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Research Camp for Research Assistants, Teaching Assistants, and Grad Students

Created by the Dal Libraries with support from the Writing Centre. Literature reviews, library research, information management and more.

About Research Camp

Welcome to the Research Camp for Research Assistants, Teaching Assistants and Graduate Students, brought to you by the Dalhousie Libraries. The Research Camp is designed to take you through the elements of research from basic to advanced. The program is offered through a combination of asynchronous modules on Brightspace and live online sessions on Teams. Modules may include short video lectures and interactive exercises to help you brush up on your literature searching, writing, information management, and research skills. Some modules include recordings of our live sessions from Research Summer Camp. Modules and sessions are prepared and delivered by research and writing specialists affiliated with Dalhousie Libraries and the Dalhousie University Writing Centre.

How does it work?

Register for Research Camp and you will have access to all of the asynchronous modules. Registered participants can access and work through module content at their own pace. Participants are not required to complete all modules. You can pick and choose modules based on your individual interest and skill level. Modules will be available until March 28, 2025.

**During spring updates (April - May 2025), the content will be temporarily unavailable. Participants will receive notice about this in advance.


Research Camp badges are available for module completion, and badges accumulate toward certificates. For a full list of available certificates, see the Certificate page.

Sounds great! How do I sign up?

You can self-register in Brightspace by clicking Academic Support > Self registration, and selecting Research Camp 2024-2025. You can enroll anytime.

Program objectives

The objective of the program is to develop and/or refresh the literature searching and information management abilities of research assistants, teaching assistants, and other graduate students. 

Learners will gain information search and management knowledge, including

  • sources and services available from the Dalhousie Libraries
  • how to efficiently and effectively conduct a literature search in a field of interest
  • how to manage and present information once found
  • copyright requirements
  • author rights and requirements

Each module in the program contains specified learning outcomes.


How do I register?

  • Self-paced modules: Self-register in Brightspace by clicking Academic Support > Self registration, and selecting Research Camp 2024-2025. You can enroll anytime on or after April 1, 2024, but please note that the course does not open until May 13, 2024.
  • Live online sessions: Register for each individual session using the Dal Libraries Events calendar. You can also find individual registration links on the list of Module Descriptions.

Who is eligible to register?

While the primary audience for Research Camp is Dalhousie University graduate students, all Dalhousie students, staff and faculty are welcome to register. 

How much does it cost?

Nothing. Research Camp is free! 

Do I have to complete all modules?

No. You can pick and choose modules to complete based on your interests. We do recommend, however, that all participants complete the modules in Core Skills 1, 2 and 3, as the content in these modules is foundational for developing core research and writing skills.

Are the modules graded?

No, this program is for professional and scholarly development only. However, badges are issued for module completion, and badges accumulate toward certificates for completing subsets of the modules. Visit the Certificates page for more information.

How long will I have access to the modules?

The modules will be available for roughly 10 months. Each spring, we will refresh the content in Research Camp. Participants from previous years are welcome to register again in subsequent years.

Module & session descriptions

Core Skills 1: Getting started with research

Module Description Presenter
Welcome to Research Camp! An introduction to Research Camp 2024-2025. Learn how the program works and how to make the most of the online format.  Lindsay McNiff, Dalhousie Libraries
Library research 101

The basics (or a refresher)! This module will introduce you to library supports for your research, including research guides, subject specialists, and how to get help with research. 

After completing this module, learners will be able to

  • Identify their home library and subject librarian
  • Register their Dal card as their library card
  • Find key databases related to their subject area
  • Use Novanet to locate print and electronic resources
  • Access help with their research projects
Lindsay McNiff, 
Dalhousie Libraries
Researching for literature reviews

The methodology of a literature review goes beyond just searching for information. Good literature review methodology follows a logical process and is well-documented. This module will cover this process, including how to effectively search for library and document your search methods in multiple disciplines. Attendees will leave with the tools to support them in the literature review research process. Note: For those wishing to learn more about the process for systematic or scoping reviews, check out the Research Synthesis Methods modules.  

This session was offered synchronously online on Tuesday, May 14. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Erin MacPherson, 
Dalhousie Libraries

Core Skills 2: Writing

Module Description Presenter(s)
Writing the literature review 

Comprehensively and critically reviewing the literature allows authors to both situate their own work and persuade readers that the work is necessary and worthwhile. This module will focus on structuring the literature review using writing strategies to summarize and synthesize the literature while maintaining or establishing your own voice.   

This session was offered synchronously online on Wednesday, May 15. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Janice MacDonald Eddington & Kala Hirtle Clarke, Dalhousie Writing Centre
Writing grants

Writing grants can be a high-stakes and challenging activity. Focusing on Tri-Council grants, this module will tackle the difficult balance of writing a document that fits the expected form and provides the correct information, while setting the author(s) apart from other applicants.     

