Case study of the BA International Relations and Politics (POLU05/09)

Overview and outcomes of the BA International Relations and Politics project to embed IDL.



In Social Sciences, key skills needed by students include effective literature searching, critical thinking and reflections, evaluating information and referencing.

Early work carried out by the Library Student Associate focused on assessing the current IDL offer and identifying tutorials which would support development in a politics student.

Initially, this work concluded that the most useful IDL resources were the Politics subject guide, and the online tutorials on discovering informationevaluating information and critical thinking and referencing and plagiarism.

Working in partnership with the department, the Library Student Associate suggested a common feedback issues FAQ guide. This was produced alongside the Liaison Librarian and was embedded in all modules from levels one to three in Blackboard from September 2019.

This guide identifies key areas where students may have difficulty or need to improve their skills, and this in turn may help them overcome grade boundaries. Work will continue to develop the guide for all subject areas.

Generic feedback statements for TurnItIn QuickMarks were also produced ready for the 2019–20 academic year and have been adopted by the department.

Both the FAQs guide and the QuickMarks statements include links to relevant subject specific guidance, so offering an integrated IDL approach across the curriculum.

Resources identified for specific modules:

  • POL121 - Introduction to Political Thought: Past Masters database of classic philosophers' works.
  • POL229 - Political Analysis: Sage Research Methods Online to assist students with research design and data analysis.

For the academic year 2019–20, the department's PLA drive will be on curriculum design, and as part of this case study we have worked with the department to identify key IDL skills to develop and embed when designing the curriculum.

The Liaison Librarian will discuss further with the department ways of supporting level three dissertation students, eg via generic/bespoke workshops or drop-in surgeries.

This will complement the dissertation masterclasses run by the University Library for all students.


Abigail Foy, Library Student Associate

There are different needs of level one, level two and level three students, so appropriate resources and levels of resources are required for IDL.

It's difficult to identify skills gaps, but the curriculum mapping gave us lots of ideas about where to go next and who to speak to.

The main outcome of the project is a common feedback issues FAQs guide which will be useful to signpost students, as well as promoting the Politics subject guide.

I think that the IDL resources are great, and the fact that they are categorised in terms of discovering, understanding, questioning, referencing, creating and communicating means that whatever you need to do they are tabbed in those categories.

There is also a great mix of PDFs and videos, so that whatever your needs are in terms of learning, these are catered to as well.

Brenda Steel, Liaison Librarian

The case studies raised the profile of IDL and Library resources, for both staff and students. It afforded feedback on resources and embedded IDL, which sometimes challenged our preconceptions.

The project also gave us the opportunity to hear the student voice and gather evidence on resources that students need and value. There was a clear steer from Abbie, and from students in the Student Staff Committee, that the Library needs to be where they are, and that IDL instruction needs to have context and meaning or it will be ignored.

There was also a strong message that we avoid using terms that are meaningless to students. For example, 'evaluating information' has no meaning for students but we still use the term to market services.

We also must not take for granted that students have the skills that we, as librarians, regard as basic, such as looking critically at URLs of websites.

This was my first experience of working on a project in partnership with a student associate and I found it a really worthwhile and enjoyable experience. Abbie was a delight to work with and her energy and enthusiasm were refreshing and inspiring.

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