Category Archives: Research

Finding Archives in the UK

The UKs archival collections are an incredibly rich resource and there are a significant number of tools online to help you discover and access them.  However, navigating these resources can sometimes be a bit tricky, because there is no national discovery service for archives, instead there are a number of regional and thematic archival networks which contain the descriptions of different types of collection.  The purpose of this blog post is to highlight all the main tools that are available to help users find archives.

The best place to start is the National Register of Archives (NRA).  The NRA contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history. It is structured around the creators of the records and contains information about records that have been created by some 53,000 individuals, 9,000 families, 32,000 businesses and 116,000 organisations.  The entries in the NRA range from major historical figures such as Winston Churchill (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/searches/subjectView.asp?ID=P5659) to individuals who left behind records which give an interesting insight in day-to-day life in the past, such as the diaries of Daniel Duck, a Clergyman from North Yorkshire whose 10 volumes of diaries cover the period 1785 to 1824 (with some gaps) – http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/searches/subjectView.asp?ID=P50679.

The descriptions in the NRA tend to be fairly brief; however they also contain links to fuller descriptions, either in other archival networks, or in an archive’s own catalogue.  They also contain links, where relevant, to an individual’s biography on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  As an archival finding aid the NRA is unrivalled in its comprehensiveness and variety, containing entries from archives across the world.

The sister database to the NRA is ARCHON – http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archon/.  If you are interested in visiting an archive in a region then ARCHON is probably the best place to start.  It allows you to view all the archives in a particular area, and see further information on their collections – with both links to the NRA and other archival networks.

A2Ahttp://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/ – is another archival database that is also maintained by The National Archives.  The A2A database contains a significant number of catalogues of local record offices in England and Wales.  While the NRA contains summary descriptions of records held at a large number of archives, A2A has far more detailed catalogues from a more limited number of institutions – it is therefore worthwhile searching both, if you are looking for something specific.

A number of other important archival networks also exist, providing the means of searching archives in a particular region, or a particular sector.

The Archives Hub (http://archiveshub.ac.uk/) and AIM25 (http://www.aim25.ac.uk/) are the two archival networks for University archives.  Royal Holloway’s archival collections are available through both services.

AIM25 contains summary descriptions of collections held by a rich variety of archives in the London area.  As well as University archives it also contains information on the holdings of a number of other London institutions which have archival collections, such as the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Geographical Society.

Archives Hub contains collection level descriptions of the records held by 222 Universities and Colleges across the UK.

Archives Network Wales (http://www.archivesnetworkwales.info/) is the archival network for Wales, containing information about more than 7,000 collections of historical records in the holdings of 21 archives in Wales.

SCAN (http://www.scan.org.uk/) is the Scottish archival network, which contains catalogues of collections from 52 repositories in Scotland, ranging from the National Archives of Scotland and Edinburgh University Special Collections to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

In addition to the archival networks the national institutions also hold incredibly extensive collections of archives and are mainly based in London, which makes visiting fairly straightforward.  The most significant are:

The National Archives – Their Discovery Service (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI) is the best place to start if you are interested in the records of central government .

The British Library – Has an incredibly rich collection of archives and manuscripts, searchable through their catalogue of archives and manuscripts (http://searcharchives.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?vid=IAMS_VU2)

Amy Warner, Associate Director (E-Strategy and Technical Services)

Top tips for Researchers (from Researchers!)

Top tips for studying for research (from those who have survived it!)

