Dissertation advice

One of the key responsibilities for our Faculty Librarians is to support our dissertation students, many of whom will be undertaking a substantial research project for the first time. Although we would always urge our students to consider what materials and resources they are actually going to have access to (this could be in terms of accessing a physical collection such as an archive, or being able to use, say, a particular database), this year it is more important than ever.

Our students must ask themselves ‘will I be able to access what I need?’ when deciding on a topic. If they need to access a certain physical archive, will that be possible with Covid restrictions still in place? And for those who feel that access to physical resources won’t apply to them as they’ll be using online resources, they need to consider instead: ‘is there a particular database or resource I need, and is it one that the library already subscribes to?’

This is a hugely important consideration.

One of the assumptions that I regularly have to correct is that either we have access to everything (if only!), or that we can suddenly provide access to something we don’t have, regardless of cost. When it comes to accessing resources such as databases, this simply isn’t possible.

But, where possible, we can still look to offer access to some materials that Durham doesn’t have, and we recognise that it’s going to be a lot more difficult to visit other libraries this year. So in order to help, we are offering up to 10 free requests from our Document Delivery Service to all final year undergraduates writing their dissertation.

We’re also offering increased online support for dissertation students. Our new subject guides provide students with a good starting point when it comes to understanding what is available in a given subject area. And as part of our wider Research Skills guide, we have a suite of interactive tutorials designed to help students find, search and manage information resources for their dissertation. There are six modules that cover:

  • An introduction to dissertation research
  • Using the catalogue and Discover
  • Basic literature searching
  • Bibliographic databases
  • Accessing full-text online
  • Referencing

And of course, our Faculty Librarians are always here to help!

We’ve put all of this advice into a handy short video that can be accessed via our Research Skills guide, and below.

Library resources: Dissertation advice 2020/21

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