Literature searching workshops for students

Ian Clark on running workshops to help support students in their studies.

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I promoted it on my work blog and sent it to the School for distribution. Fortunately, I have a key contact within the School who acts as library liaison.  This is a massive benefit in so many ways, and particularly in terms of raising awareness of sessions like this throughout the School.

Although bookings were a little slow at first, booking requests suddenly started to come in.  I discovered that one of the academics had circulated my blog post to all the students on his module and gradually they started signing up for my workshops. Within a week, I had almost sold out both of my workshops, which was really pleasing (particularly as these were my first self-created workshops for students). The sessions had attracted a mixture of postgraduates and undergraduates.

Engaging with delegates

As the event neared, I decided to use the Eventbrite functionality to send a message to all those who signed up for the workshops. I used this as an opportunity to both remind them of the sessions, but also to flesh out a little bit of what we would be doing in the session. However, I had also decided not to produce any handouts for the session. Rather than print out a number of handouts with top searching tips on them, I decided to put the tips in a blog post. So, I flagged this up with the students and advised them to sign up to my blog via email to ensure that when the post goes up (after the second of the workshops) they would receive an email making them aware of the post’s publication. As I had hoped, this encouraged a couple of people to sign up to the blog which I was really keen to encourage as I want to make it more of a one-stop shop rather than have them hunting around the library website for the main things they need.

In terms of the workshops themselves, I was pretty pleased with how they went. My personal highlight was showing delegates how to obtain articles that aren’t available via our subscriptions using CORE and ResearchGate. There was an audible ‘Ooooh’ from some of the attendees, which was particularly pleasing! You don’t really expect to get an ‘Oooooh’ in a literature searching session looking at databases.

Evaluation and future plans

With regards to evaluating the workshops, I also decided to create an online feedback form using Google to collect feedback and comments. I kept this simple, only a couple of questions, but also added in a question to see what other workshops they might be interested in. I am currently mulling over a couple of ideas so I thought it would be good to get some ideas. The great thing about Google Forms, of course, is that responses go straight into a Google spreadsheet which is such a time saver. At the time of writing, the feedback had all been really positive and I’m already thinking about re-running the sessions and tweaking them somewhat.

This is an edited version of a post originally published here

Ian Clark is Subject Librarian for the School of Psychology at the University of East London. Ian is on the editorial team for the Journal of Radical Librarianship, is a co-founder of Voices for the Library and explores various information issues at

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