  • Enjoy the PhD. It is a strenuous process, but it is also a wonderful process
  • Use your brain. The PhD is a good period to exercise your brain as much as you can and find out your limits.Write something every day
  • If you find yourself panicking and staring at a blank page, try handwriting a couple of paragraphs instead of typing
  • Congratulate yourself on achievements – remember that you don’t need to be working all of the time and in fact it makes good sense in the long run to give yourself a break
  • Use as many library resources as you can lay your hands on – electronic, going to Senate House, using the British Library reading rooms
  • Get involved in the wider research community by participating in reading groups and attending seminars – you never know what you might learn!
  • Do not expect to be treated as an undergraduate or masters student. You are not. Prove that you know how to conduct research and that you can find your ways around the problems arising regarding the research.
  • Subscribe to the PhD Comics. You will feel a lot of times that these postings are just for you
  • Have “thirsty Thursdays” and go to bars. At least I did!
  • Read the Thesis Whisperer Blog– it’s super helpful!
  • Follow #PhDchat on twitter
  • If you’re a scientist, use Research Gate.
  • Use Fig Share to make what you’re doing visible

Do you have any top tips you’d like to share? Let us know and we’ll add them to our list!

Read our interviews with other researchers about their experiences: Fiona, Laura and Nancy

I can’t find a journal article what do I do now?

Sometimes you may have found an article you think will be very useful for your research but you can’t quickly find it on Library Search. Don’t give up!

Before you do anything else register for Senate House 

1. Check the journal title on  Library Search

Not all articles will appear when you search Library Search for them by title but we may still have a subscription to the journal. Go to the Journals by Title option on Library Search. Type in the Journal title. If you were looking for this article:

Ver Straeten, C. A. (2013), Beneath it all: bedrock geology of the Catskill Mountains and implications of its weathering. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1298: 1–29. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12221

The title of the journal is Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Search for this and you go to the main page for the journal. Select the year, volume and issue to find the article. In most cases you could search within the title by author or article title.

2. Check Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a useful resource when you are trying to track down articles. As a database it won’t cover as much as our databases but it can help you find ways to access material.

Note:  Set your Google Scholar Settings to link to Senate House and RHUL – more information here.

As well as allowing you to check both RHUL libraries and Senate Hose it also brings back information from some Online Repositories.

3. Check Senate House

Although most of the time Google Scholar will tell you if Senate House has something online it is always worth double checking.  Search for the Journal Title at Senate house 

4. Inter-Library Loan

If we don’t have the journal and neither does Senate House, consider requesting an Inter-Library Loan.  This service is available to members of College.

5. Other Libraries

See if another library has it, and visit yourself: use the information on the Other Libraries page.

If in doubt, always check with your Information Consultant before spending any money online.

Time Management Tools: focus booster

Faces of Time
Faces of Time. Todd Lappin. Flickr. CC-BY-NC.

As well as working as an Information Consultant for the Drama and Theatre, Media Arts, and English departments here at Royal Holloway, I had the bright idea of taking my Library and Information Science MSc part time. It has been very challenging and very interesting – and it’s nearly done! My final year of three has just begun and I’m currently making the first steps towards writing my dissertation (a study into first year arts undergraduates experience of libraries before university and how this influences the way in which they find information at higher education level, since you ask).

So I was browsing through the Library’s helpful Tools for Researchers prezi and I discovered (among other things): focus booster. http://www.focusboosterapp.com/  Focus booster is great.

What is it for?

Do you ever have those moments where you just don’t know where to begin? Or you’ve too many tasks and not enough time? Or too much time and you feel that you’ll never settle down and get something productive done. Focus booster allows you to set yourself short tasks in a timed period, followed by timed breaks, and is great for knuckling down and getting things done.

How does it work?

Focus booster uses ‘The Pomodoro Technique’, a time management method that “uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals (referred to as “pomodoros”) separated by breaks and is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.”

As the website states:


There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:

    • decide on the task to be done
    • set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes
    • work on the task until the timer rings; record the task status
    • take a short break (5 minutes)
    • every four “pomodoros” take a longer break (15-20 minutes)

How do I get it?

You can download the app to your PC or Mac from http://www.focusboosterapp.com/download

Even better (for me, as I use a Chromebook), it’s available online: http://www.focusboosterapp.com/live

Both versions will tick to let you know a pomodoro has begun, change the timer colour to indicate how close you are to your next break, sound an alarm to let you know when time is up, and also let you adjust the time of pomodoros and breaks.

