A preview of iDocQ 2016!

iDocQ is the annual doctoral colloquium for students studying for PhDs in Information Science and other related disciplines. The conference is organised by a committee of students undertaking PhD’s funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, delivered through the Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences (currently the ESRC-funded Information Science Pathway). The four institutions involved are Edinburgh Napier University, The University of Strathclyde, The University of Glasgow and Robert Gordon University. This year, one student form each institution is part of the student committee.

This year, iDocQ will be held at The University of Strathclyde on June 23rd 2016.

Now in its sixth year, the iDocQ programme for 2016 includes:

  • a keynote presentation from an information science specialist on career pathways and current research
  • break-out sessions on choosing the right methodology, how to gain research impact, publishing and its benefits and how to maintain good time management within the PhD process
  • opportunities for delegates to present their own research in 20×20 (PechaKucha 20×20) format
  • a question and answer session from a panel of experts

Registration for iDocQ is open to all students studying for a PhD in Information Science or related discipline (regardless of their home institution). Registration is FREE to for all students based in Scotland and the website gives information on who to contact if you are based outside of Scotland but still wish to attend.

Delegates are asked to register no later than 5pm Friday June 10th.

This is a great training and development opportunity for delegates to present their own work (through a 20×20 presentation style format) as well as meet peers from other institutions.

Please see the ‘Call for Papers’ section on the iDocQ 2016 website for more information on what is expected and important submission requirements.

If you would like to submit a presentation, please submit your abstract (around 250 words) and keywords via email to idocq2016@gmail.com. Once delegates are notified of acceptance, submission of the full 20×20 presentation must be made through EasyChair by following this link to the submission website (new users will have to register first).


There will also be a prize for the best presentation.


Some important dates:

  • Abstract submission deadline: Friday May 13th 2016.
  • Notification of acceptance: Friday May 20th 2016.
  • Full presentation deadline: Friday June 10th 2016.
  • Registration deadline Friday 10th June 2016.

For more information on iDocQ 2016, the iDocQ website is a great place to start. Any questions can be directed to idocq2016@gmail.com and one of the student representatives will answer any queries you have. You can also follow iDocQ 2016 on twitter at @iDocQ.

We look forward to welcoming you all to the event.

Leap into Research (Literature, Impact and Online Presence) – PART 2!

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My last blog related to the Leap into Research training that I had recently attended ad this is now the second part of that. For me, the training I discuss (below) was the most relevant and to be very honest, I probably would have benefited from hearing this 6 months ago so I would strongly advise any research student attending training in these areas.


Open Access:

Firstly, we were given a briefing on Open Access – what it is and why it is important. This was done by our Library and Information Services Team and is a really important topic for anyone in research. First of all, we learned what Open Access means and in a nutshell, it means being accessible to all. This means that Open Access research would be publically available, encoring more people to look at it, download it and cite it. There are two main types of open access when submitting to a journal:

  • Green – this is where you submit to a journal and you have the option to make your article open access. In my case, it would mean depositing my research outputs into Edinburgh Napier’s research repository where it can then be accessed (we also had a session on how to do this).
  • Gold – this involves an article processing fee but the article is then made publically available as part of this.

Open Access is important as it encourages the sharing of information and research. Moreover, it helps to prevent articles being hidden away and not accessed if high journal-subscription fees mean that no one will buy it. It is important to look at each journal’s open access policy when deciding on submission as some will differ depending on what their requirements are. This will also influence your ability to share your own, whether it be sending it to an external party of a friend – you need to be aware of what you can or cannot do. You will also find that to be counted towards REF, the journals counted will need to be available open access too.


Linking in with open access, we had a panel discussion on ‘Impact’ to end our first day. The panel members discussed how their research had developed and if they felt their research had impact. It was quite an impressive panel to be honest. From the panel discussions, some points are highlighted below:

  • The research relationship is important in impact. Send emails and get to know others so your research can be shared amongst the community.
  • Look for appropriate opportunities to network and get to know others. This will help you to meet others in and outside of your field to help increase the dissemination of your work.
  • Impact does not necessarily need to be on society. Impact might be seen in organisations or elsewhere, not society as a whole (although societal impact is important to consider).
  • When starting a research project, you should have a fair idea of where your research might impact (this is often required for funding and proposals). However, this is often discussed in terms of contributions too and what the research will develop.
  • You can’t always plan for impact as research takes twists and turns. You may hit an unexpected bump in the road. Discoveries are normally made on this unexpected journey and this can lead to impact but you should have some awareness of where impact might come from within the research.

