Top tips on proof reading

At this most frantic time of year, proof-reading becomes a crucial part of the pre-submission process of any assignment and especially for those dissertation students who have been working so hard for several months on their research. Nothing can go wrong – or can it?  According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), too many employers were having to invest in literacy lessons for their staff, and an online entrepreneur reckons that millions are lost in online sales because of poor spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and so forth (BBC, 2011).  With online sales accounting for over £500 million a week, proof reading skills need to be acquired before a business student graduates. Fortunately, there is a plethora of online materials to help those students before they choose the submit button on Turnitin. Or to be more specific, the University of Reading with its insightful list of effective proof reading tips, is a useful place to start.

Ah, YouTube. A Wealth of Material for the Enquirer. Be warned though, as some (other) videos on proof reading contained mistakes! For those wishing to delve into more about proof reading, East Tennessee State University, offers some suitable academic advice. Perhaps easier to follow if you’re tired, rather than reading a list. Basically, the rule is not to leave it to the last minute, and avoid proof reading on the bus (too bumpy, being tired & probably not paying attention anyway).

Thematic coding – what is it?

I was asked about thematic coding recently and searched the internet for a logical answer. This short video (6 mins) produced in 2010 by Graham R Gibbs from the University of Huddersfield is a useful introduction to this kind of systematic research analysis.

Or there’s a webpage from the University of Auckland’s School of Pysychology, which offers a neat overview of thematic analysis, and suggests various approaches., in which they mention this definition:

  1. Coding: This phase involves generating succinct labels (codes!) that identify important features of the data that might be relevant to answering the research question. It involves coding the entire dataset, and after that, collating all the codes and all relevant data extracts, together for later stages of analysis.

The University of Huddersfield have also compiled an innovative website entitled Template Analysis (sounds like a 70s prog rick album!) designed by Professor Nigel King. This contains much useful information for the keen social sciences researcher. There’s even a Facebook community for the intrepid explorer wishing to explore their own discipline.





Library International study books reading list

The comprehensive Library International study books reading list was compiled by Josh Zhang, our former Library International Student Coordinator. Its four sections consist of  English Language support (6 items), Academic Writing (23 items), Study Skills (9 items), and Learning a different language (12 items). As it’s a Talis reading list, all items link to the library catalogue.  We hope that it will prove a useful tool in supporting international students in their study at Lincoln. 




Revision tips for language students


As revising for a language exam may be considered slightly different than revising for a two or three hour written exam,  I run a search for an alternative approach and came across the Open University’s exam revision section on their website. They advise that revision tips for language students should include:

  • Regular practice will make you more fluent and confident. Last minute cramming is difficult!
  • Little and often produces good results. Intensive, focused revision will help you to absorb new language structures.
  • Arrange vocabulary alphabetically, under topics or according to word families.
  • Learn the appropriate article at the same time as the new word (e.g., le/la/les, der/die/das).
  • Write notes and language structures without looking at your module material. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you can remember. Then work on the things you didn’t get right.
  • Do any exercises you haven’t done before.
  • Find someone to talk to in the language.
  • Use the language to summarise a unit, saying what you have learnt about the theme.


Some simple tips on speech making

What occurred to me whilst writing this blog piece was how similar blogging is to speech writing, adopting similar connectivity  techniques to engage the reader, particularly repetition, rhetorical questions, and employing direct address. 

Inspirational speeches: Do you recall a memorable speech at some point in your life and now you have to write a speech or make a presentation to a large group? I recall Barack Obama’s moving acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in 2008 as one of the most memorable in my life. Perhaps you have one which inspires you when you are preparing a presentation or going to a job interview? What are the skills involved in effective speech making? There are some useful tenets involved in compiling a speech that will connect with the audience.

