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Research Bootcamp for Research Assistants & Teaching Assistants

Literature reviews, library research, information management and more.

Research Bootcamp schedule

Green = Core skills (CS)
Purple = Subject information searching sessions (SI)
Blue = Information Management and presentation sessions (IM)

Week 1 schedule for Research Bootcamp
Mon., May 13
Tues., May 14
Thurs., May 16
Fri., May 17

CORE SKILLS PART 1:  CHEB 170 (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 221; SLC Board room (Truro) 

9:00 – 9:10 - Welcome!

9:10 –  9:55 AM – The research process (CS)

9:55 – 10:15 AM – Break (coffee and light refreshments)

10:15 AM – 11:00 AM – Getting started (CS) 


9:00 – 10:30 AM Writing abstracts (IM)
CHEB 264 (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 221; SLC Board room (Truro)


11:00 AM –12:30 PM  Writing grants (IM)
CHEB 264 (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 221; SLC Board room (Truro)

CORE SKILLS PART 2: Tupper Building 3H-1 (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 218; SLC Board room (Truro)

1:00 – 2:30 PM - Researching for the literature review (CS)

2:30 –  3:00 PM – Break (coffee and light refreshments)

Concurrent sessions:

3:00 –  4:30 PM Writing the literature review (CS) 
Tupper Building 3H01 (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 218; SLC Board room (Truro) 


CORE SKILLS PART 3: CHEB 170 (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 105; SLC Board room (Truro) 

1:00 –  2:30 PM – Citation management (CS)

2:30 – 3:00 PM – Break (coffee and light refreshments)

3:00 –  4:00 PM – Copyright and the curriculum

2:00 – 3:30 PM 
PubMed searching (SI)
Online via Zoom


Purple = Subject information searching sessions (SI)
Blue = Information Management and presentation sessions (IM)

Week 2 schedule Research Bootcamp
Tues., May 21
Wed., May 22
Thurs., May 23
    9:00 – 10:30 AM  
Gearing up! Key resources in Engineering & Applied Science research (SI)
C300, C Building, Sexton Campus (Halifax)

1:00 –  2:30 PM Getting started with data management planning (IM)
Tupper Building Theatre B (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 102; SLC Board Room (Truro)

3:00 – 4:00 PM 
Managing human research data (IM)
Tupper Building Theatre B (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 102; SLC Board Room (Truro)

1:00 –  2:30 PM Evidence Synthesis (IM)
CHEB 264 (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 218; FCC Meeting Room (Truro)
1:00 – 2:30PM 
Searching for grey literature (SI)
Online via Zoom

Purple = Subject information searching sessions (SI)
Blue = Information Management and presentation sessions (IM)

Week 3 schedule Research Bootcamp
Mon., May 27
Tues., May 28
Wed., May 29
Thurs., May 30
Fri., May 31
10:00 – 11:30 PM Humanities resources (SI)
McCain 2104 (Halifax)

Please note that all sessions today except Covidence are held in Truro. Please check the schedule for Excel and data offerings in Halifax.

8:30 –  10:30 AM Excel 1: Easy Excel (IM)
Banting 33 (Truro)

10:30 AM –  12:00 PM Excel 2: Data visualization with pivot charts (IM)
Banting 33 (Truro)

9:00 –  11:00 AM Excel 1: Easy Excel (IM)
Rowe Building 3080 (Halifax) 
9:00 –  10:30 AM Beyond PubMed (SI)
Online via Zoom
9:00 – 10:30 AM Intro to conference posters (IM)CHEB 264 (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 221; SLC Board Room (Truro)

1:00 – 2:30 PM Exploring the steps of systematic and scoping reviews using Covidence software (IM)
CHEB 170 (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 218

1:00 –  3:30 PM Excel 3: Excel Experts (IM)
Banting 33 (Truro)

3:30 –  5:00 PM Finding Canadian data and statistics (SI)
Banting 33 (Truro)


1:00 –  2:30 PM APA Citation (IM)
Tupper Building Theatre B (Halifax); SLC Board Room (Truro)

3:00 - 4:00 PM Using ebooks to support scholarly research (IM)
Tupper Building Theatre B (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 221; SLC Board Room (Truro)

1:00 –  2:00 PM Open access and predatory publishers (IM)
CHEB 264 (Halifax); DMNB Saint John 221; SLC Board Room (Truro)

Purple = Subject information searching sessions (SI)
Blue = Information Management and presentation sessions (IM)

