Using Google Alerts for your research

Google Alerts

Did you know that you can easily monitor the web for content  and be notified of the results by using Google Alerts?

Start by simply choosing a key word that is relevant to the topic you wish to research. If you wish to search for a term that contains more than one word, e.g. a person’s name, then add quote marks “Joe Bloggs”.

Google Alerts

You can then choose from a number of options to refine your search and how you would like to receive the results found by Google.

Google alert options

Frequency of alert

Choose to receive email alerts:

  • as it happens (useful if monitoring live events)
  • at most once a day
  • at most once a week


The default is automatic and will search a variety of sources. You can also opt to select from:

  • news
  • blogs
  • web
  • video
  • books
  • discussions

Language and Region

Choose the language you wish the alerts to be in and also where they originate from.

Search results

How many results you receive will depend on the popularity of the keyword you search for but can be reduced by selecting ‘only the best results’ or increased by selecting ‘all results’.

Finally choose whether to have the results sent your email address or RSS feed.

Uses for Google Alerts 

Search for:

  • Your own name and see who is talking about your work and research. This can often pick up blog posts talking about work you have presented, blogged about yourself or shared via social media.
  • Jobs by including a series of words in quote marks plus and in between each: “company name” and “job” and “type of job”
    So for example: “BBC” and “job” and “PR”
  • Industry and company news. Find out what is happening in your sector or if you are looking to apply for a job find out detailed information about the company.
  • Breaking news and trending topics. Here you would select everything for result type. You might want to also set up a separate alert to look at what is coming through from different sources e.g. news, blogs, web and video.
  • Niche topics you are interested in. By selecting any region you will receive alerts from across the world or drill down to a specific country.

You can choose as many alerts as you wish to create.

To set up your Google Alerts go to

Experiment with other Boolean search terms too to refine the results you receive.

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Let me tell you a secret… Tips from a Journalist on blogging

 blogImage source: Pixabay

I recently attended a workshop led by Sue Featherstone (Journalist and Principal Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University) on the secrets of blogging which was put on for the new student bloggers who are volunteer content managers. These students will capture news stories from across the courses within the Department of Media Arts and Communication and share them via the Department blog Capture | MAC set up by Lecturers Melvyn Ternan and Anne Doncaster.

Capture MAC logo

Sue delivered an excellent session on the techniques of blogging drawing upon her vast experience as a journalist and writer. With her permission I share these below.

Let me tell you a secret… by Sue Featherstone

Blogging is not difficult

…It’s just another way of telling someone something he or she didn’t know before

Presenting new information

Offering a new way of seeing or thinking (opinion piece)

Good journalism

  • Must be:
    • New
    • Factual
    • Accurate
    • Concise
    • Fair
  • Backed up with evidence
    • Facts and quotes

The writing…

Got to grab attention
People don’t read…
…they scan

The inverted pyramid

There are three steps to follow in this order:

What has happened >> How did it happen >> Tie it all up
inverted pyramid






Always remember the six Ws

Who? What? Where? When? How and Why?

Who are you writing your blog about?
What has happened to him/her?
Where did it happen?
When did it happen?
How did it happen?
Why did it happen?

Fact heavy…

Prince Charming has announced his engagement to a penniless kitchen maid.

Online journalists or bloggers would write…

Kensington Palace has announced that Prince Charming is to marry Cinderella Hardup, the penniless kitchen maid who became his girlfriend after she gate-crashed the annual masked ball at Leodis Palace in July.

What comes next?

  • Who is he marrying?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • How did they meet?
  • Why a penniless kitchen maid?
  • How did she become penniless?
  • And so on and so on…

Charming, first in line to the throne, will marry in Leodis next spring and live in Middlesham, where he is serving with the Royal Navy.

“We are both very happy,” the prince said.

He proposed last week during a weekend visit to Hardup Towers, Ms Hardup’s family home, giving his fiancé his grandmother’s engagement ring.

The 19-year-old beauty said joining the Royal family was daunting.

“But hopefully I’ll take it in my stride.”

She became the subject of a nationwide search after she fled the summer ball without revealing her identity.

The only clue was a glass slipper, which was found on the palace steps.

