Web Magazine for Information Professionals


Emma Place assesses the recent SOSIG Social Science Online seminars, Jacky Clake reports on the ESRC Social Science Week and Debra Hiom updates us on the virtual seminar run by SOSIG as part of Social Science Week.

Academics Look to Improve Their Internet Research Skills

Over 130 academics, librarians and researchers attended the SOSIG “Social Science Online” seminars this year, which aimed to help staff develop their Internet research skills and look at ways of teaching these skills to students.

It seems interest in this area is growing, especially as Internet research skills are now recognised as an essential part of the undergraduate curriculum in many subjects according to the Benchmark Statements of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education [1]. Many delegates were keen to consider how they might build Internet research skills into their courses for students.

Learning from the experts

Using the Internet effectively for research requires a high level of skill and knowledge and one of the best ways to learn is from the experts. SOSIG invited speakers from some of the key Internet services for social research: the ESRC, HE Academy, JISC Services and Professional Societies. Many of these services offer high quality online data, publications and research outputs that will not be accessible via the big search engines, and so form the “hidden Web” with which academics and students need to be familiar.

Internet Searching for Useful References

There was plenty of time for hands-on where delegates could try their own Internet searches, with help on hand from the experts - so delegates could leave with a list of useful references for their own particular research area.

Worksheets and Presentations to Reuse with Students

Worksheets for the key national Internet services were provided which could be adapted for reuse with students.

All the materials are freely available for anyone to use from the Social Science Online Pages [2].


The feedback from delegates was generally very positive, suggesting there is a need for Internet training for academics, as they work to keep pace with new online developments.

Delegates said they had found it useful to be introduced to a wide range of valuable Web sites and to specific databases. They also found it helpful to have individual help with Internet searches during the hands-on sessions. They said that they would use the worksheets again to practise what they had learned, ultimately for use with their students.

“I was most interested in the teaching issues as I’m remodelling a social science research methods module. A very helpful day. I will distribute the materials to colleagues and use them on the social science research methods module.”

“These resources will be hugely useful for my research”

“The sites were all good and will be incorporated in one way or another into my induction/teaching”

“I really enjoyed the succinctness of the presentations and the chance for hands-on training”

“It was useful to get up-to-date information from key players”

  1. 96% of respondents thought the pack of course materials was good or excellent

“I will use the pack and resources again for researching my PhD”

“I plan to modify the worksheets and use them for teaching materials”

“I will go back and show colleagues what resources are available and recommend them to students”

Photo (30KB) : Delegates try their hand at Internet searching

Delegates try their hand at Internet searching

SOSIG will be planning seminars for 2005-6 this autumn, if you would like any further information please contact sosig-help@bristol.ac.uk

ESRC Social Science Week 2005

A week long celebration of the Social Sciences took place across the UK from 20-24 June and proved to be a fascinating insight into some of the country’s leading research.

From politicians to the general public - the Week aimed to offer everyone the opportunity to discover what the UK’s social scientists are doing and how social science research can contribute to better policymaking and, ultimately, a better society.

Social scientists analysed the problems of global poverty, the challenges faced by the UK food industry and the highly successful use of ‘pester power’ by Britain’s youngest consumers, among many other activities.

This was the third year that the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK’s leading research funding and training agency, has co-ordinated Social Science Week. This week-long celebration of the social sciences consisted of over 48 different initiatives across the UK - from conferences to workshops and exhibitions to policy briefings.

Just some of the many questions examined during the Week included:

  1. What has the public sector done for us?
  2. Why do we donate to charity?
  3. Why don’t we want to participate in politics?
  4. Can the public be trusted to decide on genetic science?
  5. How healthy is the UK food industry?
  6. Does dignity at work exist?
  7. Do we really have any choice in our public services?
  8. Will GM cotton work in India?

The week was launched by the publication of a new ESRC report, which used the seven deadly sins - pride, anger, lust, avarice, gluttony, envy and sloth - as a way of looking at some pressing issues of modern life: religious conflict, rage in children and adults, sexual behaviour, corporate greed, binge drinking, rising personal debt and political apathy.

The report brings together studies by a group of leading social science researchers using large-scale data resources - for example, the three big birth cohort studies of 1958, 1970 and 20001, the British Household Panel Survey, the General Household Survey, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, and the British Election Study - to provide invaluable insights into the patterns of our lives in the early 21st Century.

For more information on the Week or full a copy of the full Seven Sins report see:
ESRC Society Today Site [3]

Social Sciences Online: Past, Present and Future

As part of the ESRC Social Science Week SOSIG ran a virtual event to look at how the Internet is changing the face of social science information and research. We invited a number of social science specialists to consider how the Internet has changed their own working practices and the impacts that this may have had on their research and/or teaching. These articles were made available under a number of different themes:

Monday 20 June - Learning and Teaching
Tuesday 21 June - Research Methods
Wednesday 22 June - Access to Data
Thursday 23 June - e Social Science

Each day, two or three invited articles were made available via a weblog (blog); this is a simple technology that allows users to comment on the articles available. The blog ran for two weeks (originally we had intended to run it for a single week but it became clear that people needed more time to be able to read and comment). The papers and subsequent discussion provide a fascinating account of how much impact the Internet has had on the social science community in a relatively short period of time. To look at the archive of this event see the material available at:
Social Sciences Online: Past, Present and Future [4].


  1. QAA Honours Degree Benchmark Statements {C} http://www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/benchmark/honours/default.asp
  2. Social Science Online Seminars http://www.sosig.ac.uk/events/
  3. ESRC Society Today Site http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/
  4. Social Sciences Online: Past, Present and Future http://www.sosig.ac.uk/socsciweek/

Author Details

Emma Place
8-10 Berkeley Square
Tel: 0117 928 7183

Email: emma.place@bristol.ac.uk

Jacky Clake
Senior Communications and Brand Manager
Polaris House
North Star Avenue
Tel: 01793 413117

Email: jacky.clake@esrc.ac.uk

Debra Hiom
8-10 Berkeley Square
Tel: 0117 928 7117

Email: d.hiom@bristol.ac.uk

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