Research Skills Blog

Getting the right start to the academic year

Getting the right start to the new academic year

For many, the summer coming to an end means it's time to get back into the classroom, lab, or library. Whether you're starting your first undergraduate year, returning to complete your master's degree, or working on your PhD, the start of the new academic year is the perfect opportunity to refresh your skills and give yourself the best possible footing for the year ahead.

The most important piece of advice we can give is to become familiar with what you have available to you. Your university library, department, and a range of academic and scientific organisations have freely available resources that you can use to level up your skills. Here are just some of the resources and guides we suggest for the start of the academic year.

 Learn your way

Our resources are available in multiple forms, including online and downloadable versions. Whether you want a comprehensive guide, a quick reference sheet, or a video, we've got you covered!


Learn how to search effectively

Information discovery and access are at the core of your academic journey. As a student, you will need to do lots of research for your assignments and end-of-year thesis, so you want to make sure you're researching effectively and citing credible sources. Our range of free resources and tools are designed to help you make the most out of your library and obtain great search results.

Improve your searching

Searching for scientific research can mean trawling through vast numbers of articles and other sources in order to locate the most relevant results. The best searches are ones that strike the right balance between being broad enough to ensure you don’t miss relevant research, but specific enough to avoid what is irrelevant. The simplest way to start is to create the right search strategy, including the use of Boolean operators and other techniques. Making sure you start with the right search term is key to finding the right results, quickly and easily. Don't forget that your library's Subject Librarian and our IFIS in-house expert are able to help!

Use the right tools

Another key element of carrying out an effective search is to think about where you are searching. Google Scholar is the most popular search engine used by those looking for scholarly content, but there are significant limitations to its effectiveness.

Your university library will likely have subscriptions to a wide variety of general and subject-specific databases. The tool you should use depends on the topic you are researching and the type of results you want. For example, the FSTA database is a vital resource for those studying the sciences of food and health.

FSTA records are summarised in English and come from publishers all over the world, including many unique titles not available elsewhere. It is food-focused AND interdisciplinary, so you can easily discover related content from microbiology, veterinary medicine, agriculture, and much more. FSTA is also quality-controlled by experts in the field. We make sure no fake science is included, so you know your research results and references are trustworthy.

Plan and carry out literature reviews

80% of students told us they feel concerned about carrying out literature reviews. If you can relate, check out our guide to learn about literature reviews and why they are important. Written and reviewed by experts, our best practice guide is full of practical advice and templates. Whether you are new to research, or just need a refresher in literature searching, this guide will help you understand how to effectively plan and carry out your literature searches.

Our guide is available in seven languages: English, Chinese, Italian, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, and Spanish, with more coming soon.

Understand systematic reviews

Our latest free resource for researchers and students has now launched, taking you through the steps of carrying out a systematic review. This practical guidance document aims to address recent quality issues of systematic reviews reported from food related topics by encouraging comprehensive searching, and clear and unbiased reporting. It also includes advice on how to follow standard practices of the methodology and how to use the necessary and appropriate tools and technologies.


Ensure you avoid fake science

Predatory journals often exist with the sole purpose of making as much money as possible from author fees. They often publish articles with little to no peer review process, which has enabled research of questionable quality (that would not likely have been published in other, better quality journals), to be made available on the internet for any unwary reader to find.

Recognise and avoid predatory journals

As a reader, you want to be sure that what you are reading is a legitimate source of scientific information. Everything indexed in FSTA is quality checked, so you can be confident that the results you find are not from predatory sources. However, it can be surprisingly easy to come across articles from predatory journals when researching elsewhere, particularly on resources like Google Scholar. Our resource centre helps you avoid fake science and provides information and tools to help you feel confident recognising predatory journals when researching and publishing.

Verify that a journal is credible

Use the Journal Lookup Service to search IFIS’s database of indexed journals. Every journal in the FSTA database has gone through IFIS’s quality checks, so you can be confident it is peer-reviewed and not predatory.


Navigate the publishing process

Publishing research and scholarly work in a highly regarded journal is a key part of academic careers. It can also be incredibly challenging for those new to it. Thankfully, there is support available so you can stand the best chance of getting published.

Prepare to submit your paper

Our publishing guide is designed to help authors with the process of journal publishing, and is available to read or watch online. Go through the step-by-step process, and understand key topics, including types of Open Access, what to expect from the peer review process, how to handle editorial decisions, and much more.


Stay informed all year round

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