(There are whispers on Twitter that this will soon be available for iPhone and Android, so watch this space.)

Why should I use it?

Focus booster is a great psychological trick: you know you have a lot of work to get done, but the timed aspect means that you need to break your work down into manageable chunks – great, it already feels easier! Also, rather than thinking that you have the next seven hours to get something done, you have 25 minutes: long enough to focus, but not so long that you get distracted or tired.

If you’re easily distracted, this can be a great way of ensuring that short bursts of time are well spent; or if you find that you spend long periods staring down your computer screen this technique can encourage you to take regular breaks and relax rather than stress out. Personally, I find it really great for getting started; 25 minutes is just long enough not to be frightening, but I often find that I’ll get into what I’m doing, safe in the knowledge that a break is imminent, and then find that I’ve missed a break as I’ve got so into the task.

Burning the Clocks Cup Cakes
Burning the Clocks Cup Cakes. somewhereintheworldtoday. Flickr. CC-BY

 

 

Try it out – and comment below: was it useful?

What are your best techniques for managing your time and being more productive? Share in the comments below – tips are always appreciated!

Spotlight on a Researcher: Laura Christie

Please start by introducing yourself

My name is Laura Christie; I’m an Educational Development officer in the Educational Development Office. Laughs
Laura
 How long have you been at RHUL?

Just a month! Just today I have my one month review.

Are you enjoying it so far?

Yes yes, it’s been interesting coming from a different university to see the changes in how different departments are run, different universities are run, this is a much bigger university than the one I worked at before.

What is your role at RHUL?  

Well, 50% of the role is developing the Generic Skills Programme (GSP) for Postgraduate Research students (PGR) and teaching on it- I teach the academic writing courses, the other 50% is helping and teaching on the inSTIL programme which is a teacher training programme for PGR students.

What did you want to be when you were little?

I wanted to be journalist,  a war correspondent.

I wasn’t outgoing at all, and yet I wanted to be a journalist, I was shy as anything & wouldn’t talk to anyone but something about war corresponding, travelling, and being in the centre of all the action really appealed to me at the time. And then as soon as I started my English degree that all went out the window because I was so inspired by my English tutors and I just wanted to stay in university and teach English literature.

Do you have any hero (es), and why?

This is a hard question..

Ages ago I wrote a biography on the poet Alice Meynell , Alice Meynell was from the Victorian period has 8 kids and managed to be editor of different academic, poetry and fiction journals. And she was a poet herself. She had such a profusive writing career and managed to maintain a family and a household, and she had various medical issues as she got older as well, and managed to keep on top of everything- that’s pretty heroic to me!

You’ve already told us a little bit but what’s your degree/masters etc. in?

My first degree was in English Literature, and then I went straight into a Masters in Women, gender & writing so that focused on writing from 1750’s to present.

My PhD was in English Literature and actually was partially psycho analysis as well.

What advice do you wish you’d known when you were studying for your PhD? (give something wise to current students?)

I think two things.

One is, Well, it’s a plug for the GSP; but one is knowing about and knowing that I should because it will help in the long run, participate in these inter disciplinary type programmes. I was involved eventually during my PhD process, in helping to organise a PhD conference and that gave me the opportunity to meet with all the other PhD students, whereas before that it was very isolated. The first 2 years of my PhD were quite isolated until the University got a programme running and so participating in these sorts of programmes is really good.

The other thing is, I think I would have wanted to have realised, or be told earlier, that a PhD is only the start of an academic career, it barely even touches the start. The start is publishing, publishing is such a big thing, I wish I had known that at the beginning and I wish I had courses available to me, which weren’t at the time because it was a while before researcher training became popular. To know that during my PhD I should have been publishing, and I spent a lot of time teaching which is equally valuable and I got teacher training certificate while doing a PhD but you have go one further and you have to publish if you want an academic career, because coming out of the PhD with a teaching training cert is not enough.

