Case study of the BSc Physics and Astronomy (PHY01)

Overview and outcomes of the BSc Physics and Astronomy project to embed IDL.



Throughout the academic year the Department of Physics have been working on creating a new Physics programme focusing on the skills and knowledge needed and integrating them together to create a coherent and efficient programme.

The Library already had good links with the Department of Physics and could learn about ways of teaching from a science perspective.

After exploring the information and digital literacy (IDL) resources available for students, the Library Student Associate and Liaison Librarian evaluated which skills were most important for learning to be a physicist, which allowed for targeted suggestions when embedding IDL resources.

Working with the programme level approach lead and level one tutors, three activities were designed as part of the level one lab skills module.

These will allow students to practice discovering and questioning information from journal papers to inform their lab work, summarising this information in their own words, citing and submitting in Turnitin.

This also allows a low-stakes, formative way of learning intended to build confidence with information discovery, referencing, paraphrasing and avoiding plagiarism:

  • Level one introductory workshop – introduced different study spaces, Library guides, reading lists, StarPlus, referencing guides and support available.

Planning is currently underway to implement the following two sessions for the next academic year (2020–21)

  • Level one (week four) – introduce and practice literature searching skills including databases.

  • Level one (week nine) – introduction to academic sources of information and referencing, practice using Turnitin.

The Library has identified ways for tutors to embed online guidance for IDL skills in their feedback to students via Quickmarks. They can also support learning and teaching by embedding online resading lists, videos and quizzes into Blackboard.

The project team has also been able to add guidance on which referencing tutorial to use for Physics (AiP), and Astronomy (Harvard):

  • AiP referencing for Physics reports.

  • Harvard referencing for Astronomy reports and essays.

  • For longer pieces of work, student can choose the most appropriate style.

This has been implemented in the Library Guide for each subject.


  • Planned a series of information and digital literacy (IDL) workshops in collaboration with the department, to be delivered or co-delivered by the Liaison Librarian.

  • Identified ways for tutors to signpost students to online IDL tutorials in their feedback via Turnitin Quickmarks.

  • Embedded online reading lists and IDL tutorials on Blackboard.

  • Agreed department-wide advice on referencing styles to be used for each subject and linked to Library referencing guides appropriately.


Antonia Pollard, Library Student Associate

We started off by planning what small changes could be suggested to make the Library more involved in the delivery of the programme.

This involved suggesting new resources to signpost students to and thinking of ways that students could be directed to what the Library offers at the moment. We then moved on to creating new activities which could be integrated into level one of the programme.

Throughout the process, where IDL could be embedded became much clearer. In planning the activities and minor changes for the programme, I learnt a great deal about the structure of the physics programme.

As I was finding the resources available as a student of physics, I now know how to find these resources which can be useful in my programme going forwards.

The changes will reduce the time that professors spend on helping students to develop IDL skills, which will mean that they can focus their energies on providing effective content teaching. Student will better understand how to use Turnitin works and where to find information.

This will help them with reports and research later in the degree. It will also help them to discover and develop the Graduate Attributes.

Oliver Allchin, Liaison Librarian

This project has been a fantastic opportunity to learn from students how the ability to find, evaluate, cite and communicate information can help them to succeed in their studies and become better scientists.

Working with Antonia and her peers has helped is build an understanding of how information and digital literacy applies to their discipline, and how the right skills can be developed and assessed in a way that is practical and timely.

It's also been a great opportunity to work with the Physics and Astronomy Department to co-develop ways to embed these skills into the programme without adding to tutor or student workload.

Through this approach, we've been able to embed IDL skills entirely though adapting existing lab activities and assessments in a way that will enhance, rather than change planned teaching.

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