This session was offered synchronously online on Thursday, May 16. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Adam Auch, Dalhousie Writing Centre
Managing big writing projects

Whether you are writing a lengthy paper, working on a graduate thesis or dissertation, or preparing a manuscript, it can sometimes be difficult to undertake a big writing project. This workshop will provide goal setting and time management techniques to help you stay on track.  

This session was offered synchronously online on Tuesday, May 21. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Kala Hirtle Clarke & Adam Auch, Dalhousie Writing Centre
Using source material in writing: Acknowledging other scholars while building your own contribution 

Academic integrity is, inherently, about being honest in the way you approach and complete your scholarly work. One key component of realizing this goal is by accurately acknowledging the work and contributions of others (your sources) in your writing. This module will illustrate how acknowledging, analyzing, and building on the work of others credits their contribution while making room for your own.   

This session was offered synchronously online on Wednesday, May 22. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Janice MacDonald Eddington, Dalhousie Writing Centre
Advanced writing strategies for international and multilingual researchers 

International and multilingual graduate students have unique educational, linguistic, and cultural writing needs that go beyond the surface level of understanding and mastering vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. This module will explore key elements of academic writing within the Canadian university context to encourage more complex understandings of expectations around English writing in graduate school. 

This session was offered synchronously online on Thursday, May 23. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Vanessa Lent, Dalhousie Writing Centre

Core Skills 3: Citation management & Copyright

Module Description Presenter
Intro to citation management 

Citation management software lets you store and organize your references, connect to full-text articles, and format your papers. This session will introduce you to Zotero, a popular citation management program that is freely available. It will also compare Zotero to EndNote and Mendeley, other major products.   

This session was offered synchronously online on Thursday, May 30. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Shelley McKibbon, Dalhousie Libraries
Copyright: Your rights & responsibilities as a user

Copyright considerations are relevant to many university activities in Canada, both for creators and users of copyright-protected material. This module looks at your rights and responsibilities as a user of third-party materials for educational purposes.  

Topics in this module include: introduction to key copyright concepts, Fair Dealing and other exceptions, licensing, copyright support @ Dal.  

After completing this module, participants will be able to:  

  • Describe how copyright relates to the work of an academic institution.  
  • Evaluate your use of copyrighted material according to the Six Factors of Fair Dealing  
  • Compare the user responsibilities between licensed works vs. non-licensed works  
  • Find additional copyright help at Dalhousie. 
Jaclyn Chambers Page
Dalhousie Libraries

Subject searching

Module Description Presenter(s)
Searching PubMed

As a freely-available biomedical information resource, PubMed is an excellent research tool that is highly-regarded by students, researchers, librarians, and clinicians in the health disciplines. In this live session, participants will be introduced to searching in PubMed, including selecting search terms, constructing a thorough search strategy, using filters, the Clinical Queries feature, and saving and exporting results. 

This session was offered synchronously online on Tuesday, May 28. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Jackie Phinney, Dalhousie Libraries
Searching Embase

Embase is a popular bibliographic database used for retrieving biomedical and pharmacological literature from across the globe. This live session will introduce participants to the scope of this resource and will provide an overview of Embase’s main features that can be used when developing, conducting, and reviewing results from a literature search. Live demonstrations will be shown, and participants will have a chance for hands-on practice during this session. 

This session was offered synchronously online on Monday, June 3. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Jackie Phinney, Dalhousie Libraries
Humanities resources & research

This module, geared towards students in the humanities disciplines, will cover some of the key databases and information sources for humanities research. Participants will gain hands-on experience with distinguishing, locating, and selecting key humanities sources such as articles, books, reviews, and primary source material.  

After completing this module, learners will be able to 

  • Identify characteristics of humanities research
  • Locate key humanities databases in their discipline
  • Use Boolean operators to connect key ideas to form a search strategy
  • Explain the purpose and value of incorporating dissertations and primary sources into your research process
  • Execute a search for primary sources in Novanet using primary source terms and creation dates
Lindsay McNiff, Dalhousie Libraries
Legal resources for non-law students This is an introduction to the Canadian legal research process for those with little or no experience. At the end of this module, participants should have a broad understanding of the Canadian legal system, what the Common Law is, and be able to identify and retrieve both secondary and primary Canadian legal sources such as texts, articles, legislation, and case law. The session will use sources available via Dalhousie Libraries as well as freely available online legal tools.  Hannah Rosborough, Dalhousie Libraries
Engineering resources & research This module, comprised of 10 videos, will introduce you to fundamental resources for research in engineering: the engineering librarians and research guides; research databases for engineering; finding and evaluating engineering journals; finding standards; finding patents; and a demonstration of the premier engineering research database: Compendex on Engineering Village.    Allie Fulford, Dalhousie Libraries
Searching for grey literature

Are you looking for content beyond what can be found in traditional books and journal articles? Are you wondering if a source is appropriate to cite? In this module, we will discuss what is considered “grey” literature, why it is valuable, and explore some tools and techniques to approach this type of research. And because this type of evidence may not have quality checks, like peer review, prior to distribution, we provide some tips for critically examining the results of your searches.  