Naturally you will need to prepare thoroughly and practise your speech so you know your material inside and out. Look up at the audience during your speech, use eye contact, to reinforce that connection you are working towards. What are you trying to say? Be memorable. Some politicians are famous for their speeches. For those old enough to remember, former prime minister Tony Blair was famous for making a speech that included the reiterative phrase “Education, education, education”. His use of repetition made the speech memorable and helped his audience identify his central message. During Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign he reinforced the slogan ‘ Yes, we can’ at speeches which roused his audience and fuel-injected his election campaign to the White House. Some speech making tips to remember include:

  • use rhetorical questions as devices to connect with your audience.
  • repetition reinforces your message.
  • using alliterative lists of three words (e.g. vicious, violent and vindictive) also reinforces your message.
  • emotive language stirs the audience, and focuses your speech.
  • direct address alerts the audience to your message.
  • evidence such as statistics, quotations, examples, et al makes your argument more solid, more convincing, and supports your central message.
  • well considered humour can be an effective tool.

Deploying these techniques you will be able to deliver a confident speech that persuades your audience,  so that you can become an inspirational speaker. Browsing other university sites it is clear that speech making is something not generally covered by learning development, but many of us will find ourselves holding onto some lectern in the future trying to convince or motivate an audience.  Remember Michelle Obama’s speech at a London girls’ school in which she encouraged those present to take education seriously in the most wonderful terms? Such speeches can change lives.


Michelle Obama speech making.


Becoming an active note-taker

Do you really need all the information relayed in a lecture? Of course not, but how do you determine what is relevant and what is going to crowd out any relevant information? What gems were overlooked as a result of poor note-taking? Have you heard of active note-taking? No, neither have I…until today. But it makes perfect sense.


Apparently active learning helps you to prize meaning from what you learn whilst inferior passive learning is ‘allowing yourself to be an empty vessel into which knowledge is poured with no way of organising or making meaning from it’ (University of Reading, 2016). A mess in other words. Passive learning means you may forget what you’ve been taught,  and you’ll be re-reading your notes while you’re writing assignments, and repeating the unenviable process when the exam period looms. Lectures might simply be floating over your head.


Passive note-taking includes:

  • underlining words
  • cutting and pasting from online documents
  • trying to write everything you hear in a lecture
  • copying slides from the screen
  • copying lots of direct quotes rather than putting the ideas in your own words
  • writing notes on everything you read, because you’re not sure what will turn out to be important
    not evaluating or criticising the sources you use, but just accepting them as suitable evidence

Active note-taking means:

  • thinking about what you want to get out of your research before you start
  • looking for answers to any questions you may have about the topic
  • looking for connections within the topic you’re studying, and to other topics on your course
  • writing notes mostly in your own words – your own explanation of what something says or means
  • recording direct quotes only when it’s important to have the exact words that someone else has used (i.e. when how they say something is as significant as what they say)

When I read this sound advice from the University of Reading (2016) I realise that when I was an enthusiastic undergraduate keen on absorbing as much information as possible, at most lectures I attended I comprehensively covered all the passive note-taking elements listed above. Knowing what I know now, the trick with writing essays and carrying out research is to be selective. It’s a brave step away from the security of hoarding dense notes, and adding everything to an assignment before the long adventure of redrafting. It’s not efficient to be a passive note-taker, and wastes a huge amount of time. With the amount of assignments that need to be submitted for an undergraduate degree, managing your time effectively increases your chances of submitting work on time and allows the requisite space for redrafting without the uncertainty of not knowing what was relevant from a pile of passively taken notes.


13 steps to literature review success

CapturestepsIn this blog post I want to outline the process of conducting a literature review on a chosen topic, such as ‘buyer behaviour and ethical purchase intentions’. My main advice whilst carrying out this type of research is to be open-minded and explore ideas as though it’s the first time you have come across this topic.