Our panel were able to share personal experience of their research work and explain what mattered to them. We were given good advice on planning and preparation (which had been discussed in previous sessions) and we were able to see what outputs of research really looked like in disciplines other than mine.


One of the things I was not aware of where the different apps available to researchers. During another session, the library and information services team explored the different types of app available and the purpose. Reasons for using apps covered topics of collaboration (to help share information and research), analysis (to help analyse data for example), organisation (to organise research, such as that online calendar we all have), and exploration (such as searching literature like I do) and also to help collect data. It’s quite amazing to see how many I use already without knowing I did and also to understand that I would be totally lost without my little handheld gadget known as my phone (which also contains my whole life apparently).

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We had two important sessions on the final day, one focusing on Almetrics and social media and the other on citation counting.

Altmetrics is the measurement of impact on web-based activity, so things like blogs and social media for example. This can include things like presentations, datasets, twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles and much more. The aim of Altmetrics is to offer an alternative to bibliometrics and give a full picture of research dissemination and impact. This also helps the research to reach a diverse audience, particular those who do not work in the field of your research. Our presenters used the example of Impact Story which collates information on publications disseminated by web-based means. I do believe that there is a charge for signing up, but there is a free trial to Impact Story so you can see how it tracks different outputs of research and explores dissemination practice of the research. Researchers can also use Altmetrics posted on journal home pages that demonstrate where the journal and journal articles are being linked to and what is the best source of dissemination for that journal.

Bibliometrics (on the other hand) is the statistical analysis of books, journals etc so that a citation count can be created. Key tools to help with this are:

  • Web of science
  • Google Scholar
  • Elsevier journal metrics

Quite often, the H-index is calculated. This is basically a calculation of ‘X’ amount of publication being cited ‘X’ amount of times. The H-index is not increased by papers that have been cited a large amount of times so it is not skewed by individual papers. However, it can be skewed by the age of the individuals (as it takes data from over the lifetime so your H-index will grow as you do) and it is often only useful when compared with others in your discipline. Sometimes the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) is calculated. This is an indication of how many times the journal has been cited so the higher the number the more impact it has.

In a separate session we discussed how to create an online presence, which links in well with the Altmetrics. You could set up a research blog just like me and this will allow people to see the outputs of your research instantly. It also encourages people to read the blog who are not necessarily part of that subject area. Making a blog easy to read means that anyone who can access it can read it, so sharing the blog post on things like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook might help to disseminate the research a little further.


One of the most important sessions to me was the ‘Research and the literature review’, first thing Friday morning. I was a little sceptical that this would be a bit skimmed over but it was great! We were taught what a good literature review was and what a bad literature review consisted of and the suggestions are below:

Good review:

  • A critical evaluation
  • Synthesis of available information
  • Broad and deep, but clear and concise
  • Rigorous and consistent (and stating search terms).

Bad review:

  • Regurgitation of text or summary of text
  • An essay
  • Confined to description
  • Narrow or shallow in discussion

We also head about a recent research study that actually evaluated feedback form PhD students on what they had trouble with during the PhD literature review. These are what the authors found in terms of questions asked by students:

  • When do I stop looking? Problems with knowing when enough is enough.
  • What to read first?
  • What is I miss a key paper?
  • How do I organise my literature review into themes?
  • I can’t access the journals I want. What do I do?

To address the issues, our presenter (one of the subject librarians at Edinburgh Napier, Sheena) gave some fabulous advice. She advised that we begin our search in various ways and use many sources: google scholar, academic databases, library catalogues, theses / dissertations, government documents, social media, professional networks and so on as these can lead to all sorts of information being searched. She also advised that we plan out our search which is something that I had never heard of. You could plan out what search terms you will use (including words which are similar), plan out where you will search and even factor in the time it will take to search. Again I had never heard of this approach until the training and will be adopting it from now on. We were told about search terms and their used, so for example the use of ‘AND’ to include all search terms and ‘OR’ to include at least one of the search terms. I briefly knew this and about the symbols used, but it was nice to have someone clarify this for me own search. Sheena then advised that we get some referencing software. Not only is this important for referencing the work, but it helps to categorise searchers and you can even use the software to highlight important works within the literature (again something I did not know).