Week 4 schedule Research Bootcamp
Mon., June 3
Tues., June 4
Wed., June 5
Thurs., June 6
Fri., June 7
9:00 –  11:00 AM Excel 2: Data visualization with Excel pivot charts (IM)
McCain 2104 (Halifax)
    9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Esri Story Maps (IM)
McCain 2019 (Halifax)
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Excel 3: Excel Experts (IM)
McCain 2019 (Halifax)
  1:00 –  2:30 PM New data holdings at the Atlantic Research Data Centre (IM),
Tupper Building Theatre B (Halifax); SLC Board Room (Truro)
1:00 –  2:30 PM Legal resources for non-law students (SI)
Online via Zoom

Purple = Subject information searching sessions (SI)
Blue = Information Management and presentation sessions (IM)


Week 5 schedule Research Bootcamp
Mon., June 10 Wed., June 12 Thurs., June 13
9:00 –  10:30 AM Finding Canadian data and statistics (SI)
McCain 2104 (Halifax)
9:00 AM –  11:00 AM Data cleaning with OpenRefine (IM)
McCain 2198 (Halifax)
9:00 AM –  1:00 PM Introduction to R (IM)
Banting 33 (Truro)
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Core skills sessions: Details

Core Skills Sessions are divided into three parts. Each part contains two sessions. By registering for each part, you will be enrolled in all included sessions. We recommend that you take all Core Skills sessions.

Core skills: Part 1

The research process 

Presenters: Sarah Stevenson, Melissa Rothfus, Robin Parker

This is both an overview of the research process and an introduction to the Bootcamp series. We’ll walk through the entire research cycle from idea to publication, the fun and the frustration, and highlight the RA Bootcamp sessions supporting each stage. 

Getting started

Presenter: Lindsay McNiff

The basics (or a refresher)! This session will introduce research assistants to library resources, including research guides, services, and Dalhousie Libraries' Novanet catalogue. We will also discuss best practices for developing a research plan. 

Core Skills: Part 2

Researching for the literature review

Presenters: Shelley McKibbon and Melissa Helwig

The methodology of a literature review goes beyond just searching for information. Good literature review methodology follows a process and is well-documented. This session will cover this process from the research question through documenting your search methods in multiple disciplines. Attendees will practice and leave with the tools to support them in the literature review process. 

Writing the literature review 

Presenters: Janice Eddington and Kala Hirtle
Literature reviews are sometimes not seen as persuasive documents. Yet, comprehensively reviewing the literature on the topic and specific research question allows authors to convince readers that the work is necessary. This session will focus on structuring the literature review for impact.

Core skills: Part 3

Citation management

Presenter: Shelley McKibbon

Bibliographic management software can help you store and organize your references, connect to full-text articles, and format your papers. This session will introduce you to Zotero and Mendeley, which are freely available, and discuss fee-based products like EndNote. See which best meets your needs! 

Copyright and the curriculum

Presenter: Lachlan MacLeod
This workshop will provide a basic understanding of how copyright can affect your research and teaching activities at Dalhousie. Specific topics of discussion will include the following: When and how to seek permissions, exceptions in the copyright act, freely available resources, and managing copyright in your own work (including theses and research publications). Participants will come away with a basic introduction to copyright, tools they can use to manage and use copyrighted material, as well as an understanding of recent trends related to academic publishing as they relate to copyright.  

Subject searching sessions: Details

Searching PubMed

Presenter: Robin Parker

As a freely-available biomedical information resource with built-in features that allow you to find evidence-based health information quickly, PubMed is an excellent research tool that is highly-regarded by students, researchers, librarians, and clinicians. In this session, participants will be introduced to searching in PubMed, including selecting search terms, constructing a thorough search strategy, using filters, and saving and exporting results. We’ll explore features that will make the process of finding relevant information in PubMed more efficient and painless, whether you need one good article or want to feel confident you aren't missing important evidence on your topic. 

Gearing up! Key resources in Engineering & Applied Sciences research

Presenter: Sarah Jane Dooley

In this session, participants will be introduced to important engineering and applied science resources such as Compendex on Engineering Village. Compendex is the most comprehensive bibliographic database of scientific and technical engineering research available, covering all engineering disciplines.  Participants will also be introduced to other resources such as the IEEE Xplore database and engineering-specific ebook collections including Knovel and Access Engineering.   At the end of the session, participants should be able to navigate the different search platforms, develop a search strategy, use the Compendex facets to refine results, retrieve the full-text using the Get it @ Dal feature and more.  

