(First part of) LibSmart II
Polney Loch
Nick Hood

(First part of) LibSmart II

2021, Nov 02    

This is a modular course to support Masters and PGR students in using the library effectively. It follows on from LibSmart I, the foundational course on using the library for all students. A diagnostic quiz enables selection of the right modules from the course based upon your answers to questions about your area of interest. The module titles do the same thing.

Module 1: Literature Searching for Systematic Reviews

This module contains an extremely useful video best watched early in the day, after your first coffee, when you’re still perky. What it does is clearly set systematic review within a context of the different kinds of literature review: it is the most “scientific” of the review methods, requiring a narrow scope, highly defined and reproducible protocols or procedures, and often conducted by teams of researchers. A principle of these reviews is that they are transparent, and reproducible if the same protocols are followed. The protocols of systematic review include the rationale, the objectives and the methods used to conduct it. These form part of the published output such that another team can follow them and reach the same conclusions. Objectivity and the mitigation of bias are key.

Another type of review described in the video is the scoping review, which may precede a systematic review as a first stage. It describes what has been done in and around an area of interest. The historical review is more narrow in focus on the topic but serves to summarise or introduce it, rather like a lecture or keynote. This kind of review is selective and illustrative and so two such reviews may disagree according to the views of the reviewers.

The final kind of review is the one I am interested in, that which appears as a chapter in a thesis. It is designed to contextualise the thesis within prior work in the area, to justify the research perhaps by locating the gaps it addresses. It is selective and based upon iterative search in separate related topics within the theme of the thesis.


I didn’t pursue the rest of the module and will return to other modules within this course as required later on. These may include:

  • Module 4: Digital News Sources
  • Module 6: Government and Policy Research
  • Module 8: Digital Primary Sources and Digital Scholarship
  • Module 10: Special Collections Fundamentals

I am grateful to the Library at the University for making this course available, not least this introductory video which serves to ensure that students are in the right place. It allows me to gracefully and hopefully quietly let myself out of the rest of the course for now and get back to something more pertinent to my study.