Whether you need conference proceedings or government reports, we will check out a variety of sources for grey literature beyond standard databases and catalogues. This module will draw on examples from the disciplines of health and law, but the demonstrations are applicable for interdisciplinary searching across other science and social science disciplines. 

Hannah Rosborough & Robin Parker, Dalhousie Libraries

Working with research data

Module Description Presenter
Excel 1: Easy Excel for beginners

In this hands-on workshop, you will use a carefully crafted Excel instructional file to learn to clean and transform messy external data into beautifully formatted and printer-friendly data. You will also practice using Excel’s built-in tools to explore data. This beginner-friendly module covers navigating, selecting, formatting, filtering, and conditional formatting. Prerequisite: Excel 2016+ for desktop. 

After attending or viewing the workshop session, you will be able to: 

  • Navigate and select cells, rows, columns, and spreadsheets including with the use of keyboard shortcuts. 
  • Format cells, cell ranges, rows, columns, and tables of data using cell styles, spreadsheet themes, font tools, the format painter, and several options from the format cells menu. 
  • Employ the filter tool and the conditional formatting tool to explore data. 
  • Recognize the most appropriate data structures to use to leverage Excel’s in-built tools and functions, identify and resolve sources of potential problems. 

This session was offered synchronously online on Tuesday, June 4. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Julie Marcoux, Dalhousie Libraries
Excel 2: Data visualization with Excel pivot charts

In this whirwind hands-on introduction to visualizing data with pivot tables and pivot charts, you will use a carefully crafted Excel instructional file to create a pivot table and pivot chart. You will then practice changing the look of your pivot table/chart, and working with built-in Excel features to display and filter data in your table and chart. This beginner-friendly workshop covers creating, formatting, filtering, and configuring pivot tables and pivot charts. Prerequisite: Excel 2016+ for desktop (Windows) or a really recent copy of Excel (Mac). 

After attending or viewing the workshop session, you will be able to: 

  • Identify the data structures conducive to creating pivot tables and pivot charts.  
  • Build pivot charts/tables and customize the look of your charts/tables using the contextual design ribbon. 
  • Modify pivot table/chart data outputs using the PivotChart or PivotTable Fields menu, and filter data outputs with the help of the insert slicer tool, the insert timeline tool, the group selection tool, and the filters area. 

This session was offered synchronously online on Thursday, June 6. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Julie Marcoux, Dalhousie Libraries
Excel 3: Excel experts

In this hands-on workshop, you will use comprehensive Excel learning files to learn more about what Excel can do – and maybe even become an Excel expert! You will practice using advanced Excel formulas and Excel features specifically chosen for their broad applicability and utility to complete a variety of exercises. Prerequisite: ability to manually create simple formulas, Excel 365 for desktop preferred, but content is almost entirely compatible with Excel 2016+ (Windows or Mac). 

After attending or viewing the workshop session, you will be able to: 

  • Explain formulas, formula parts and their variations, embedded formulas, and absolute versus relative referencing. 
  • Build the following formulas in Excel using the formula-building approach of your choice: conditional formulas (sumIf, sumIfs, OR, AND, IF), lookup formulas (VLookup or XLookup), and more (countA, maybe text formulas such as left, mid, right, find). 
  • Practice using the following built-in Excel features: remove duplicates, paste as values, go to special, advanced find/replace, and flash fill. 

This session was offered synchronously online on Monday, June 10.

Julie Marcoux, Dalhousie Libraries
Excel 4: Macros

Did you know that Excel macros can help you magically automate Excel tasks? This hands-on workshop uses an instructional file complete with examples of useful bits of macro code to go over the logistics of creating, working with, and modifying macros. You don’t need any programming or coding skills to attend this introductory session. Prerequisite: Excel 2016+ (Windows) or a really recent copy of Excel (Mac). 

After attending or viewing the workshop session, you will be able to: 

  • Describe how macros can be used to automate Excel tasks, and explain important considerations to keep in mind when working with Excel macros. 
  • Practice loading external macro code into Excel, employ the macro recorder, and follow the steps to saving a macro-enabled Excel file or saving macro code in text files. 
  • Modify macro code generated by the macro recorder or created by others. 

This session was offered synchronously online on Thursday, June 13.