You can also set up alerts on RSS feeds and journals so that you are notified of new publications that are available. We learned how to do this in a workshop and I found it helpful to know how easy it is.

It was suggested that we begin reading with recent review papers as these will give an overview of the work done and then move onto good quality journal papers. Sheena advised using our search criteria to narrow down what we thought was important and not as well as checking citation counts to see who had used the publication and which ones may not have been used as much.

We also explored how we read journal articles, with discussions leading to the following advice:

  • Some people scan the journal to see what is important then return to it later.
  • You should consider your own view – is it different to the authors?
  • Consider what you already know about methods and the topic.
  • You should evaluate as you read.
  • You could use tables to record your literature, main themes which could help with coding literature if you feel this is suitable.
  • The evaluation should look for: themes, common ground, differences, controversy (in the article), gaps, more literature and joining the dots with other articles.

For writing, you need to explain what you are covering and your search terms. I chuckled a little as I have been told this about my writing numerous times. You need to give the scope of your research field and also establish the position you are writing from. The story of themes will then indicate where the gap in the literature lies and tie in with the research questions to be addressed. Your writing will be revisited and revised over again, don’t be afraid to edit things that you feel are not right as the final draft is not submitted until the whole thing is done. To focus on writing you may need your own personal techniques to focus (such as being in a quiet room, getting coffee etc). Snack writing is an approach often used by individuals who need to fit writing into a hectic schedule. It means that there is dedicated writing time so no other distractions are present and you don’t need to write for lengthy periods of time for the words to build up.

It is also really important to get feedback on your writing so you can improve. Feedback is not always criticism, but improvements to your writing so that you can make it better. Getting feedback form peers or supervisors will help you tailor the writing style you desire.

So that is it. Leap into Research (I feel) was a success for me. Not only because it delivered training sessions on areas of research that are important to me, but because I have now learned a new way of literature reviewing that I will be using from now on.

Leap into Research (Funding and Practicalities) – PART 1!


Last week was a week I had been looking forward to for a while. I spend three of the days attending a training event called Leap into Research hosted by Edinburgh Napier University. The event was designed for all researchers (not just research students) and aimed to give training on various topics from how to search literature down to how to go about spending money from successful funding bids. The event comprised of workshops, briefings, panel discussions and lectures on these topics and I can say that some caught my eye more than others when they were advertised. I decided, however, to register for them all and was able to attend all sessions but two. I am going to share some of my thoughts here for those who were unable to attend, however, as the sessions were quite detailed, this blog post will be the first of two discussing the event. I won’t go into major detail about the programme itself as I wrote 24 pages of hand-written notes and really, those are for me. You can, however, find out the session details on their blog listed above, but I will group some of the sessions together and explore what I learned so that those interested in future training sessions know what to possibly expect.

We were firstly welcomed by Professor Andrea Nolan, our Principal & Vice-Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University. She explained the importance of attending events like the Leap into Research, and emphasised the importance of talking to your fellow researchers. So this kind of set the standards for the research training itself…

A major theme within the first two mornings was funding – more importantly how to get funding. Our presenters discussed firstly how to get UK funding and then moved onto EU funding in the next session. So if you are looking for funding in the UK, you might start your search by looking at Research Councils and charitable trusts (for example Cancer Research if your research is a suitable topic). Now this is not very different to what I would advise my callers when I was a carers adviser. Many individuals called up about funding for masters degrees and research degrees so this is basically where I started too. Now obviously, bidding for post-doctoral funding would be slightly different, but out presenters explained about a search engine called Research Professional where you can see what funding is available and even search specific criteria to see if you are eligible. For the search, it was pointed out that you need to have good search terms. Putting in generic words will not being up all that you need but searching systematically and appropriately might. Now your university will need to pay for this service and it does cost a lot, so if you are unsure of whether you university has access to this, it might be best speaking to whoever is in charge of funding within the institution as they will be able to direct you to the service the institution uses.

When moving onto the EU funding, Horizon 2020 stood out for me. Basically, Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU research innovation programme (2014-2020). It supports excellence in science, industrial leadership and societal changes so funding schemes lie within these research subjects. The website hold a lot of information on what Horizon 2020 also so what is funding is available. So it is a really good idea to take a look and see what the ‘topic descriptions’ each funding source suggests as to what projects might fit the remit.

