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Technology Libraries: Information Skills

Image of ladders disappearing into clouds with 'Information Skills' in black text on grey

The Technology Libraries Team provide training and one-to-one support to develop your information and research skills.

All of the taught sessions on these and other topics delivered by our team are available on our course page and you can access the associated teaching resources on our teaching page.

If you would like to discuss arranging teaching on a particular topic, please contact us.

For one-to-one support, you can book a supervision or chat with the library team using our Booking Form.

In the following sections you will find our self-directed modules featuring videos to watch, information to read and activities to try out new skills.

You can also visit the Research Skills Guide for resources and information including publishing in journals or monographs, building your online profile, understanding research metrics and more. 

Photo of telescope with a sepia backbroundLiterature Searching and Reviewing

A Literature Search is the act of searching databases and the internet effectively to find key literature on your research topic. A Literature Review is the reading and reviewing of a subject in the form of a written piece of work.

Searching for literature is an important part of the research process - whether you are just beginning to scope out a project, or conducting a full literature review for your dissertation.

Why search for academic literature?

Searching for existing literature will help you work out:

  • What other researchers have written about a particular topic
  • What is known and what we don't know - this is important when trying to identify gaps in research
  • How your work relates to previous research
  • How your work is doing something new

Your search is part of your workflow

Study and research are iterative processes, which include searching for literature. This will be guided by your question or topic, which defines where and how you search. As you search and find items, you will interact with them critically, and take notes. These ideas will help you refine your topic further, and help you make decisions about what to do next.

Planning Your Search

Before you start searching it is important to spend some time planning your search. This will include:

  • Thinking of a list of key terms to search for
  • Deciding what types of information you need (for example, are you looking for peer-reviewed journal articles or do you need industry data?)
  • Deciding where to search for this information.

This video below gives an overview of how to generate keywords, strategies for searching databases, and some examples of searching specialist databases. It also gives advice on what to do if you have too many (or too few!) results.

[Link to video]

Where to Search


If you are looking for known items, or want to do a quick search to find books, journals and articles (both in print and online) in Cambridge, iDiscover is the best place to start. The video below shows you how to begin searching on iDiscover. The iDiscover Guide provides you with more detailed information on how to make the most of this resource. 

[Link to video]

Google Scholar

If you are doing a broad search or conducting multidisciplinary research, Google Scholar is an excellent resource. If you are using Google Scholar off-campus, we recommend setting up Library Links, as demonstrated in the video below:

[Link to video]

Standards and Patents

If you need to search for standards and patents, useful information can be found on the Electronic Resources page.

If this is your first time using patent information, a good place to start is the WIPO guide to using patent information.

Business Information

The Cambridge Judge Business School Library and Information Service manage many of these databases for their students and they are not automatically available to all University members. Visit the CJBS Database Guide for more information on the business and financial resources available  The CJBS Library and Information Service can be contacted at


Activity: Build Your Search Profile

Building your Search Profile before you begin searching helps you to target your searches to be more relevant to the research topic, project title or subject area you are working on. 

Build Your Search Profile Activity

ManagingImage: Close up photo of a computer chip Your Data

There is an increased emphasis on managing and sharing data produced in research. Many of the research funders supporting work at the University of Cambridge require that research data are openly available with as few restrictions as possible.

Research data management is a complex issue, but done correctly from the start, could save you a lot of time and hassle at the end of the project when preparing your data for a publication or writing up your report, dissertation or thesis. Research data takes many forms, ranging from measurements, numbers and images to documents and publications.

Data Management Essentials

The term ‘data’ can mean a range of things from images to experiment results depending on the nature of your research. However you define data it is important that you learn to manage it well at every stage of the research process. 

Many research funders now mandate that you share the data underpinning your research, something which is also encouraged by the University Open Data Policy Framework. This helps to both advance wider knowledge as other researchers can build upon your work and help to avoid any research misconduct by allowing results to be checked.

Although data management can seem like a complicated process but getting into good habits early will help you to save time and stress later in your project.

Watch this short video below to get an overview of good data management practices.

