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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Just Write!

We've talked before on this very blog about the pressure to publish and the challenges of making time for writing in our busy working lives, and I'm pleased to report our ScHARR Write Club is still going strong!  

I recently had the opportunity to attend an excellent course on academic writing entitled 'How to write a scientific paper - and get it published', developed by former journalist Tim Albert and delivered by the extremely engaging Mark Pickin.

Participants were encouraged to attend the course having already completed a piece of research or having an idea for a paper; and then over the course of two days, this would be developed into a plan for publication.

It's a very interactive course with lots of group discussion to identify the barriers to writing (and then work out strategies to deal with them); and there were plenty of practical tasks to help us start to get something down on paper and overcome writer's block.

I can't possibly do justice in a brief blog post, but here are a few key points I took away from it:


1. Know your audience

Write with a specific readership and target journal in mind.  What sort of topics are they interested in?   Are you responding to an ongoing theme or thread of discussion within that journal?   What is the correct tone?   The more you know about your target journal and readership, and tailor your paper to their preferences, the more likely it is to be accepted.

2. Know your message

What do you want to say?  Can you summarise your argument / the conclusions of your research into a single sentence?  If you can't, either it's not sufficiently clear or you may have more than one message (in which case, perhaps you need to think about two or more publications).

The course also gave valuable advice on where to situate your message within the body of your article to give it maximum prominence.

3. Ruminate

Have a good think around your topic before facing that daunting blank page.  For some people, this might work best away from the desk - go for a walk, wash the dishes, do the ironing... a bit of exercise or mindless repetitive activity can give you fresh perspective.

When you're ready to put something down on paper, start with a brainstorm or mind-map - this helps you see connections between different ideas and topics; and might also help you to identify any gaps which you need to address.   We were prompted to think about four or five key questions about our study, which gave us a framework around which to structure our articles.

4. Writing takes less time than you think

Estimates vary as to how long it takes to write an article, but it can certainly feel like a lengthy, time-consuming task.  However, if you've done enough preparation, you can actually get something written relatively quickly.

After several hours of planning and rumination, the first day of the course ended with 10 minutes of "free writing" (using pen and paper) during which I managed to produce the first 400 words of my draft article!  The key is to switch off your critical faculties (or anything else that inhibits the creative process), get something down on paper and worry about correcting it later.

5. "First things first"  

For many people, writing is an "important" activity but rarely an "urgent" one.  The danger is that with our busy working lives, we spend all our time fire-fighting / dealing with e-mails and never get round to important non-urgent tasks.  To get around this, the course recommends allocating protected time first thing in the morning for writing BEFORE you get engrossed in dealing with your e-mails.

Between the two workshops, participants were asked to complete a first draft of their paper (even if it was only handwritten) and - amazingly - most of us managed this!


Now that we had a draft, day 2 looked at the editing process.

Too often, people get bogged down in micro-editing (grammar, punctuation etc.) but...

6. Don't forget to macro-edit

Macro-editing involves looking at the structure of your article and ensuring it is appropriate for your target journal.   The course taught us to see beyond the content and identify the structure and format of articles in our target journals so that we could ensure that ours were the right fit.

7. Use plain English

Try to make your article as easy to read as possible by avoiding unnecessary jargon or - my own bad habit - long, rambling sentences.   This is of course especially important if you want your article to be readable to non-native English speakers.   We learned a simple technique to calculate the clarity (or otherwise!) of our writing style.

8. Planning your time

Set yourself a realistic deadline for submitting your article, and then work backwards from that date to set yourself "mini-deadlines" for each step in between (complete first draft; macro editing; micro-editing; proof-reading etc.).  One of the trickiest aspects can be dealing with co-authors, but the course offered advice on how to manage the contributions (and egos!) of others.

9. Dealing with rejection

The more prestigious and high impact your target journal is, the more submissions they will receive and therefore the more papers they reject.  If this happens, remember that you're in good company (everyone has had papers rejected), and there may be another journal who will be interested in publishing it; but remember to tailor it accordingly - this shouldn't take too long, but it is worth doing properly.

10. Dealing with acceptance(!)

Papers are very rarely accepted without some comments from peer reviewers.   Reviewers can sometimes be frustratingly vague or contradictory, but don't be discouraged - it's a sign your article is nearly there.


Having been motivated by the course to "just get on with it" and increase my writing productivity, I wrote this post in around 45 minutes (and another 15 or so editing).    Unfortunately this means I've had to leave lots of things out, but if you want to know more...

  • Contact Mark to arrange a similar course to be delivered at your institution

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Have We Got Reviews For You? A bite-size guide to finding review articles for scoping purposes.

Louise & I were invited to deliver a session on "finding reviews" as part of the "BiteSize" staff training series at ScHARR.   Our target audience was the busy researcher who wants to do a quick search for scoping purposes; not the systematic reviewer who needs a more rigorous and replicable method (we might need more than 20 minutes to do that justice!)

After dealing with the thorny question of "what is a review?" and highlighting Andrew Booth's excellent typology, we went on to highlight a few of our favourite specialist sites for finding reviews & evidence syntheses; then offered some tips on searching more general sources.    Finally, the session gave us an opportunity to promote the support available from the Information Resources team at ScHARR.

