Library Research finds that the quality and quantity of research sources appears to impact on dissertation marks.

The quality and quantity of research sources appears to impact on dissertation marks.

Julia Sherrington, Academic Liaison Librarian for Art, recently undertook some investigations into the types of sources being used in dissertations within the School of Arts.  She looked at the bibliographies in 43 dissertations from the 2017/18 cohort and mapped them against their dissertation mark.

What it showed was that students, gaining a mark of 60 and above, evidenced the use of more sources on average.


The range of sources mostly included books, journal articles, websites, research papers, and video.

The quality of sources also showed a correlation between marks.  The average use of scholarly books and journals was higher with those gaining higher marks.  A total of 273 scholarly books and 83 scholarly journals were referenced.

Whilst this was a small study, it does hint at a relationship between the two.  It would be useful to undertake a more extensive study and widen this out for more meaningful results.

She also wanted to look at any impact the College Library may have on dissertation marks.  The starting point, was to look at the print books used to see if any were borrowed from the library; with journal articles it was whether the article was in stock in print in the library or available to view online through our electronic resources.

Out of all the sources in quoted 43 dissertations, 150 print books were borrowed from the library and 107 were scholarly in nature – although if we looked at journal articles the picture was less promising.  Out of 151 articles that could be found via the library only 35 were scholarly.    So what does this tell us?  Two things… that our students are finding and using a lot of lot of non-scholarly material though the library and that they are finding open access material to support their research.

What else can we take from this? Are our students using the library electronic resources effectively, do they know how to evaluate the quality of source, and in some cases are they using google and finding scholarly articles that have paywalls and viewing the abstract rather than the whole article?

Another interesting fact is that our requests for Inter-library Loans from the British Library had reduced drastically over the last 5 years.  There will be many books and journal articles that could be available and very relevant to students doing their research.  Why do students not want to request Inter Library loans anymore?  This is a question that we should be asking both ourselves and students; and if students will rely more and more on Open Access research, how to they easily find it?

The findings from this study have been forwarded to the relevant academic staff within Arts for further discussion.  One thing we have learned is that the library has an important role to play in helping students find the right scholarly sources. We want to give students the best chance of success whether it is research for dissertations or essays.


Keeping track of your research

I’ve seen a lot of students recently, requesting support with their dissertation research.  One thing I’ve noticed is that most students are not using Reference Management software such as Menderley or Zotero.  Even at a more basic level, they are not using the tools available in our subscription databases such as EBSCO EDS or Westlaw which allow them to save articles, output references and set up alerts.  This could be down to a gap in our promotion or a lack of curiosity on their part perhaps.   I thought I’d write a post for our students on how to make use of these tools, demonstrating how easy they are to set up, and how useful they will be as they build up their research.

Keeping track…

A number of databases offer additional features to support you when you are carrying out research.  In my area of Law and Business, personalised logins are available for Business Source, Westlaw, LexisLibrary, and Emerald.  However, the database you are probably most familiar with is Discover, our single search platform from EBSCO.

When you search Discover, you will notice a small blue folder icon appearing next to each result.  Clicking on this icon allows you to save your results into a personalised account which you can access any time you log into any EBSCO database.   Once you set this up you can also save and re-run searches, and set up search and journal alerts so you can keep researching even when you’re not logged in.  See our next post for help with this.

Step 1: Set up your profile

So your first step is to create your profile.  This is different from your library account.

Go to Discover@BradfordCollege which is available from the Library Webpages, the Online Library tab in Moodle, and as a link from the Library catalogue.  Click on the Sign in to Save Results link at the top of the page.

The first time you do this, you will see a message ‘There are no results in your folder’.  There’s a second link you have to click on saying Sign in to My EBSCOhost.   From here you will see a log-in form and the option to ‘Create a new Account’.  Fill in your details and choose a strong password.

Step 2: Save the good stuff

Click on the Back button to start searching.  Remember you can limit your search by Date of Publication, by Source (Academic Journals, Magazines, Trade Publications, Books), and by Subject, Language, and more.  Then, to save records to view at a later date, click on the Add to Folder image next to each record.  This may be a record for a book, journal article or e-book.  Save as many records as you would like by clicking on the folder icon.

Step 3: Organise your results

View your folder by either clicking on Sign in to Save Results at the top of the screen, or on Folder View in the top right of the screen.  You should see a list of all the records that you have saved with links to full-text where available.

You can create as many folders as you need. This is good if you want to group articles by assignment title or module.  You can even create sub-folders if you like a good hierachy.  Click on the New link to create a folder and decide where you want to locate it.  Then move your results to the new folder by clicking in the box beside the title of the result, and clicking on the Move To drop down list.  Once you have organised your folders, click on the back button to continue searching.  You can now save results directly into folders.