[Link to video]

Data Management Plans

A Data Management Plan (DMP) is a vital document which draws all of these areas together. It is created prior to the start of a project and revisited and updated regularly to ensure it remains current. A DMP helps you to think about all of the different data decisions you need to make and helps to ensure the overall efficiency of a project.

Many research funders now expect to see a DMP before releasing funding and the University also strongly encourages their creation. Watch the short video below from the Betty and Gordon Moore Library team to see an overview of the common areas of a DMP.

[Link to video]

Remember that the exact contents of a DMP will depend on your funder so you should always refer to their specific guidance when creating one.

There are many online tools which can help you to build your DMP. One of the most useful of these is DMP Online, a resource provided by the Digital Curation Centre. Once you have registered for a (free) account you will be able to build a DMP tailored to your individual funder which you can then download and use as your final document.


Activity: Build Your Data Management Plan

Building your data management plan can seem daunting but this activity should give you a chance to start thinking about some of the areas you will need to cover.

Build Your Data Management Plan Activity


When using ideas, quotations, diagrams and concepts from other sources in your own academic work you will need to reference them correctly. Referencing is good academic practice and helps your reader understand where particular phrases and ideas in your work are from.

Referencing also helps you to avoid plagiarism. Detailed guidance around this topic can be found on the Plagiarism and Good Academic Practice Guide

What to Reference

You will need to reference anything you find in another source that isn't your own original work, including:

Direct quotations                                                                                                 Paraphrases                                                   
Data Interviews
Figures and tables Lecture slides
Websites Computer code

How to Reference

References are there for readers to be able to follow up the original source of a quote or idea in your work. This means that you will need to include enough information to allow your reader to do this. You will need to include:

  • Author(s) and/or editor(s)
  • Title of the book, article or other source
  • Date of publication

Depending on the type of source you are referencing, you may also need:

  • Title of the book or journal a chapter or article appears in
  • Publisher and place of publication
  • Volume or issue number

For online resources, include the date of retrieval (when you accessed it) and the URL or DOI.

The website Cite Them Right provides information, templates and examples for a range of referencing styles and sources. 

Referencing Styles

There are several different referencing styles and formats that can be used to reference sources in your work. Some of the most common include Harvard, APA and IEEE. There are some key points which will be common to most referencing styles:

  • When presenting the views and work of others, you must give an indication of the source of the material, such as the author and title.
  • If you quote text verbatim, make this completely evident; use quotation marks and add page numbers to your reference.
  • If you wish to re-state an author's point in your own words, this is paraphrasing and will need to be referenced. 
  • If you reproduce an illustration or diagram or include someone else's data in a graph or table, be sure to reference the original source.

(Adapted from the University of Cambridge website on Referencing Conventions)

Guides to Referencing Styles:

  • Harvard 
    The most commonly used style of referencing; used widely in academic journals.

Guide to Harvard Referencing from Imperial College, London

  • APA (American Psychological Association)
    Citation technique usually used in the Social Sciences

APA Tutorial from the University of Cardiff

  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 
    writing and referencing guidance used in the fields of Engineering and Technology

IEEE Referencing Style Sheet from the University of Bath

Reference Managers

Reference management software can help you to organise and keep track of all the articles, books and other sources you have read, and ensue that your references are formatted correctly. 

Reference management software will let you download references from catalogues and databases, store pdfs and take notes, keeping everything in the same place and searchable so you can track it down later. 

You can find a useful comparison of different reference managers on the Wikipedia Comparison of Reference Management Software page.

Two of the most popular reference managers are Mendeley and Zotero. These are free tools that enable to you download, store and annotate references and documents. One of the most useful aspects lets you cite references in a document and automatically builds your bibliography/list of references.

You can watch a short video on using these below, or see the Mendeley and Zotero guides for more information. Please note that if you use an institutional (i.e. University of Cambridge) login on Mendeley you will not have access to the desktop version.

[Link to video]

Activity: Referencing Quiz

The quiz below will help test your knowledge of referencing.

Referencing Quiz Activity

Designing Conference Posters

Conference posters are a simple, visual, and effective way of sharing your research. They may be presented at academic or professional conferences, Departmental events, or educational events for the general public. A well-designed poster allows you to communicate information about your work in a concise and appealing manner, and engage with colleagues, peers and others in a conversational setting. 