Ms Hardup, only daughter of the late Baron Hardup, was eventually found working as a skivvy in the kitchen of Hardup Towers, where she was employed by her step-mother…


Think of your blog post as a series of related chunks

  • Chunk 1: Your intro: must grab attention
    Answers who? and what?
    Who is the story about? What has happened to them?
  • Chunk 2: Action – move the story on
    What happens next? Who is doing it? Identify authority source and include a quote
    Use indirect and direct quotes
  • Chunk 3: Background
    Fill in any gaps
  • Chunk 4: Further action?
    Anything else new to add?
  • Chunk 5: Wrap it all up
    Link the ending (outro) back to the intro
    Indirect and direct quote to finish

Use quotes

  • To add colour, opinion, authority…
  • Best way to use quotes is a mix of indirect and direct quotes

Indirect quotes:  summarise what someone has said

Direct quotes:  use their EXACT words

Some basic rules

  • Use key words
  • Get to the point
  • Be precise and factual
  • Do not use colour words
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Like this.
  • Aim for two sentences per par
  • Use a quote in third or fourth par
    • And every third or fourth par afterwards
  • Double space between pars (chunks)
  • Use active rather than passive voice

Active: The postman bit the dog
Passive: The dog was bitten by the postman

  • Check punctuation and spelling
  • High content words

Rain and wind rather than foul weather 
Cars and lorries not vehicle

  • Use sub-headings and bullet points
  • Remember key words AND repeat them regularly
    (helps SEO search engine optimisation)


  • Keep headlines direct
    And short: 6-8 words
  • OK to paraphrase intro
    Royal wedding: Prince Charming to marry Cinderella Hardup
  • Remember key words (again SEO)

And finally

Almost every sentence that contains the words ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘we’ or ‘you can be re-written

Don’t use personal pronouns


Thank you to Sue Featherstone for permission to share these valuable tips.

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How public is your private information on social media?


Identity theft is a form of stealing someone’s identity in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person’s identity, usually as a method to gain access to resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person’s name (Wikipedia).

How the thief obtains such information can take a variety of forms from stealing personal documents to accessing digital records. One approach however is by scanning public social media profiles. By looking at a number of different profiles for one individual it is often easier than you might think to piece this information together to come up with just the details required to create a fraudulent identity.

Armed with sensitive information hackers can easily crack common security questions such as mothers maiden name, name of first pet, city you were born in…

It is therefore important to think about how public your private information is. Taking the following measures will help to keep your information safer:

  • Check your security settings and adjust them accordingly
  • Never share passwords online
  • Change your password regularly
  • Google yourself and find out what others can see from your digital presence.

The infographic below featured on All Twitter  and created by provides some useful points to consider regarding your information and what can be easily found on public profiles. It’s worth spending a moment to consider what information you share publicly.



Image source: and


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The History of #Hashtags from humble # sign to hyperlinked verb


Image source: Flickr

Definition: The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.

  • People use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase (no spaces) in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter Search.
  • Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets marked with that keyword.
  • Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet – at the beginning, middle, or end.
  • Hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics.

To note: If you Tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Tweet

Source: Twitter Support

Hashtags are now used by other social media including Instagram, Facebook and Flickr.


An interesting timeline of the key moments of the hashtag

History of hashtags



#Hashtag” with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake

Good practice: Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single Tweet. (Twitter recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.)

Some fun making of the overuse of the hashtag and what a conversation might sound like.

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Why you need to consider blogging as a pedagogy to facilitate learning

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

I was inspired by a blog post written by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano (known as @langwitches on Twitter) which begins by saying

“Blogging should not be an add-on, not an isolated project, but should be seen as PEDAGOGY”

It made me consider my approach to blogging, something I have developed only in the last 4-5 years. I now have a collection of blogs I write, each serving a different but valuable purpose.


The first blog I created was actually to demonstrate what blogging was to my students and to show them how to create a blog, insert images, video and audio. They were the writers and used the blogs to create online newspapers. When I then introduced how social media could be used to promote the blogs using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, it occurred to me that rather than just talk about the topic using a few PowerPoint slides, I could develop a blog to capture this information. This provided two outcomes – I could demonstrate blogging in practice and I was curating information in an open space that could be of value for anyone interested in the topic.

Academic Development

In addition to teaching I was also introducing colleagues to social media. This in turn raised questions and I found that by writing a blog post to answer these also contributed to a useful collection of information I could help the person raising the question but also signpost to others when the same questions came up again.

Reflective Practice

I then went on to create a blog I used for reflective writing. I was inspired by my colleague Professor Richard Hill to adopt this process when he told me that each day he writes for 15 minutes to collect his thoughts and goes on to reflect upon these, develop ideas and take these on to write academic papers and indeed a book. My reflective blog is private and this provides a space to write freely and often disjointedly although it makes sense to me!


Another blog I keep which again is private is my treasure chest of resources I gather. Here I can create anew post, grab the url of the item I am reading and make a few notes. Then I can tag each of these posts with keywords and by adding a tag cloud to the blog (a visual of all tags) click on a particular tag word to then bring up all the posts I’ve written with that tag. It helps me to organise the vast array of things I read that I may wish to come back to. Because it is private I don’t have to worry how each post looks or explain what it means – I can write a sentence or a page. It is my scrapbook if you like.