Have We Got Reviews For You? How to do a quick scoping search to find review articles. 
from scharrlib

P.S. We know some readers of this blog are librarians/information specialists - which resources would you highlight if you were asked to present to this audience?

Monday, 18 January 2016

Top 10 Articles Featuring Information Resources in 2015 According to

2015 was a busy year for HEDS researchers and below we present the top 10 publications featuring Information Resources staff according to their altmetric score. Altmetrics are alternative indicators for scholarly reach and creates an altmetric score based on Tweets, Mendeley saves, blog posts, media coverage and Facebook Shares among other indicators. 122 articles were included in the data, which are HEDS publications mentioned in the last year, but not exclusive to 2015. According to the altmetric data IR-related publications were covered in 10 blogs, 22 policy documents, 11 Wikipedia entries, was subject to 1253 Tweets and 27 Facebook shares. The data was gartered between 18th January 2015 to 18th January 2016.

Below is the table to the top 10 with Andrew Booth taking top spot with a paper he co-authored in PLOS. The paper was Tweeted 290 times, saved to Mendeley 49 times, CiteUlike 4 times and blogged once. Not all publications covered in the complete list was published in 2015, but were still communicated and shared in 2015, thus showing the long tail of our research.
The full list of research included in the 2015 export can be viewed here:
IR Altmetrics Chart 2015

Top 10 Articles According to Featuring IR staff

We can also see from the data the publications IR staff published the most in with HTA Reports taking top spot. As for the journals, Health Information & Libraries Journals published 10 articles.

Top Publications for IR and supported research

Finally we can see the reach of our research on Twitter with 51% of Tweets happening outside of the UK, with 163 North American Tweeters sharing our research, making up for 20% of all IR-related research Tweets in 2015.

Tweets by location for IR-related research

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Cilip MmIT talks on Digital Citizenship

Last week I delivered my yearly talk as part of the Cilip Multimedia Information Technology Committee (MmiT) AGM at Cilip. I say yearly as I have delivered a talk at each of the MmIT AGMs as the secretary of the committee, but also I don't think anyone dare not tell me I can't do it any more ;-)

I was lucky to be speaking alongside two esteemed speakers who are both very active in the area of digital citizenship. Firstly Helen Milner OBE, the Chief Executive of the Tinder Foundation which sets out to improve digital inclusion and tackle social challenges through digital solutions. We were also very lucky to have Ian Clark who is a librarian from the University of East London and no stranger to the issues facing society and digital citizenship, especially when it comes down to issues relating to privacy and the web. 

The theme of the talks were about digital citizenship and was well attended by about 50 library and information professionals from across the various sectors. All the presentation abstracts and slides can be viewed below.

Helen Milner - Chief Executive of the Tinder Foundation.
'Why libraries are vital to closing the digital divide'
 Abstract: There are 12.6 million people in the UK without basic digital skills, who are missing out on opportunities to save money, connect with friends and family, learn more about their hobbies and much more. Not only that, but they’re also becoming excluded from accessing basic services - like being able to apply for jobs, find health information, or access other government services.
 The Tinder Foundation are great believers in the huge benefits of the Internet and the social value of the Internet for someone with low digital skills. Through its network of community partners the Tinder Foundation has supported over 1.6 million people to improve their digital skills since 2010, and learners have gone on to realise a range of benefits, from ordering prescriptions online, applying for and securing jobs, and setting up their own businesses. Helen's talk will cover much of this work and what part libraries can play in aiding it.

Ian Clark - Radical Librarians Collective
 The digital divide in the post-Snowden era
 Abstract: In 2013, Edward Snowden exposed a range of revelations that have provided us with a welcome opportunity to re-evaluate our relationship with the Internet. Traditionally conceived as a place to seek information, the Internet has increasingly become a place where personal data is harvested by both government agencies and corporate entities. The revelations resulted in IFLA releasing a Statement on Privacy in the Library Environment that recommends that library and information services should respect and advance privacy both at the level of practice and as a principle. Previously, the digital divide has been seen in terms of access and general skills, but the Snowden revelations have revealed another aspect of the digital divide: the privacy divide. Ian’s talk seeks to understand the nature of this divide, who it affects, how the divide manifests itself and how it is being tackled.

 Andy Tattersall - Information Specialist - The University of Sheffield 
Is it the responsibility of the academy to teach social media to students and academics?
 Abstract: There are over two million students in higher education and the majority are actively engaged in digital technology from social media to mobile technologies. Whilst being adept at using these technologies little consideration is given to how they can be leveraged to shape a professional career after graduating. Whilst issues around ethics, privacy and security are rarely considered, they are increasingly relevant. Is it the duty of the academy to help students manage a better professional online persona, or do we risk teaching them to suck eggs?

