The great grey yonder: making use of information sources beyond academic textbooks and journals

Academic textbooks and journals are essential to completing your studies but they are often just one piece of a larger picture when you are investigating a topic. How can you describe the modern political landscape without referring to social media, understand the implementation of best practice in health care without consulting a clinical guideline, or evaluate the workforce inclusivity of a particular business or organisation without reviewing their diversity policy? This type of information has a place in any student’s research and it has a name – grey literature.

We use it every day often without realising to inform ourselves and the most up to date and reliable information often sits in the grey. If I’m deciding whether to switch from an Android phone to an iPhone I can find the most up to date technical specification of each in a product catalogue (grey literature) on the manufacturer website. If I want to research the differences between Android and iPhone users for a university assignment I will look for original research using Discover or a subject database. When I undertake the work for my assignment I may find that my broader understanding of the topic has been shaped by both types of source and that the content I create is richer as a result.

Referred to at some time in the past as ‘fugitive literature’ (a much more intriguing prospect though potentially casting doubt over the trustworthiness of such sources) grey literature may well have a research value but it has not gone through a commercial publication process. It is generally distributed by individuals or groups whose primary expertise is not in the business of publishing. This can create challenges in terms of how easy it is to find and retrieve the information. And because it isn’t endorsed by a commercial academic publisher or coming from a peer reviewed journal, some students might feel anxious about evaluating its quality and suitability for inclusion in their written work.

Don’t let this put you off – your librarians can help with a search strategy to capture grey literature and there is help on the library website. There are also lots of appraisal tools that you can use to critically evaluate grey literature as you would the commercially published and peer reviewed material. These range from generic checklists that can be applied to any type of grey literature such as the AACODS checklist, to the very specific – such as the AGREE II international tool for appraising policy and guidelines in healthcare. In fact, looking at the sheer volume of information that is currently considered to be grey literature you can hardly avoid including it in your work – a growing list can be found on GreyNet.

One example of grey literature that students do ask for help in locating often is dissertations and theses. The education sector produces a wealth of sources that come into the category of grey literature – think of all the teaching material produced by lecturers. This is also true of other major and well known organisations including governments who issue consultation papers, internal and official reports, press releases etc. I also mentioned a large technology giant earlier – commercial companies produce huge amounts of grey literature from brochures and factsheet to entire websites.

Finding and using grey literature is something that researchers ask us about regularly but it has the potential to raise understanding and the quality of work produced by students and staff at every level. I recently made a submission towards a professional qualification in which I self-referenced a post that I contributed to my employer’s organisational blog. The content included a photograph of music legend Tom Jones in a classic 1970’s suit with shiny gold medallion in glorious full view. The picture was very colourful but it was an example of grey literature nevertheless. The library does not accept responsibility for the use of cheesy pop images in submissions by students (and any subsequent grades awarded), however we do encourage you investigate the great grey yonder and are here to support you when you do.

Ovid scheduled maintenance/ platform release

Please be advised that Ovid is undergoing a scheduled platform release during the afternoon/ evening of Wednesday 14 February.

Between 16:00 and 19:00 there may be a period of approximately 15-30 minutes in which users attempting to login to the Ovid platform using institutional (Shibboleth) credentials will not gain access to the platform.

Ovid apologises for any inconvenience this may cause.

Festive Feedback 2017

We thought it would be useful to tell you about some of the comments we received during our festive Feedback campaign, and some of the actions that have taken place in response to your feedback.

We received 54 responses over the festive period covering these areas:

17 positive comments praised staff on a job well done:

“All staff are very attentive and keep it quiet in the library. Good job”

“Staff are great! All over library they are very friendly: café, library desk, librarians”

“The cleaning staff do a good job after us messy students”.

“The weekend library desk staff are very friendly! (So are the weekday people though :))”.

11 comments focused on study areas. These split in to roughly two areas, praise for the variety of study spaces the library delivers, and a request to increase the number of study spaces to accommodate both individual and group spaces. We opened our bookable group study rooms this academic year and these appear to be very popular. The new Ask and Learn space on level 1 has also created approximately 40 additional study spaces. We are also looking at creating some additional study carrels on levels 3 & 4, and hope to create a postgraduate space on level 4 in an unused seminar room.

In the 6 comments relating to library resources, half stated how easy the library was to use. An issue with access to RCN journals has been known to us since just before Xmas, and whilst it remains unresolved the current work-around can be found on our library blog post:

The 6 IT comments have been passed on to our IT colleagues, however as 2 of the comments related to the opportunity to print from your own devices or from the vending machine laptops we can say that this is possible! Please follow the instructions from the IT webpages:

The comments relating to temperature in the building and the provision of boiling water for drinks have been passed onto the Facilities team.

Please remember that we are happy to listen to your comments at any point throughout the year. Our library staff are now available on all floors of the library, so should you need any help please don’t hesitate to ask them. Our library desk on level 0 is staffed between 9am and 8pm Monday –Friday, and between 10-6pm at weekends. Alternatively you can follow and contact us on Twitter @SaltireCentre!

Thanks and have a great semester!

Resolved: Technical issue [Discover]

**This issue is now resolved**

Due to problems outwith our control, we are currently experiencing issues with Discover when searching for journal articles.

In the meantime, users can still find journal articles by accessing journal titles through the Journal A-Z and searching directly on the publisher’s website.