Why we love this

We love this feature of Discover because it helps you stay organised.  If you come across something for another topic, you can just save it and put it out of your mind until you need it.  These tools work on the mobile site too, if you like to research on the go… It’s easy to create new folders and delete old results, and it saves you a ton of money in printing. Contact us for more information.



Inter-library Loans from Bradford College Library

When you are carrying out your coursework and research for your dissertation the Library is here to help. We provide over 70,000 printed and electronic books and access to the full text of over 60,000 journals online on all subjects that the College teaches. The books in the library are recommended by teaching staff to help with your course so  if you are researching your subject in more depth we might not always have the specialist books or journals you want.

The Library can still help though through our Inter-Library Loans service. You can put a request in by filling a form in on the Inter-Library Loans Moodle page and then we will ask the British Library if they have a copy of the book that they are willing to lend to us.  You are allowed to borrow the book for 4 weeks initially though you can renew if you want the book for longer, just let us know before the book is due back.

This service also applies to journals; fill in the form on Moodle telling us which article you want and we will approach the British Library on your behalf.  You will receive a photocopy of the article to keep.

Once you have filled in the request form on Moodle the Library will contact you through your College email to let you know the progress of your request so you should check your email regularly.

This service is heavily subsidised by the Library although we do have to charge a small fee of £2.00 for your first ten inter-library loan requests.

You can find full details of how the service works on the Inter-Library Loans webpage or the Inter-Library Loans Moodle page. Search for Inter-Library Loans on Moodle to see the course.

Interested in getting published? Read our guest blog post by Suzy Anderson from Emerald.

Hi, my name is Suzy Anderson and I’m a Business Manager for Emerald Group Publishing. Over the past two years I’ve been travelling around the world speaking to, and working with researchers to help them navigate the minefield that is getting their research published. I’ve been around South Africa, Botswanan, Swaziland, I’ve spoken to researchers in Malaysia and India, Australia and the USA, as well as of course from around the UK and Ireland as well.

What struck me most in my travels is not how different things are, but how researchers everywhere have the same basic needs, concerns and aspirations. As a researcher in Bradford College you have more things in common with a researcher in Swaziland than differences!

There are a few little gems that I’ve found in my travels, and I’ve been asked by your library to share these with you.

Reading for research versus reading for publication

How do you rate your skills searching for information? Pretty good? You can probably navigate your library’s discovery tools like a pro, are familiar with Google Scholar and all of the major databases, but as a quick challenge, write down the titles of the 3 main journals that you read on a regular basis. And no cheating by looking up your reference list!

Sorry are you finding this difficult?

You might do some provisional quality check before citing publications for your thesis, but when it comes to writing for publication, location and quality are everything. Do not fall into the trap of publishing in a low quality or scam journal just because there’s a website!

You are already reading widely in your field, so start paying attention to those key details. What is the journal called, who’s the editor and which company publishes the journal? Getting to know the styles and content of your preferred journal will help in writing appropriately for publication.

When it comes to selecting a journal, start by looking at the journals you read the most, cite from the most. It’s a good sign that they have a high affinity with the topic of your research, but remember, always read the author guidelines.

When to start the writing process

I get it, you’re excited, the research is complete and you have the energy and drive to sit down and write this article.


How upsetting and infuriating would it be if you spend weeks writing your article only to find that you’ve used the wrong style of references? How would you feel to find out that the subject matter isn’t covered in the journal, or that you have too many words and need to cut back significantly?

Writing an article before choosing a journal will not save you time, it costs you time, because every journal that you want to submit your article to will want to see that your article was targeted to their audience, their requirements and interests. So you would need to edit your article every time you submitted it somewhere else.

Save your time, read widely, target to the journal first… and then write!

Entering the journal conversation

When I first started to work with researchers on publishing, one of the common complaints I heard was that some of the standard advice from publishers didn’t make any sense, or couldn’t be applied in a practical way.

The most common example of this was the concept of “entering the journal conversation”. No one could really give an example of what this meant.

Anne Huff gives a brilliant example in her book “Writing for Scholarly Publication” which I’ve reinterpreted below. Hopefully it will give you a better idea of what this key concept means.

Imagine you are a guest at a wedding. In the reception, there are several tables filled with people having fun and talking to each other. Every table is talking about the same general topic, for example the US elections, but each table is looking at the topic from a different angle.

Table 1 is talking about the data security issues with Clinton using private servers
Table 2 is talking about Trump’s behaviour towards women
Table 3 is talking about the economic impact of each candidate winning
Table 4 is talking about the impact that each candidate could have on global politics

If you were to walk up to a table and just start talking about random Trump or Clinton facts you will find yourself feeling very foolish, possibly even ignored. You should always start by standing quietly, listening to what other people are saying and then making a decision as to whether you want to sit down or not.

This is why it is important to read back issues of the journal that you want to publish in, making a note of key themes, who are the major authors, what are the most cited papers.

I hope that this advice has been helpful to you, and I wish you all of the best in your future research publishing career.

Suzy Anderson

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