Creating a conference poster is a balancing act between including enough detail to effectively describe your work, and keeping it visually attractive and minimal enough that people can understand at least the main points at a glance.

Design Basics

You can watch a short video on Conference Poster Design and key design principles below.

[Link to video]

Activity: Create a Conference Poster

Using either paper and pen, or a digital tool of your choice such as Canva, Publisher or PowerPoint, create a template or a draft design for a conference poster. This poster can illustrate your current research, or be based on previous work or an imaginary research project. 

Think about the key principles from the video above:

  • Simplicity: What are your key points? How much text do you need?
  • Visual appeal: How can you visualise your data or results? How will you use colour and layout?
  • Readability: What font will you use? How will you label headings and reading order?

Think about where you might want to place text, graphics and images. Remember to give your poster a title.

You can find helpful guidance and resources on the websites below:

Academic Integrity

The following information is intended as a guide to research ethics and does not constitute legal advice.

Research ethics and research integrity are serious issues. All researchers should consider the ethical context of the research being carried out and be able to justify decisions to the wider academic community. 

"The University of Cambridge is committed to achieving excellence in research and scholarship. The pursuit of excellent research and the fulfilment of our responsibilities to participants in research, research users and the wider community require the maintenance of the highest standards of integrity and ethics". (University of Cambridge Research Integrity Statement)

"In all circumstances, researchers should act with rigour, honesty and integrity in all their scientific work. They are also required to have respect for life, public good and the law. They have to ensure that their work is justified, minimising any adverse effect their work may have on people, animals and the environment. It is the researcher’s responsibility to seek further guidance in case of doubt". (School of Technology Ethical Code for Research)

For detailed guidance, please consult the Research Strategy Office website.

Academic Integrity resources

Black letter C surrounded by black circle representing copyrightCopyright

The following information is intended as a guide to copyright and does not constitute legal advice.

Copyright is one of a bundle of rights which help to ensure that a work is not used without permission. Copyright is automatically granted once the work has been produced in a tangible form, for example written down. In most cases the first copyright holder is the author of the work.

The rights of the author can be divided into two groups – the moral right to be identified as the author and the economic right to make money from their work. The author retains the moral rights but may choose to give away the economic rights, for example by publishing in a journal. More information about these rights can be found on the University of Cambridge Legal Services website.

Third party copyright refers to copyright that is owned by someone else. Legislation allows researchers to use short quotations, extracts or excerpts from others work as long as the use meets the requirements of ‘fair dealing for the purposes of criticism and review’.  If researchers wish to reuse content they have authored but already published it is important to check if the publisher will permit this.

Creative Commons provides a way to licence the use of material you create and share. Using a simple formula it allows creators to build a licence which suits their needs and authorised appropriate use of their work. Using a Creative Commons licence allows researchers to get more exposure for their work whilst maintaining control over its use.

For more information about copyright contact the Legal Services Office of the University.

Copyright for Researchers 

The Copyright for Researchers LibGuide includes detailed information on copyright and creative commons for researchers.

The Research Skills LibGuide also covers copyright and licences. 

Copyright for Teaching and Learning

Legal services has answered a series of common questions around use of images, video, music, and written materials for lectures and other teaching resources.

If you want to make copies of textbooks or journals papers available to your students for them to read, please contact the library team for help with using the Higher Education CLA Licence to make these copies.

Creative Commons 

Creative Commons provides a way to licence the use of material you create and share. Using a simple formula it allows creators to build a license which suits their needs and authorise the appropriate use of their work. For example, if you produce an artwork and upload it online you might want to specify that people can use it in their own work as long as they give you credit. You can also specify that you don’t want others to make a profit from your work.

For more information on Creative Commons, see the Office of Scholarly Communication webpage

The video below, from the Betty and Gordon Moore Library, explains the basics of Creative Commons and the different licences available. Click the link below to watch the video.

[Link to video]

Microphone on a purple backgroundPresentation Skills

Presentations are one way to share your research. You want to ensure your message is clear and that you are confident in presenting your information to others.

Your presentation should let your key points stand out and show that you have expert knowledge, and a clear and succinct message.

You can watch a short video from the Library team on Presentation Skills below.

[Link to video]

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