How can your library give your students dissertation support?

It’s that time of year when third-year students are starting to knuckle down to researching for the dreaded dissertation. James Breakell, UK MD of D-Tech International, looks at what you can do to help them through the process

Examples of quality dissertations
Many universities provide online access to first class or 2:1 dissertations. This enables other students to get inspiration for their own submission and shows them examples of successful structure and content. If you don’t already, perhaps your library could initiate this.

Support
Make sure your students know where to go for relevant support – freeing up staff time to offer workshops on subjects such as searching resources, structuring a literature search and review, and the restrictions of copyright. Technology can help to free up staff time, with initiatives including self-service checkout and returns, book sorting, and automated laptop loans.

The right environment
Although a dissertation is the work of an individual, many students work better with the encouragement and support of their peers even if it is just studying alongside them to prevent distractions or to keep them on schedule. Ensuring your library offers a mix of study environments including separate, quiet areas, group study rooms and space to chill and discuss progress should cater for most needs, and you can always ask students if there is an alternate set up that you could reasonably offer to help them.

Easy access to resources
Make sure your students aren’t wasting time looking for resources that aren’t there! RFID tagging comes into its own here, enabling easy tracking of specific items and ensuring your library management system is kept up to date to show where volumes are at any given time.

Reviewing processes
Taking a look at your library through the eyes of a patron is something that can open your eyes to ways to improve your processes and make the student experience more rewarding. Sometimes things work well for staff but are a bugbear for users. You may think that your students like the personal touch of librarians checking out items, but the quick, minimal queuing, solitary act of self-checkout may be the preferred option for the majority. Seeing the font of all knowledge carrying out easy tasks for a long line of customers when they could be free to help you source the information you need to move your dissertation to the next level can be incredibly frustrating and easily remedied.

Access to IT
Whilst most students own their own laptop, they don’t always want to carry it around with them all day, so it is important that they have access to computers in the library. More universities are turning to space-saving laptops as an alternative to static desktops, as they can be charged and stored in and deployed from secure lockers which offer a variety of ID readers including biometrics.

If you are not sure whether you could be doing more to help your final year students with their dissertations why don’t you ask them? Perhaps an emailed survey or a few low-key forums would bring forth suggestions. Don’t forget to ask your staff too, as they may be sitting on an idea to improve services but unsure of its viability. If you need advice on technology, give us a call on 01394 420077 or email info@d-techinternational.com.