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Guest Blog: How learning services support research at the University


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Written by Craig Martin

Often students and academics contact us in the Department of Learning Services to ask what we can do to support researchers, either for a PhD, dissertation project or personal academic research.  In this blog, I hope to give readers a clearer insight of some of the support and options that researchers have available to them at the university. 

When researchers first embark on their journey, they are introduced to their Academic Liaison Librarian (ALL) for their area of specialism, within the Researcher programme, and undertake an induction that covers how Learning Services operates and the support available.  This includes 1 to 1 support with an ALL or Academic Skills Adviser (ASA).  However, even though we are very aware research students are usually in employment and have other responsibilities, and may not be able to attend a workshop or a face-to-face 1:1, there are a range of fluid options, such as Skype tutorials, e-mail and telephone support and flexibility with timings of appointments.

Researchers can request up to 1 hour a week of support, each with an ASA and ALL.  With support from an ALL, researchers can obtain assistance on the relevant academic databases and range of resources available, managing resources, advanced literature searching (including Boolean operators and wildcards), understanding altmetrics and referencing.  

ASAs can help with those other academic skills such as structure, grammar, proof reading – and even help with overcoming procrastination!  This support is available to everyone regardless of the academic level they are studying and it is important for researchers to come and see us when they feel they need to.  We can also help with maths and understanding statistics, and have a specialist in this field.

Throughout the process of research, it is inevitable that new relevant material will be published, but how will researchers be aware of this?  Search alerts can be created in the majority of our databases, so when searches are carried out, they can be saved and when new material is published, an e-mail alert is sent making the research aware this is now available. 

There are also specific ‘current awareness’ services that can alert researchers when new resources are published.  The most popular is Zetoc, which describes itself as a “monitoring and search service for global research publications”.

Researchers are invited to access the newly created Research Directorate*(headed by the Director of Research, Professor Emma Bond) which delivers personal and professional skills training to all of our researchers.

The Researcher’s Toolkit, which is part of the Research Literacy area on the website, includes information relating to Copyright, Suffolk Open Access Repository (OARS) and Open Access Guide.  The Researcher’s Toolkit is there to guide and support students with the entire process of writing up and steering a research project.

Managing resources can be tricky and when undertaking research; it will not be the case of using a few references – it will be hundreds, perhaps thousands by the time the research has been completed, and how are these accurately managed?  There are several options available, but the product the university recommends and supports is RefWorks

RefWorks is a reference management tool that allows researchers to import references from most academic databases, create their own references and import directly from websites.  It also has a storage facility, so for example, journal articles can be uploaded – and RefWorks will pull in the bibliographical data from the article and then create the citation.  References can be added into folders, shared with others, and when complete a comprehensive reference list can effortlessly be created. 

As part of the induction programme, all researchers, attend a workshop on using RefWorks – but are always welcome to request additional support from an ALL.

The ALLs are available to help researchers undertake advanced systematic literature review strategies and can support in recording the findings accurately, as well as demonstrating and guiding the range of databases that researchers have access to.  There is a range of material available online to support this process.

We are aware that there may be resources that researchers require, which we do not hold at the university. However, researchers can request up to 20 Inter Library Loans a year.  This could be books, journal articles, conference proceedings – just about anything!  Often journal articles are available to download electronically within a matter of days – but please complete the ILL form and hand sign it (we can’t accept requests that have an electronic signature – not our rules I’m afraid, but it is due to copyright!). 

We actively encourage researchers to join the SCONUL scheme.  This allows researchers to access other academic libraries, as postgraduates, most libraries give borrowing rights.  However, don’t think of it as just another place to access different resources from, it may be helpful to consider as a more productive study space, than the confines (or indeed the distraction) of home or work.  Applying for a card is easy.  Applications are made online through the institution researchers want to access. 

*For more information relating to the full range of support options available to researchers at the University, please contact the Research Administrator, Katrina Hedley, at; and for more information relating to the Department of Learning Services at the University, please contact Craig Martin ( or Sarah Robinson (

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