 What was the hardest thing you found about studying?

I suppose it would be discipline, but I am actually quite disciplined so it’s not been an issue for me.

I guess the hardest bit is the isolation, not because I am massively social, but it helps to meet people who are going through the same things as you are, even if it’s once a month, once every couple of months just to know you’re all going through the same thing which is why having these shut up and write  sessions is a fabulous idea, giving people the opportunity to get together and informally talk about things. That was very hard being quite isolated, and it was knowing that it was only yourself pushing you forward, your supervisor can set targets but you’re doing it for yourself, you got no reason to submit something on a certain day to a supervisor, it’s just you propelling yourself forward.

 

 

Spotlight on a Researcher: Fiona Redding

fiona

Please start by introducing yourself      

My name is Fiona Redding. I started at Royal Holloway in 2007 on a BA English Literature programme, graduating in 2010. After my BA, I started working at the College as an Alumni Relations Officer. I am now the Change Communications Officer, and have just completed my Masters in Modern Philosophy.

How long have you been at Royal Holloway?

This September marked the beginning of my seventh year at Royal Holloway!

What is your role here?

Creating a cohesive and beneficial staff culture is critical if we are to succeed as a university in the long term – you cannot underestimate the importance of gaining acceptance of proposed changes amongst your colleagues across the College. My role involves writing communications strategies for the major change projects we have going on, including the Governance Review, the Masterplan, and staff engagement more broadly.

What did you want to be when you were little?

I really wanted to be a figure skater. Unfortunately I was completely lacking in the co-ordination and grace to achieve such a goal!

Do you have any hero (es), and why?

I really admire my Dad. He could easily have gone to university and trained to be a doctor, but when circumstances prevented him from doing that, he found other ways to develop professionally. That kind of flexibility, not being disheartened if the route you wanted to take isn’t an option, and ultimately succeeding in spite of these obstacles, are all traits I really admire.

What’s your degree/masters etc. in? Could you explain a bit about a MRes?

My Masters is in Modern Philosophy. My tutor was Andrew Bowie in the Politics, International Relations and Philosophy Department. He tutored me for a final year course and I got on with him really well, so he was the obvious choice when it came to applying to a supervisor for my Masters.

The difference with an MRes is that you are working pretty much independently the whole way through your course, so you have to create opportunities to interact with other researchers. I was studying part time over two years, so I had possibly even less interaction than one might expect on a Masters programme. As well as optional tutorials given by Andrew and Neil Gascoigne, another Philosophy Lecturer, I attended a reading group, seminar programmes, anything that brought me into contact with people working in my area of interest.

The whole way through, I was working towards completing a 35,000 word dissertation, on a topic of my choosing. There was a short 5,000 word essay mid-way through the course – to check you are on the right track – but apart from that there was everything to play for on the dissertation.

What advice do you wish you’d known when you were studying for your MRes?

The best piece of advice I can give you is to write something every day. That doesn’t have to mean a 5,000 exegesis closely related to your dissertation; it could be 500 words. The key point is that you are engaging your brain. For me, that came through writing a blog: philosophymasters.wordpress.com (link)

What was the hardest thing you found about studying?

I’ve alluded to the independent study, which can be tough at times, particularly when you just need to talk things through with someone whilst writing a key paragraph, or talking more broadly about your argument to ensure you have an overarching theme. But this can be overcome. Of course, your supervisor is also a key part of the feedback process as well.

 

 

Spotlight on a Researcher: Nancy Pontika

Nancy is the Library’s resident expert on all things Open Access, as part of the Library Liaison team she has been previously interviewed about her role which involves being the Information Consultant for Physics, Research and Open Access. Read the Nancy’s previous interviewpontikaBW

Here, I’ve asked her a few quick questions about her PhD in Library and Information Science with a speciality on Information Science.

