Literature searching workshops for students

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

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I have been looking at how I can support students in their studies. One of the things I am keen to do is to run additional literature searching workshops throughout the year.

The induction period is probably not the best time to explain databases and expect students to retain all the stuff you throw at them.  At best you will raise awareness of their existence, emphasise their value and show students where to find them. Taking all this into account, I decided some follow up sessions might be beneficial.

The science of scheduling sessions

In terms of timing these sessions, I didn’t just pluck some dates out of the air, book a room and start promoting them. We have a dedicated team at the library which provides skilled support for students on a range of academic skills. They hold a number of drop-in sessions throughout the week, and make appointments with students who require support. I thought it might help to find out when their peak times are and try to schedule my workshops accordingly. After a fortuitous staff development day (where stats were revealed for appointments across the year), it became clear that the end of October/beginning of November was the peak period and therefore a good time to hold a literature searching session.

After picking a suitable date at the beginning of November, I decided to run two sessions on the one day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Of course, I knew that there would be people who wouldn’t be able to make the workshops for one reason or another, but I figured I could always run them again at a later date. Indeed, this threw up some unexpected challenges as distance learners got in touch asking if I could film or otherwise package up a session for them to view remotely (this is something I am definitely going to look into resolving!).

Marketing the workshop

Once a room was booked in the library, I looked at how best to manage the workshops in terms of attendees and the finite space available. I decided that the best tool to do this would be Eventbrite. The real benefit of Eventbrite is that not only do you ensure your session isn’t over-subscribed, but you can easily message all the delegates from the dashboard (more on this later!).

Then came the putting together of the workshop blurb. At this point I enlisted the help of our Assistant Librarian to see if we could come up with a catchy (yet descriptive) title and event description that would entice students to sign up for the workshops. Ultimately, we went for the (admittedly not that creative) “How to conduct a literature search”. I then explained in the blurb what databases we would be covering and specifically what they could expect to learn from the session.

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