Ian Clark
The Tinder Foundation

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

20 Tips to get more from Google Apps in Education tools

I was asked to deliver two Bite Size sessions, well it's been a while, on Google Apps. The first one was delivered for the Faculty of Medicine and was really well attended by about 60 staff and PGRs. Then I delivered the same session as part of the University's Thirty30 staff development festival in November. It also coincided with ScHARR Bite Size's fifth birthday, it's great to see the series of short, innovative sessions still running and well past its century of talks that have covered everything from copyright to research impact. The latest session was captured and can be viewed here. If you think you're getting the most from your Google Apps, think again, there might be a few tweaks you can apply.

Friday, 13 November 2015

An introduction from a new Information Specialist

Hi! My name is Naila Dracup and I am the most recent Information Specialist to join the Information Resources Group (IRG) within ScHARR HEDS. 

Prior to working here I worked as an Information Specialist at the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) where I worked on providing Information Specialist support for a range of research outputs including 5 guidelines that were in development as part of the NICE Collaborating Centre for Social Care consortium. Other past positions have been as an Information Specialist at Bazian ltd (as part of the Economist Intelligence Unit) and NICE Evidence - cancer. 

I recently relocated to Sheffield from London to take up this position so whilst not in work I'm getting to enjoy exploring the city and the surrounding areas. I’m originally from West Yorkshire so I’m very glad to be back in ‘God’s own county’.

I obtained my Master's degree in Information Studies from Leeds Beckett in 2009 and my Undergraduate degree was in Sociology from Leeds University. I am a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) of which I am a member of their Health Libraries and Information Literacy Groups.

It's very exciting to be working here having been aware of the wide-ranging activities and research quality of ScHARR for some time.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

5 Must-Have Peripherals For Your Tablet Device

There are an increasing array of mobile apps and technologies that learning technologists, teachers and academics can use within the institution. Added to that are a growing number of peripherals that can be employed to make teaching and content production an easier process. In this blog post we look at five that you should take note of. The five pieces of tech below are not necessarily the best ones for each task, but are ones I have employed personally with my iPad. There may be cheaper and better options available out there should you wish to explore further.

Be louder

CC BY NC ND 2.0 Gibbyll
All too often when going out to present or deliver teaching you can find the room facilities non-functional. There may be no sound coming from the speakers attached to the teaching lectern, or just no speakers at all. One way round this is to have your own set of speakers with you. Naturally you do not want to be carrying around a big heavy 4kw sound system, so need something small and lightweight. One alternative is the X-mini speakers series
There are various models and all allow users to chain link multiple ones together to increase the sound output. Many give an output in the region of 2kw, which can be built upon with more speakers. For a small to mid-sized seminar lecture room they give enough audio to ensure you won’t be put off playing videos in your class ever again. You can get a pair of good quality x-mini speakers for about £15.

Stand Tall
When trying to capture any content, whether it be yourself in front of your tablet camera, or using it as a reading device you are often limited as to where you can prop your device. Even doing something like relaying your teaching over the web using Twitter video conferencing tools like Periscope or Meerkat it can be quite tough. This can be negated by buying a tablet stand, which looks not too dissimilar from your typical music stand. The Ezi-Tech Music Stand Mount, priced around the £30 mark is a good one which works with Apple and Samsung devices. It allows the user to free up their hands to hold a paper, or maintains a consistency when trying to record a piece to camera, whether that be video or just audio.

Be Heard
Tablets have come on a long way from the first wave of smart devices from a few years ago. One thing they have improved on is audio capture and recording, yet there is always room for improvement. Often sound can be the most important aspect of a digital artefact, as users may want to only hear what you are saying rather than watch. Content can be stripped down to a podcast, so good quality audio is essential. Using a USB microphone can help improve on your audio capture and can give a richness of sound when it lacks. A good series of microphones is the Rode USB, which comes with a tripod stand and pop shield. It works with Windows and Mac OS and connects, as you would suspect from its name, via USB. It is important to note that iPad users would require an Apple adaptor cable for the USB which costs about £25 The mic, which is powered by the tablet device, costs somewhere in the region of £100 upwards

Project Yourself
CC BY 2.0 Paul Hudson
If you use the likes of Google Slides, Haiku Deck and Nearpod to present then it should make sense to use your tablet device to deliver them from. Just because you have a tablet device, and not a laptop, does not mean you cannot use your own little bit ot tech to deliver your slides. For Apple devices with the miniport you can use it to connect to a VGA device like a projector, which costs about £30 Android users can hardwire connect to projectors by using a mini HDMI to HDMI cable if the projector supports it. Obviously there are an increasing number of ways to mirror and connect devices to big screens without the need for cabling, but not everyone has access to that just yet.

Be Seen
CC BY 2.0 Dave Taylor
A useful technology with real potential that has appeared in the last year or so is Swivl. The little round, flat Swivl robot allows your teaching and presentations to be captured and shared live as it follows you around the room while you present. By wearing a small dongle that picks up on your voice, the device hosts your tablet device allowing it to capture your teaching and either record it or deliver it to elsewhere remotely. Swivl costs somewhere in the region of £450, so is not so cheap. Nethertheless, if you do a lot of teaching, flip your classroom or have online learners and want to maximise your output, it could be a worthwhile investment. Regardless of how fast you try and move the Swivl does a really good job of trying to keep up.