What was the hardest thing you found about studying?

I had my PhD at Simmons College, Boston, USA. The PhDs there are four years and at the end of your third year our program had comprehensive exams. That period it was the hardest and most boring. I had to read about 200 books and 1,000 articles in 3 months. It was impossible of course, so I was just scanning the text and I was keeping track of names and dates, most important ideas, influences, etc. I find memorising difficult; it is not one of my virtues. I also find studying boring in extremely quiet places. During my PhD I read many many many articles and books in a “quiet” pub. I could not concentrate otherwise- I needed this small level of noise. So, for example, here at Royal Holloway you would never see me at the “silent area” of the Bedford Library, I would probably be somewhere on the entry level floor, by the cafe.

What advice do you wish you’d known when you were studying for your PhD?

You need to chase people a lot. You need to chase your research participants for the interviews, your supervisors to read your versions and provide feedback, the institutional review board to approve your research. And the only way to do that is self-motivation. What motivates each one of us varies, but new PhD students need to find that motivation and be stubborn to keep going with the program. The PhD is not like an undergraduate or a master degree. There is no order, there is no stability, there is no routine in what students do.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Open Access, check out the library pages on Open Access

More interviews coming soon of researchers across the campus!

Who’s citing Who? the event!

who's citing who

When: 30th October 2013

Where: HITT Lab

(PC lab through the Horton Building)

Book Now:

http://whoscitingwho.eventbrite.com/

 

Make Your Research Stand Out!

Make your research final

Doctoral students join us in this event to celebrate Open Access Week 2013.

Discover about the Library Services for Research, open access for scientific publications, how to manage research data and hear Tom Pollard, a doctoral student from UCL explaining how he makes his research stand out.

The event will include several short talks and an opportunity to chat with our guest speakers over lunch.

Free lunch is provided!

Book on to the event: http://researchstandout.eventbrite.co.uk/

  The programme:

11:30- 11:55: The RCUK Open Access Policy and what this means for PhD students, Dr Nancy Pontika, Information Consultant for Research, Royal Holloway, University of London

11:55 – 12:10: Upload your research manuscript to Pure, Dr Dace Rozenberga, Research Information Manager, Royal Holloway, University of London

12:10 – 12:35:Why I am an Open Access advocate, Tom Pollard, Postgraduate Research Student, University College London

12:35 – 13:05: Managing your research data: tips and best practices, Martin Donnelly, Senior Institutional Support Officer, Digital Curation Centre

13:05- 13:30 : Free lunch

Shut up & Write: the event!

Procrastination Meter

The dreaded write up..

Many post graduate researchers talk about how difficult it can be to just sit down and write, write up their research, their notes, because research can sometimes only involve you, it can make it harder to remain motivated and focused.

Unfortunately, the nature of some research plus the lack of space provision on campus for post graduates often results in these students feeling a little lost, alone and disheartened.

To try and reveal some of these anxieties.. the Library services have set up ‘Shut up & Write’ an event for post graduates only.

It’s a pretty simple concept.. you turn up, you sit down, you write..

Then afterwards you get the chance to meet other postgraduate students and staff in your own dedicated space.

These events have proved popular across the country with other libraries, we hope that is will give you a time and place to crack on with some work before discussing ideas with others in a similar situation.

Here are the list of sessions for 2013/2014 so far!

9th December 2013; http://shutupwritedecember.eventbrite.co.uk 

21st January 2014; http://shutupwritenewyear.eventbrite.co.uk

17th February 2014; http://shutupwritefebruary.eventbrite.co.uk

31st March 2014; http://shutupwritemarch.eventbrite.co.uk

15th April 2014; http://shutupwriteapril.eventbrite.co.uk

Booking Essential, All sessions run 13.45- 16.30 unless otherwise stated.

 

Just Write