Open Courses

With my colleague Chrissi Nerantzi we have run an open course called Bring Your Own Devices for Learning twice now and have used WordPress to create the course site. The blog posts introduce the participants to the course and in this instance the daily themes. The comments facility enables anyone to interact with the posts.


Another project with Chrissi Nerantzi and colleagues David Walker and Peter Reed is #LTHEchat which is a weekly twitterchat about learning and teaching in higher education. The chat will take place in Twitter but we also have a WordPress site where we share information about the tweetchat, a poll to vote for topics for future chats and as a space to archive the chats once they have taken place.

My own learning

I personally learn from other peoples’ blogs and am immensely grateful they openly share their knowledge, their views and perspectives on topics, but also the processes they go through. Silvia’s blog is a case in point. Below is her blog about why she thinks blogging should be seen as a pedagogy in itself and how it can be used to facilitate learning through the process of reading, writing, reflecting and sharing.

Silvia’s post:

Blogging can support the strategies, techniques and approaches to facilitate the learning in your classroom no matter what grade level, age group and subject area. Blogging supports four primary areas:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Reflecting
  4. Sharing

In each one of these areas, blogging can be a strategy to facilitate learning


  • in digital spaces support students’ skills in our increasingly digital reading environment
  • becomes a personalized content experience versus one size fits all approach
  • turns into a collaborative and connected experience
  • in digital spaces supports organization via archiving, categorizing and tagging of information
  • blogs is the start that continues to deepen with writing on blogging platforms
  • is part of research with non- linear platforms
  • is an essential component of content curation
  • supports content annotation which links to future writing


  • is about more than text (how do we communicate in a variety of media forms?)
  • gives students choices to communicate ideas in different media platforms
  • on a blog is writing for an audience
  • is about a conversation through commenting
  • becomes multi-layered and non-linear by using hyperlinks to connect ideas, concepts and resources
  • in digital spaces give students skills for our increasingly digital world


  • can’t be just for reflection sake, but needs to drive improvement
  • is the basis of re-evaluating your teaching and practices
  • techniques can be supported by Making Thinking Visible Routines
  • is part of a meta-cognitive (thinking about your thinking) process


  • is part of the feedback loop
  • is an integral part of the process of learning
  • is how you disseminate your students’ work to a global audience
  • as a technique of building and maintaining a digital footprint
  • is the foundation of a remix culture

Read more at: | Langwitches Blog

Silvia’s blog is a treasure chest of information and I recommend you also follow her on Twitter.

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Social Enlightenment: What enterprise wide use of social business ‘could’ look like

Social Enlightenment infographic

Image source: Jive Social

Click on the image to enlarge

“Overcome the suffering that email, legacy systems, and archaic processes bring. Let go of your frustration with not finding answers. There’s a path to enlightenment for every part of your company.”

This infographic from Jive Social is a lovely visual way to demonstrate how different parts of a company or organisation can do things differently taking a social approach. Continue reading

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Is there truth in the psychology of colour or is it simply down to personal taste?

colouring pencils

Image source: Wikipedia

How we use any of these colours in our lives can be very personal. From the way we dress, decorate our homes or even prepare food; we each may have different preferences to colour combinations. What pleases one person’s eyes can be a total turn off for another!

The Logo Company have put together an infographic on the emotions colours convey and aligned these with famous brands and the design of their logos. They say:

  • yellow = optimism
  • orange = friendly
  • red = excitement
  • purple = creative
  • blue = trust
  • green = peaceful

Continue reading

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Introducing Tweet Chats

Tweet Chat

So what’s a Tweet Chat?

A TweetChat is a virtual meeting or gathering on Twitter to discuss a common topic. The chat usually lasts one hour and will include some questions to stimulate discussion.  In order to be able to view tweets relating to the chat, a pre-agreed hashtag is shared. A hashtag is a word or series of letters and/or numbers preceded by #. For example:

#LTHEchat = Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Chat

#BYOD4Lchat = Bring Your Own Devices for Learning

By including the chosen hashtag within all Tweets relating to the chat, it is then easy to view just those Tweets by simply searching for #LTHEchat (or your own chosen hashtag) using the search bar in Twitter.


Tweets containing this hashtag will then appear in your timeline below. Continue reading

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Getting Started with Twitter

Getting Started with Twitter

Below is a screencast outlining 26 tips for getting started with Twitter. The slides can be accessed via SlidesShare here and downloaded. They have a Creative Commons licence so may be re-used with credit.

Screencast [slides with voice over]

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How to create lists in Twitter to organise those you follow into groups

Twitter lists

Creating lists is a way to filter the tweets you read into topics.  Currently when you view your timeline you will see Tweets from everyone you follow, along with retweets. Wouldn’t it be nice to zoom in on Tweets from specific users? Creating lists can help you do this. It’s a bit like creating folders in Word to organise your saved files. Continue reading

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