Literature searching and the art of reviewing literature 

  1. Allow yourself time to browse the library catalogue ( > resources > Library catalogue…)
  2. Search for relevant material on your chosen topic.
  3. Search for ‘BA marketing’ for instance as this will bring up undergraduate dissertations. (282 titles matched)
  4. Search Find it at Lincoln on the Library webpage (on Find it at Lincoln you can ‘add to folder’ which makes it easier to collate your research, and send it via email then save on your student drive, memory stick, et al).
  5. Search the Advertising and Marketing Library subject guide: for relevant databases like and ABI Inform using keywords like ‘buyer behaviour and ethical purchase intentions’ (ABI Inform has some 7, 154 results).
  6. Identify key articles, conference papers, quality newspapers (check out the Lexis Library database), and interesting chapters relevant to your topic.
  7. I might amend my searches by adding ‘motivation’ or ‘actual’ to refine my research .
  8. Explore some ideas and focus your reading, BEFORE writing any draft (but be adaptable, open to change as your literature review may veer from its original course).
  9. Critically evaluate what you read; don’t take things at face value, look deeper. It is healthy to question everything but remember to be objective to form a balanced opinion.
  10. Look for ‘chains’ (they will make the structure easier) when you design the essay plan. How does one piece of research or set of ideas influence the next? Use a mind map or flow chart if necessary.
  11. Write brief notes about the development of the research over time
  12. Note the key 5-10 pieces of research that most influenced the subject. Briefly chart how each piece of research influenced others in the chain.
  13. Identify how your research will follow on from previous research. Will it add to knowledge about the topic or methods? Add this to your introduction.

(indebted to Stella Cottrell’s ever popular Study Skills Handbook, 2008). Making study easier. Incidentally, Stella’s now PVC for Learning, Teaching and Student Engagement at the University of East London.

For a more detailed overview of a literature review I found it a pleasure to read the University of Leicester’s Student Learning Development webpage on Doing a Literature Review. which contains invaluable advice on structure, editing, remaining focused, amongst other gems. Reviewing literature can be overwhelming and it is a skill in knowing where the boundaries lay (i.e. what to leave in, what to leave out) and is a cause of many a student headache so it’s worth to remember the valuable advice from Rudestam and Newton (1992:49) when they said to ‘build an argument, not a library’.


Cottell, S. (2008). Study Skills Handbook. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rudestam K. & Newton R. (1992). Surviving your dissertation. London:Sage.




‘Be more critical’: Two recommended critical thinking sources

On this blog we’re always keen to recommend useful information to guide students onto better study, and these links about critical thinking from Plymouth and Oxford Brookes universities offer some useful advice. I found Plymouth’s insightful because their description / explanation / analysis formula could be applied in order to construct paragraphs, determining a particular topic. I also appreciated an Oxford Brookes student being evaluated on finding different sources of information such as Wikipedia (‘anyone can contribute to Wikipedia – so the site is not an authoritative source of information’), stressing the need to track down original sources (re: newspapers, esp. tabloids), whilst acknowledging the relevance of using peer-reviewed articles and authoritative government research.  Oxford Brookes’ analysis of a good student assignment illustrates effective practice in actually using research to its best effect, in terms of objectively weighing the evidence, deploying a questioning / sceptical approach, as well as noting informed conclusions, potential solutions,and  identifying areas of future research. Such advice is reassuring ground for optimism for any scholar wishing to breathe new life into critical thinking.


How to develop your taste in reading

For anyone  who read the @GCWLibrary tweet on Joseph Brodsky’s renowned quote “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them” you might be seeking more memorable advice from this Nobel-prize winning Russian poet and essayist, who left the Soviet Union in 1972 upon advice from the nefarious authorities. After surviving the Siege of Stalingrad, he was largely self-taught and learnt Polish and English to such expertise he could translate John Donne. To learn more about him it’s worth following the musings of Brain Pickings, a sumptuous blog that explores the intellectual side of life, and a blog post entitled ‘Joseph Brodsky on How to Develop Your Taste in Reading‘ that contains some immeasurable advice. Brodsky not only recommends that everyone reads and then develops their library, but actually revisit books to prevent them being covered with layers of dust, absorbing the writing from fine authors like …well, it depends on your mother tongue as Brodsky may have ironically frowned on translated prose. For instance, if you’re Polish then Leopold Staff, Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert and Wieslawa Szymborska are recommended. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are surprisingly omitted from the list of the chosen, if you’re Russian. Heavy points are scored if you have read any (or even some) of these!