Searching for grey literature

Presenters: Robin Parker and Hannah Steeves

Are you looking for content beyond what can be found in traditional books and journal articles? You may need to search sources in addition to the usual databases and catalogues to find the grey literature. In this session, we will discuss what is considered grey literature and explore some resources and approaches that can help find this type of evidence for your area of research. Whether you need conference proceedings, government reports, or business whitepapers, we will check out some of the myriad of sources for grey literature. This session will draw on examples from the disciplines of health and law, but is appropriate for any science or social science research and will incorporate demonstrations of resources and approaches useful for interdisciplinary searching. 

Humanities resources

Presenters: Roger Gillis and Lindsay McNiff

Want to learn how to use the Libraries’ extensive collection of electronic databases to find the best and most relevant information available? This session, geared towards students in the humanities disciplines, will cover some of the key databases and information sources for the humanities. Participants will gain hands-on experience with distinguishing, locating, and selecting key humanities sources such as articles, books, reviews, and primary source material. This session will involve the following components: an overview of key humanities databases and online resources provided by the Dal Libraries, employing search strategies and techniques using these databases, evaluating and filtering resources, as well as other tips and tricks that can be used to get the most of out of these resources. 

Beyond PubMed

Presenters: Melissa Helwig and Jackie Phinney

For most of us, PubMed is the first stop for health sciences literature; however, there are a number of other databases that may be more suited for some health information needs and have better journal coverage for your topic. In this 90-minute session, attendees will learn about other databases for finding health sciences literature and will discover when, why, and how to search databases such as Embase and the Cumulative Index for Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL). Learn what types of unique evidence and specialty information can be found in various health library resources, and learn tips for searching them effectively.  

Legal resources for non-law students

Presenter: Hannah Steeves

This is an introduction to the Canadian legal research process and online legal tools for those with little or no experience with legal research. At the end of the session, participants should be able to access federal and provincial legislation including bills, statutes, and amendments. They should also be able to locate court cases and their histories, including how they have been used in later court decisions.  

Finding Canadian data and statistics

Presenter: Julie Marcoux

Dal has some great resources to help you find those numbers, statistics, and datasets you need for your projects! This workshop provides a gentle introduction to finding Canadian statistics available through a wide variety of sources, including how to retrieve microdata available through a special agreement between Dalhousie and Statistics Canada. Will include quick overviews or more in-depth exercises for the Canadian Census Analyzer, GeoSearchreally good Google searches, SDA, Stat Can data tables, and Tabula.  

Information management & presentation sessions: Details

Writing abstracts

Presenter: Janice Eddington and Kala Hirtle

This workshop will provide a basic understanding of abstracts: the reasons they are written and the structure(s) they take in various fields. Students will be able to use the information to (1) assess the merit of articles they find and to (2) write abstracts for their own papers. 

Writing grants

Presenter: Adam Auch

The biggest challenge with grant writing is that the stakes are so high. This session will tackle the difficult balance owriting a document that meets expectations (in terms of its particular form and the answers it provideswhile setting the author(s) apart from other applicants. 

Getting started with data management planning

Presenters: Erin MacPherson and Sarah Stevenson  
Come discover how data management planning can help your research group or project, and find out how be a good steward of the data you've laboured so hard to collect.  Participants will create a data management plan using the CARL-Portage Research Data Planning Assistant tool with either their own research project information or a provided case study related to their discipline. Pre-registration required (for workshop materials). 

Managing human research data

Presenters: Angela Hersey and Erin MacPherson

This session will give a brief overview of the complexities of managing human research data. The presenters will give an overview of some of the top resources available at Dalhousie University to help manage human research data. At the end of the session, participants should have an understanding of important allies at Dalhousie University who may be able to assist with developing and promoting good human research data practices, including the libraries, research ethics office and information technology departments. 

Evidence synthesis

Presenter: Robin Parker

Learn about the methods that set systematic reviews and other research syntheses apart from traditional reviews. This session will provide an overview of several evidence synthesis methods, and will highlight how to decide which approach is appropriate to a specific purpose. Example reviews from multiple disciplines will illustrate various high-quality methodologies and we will also examine some publications that highlight what to avoid when conducting and reporting your own research synthesis. 

Exploring the steps of systematic and scoping reviews using Covidence software

Presenter: Robin Parker

Through active learning in this intermediate level session, participants will be introduced to the steps of conducting systematic or scoping reviews. We will explore the importance of rigour in research reviews using Covidence, a systematic review management software, so that participants will come away with the ability to efficiently handle literature-intensive research methods. We will use an example data set from a health topic, but participants are welcome to apply the methods to their own data or topic during the session.