Julie Marcoux, Dalhousie Libraries
Research data management basics Discover how research data management (RDM) can help you save time, guard against loss, and improve the quality of your research, while fulfilling granting body and publisher requirements. This module will cover best practices in RDM and introduce you to helpful resources including the free, online Data Management Plan (DMP) Assistant tool.    Louise Gillis, Dalhousie Libraries
Dos and Don’ts of  Preparing a Strong Ethics Application 

Applying for ethics approval through the Health Sciences Research Ethics Board (REB) at Dalhousie can be a daunting and unfamiliar task. However, it is also a valuable tool in your research process. This session was originally recorded for the Medical Education Research Roundtables series. It provides information on:

  • The role of the Research Ethics Board (REB) at Dalhousie; 
  • Tips and strategies for preparing a strong ethics application for the Medical; and 
  • Frequently asked questions. 

These skills are also transferable for ethics processes at other organizations such as the IWK or Nova Scotia Health Authority. 

Dr. Sarah Burm, Continuing Professional Development & Medical Education & Angela Hersey, Office of Research Services

Research synthesis methods

Module Description Presenter
Evidence synthesis

Are you deciding whether you should complete a systematic review or a scoping review? Maybe another research synthesis method is a better fit for your question and purpose? This introductory overview of evidence synthesis methods will highlight how to decide which approach is appropriate to a specific purpose.   

Example reviews from multiple fields of research 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. Participants will be directed to sources of reliable methodological guidance and other training resources to continue their learning.  

Robin Parker, Dalhousie Libraries
Advanced searching skills for comprehensive reviews

The systematic and comprehensive approaches of retrieving and identifying relevant evidence for research syntheses require advanced searching skills and thorough documentation. This advanced-level module dives into the processes and considerations necessary for the types of searches used in systematic and scoping reviews.  

Through demonstration with an example search and provision of instructional resources to help you apply the practices to your own topic, this module will guide you through breaking down your research question into search concepts, selection of sources to search, identification of search terms, and application of the search in multiple databases. Furthermore, we will cover best practices in documenting your searching and results, with a focus on using the PRISMA-S checklist to ensure transparency of your search methods. 

Robin Parker, Dalhousie Libraries

Presenting & publishing research

Module Description Presenter
Publishing an article

Research Impact, author rights, open access, preprints, predatory publishers, funder policies, peer review – publishing in academic journals is a key way of communicating research. However, navigating the options and variables it involves can be overwhelming. This module will provide an introduction to scholarly publishing literacy to make sure that you make informed decisions about when, where, and how you share your research for the most benefit to your field and your career. 

After completing this module, participants will be able to: 

  • Identify appropriate journals for their work 
  • Identify the steps involved in article publication 
  • Identify multiple ways to make work open access, including more than one at no cost 
  • Be familiar with resources to help distinguish legitimate from “predatory” publications 
Melissa Rothfus, Dalhousie Libraries
Intro to creating conference posters

Create effective posters for your projects, research, and conference presentations. Participants will learn how to use PowerPoint to create a 4x6 poster. The module will include setting dimensions, inserting text boxes and headings (font styles and sizes), choosing colour schemes, and more.

After completing this module, learners will be able to

  • Adapt common conventions of a conference poster for their topic
  • Create a basic poster from scratch using PowerPoint 
  • Consider interactive elements for poster presentation
Lindsay McNiff, Dalhousie Libraries
Copyright: Your rights & responsibilities as a creator

Copyright considerations are relevant to many university activities in Canada, both for creators and users of copyright-protected material. This module looks at your rights and responsibilities as a creator of new, original material (i.e, a copyright owner).  

Topics in this module include introduction to key copyright concepts for creators, publishing agreements, open licensing, and copyright support @ Dal. 

After completing this module, participants will be able to: 

  • Explain how copyright ownership is determined 
  • Analyse publishing agreements for key copyright ownership considerations 
  • Assess whether open licensing is appropriate for your works 
  • Find additional copyright help at Dalhousie. 
Jaclyn Chambers Page, Dalhousie Libraries
Intellectual property ownership for students

Intellectual property (IP) includes copyright, patents, copyright, industrial designs, trademarks, and trade secrets. Faculty, staff, and students all develop IP day-to-day at Dalhousie. These may take the form of innovative inventions, or a student's thesis. This session will explore Dalhousie’s Intellectual Property Policy, who owns your work and common IP issues. By attending this session you will learn who owns your intellectual property in various work and study scenarios at Dalhousie. This session will cover both academic and work scenarios for graduate students at Dalhousie.

This session was offered synchronously online on Wednesday, June 5. The recording is available in Brightspace.

Lachlan MacLeod, Dalhousie Legal Counsel Office