Years ago I read the famed Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide, which helped me to extend my reading and awakened me to the notion that literature genuinely transforms.



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Joseph Brodsky 



EndNote helpguide now in two 2 places

Our new Endnote help guide is now available in two places.   There is a link from the Refworks page (under Alternatives), and one from the Referencing and Plagiarism page (under Referencing Software).  It’s temporary to have it in only these two spots—we will keep you updated.

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What makes a good scholarly introduction?

Over the past two or three weeks I’ve been musing about what makes a good introduction for an academic essay as it’s a frequent question raised in the Library. Although there does appear to be variations according to the subject an academic is writing about, be it marketing, events or entrepreneurship, there might be a standard formula for this regular conundrum. From my observations, an introduction seems to generally consist of: an overview sentence which outlines the breadth of the article (1st sentence ); further explanation (2nd); an example or case study (3rd); further explanation (4th) and scholarly debate (5th +) which indexes various topics / theories to academic publications, but not going into any depth. On the 6th + sentence the author then announces what they are going to investigate, and may raise questions at this stage before dissecting themes in the main body…An introduction generally covers the breadth of the article in the shortest possible word limit, meaning that some articles are packed full of references where the academic (s) have simply linked / referenced ideas which they will go into greater detail later.

The University of Warwick‘s Centre for Applied Linguistics  goes further by explaining the ingredients of a good introduction, and that it’s vital to make a good impression. Trzeciak and Mackay’s (1994) Study Skills for Academic Writing (English for Academic Study) identified a number of ‘ingredients’ of an introduction, but it’s not always necessary to to include all of them, but a combination of some will be useful to introduce an academic argument.

  • a statement of the importance of the subject
  • mention of previous work on the subject
  • a justification for dealing with the subject
  • a statement of your objectives
  • a statement of the limitations of the work
  • a mention of some of the differing viewpoints on the subject
  • a definition of the topic being discussed

For those wishing to learn more, Trzeciak & MacKay’s Study skills for academic writing Student’s book is available at Call no: 428.343 stu in the Library on the 1st floor.





How to read 20 books in an hour!

Courtesy of Dr. Emma Coonan, Information Skills Librarian at University of East Anglia (via the lively LISLINK forum) the adventurously titled ‘how to read 20 books (or thereabouts) in an hour’ is a gem for those students on a mind-blowingly tight deadline. The technique she uses used was just selective skimming – directing attention at key parts of the text (abstract, introduction, conclusion, headings, figures, first line of each paragraph) and not allowing oneself to get drawn in to reading continuously. She stresses to students that as well as allowing them to understand the work very quickly, it also enables them to check the consistency of the argumentative structure, see if it all hangs together, and make a preliminary evaluation of the work based on its relevance and quality. Students would then be in a position to decide whether they wanted to scan through any sections in greater detail, or even go back and read the whole thing – or whether they had enough information about the purpose of the work and could reassign it to the ‘done’ pile! The presentation slides and the handout are CC licensed and available from

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Thinking critically with Daniel Dennett

During this season of high octane exam stress students are considering how to argue critically and structure a logical argument. One of the best blogs (and certainly one of my favourites) to investigate with this in mind is Maria Popova’s brilliant Brain Pickings which covers book reviews and discusses philosophical ideas (and a blog one can only aspire to). You can also follow Maria on @brainpicker on Twitter or her enlightening blog on @brainpickings. In How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently post Dennett suggests how to compose a successful critical commentary:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way”.
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Moreover, Daniel also has suggested seven famous tools for thinking available at: which include use your mistakes, respect your opponent, don’t waste your time on rubbish and Employ Occam’s Razor (you’ll have to select the link for an explanation better than I could ever attempt)…


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Daniel, critically voyaging into consciousness