You might expect the library to be the first port of call when starting your literature search, but it may surprise you to learn that there are a lot of other ways that your institution’s team of information professionals can help you with your research project. Warwick’s Scholarly Communications Manager, Julie Robinson, highlights some of the key areas…not all of which are obvious!
#1 Finding and organising information
Well, maybe it’s not a surprise that number one on the list is finding the books, articles and other materials you need to carry out your literature review and keep you up-to-date throughout the research process. Many Universities, including Warwick, employ specialist librarians who concentrate on a small number of specific disciplines. But even if your library operates a more ‘functional’ model, there should be a trained information professional available to introduce you to the resources available via your institution’s subscriptions and to help you with designing a search strategy to make the most of them. It’s worth remembering that your librarian can also help you get hold of materials you need for your research that aren’t in the Library’s collections – whether that’s through services such as Article Reach, via inter-library loan or by ordering items in. If you know you need access to a particular text or resource for your research, get in touch with the library as soon as you can, so they can see if it is possible to purchase what you need – or suggest alternatives if not.
As well as helping you find information, your library’s information experts can also advise you on looking after it. At PhD level, you may want to consider using bibliographic software. At Warwick, we support EndNote desktop and its web-based version EndNote Online. This comes with additional features if you’re a member of the University, but the basic online version is free and doesn’t need an institutional affiliation. There’s some great online guidance from our EndNote experts if you’re thinking of giving it a go.
#2 Managing your research data
Good data management is key to a successful PhD project. Even if you’re not generating your own unique data, you will be collecting information as you go along and there are huge benefits to taking a systematic approach to how you store and curate the building blocks of your research.
More and more libraries are employing research data experts, whose job it is to provide training and guidance and to support you with things such as creating a data management plan and long-term preservation. They can also advise you on whether it is appropriate to share your data and the best way of making it available, so others can discover and reuse it.
#3 Planning your publication strategy
There are many different reasons why you might want to publish your research—it might be a condition of your funding, part of a national initiative, such as the UK Research Excellence Framework exercise (REF), for career advancement or even just wanting to see your name in print—but the key to successful dissemination is choosing the right publication venue. Most research-intensive institutions will have a person (or even a team) to support researchers with scholarly communication, who can give you impartial advice on choosing the best journal for your article, or publisher for your book, encouraging the responsible use of citation metrics alongside a range of other measures to ensure you reach your target audience.
#4 Copyright and licensing
Copyright may not be something you’ve thought about in the context of your thesis, but if you will be making it available electronically via an institutional repository, such as WRAP, you will need to ask permission to reproduce any third-party content. This might include film stills, photographs and long passages of text, as well as other things you maybe haven’t thought about (such as extracts from unpublished archival documents). This also applies if you are publishing commercially.
Copyright advice services don’t always sit in the Library, but if you’re unsure who to ask, it’s usually a good place to start, as librarian’s deal with copyright queries all the time in their day-to-day work, so even if they can’t give formal advice, they can usually point you in the right direction. The same is true of licensing agreements you might be asked to sign with publishers.
#5 Making your work Open Access
If you want to publish your work openly, there are two main routes you can choose: Gold and Green. With Gold Open Access, your work is published in an online journal and made available immediately available for anyone, anywhere with an internet connection, to read. The downside of this is that it usually comes with a fee attached (often referred to as the Article Processing Charge or APC).
The Library is a good place to start if you are looking for financial support with making your work available via this route. If your funder has an Open Access requirement, and provides funding, the Library may administer this, but if not, they should be able to advise you how to apply. They may also have agreements available with specific publishers to discount the cost of APCs or have their own fund available for Gold OA. And if you are unable to go down the Gold route, they can advise you on how to go Green by depositing your research in an institutional or subject repository.
#6 Evaluating the impact of your research
Regardless of where, when or how you publish your research, you want to be sure that people are reading it. If your library employs a bibiometrician—great! If not, then there should still be someone you talk to about tracking engagement with your work using bibliometrics (citation counts) or alternative metrics (social media mentions, link clicks, etc.).
Your library should be there to support you at every step along your research journey. So, if you ever thought it was just a big building of books, it might be time to think again.
Are you familiar with the services offered by the university libraries to the researchers? Do you have any tips for publishing or managing research data? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
Julie Robinson is the Library’s Scholarly Communications Manager. She has been in her current post since September 2018, but has been working in the Library in various academic support roles since February 2014. Her background is in film and television studies and she also holds a PhD from the University of Leicester on the history of ITV programming in the Midlands between the 1950s and the 1980s.
Cover Image: The University of Warwick Library