Doughnuts, coffee and books with SPS

The School of Physical Sciences were keen to explore the use of resources (particularly books) that students make within the School.

So in March, Nikki Gregory and I (Karen Goodwin from the Academic Liaison Team) ran a student focus group with the year 2 students to understand:

  • if there is a preference in terms of format (e-book or print)?
  • what use is made of print books (are they borrowed, consulted in the library or both)?
  • do students buy books, rely on library resources or a mixture of both?
  • how do/what use do students make of the library?

Format of the focus group

The School already had an informal means for consulting with students – ‘Coffee and Doughnuts session’.  We decided to run a themed session entitled ‘Coffee, Doughnuts and Books’. All year 2 students were invited along by the School.

Nikki and I devised a series of questions/statements about library book use that were displayed on A1 sheets of paper. There were 8 questions in total and these were displayed around the room.

Students were given coloured sticky ‘dots’ to indicate their responses on the sheets along with some coloured Post-It notes to write extra comments.

The library rep introduced the session and explained that we wanted to find out was how the students use books and what they thought about book current provision for their subject. Karen then explained how the activity worked and what the students needed to do.

The students went around the room and completed the activity. We also recorded verbal comments on Post-It notes and to encourage students to give us further feedback.

After the activity, students helped themselves to refreshments and sat chatting at the tables. Karen, Nikki and the library rep joined the students and asked some more questions about their experiences of using the library. There was plenty of discussion among the participants and some recommendations for extra copies of high demand books.


We had 22 participants and there was a good mix across the programmes – chemistry, forensic science and physics.

Feedback from the activity

Some responses gave a very clear answer for one option and some had a mixed response. Key points recorded were:

  • the majority of the group used the reading list on Moodle to find books for projects/assignments.
  • the majority preferred to use a print copy (as opposed to an e-book)
  • there are a relatively high number of students who are willing to purchase the book they require if it is not available in the library. This may be a second-hand copy.
  • a number of students use their lecturers’ recommendations to guide them in their reading selection.
  • all of the group stated that their core texts were always/mostly/sometimes available. No-one said that they were rarely or never available but this could be due to the ‘Confined’ copies held in the library.

Following the findings of the focus group, the school is considering revising the format of their reading lists to ensure better availability for books needed across all year groups. An immediate outcome has been the purchasing of additional copies of the texts highlighted by students in the group.

IS staff can see all photos from the session on our UX Sharepoint site.