Excel 1: Easy Excel for beginners

Presenter: Julie Marcoux

Learn to beautifully format and print tables of data. Discuss some common fixes that can be applied to messy external data. Practice cleaning and analyzing data using Excel's built in tools. This workshop covers formatting, filtering, and conditional formatting. Prerequisite: be comfortable selecting cells and groups of cells in Excel. 

Excel 2: Data visualization with Excel pivot charts

Presenter: Julie Marcoux

A whirlwind introduction to visualizing data with pivot tables and pivot charts. Includes slicers, timelines, and magically grouping your time fields to sort data by hour/day/etc. Prerequisite: be comfortable selecting cells and groups of cells in Excel. Note: Excel pivot charts and tables are very version dependent: highest compatibility with Windows systems equipped with Excel 2010 or more recent. 

Excel 3: Excel Experts

Presenter: Julie Marcoux

We've prepared a wonderful selection of advanced formulas and Excel functions to use when working with data! Learn about string functions, removing duplicates, using criteria in formulas, Vlookup, and locating special cells (blanks, formulas, etc.) in a worksheet. We will even practice creating Excel macros! Prerequisite: be comfortable manually entering simple formulas into Excel.   

APA citation

Presenter: Lindsay McNiff

Learn how to cite better in APA! In this session, you will learn the basic principles of APA, practice creating citations, and hear the answers to some tricky FAQs related to this citation format.  

Using ebooks to support scholarly research

Presenter: Gwen MacNairn

Scholarly resources include journal articles, books, conference proceedings and theses. Within two of these categories are a number of relevant ebooks. How many? Thousands…! Yes, the Dalhousie Libraries have licensed thousands of ebooks. This literary landscape comes with its own set of challenges but is well worth exploring. Come to this session if you want to learn more about using our ebook collection. 

Intro to conference posters

Presenter: Lindsay McNiff

Create effective posters for your projects, research, and conference presentations. Participants will learn how to use PowerPoint to create a 4x6 poster. The workshop will include setting dimensions, inserting text (font styles and sizes), working with images, graphs, and tables, choosing colour schemes, and more. Note: While poster printing options will be discussed, we will not do any actual printing in the workshop. 

Open Access and predatory publishers

Presenter: Melissa Rothfus

Open Access publishing is not only a requirement of many funders, it benefits researchers by ensuring accessibility of their work for greatest impact – and maximum citations. Open Access publishing does require some understanding and planning, however, particularly when many misconceptions about Open Access prevail and predatory publishers are happy to exploit the confusion of the unwary. This session will provide a thorough introduction to Open Access in order to explain the multiple paths to open access, enabling you to make informed choices for your research publications. 

New data holdings at the Atlantic Research Data Centre

Presenter: Heather Hobson

This session will involve highlight details about the various datasets that are likely to be of interest to the graduate student population and that are only available to researchers in Halifax through the Research Data Centres.  Focus will be placed on newer data acquisitions – including the linked survey-administrative data.  However, we will also touch on some of the datasets that have been in existence for a while and are producing new cycles of data.  We will also discuss the application process and the services that the ARDC provides to users of the centre. 

Esri Story Maps

Presenters: James Boxall and Caitlin Cunningham

All we seem to do is to tell stories; through math, icons and alphabets, or through maps and imagery. The need for public communication in all disciplines has come to the fore most recently under the pressure of social networks and web-based platforms such as blogs. We are finding and using new forms of communicating our work. This session uses the StoryMap web-based software as one easy to use tool to tell your story, and to use maps as a way to navigate the ideas as much as the places. 

Data cleaning with OpenRefine

Presenters: Chris Geroux, Ross Dickson, and Lee Wilson

The first step in data analysis is often to clean the data: Identify and correct obvious errors and make the formatting consistent.  This step should be taken with the same care and attention to reproducibility as the rest of the project. OpenRefine is a powerful free and open-source tool for working with messy data. This workshop will show you how to clean and format your tabular data while automatically tracking the changes you make.  Prerequisite: Install OpenRefine on your portable computer, from 

Introduction to R

Presenters: Chris Geroux, Ross Dickson, and Lee Wilson

R is a widely-used free software environment for statistical computing and graphics. This is a hands-on introduction to R using RStudio. Prerequisites: Install R and RStudio on your portable computer, from and