Friday, 17 October 2014

This year's workshops

Last year I ran fortnightly workshops which was open to all.

Apart from a few super-keen students who came along regularly, I saw neither hide nor hair of any of you.
This year will be different.
My plan is simply that I promote these things until you give in and come along.

This is what's going to happen; roughly every two week I'll sit in Training Room 1 waiting for you to turn up and ask me things. I'll then answer those things and you'll go away happier and more informed.

The pragmatic thinking behind this is quite simple; there's too many of you for me to fit into my working week as individual appointments. The workshops will allow me to answer similar inquiries and hopefully satisfy more students.

The more fluffy thinking is that I want you to feel more empowered by what you're studying.
That comes from knowing what you're doing, knowing the tricks (and they are tricks) to being a student and getting the most for WHAT YOU'VE PAYED FOR.

The first few workshops will run on the following days at 2pm in Training Room 1 in the LRC:

November 5th.

November 19th.

December 3rd.

December 17th.

It doesn't matter whether you're 2nd year undergrad or final year postgrad, just come along at any point between 2pm and 3pm and I'll do my best to answer your questions.

One final thing that'll be different from last year - I now regularly bake muffins so I promise a selection will be available for each workshop. See? Now you're interested...


Monday, 13 October 2014

Now That's What I Call Criminology

Explaining all the variations n the range of published books, journals, methodologies and formats can be very confusing. Often the differences overlap or are at best unclear.

One of the most common sources of confusion for students setting out is the difference between edited books and 'normal' books. By way of a brief explanation, an edited book is written by lots of different people (typically one chapter each) and then the editors will be in overall charge of getting the chapters into shape.

One analogy I've used to explain this in the past is how music is bought.
It goes like this;

an edited book = Ministry of Sound 90's Anthems because every track is a different artist (including something by Prodigy)
a book by a single author would = Songs for a Jilted Generation by Prodigy.

So one's a compilation and one's a single artist.

Edited books are useful because you can compile lots of expertise into one tome and it shares out the effort of writing between many authors. If you're thinking of imminently using your Aspire card (sorry any post-grads reading this) then you could do worse than look at what introductory edited books are available for your units this year.

For my next post I'll be explaining the Peer Review process via interpretive dance...

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Introducing my first columnist...

Hello. As much as I love writing posts and communicating generally I'm also very keen to open up these pages to students. One of the central tenets I try to teach by is the simple notion that information should, wherever possible, be a two-way thing. If I learn things from you it keeps me engaged in the subject and makes me a better librarian. With that in mind, I've always liked the idea of having guest posters on Bedtimes and Deadlines.

So Anna, who for no other reason than she's a good egg and has things to say, has agreed to write the occasional post for us this year. These will be student-focused in some way but could be about pretty much anything.
If you want to see what she's blogged about previously then her output on the Social Sciences Student Blog can be found here. It's very good.

Over to Anna...

My name is Anna McGough. I am not native to Luton but have lived and worked here since 2009, and began studying at the UoB in 2012. Now in my final year of my Child and Adolescent Studies Degree, I write to solidify what I have learned academically and the tricks of existence I entertain as I study and work part time.

Sooo…time to brush off the cobwebs and get back into "Uni Mode". No more money making overtime employment opportunities, no more 24/7 drinking binges and living it up like it's 1969 (and all that implies). If you're one of those students that didn't get around to the reading list that you wrote up back in April, then now is the time to take that scout motto and beCOME prepared!

I started a week ago, FINALLY clearing out my laptop's desktop, putting all those lectures and notes into their neat little folders…regretfully I lost a lot of useful stuff by carelessly deleting files but I have the most important things. I did a little reformatting and repair job on my laptop (once I'd backed it up) giving it some space and hopefully to dodge that dreaded crash that always seems to come when you're most valuable work is about to be saved (ie. dissertation!).

Ambled down to the bookshop JohnSmiths ( and picked up some 2nd hand books at 30% cheaper (thanks last years students who cashed your books there instead of letting them gather dust after your graduation!), and I HAVE to tell you of this nifty notebook I found in Staples: ARC. As you can see from the pictures and tutorials it is a reasonably inexpensive way to organise your notebook the way you want it, with lined paper, blank pages, poly pockets, dividers, slides to stash your handouts and it you're as obsessed as me you can even buy your own puncher to transform your own papers and slot them right in! I paid £22 for my setup, take a look - loving filling it in!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

How to be curious about everything

The major development at home this Summer has been the arrival of two kittens called Arya and Audrey. If you don't like cats then a) this post is probably not for you and b) WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU???? But that aside, they are fluffy and purry and little and utterly gorgeous in every way.
They're also madly curious about everything they come across.
It doesn't matter if it's a worm, a shoe, an empty box or a piece of fluff, everything has to be examined from every angle, prodded, thrown up in the air and eventually tested for edibility. 