Over the two sessions, we got some sound advice:

  • Read the guidelines for funding, regardless of whether it is UK or EU. This will state what the funding can be used for and then you can decide if it is appropriate to apply with your research team.
  • Speak to your research lead or director of studies about funding opportunities – they may know more about what is available than you do.
  • Contact your research and innovation leader. They will help see what is available and explore options with you.
  • Start early – most funding opportunities need time for a proposal or bid to be written so allow plenty of time for this to happen.
  • In your project proposal, you will need to explain a research plan and also what impact your research has so these are important issues to discuss with your team.
  • Use straight forward and concise language – often the readers do not have English as their first language so the less complicated it is the better.
  • Try and get some form of feedback on your application before it is submitted (maybe peer-reviewed?). This way, you can make improvements before you submit and this will give you a better chance of success if the reviewers do not see a lot of simple errors within the writing.


We also had a lot of training on the practicalities of research. We learned the meaning of copyright and what to do when citing sources within your work. Our presenter explained what the law states about copyright and explored what rights we have as researchers. Basically, if we produce something ourselves, we have the right to say if anyone else can use it or not. But it we use someone else’s work, we must cite this appropriately and reference the source of information so readers know it is not ours. We also learned that journals have their own copyright agreements so when thinking of submitting to a journal, you need to read what their copyright agreement as this may influence whether you can share your work with others or not. I also found out that academic institutions do not own copyright of books and journals (if you publish in them). However, if you are employed and have something published /create an idea, then the employer themselves may want copyright if you were their employee at the time. Copyright also lasts a long time, 70 years after the death of the creator to be precise. So if you are thinking about using a dead person’s work without citing it – think again as this could be under the copyright law that you need to check.


We also learned how to cost our research project and the procurement involved in spending successful money. Now each university will have a procurement team just like ours so it is best to speak to your director of studies to explore regulations around this. However, we all know that we need to cost a research project, no matter how big or small the project might be. We were given an example of a research project and our task was to cost it. I was very surprised at the things that need to be considered from direct costs form the project to indirect and estate costs incurred form the project being taken on. This linked in well with the funding that we had discussed earlier. Some funders will only fund certain aspects of research projects (like those directly incurred). By using a comparison between the Research Councils and charities discussed earlier, we found that there are major differences in what some funding bodies will pay and what some will not. We also learned the difference between ‘cost’ and ‘price’ which shocked me a little as I did not know there was one:

  • Cost is the total cost the university pays for the whole project.
  • Price is the amount of money you request for funding.

The session on building collaborative research projects was one of my favourites, not only because I have worked on a collaborative project before but because I know how petty some projects can get when people start to fight! We learned where to initiate collaborations, including conferences, seminars, network groups and social / online networks and these can either initiate ideas of become full research projects in themselves. More importantly, we discussed the benefits and risks of collaborations and these are detailed below:


  • Enhancement of knowledge as individuals form different backgrounds collaborate.
  • Gain training in new areas.
  • Increased access to equipment.
  • Increase funding and publication profile.
  • Developing your research network.


  • Need to think if you can work with the team.
  • It takes longer to put together a plan of action.
  • You need to develop a collaboration agreement.
  • Who is first author on publications?
  • Disclosure of conflicts of interest?
  • Who gets copyright / intellectual property?
  • You might need to get a project manager if there are numerous people there.

This section of training linked in well with the discussions of engaging with businesses. Sometimes businesses support research projects if they are going to get something out of it (such as recognition, a product etc) but they may not if their reputation suffers damage. To work with businesses, you need to be aware of business interaction and the purpose of involvement. The business may have different ideas of involvement to what you think. Benefits of including businesses is that they being funding, which could be vital to keeping the research going. You might have accesses to additional sources of material but you do need to ensure that your interests meet and that you (or the business) are no getting involved for underhanded reasons (you know, some people might do it just for the money!). There also needs to be a frank discussion about Intellectual Property (IP) and whose idea is whose. I really liked this session as I felt it was (partly) relevant. My research is funded by Skills Development Scotland so I have to ensure that I work in line with their company goals and objectives, and involve them in the process. I also need to ensure that they are mentioned on presentations as funders and that my work does not give negative publicity to them as they are one of the main beneficiaries of the output form my work. So in reality, although I am not working with a business as such, I am working with an organisation who are very involved in my research and who I need to consider throughout.

So that is it for Leap into Research Part 1. We did cover a lot more within each session but as I say, I physically could not fit every detailed point into one blog post so I felt a quick overview of my learnings was best.


Part 2 will follow…