Students Staff
University of Essex

November 24, 2017

Referencing made easy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — sgswaine @ 12:23 pm


Cmplaya. (2016) Card catalog room at the Frick Art Reference Library taken during Open House New York 2016. Available at: (Accessed: 24 November 2017).

Referencing made easy

Whether you like it or not, referencing is one of the essential parts of academic life. It can also be daunting as recording the details accurately and citing correctly require constant attention to detail. Incorrect references can be incredibly annoying and you can waste a lot of time locating the correct resource. Reference Management Software (RMS) won’t take away ALL the burden of referencing, but it can save you a lot of time and work.

What is RMS?

RMS can also be referred to as citation management software, citation manager, and bibliographic management software. Whatever the name is, it’s important to note that it’s not a citation builder or citation generator, which many of you may have used, like the ‘cite’ function in Google Scholar or JSTOR. A citation generator provides you with a one-off, ready-made reference, whereas RMS will help you to collect, store, manage, generate and share references.

Why use RMS?

1. Collect

RMS allows you to export one or many references in one go from databases or to collect an individual reference with one click using a browser extension. A word of advice – it’s important to choose a good source when possible. The quality of the reference depends on metadata, and some sources have better metadata than others. For example, citations from Google Scholar often don’t have a place of publication for books or page numbers for articles. This means you’ll need to find these details from other sources and manually add them to the reference. It’s much easier if you make a habit of using sources with good quality metadata.

2. Manage

There are a lot of functions available in RMS to help you manage your references. You can create folders and smart groups/searches, and you can add your own keywords, tags and notes. You can check for duplicates to avoid saving the same references. You can also attach files to the references and annotate PDFs.

3. Generate

All the major RMS packages offer a plugin for word processing software that allows you to insert your citations into your document and automatically create a bibliography. The usability varies so it’s worth doing a little research on how each one performs eg Endnote’s ‘Cite While You Write™’ allows you to generate in-text citations using the formula {author, year} so you don’t have to use a mouse.

4. Share

The sharing feature is relatively new but gaining popularity quickly. Some people use this to share references with people who share the same interest and others use as a teaching platform. One of my colleagues, for example, has been involved with a systematic literature review. The project is cross-continental, so it is essential to be able to share references at ease.

What RMS to use?

There are a lot of different software packages available on the market. The university officially supports Endnote and the library can also offer a general advice on using Zotero and Mendeley. Other software packages include Citavi, Paperpile, BibText, and RefWorks. The question is, which one should you choose? There are all sorts of things you need to think about. For example:

  • Is it free or do you need to pay for it?
  • What level of support is available?
  • How much storage is provided?
  • Which browser does it work with?
  • What kind of resources do you usually work with?
  • What information do you need to collect?
  • What features are most important to you?
  • Do you need to collaborate and share your libraries?

Keep in mind that no package is perfect. So you should choose based on what you need from RMS. You may prefer a package over another because it has a nifty function, but keep in mind that others are likely to develop similar functions to keep up. If you’re not sure which one to choose, we’ve put together a comparison-chart for EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley, or you can find a more detailed RMS comparison chart on Wikipedia. We suggest you just try one, and remember that if you don’t like it, it’s relatively easy to move references from one package to another.

Classroom training (via Proficio*)

29/11/17    09:30-12:30 – Getting started with EndNote
15/12/17    09:30-12:30 – Getting started with EndNote
11/01/18    13:00-14:00 – Introduction to Reference Management Software
22/01/18    09:30-12:30 – Getting started with EndNote

* All sessions are free, you just need to register with Proficio, then book on a course.

Online training

November 13, 2017

Small is beautiful – small data in Moodle can help track student engagement

Filed under: Uncategorized — Simon Kemp @ 9:41 am

When we think about learning analytics, we often imagine big data with complex systems mining databases of thousands of records gathered from whole cohorts of students. This is not necessarily something that individual academics can use to improve the educational experience of their students in the short term. ‘Small data’, on the other hand, can quickly provide academics with insights into student behaviour using very simple tools. Professor Clive Holtham and Dr Martin Rich at Cass Business School have defined small data as:

“The smallest amount of data that can provide actionable information, eg on student engagement, without front-line academics needing specialist expertise.”


Drop-in sessions (Talis, Moodle, Faser)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Hannah Groom @ 9:00 am

Feeling stressed about the different learning technologies that the University uses? Don’t know the difference between Moodle or Talis or don’t know why you should be using them? Or maybe you know how to use them but want to make it work better for you. Then these drop-in sessions are for you.

Every fortnight, TEL in combination with the library will be holding drop in sessions for anybody who would like help with Talis, Moodle, and Faser.

Whilst we ask that you sign up on HR organiser, you can come along for any help whether it is a quick simple question or whether you have never used the software before and would like someone to go through it with you from scratch.

The first session was held on Wednesday 18th October and since then both academic and professional services staff have come along to get help with a variety of issues; indeed, often coming along for one issue but then solving another in the same session.

Members of staff are on hand to go through things with you at a pace to suit you and as it is 1-to-1 it can be productive as well as helping you feel more confident with using the technologies (or at least be confident with asking us for help!)

The next session will be on 15th November 8:30 until 13:00. Sign up here.

November 6, 2017

Access for All!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Hannah Groom @ 9:00 am

SensusAccess and what it can do for you.

The library is currently trialling SensusAccess; accessibility software that can be used on any device that converts a file into a more accessible file type. Anyone can access the software via the library website on the Accessibility Page, all it requires is a valid University of Essex e-mail address and the file you wish to convert.


The software tries to be as flexible as possible to meet as many different needs as possible. The main focus of files being uploaded are text based, such as .doc and .pdf, but the software also allows image formats such as .jpeg and .png. You can then choose how you want the document to be converted. This can be to other text files, such as .mobi or .epub, into e-brail, and even into speech in .mp3 or DAISY format. This conversion can allow students to access course material they may have originally struggled with, and can be used in conjunction with other software such as screen readers.

How do I use SensusAccess?

Using SensusAccess is a 4 step process:




1. Choose/enter the information you would like to have converted, and upload it.

  • You can choose files, urls, or just input text directly.




2. Choose what type of file you would like the information to be converted to.

  • This can be to text, sound, or images files.





3. Choose some of the finer details

  • This helps the software convert the file and allows you to choose how you want your file to look/sound.






4. Enter your university address and click submit.

  •  You’re done!!





Once you’ve submitted the information, the server will whir and spin, and you should receive an e-mail with the new file or  a link to your new file (This is dependent on file size, but shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes.) If sent via a link, the file will be available for the next 10 minutes, so be sure to download it! That file is now yours to keep!


(We also recommend that you take a look at the Best Practices Guide to ensure that the information conversion goes as smoothly as possible.)

Why use SensusAccess?

Firstly, the software itself is highly versatile; it aims to meet the needs of many people who need to access resources in alternate ways. Secondly, this allows them to get more involved with their resources and more involved with their course. Thirdly, the software can be used by anyone at the University of Essex; it allows the user to get exactly what they want, when they want it.

Get your students involved!

If you think it would help any of your students engage with their course materials, let them know about the service.

We’d love to hear your experiences or tips you have when it comes to accessibility, so let us know in the comments below.

SensusAccess Tips:

–       Mark-up your file so that it is easier to read by the software.

–       SensusAccess has the ability to turn images based text into editable text.

–       Make sure that the item being uploaded is as straight as possible.

–       Try out the different ‘specify’ options. You may find different speeds/font sizes work for you.

If you’d like help or a demonstration on how to use SensusAccess, please get in contact with use via