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The more I watch their indefatigable curiosity, the more I think what a brilliant outlook it must be; to see potential and wonder in any encounter with every new thing. 

They seem to see opportunity in everything. 

So when we shortly reconvene for another year of assignments, shenanigans, turmoil and triumphs, one of my messages will be to 'be curious'. Try and take pleasure in the finding of new things, new theorists, new music and new friends. This isn't one of those hypocrisy moments either - I'm going to be learning about new areas of research this year, and as mad as it may sound I think it's partly inspired by Arya and Audrey taking pleasure in the thrill of the new.

So here's to curiosity and every social science student (and kitten) who looks at the world as a giant adventure playground.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Think tanks

I've been thinking about referencing again. Sorry, but there it is. I've also been thinking about bias in research and how objectivity still seems to be the holy grail of social enquiry. Personally, I've never been entirely comfortable with the whole subject/object argument as I think we're more complicated than that.

Sometimes people know they're being subjective; the films of Michael Bay, Coldplay records, a restaurant menu where every other word is an adjective, IQ tests and Robbie Savage - these are all things that I'm hugely vocal and subjective about. My opinions are very much my own. But what about a theoretical approach? Does it have to aspire to neutrality or can it also be subjective?

The reason I'm asking the question is that I wanted to write about think tanks. You may have come across these institutes already, but in case you haven't let me explain what they are. A think tank is usually comprised of a group of academics who conduct research from a specific standpoint. Sometimes this standpoint can be political (left or right wing) or methodological (for example, action research) or issue based (such as environmentalism). Rarely do think tanks aspire to objectivity.

So the question for you, as a perspective user of think tank research is, should I read this stuff and stick it in my reference list?
My short answer is yes.
My long answer is yes, but be careful in what you choose. A range of resources is often a good approach if you want a broad scope to your assignment. So read things from multiple perspectives in order to examine themes and inconsistencies across a range of research.

If you'd like a succinct list of UK think tanks then the Guardian (who also have their own bias for you to think about!) produced a nice list last year. Have a look here if you're interested.

One final thing. I'm away now for a few weeks, but I'll be back for September when we'll be picking up the pace in readiness for the new term. Hope to see you soon.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The use of victim impact statements


A couple of hours ago I was hearing and reading about a new controversy concerning victim impact statements (VIS) and decided it was worth a post. If you haven't heard, a judge was overheard saying that the statements have no bearing on the outcomes of proceedings at all. He thought his comments couldn't be heard and he's since apologised.

I've never been in court but I'm aware that some of you, in your professional lives, may have been required to give testimony or provide evidence in cases. So I'd be interested in your opinions on this issue whether you're studying criminology or not. Personally, I believe in the power of language to change outcomes. How language is used is one of the central tenets of how I approach my job. Therefore, if people are taking the time to write statements which must be incredibly hard to compose, you'd hope it would be with a tangible outcome.

The academic evidence on VIS is inevitably mixed. Some research suggests that juries are affected by the sex of the person reading the statement, the statement in relation to the severity of the crime and a whole host of other factors. You can find plenty of articles on DISCOVER if you so choose.

If you'd like to have a look at how the BBC is reporting the story then you can find it here.

Friday, 1 August 2014


Hello again.

I've just set myself up with a university Skype account, the intention being to use it to support students who are away from campus for whatever reason. I've no idea whether this will be popular or not, but I like trying new things and anything that makes people feel supported and less isolated is clearly a good thing.

What I'll do next is come up with a schedule of the days and times when I'll offer Skype sessions (I'll take advice from your lecturers to ensure it doesn't clash with key lectures) and then publicise it through BREO announcements, lecture drop ins and the blog.

If you've got any immediate thoughts on this idea then email me or leave a comment at the bottom of this post. Do remember that you'll need to sign in before you can comment though.
What I'd ideally like to know is do you use Skype already and would you potentially use it for library appointment purposes?

Hope you're enjoying your Summer,