November 2017

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Most of you will be familiar with the IOE Library’s LibGuides – created to support you with your studies and to scaffold the learning on the ‘Information and Literature Searching’ course.  A new guide has been created which, hopefully, brings together all the other information on the training and support available to you during your studies.   This is the IOE Doctoral Students LibGuide.

The home page lists links that you are most likely to need during your doctorate.  The Library page highlights the core guides and provides information on the ‘Information and Literature Searching’ course.  The other pages, i.e. CDE, DocSkills, Vitae, Times Higher Ed/LSE Impact Blog, YouTube, Twitter and Blogs take you directly to the different pages within the UCL website and/or to external sites that provide useful information and support.

Do let me (nazlin.bhimani@ucl.ac.uk) know if you would like me to add additional links – and/or if you have feedback on how the guide can be improved.