We are working with the vendor to resolve this issue as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

The Minority Male

Usually when we hear about education in the early 20th century it is of a sphere dominated by men. Male professors, teachers and students thrived in a world where women were generally regarded as the lesser sex.  But at the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science the opposite was true. It was an institution led by a succession of women Principals who championed the role of women in education. Thousands of women entered its doors to be trained in Cookery, Housewifery, Laundrywork, Dressmaking, as teachers of Domestic Science, Dieticians and Institutional Managers. Upon glancing at the student registers and class photographs – seeing them full of names and faces of women – one may think men were barred from entry.  However, this was not the case.

The first male students appeared in April 1915. This was during World War I and soldiers had to cook for large numbers of servicemen in camps at home and overseas.  The ‘Soldier Cooks’ course provided 3 weeks training in plain cooking with an examination at the end to test practical skills.  The course was run at the Colleges premises at 1 Scott Street, Glasgow, and aimed to deliver soldiers who could cook nutritious meals to sustain an army ‘marching on its stomach’ whilst ensuring that scarce food supplies were not wasted. By 1917 a total of 174 soldier cooks had passed through the College doors.  At the war’s end these courses stopped but the teaching of male students did not.

Image of a newspaper photograph showing 2 men preparing food whilst 3 ladies look on.

Soldier Cooks, April 1915. From Newscuttings book 1913-24

In the 1920s the College ran other courses for male groups, such as the training of 14 boys from Glasgow restaurants, financed by the Glasgow and District Restauranteurs and Hotelkeepers’ Association in 1926. There were also courses for Boy Scouts to improve the standard of cooking at scout camp. Along with this, the College conducted the examination of Ships’ Cooks and Stewards for the Shipping Federation. Of course, it was one thing taking lessons within a group of men compared to taking the step of being the sole male amongst hundreds of women.  But there were a few individuals who braved the rigours of being a minority male (and the jibes of their peers) to study at the College.

Contemporary press notes that some of these men were adventurers: the explorer heading to the Himalayas – perhaps more daunted by the prospect of studying with women than climbing the world’s tallest mountains.  Or another heading to the Canadian wilderness, who with a future living among grizzly bears could surely survive 3 months with the opposite sex! But not all were intrepid travellers; some were driven by the ambition to run their own business.

One such student was James Stewart McGavin, who had been an architect in Glasgow for 11 years before studying for the Cook’s Certificate at the College in September 1932.  It was a 3 month full-time course which included “Practice and demonstration lessons in artisan, household and high-class cookery and in cooking dinners, arranging Menus for Luncheons, dinners, Suppers etc.”

McGavin commented on studying amidst all the women at the college

… it was very embarrassing at first, but after a few days I got quite used to it.

Image of a handwritten list of names and addresses and fees paid, including that of James Stewart McGavin

Student fee payments, including James McGavin’s entry. From Cook’s Certificate fees book 1928/33

It may have been his determination to run a Highland Hotel that helped to overcome his initial embarrassment but one imagines he soon found that the women weren’t so different to him. Besides that, they too were focused on learning their trade and making a success of their careers. His efforts were rewarded when he became the owner of the Inchrie Hotel, Aberfoyle. One customer, on hearing of McGavin’s student days as a lone male, described him as “a brave man and the best cook whose food I have ever tasted.”  He also continued to practice as an architect, which came in handy when he needed plans drawn up to extend the hotel.

Photograph of Jack Tomkinson above headline "Male Cook among 700 girls"

Newspaper cutting, June 1935. From Newscuttings book 1931-43

A similar student with dreams of running his own restaurant was 19 year old John Joseph Goodwin Tomkinson, known as Jack.  He paid the fee of £14 14s to study the Cook’s Certificate at the College in January 1935.  Prior to starting the course he had spent several months in a hotel to learn the practical aspects of managing a business.  He wanted to learn the business from top to bottom and went on to study further at the College, taking the Advanced Cookery Certificate, a course in book-keeping and the Institutional Training course.

Other men had different reasons for studying cookery at the College. For instance, there was the submarine cook whose vessel had just had its first electric cooker installed and wanted to learn how to use it. In fact, in May 1930, Margaret Bondfield, Minister for Labour, jokingly commented at the AGM of the Electrical Association for Women that “As soon as cooking becomes an easy , simple job you will find men tumbling over themselves to take over this branch of trade”.  Some of her words ring true today as we see the world of chefs dominated by men, although the reasons for this are more complex than simply that the “dreary drudgery has been abolished by electricity”.

The myth of the College being a female only domain was well and truly put to bed in August 1976 when the first male Principal, Geoffrey Richardson, took the helm. By then there was a higher percentage of men studying at the College than in decades past. However, students like Alistair Atterson, graduating with an HND in Institutional Management in October 1981 could still cause a stir in the press as the only man to receive an award among the other 28 female prizewinners.

Throughout the decades the Press was always quick to pick up on the novelty of male students surrounded by women.  Now, almost 40 years on, women and men have much more of an equal footing in the workplace.  With equal pay and rights against discrimination the focus is on skill rather than gender and the College has a long legacy of developing those culinary skills.


Kirsty Menzies

Wellcome Trust funded Project Archivist

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Newscuttings Books 1913-24, 1924-31, 1931-43, 1975-84

Fees books, Cooks Certificates and Institutional Training Courses 1928-33, 1934-35

Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science, Prospectus Session 1934-35

McCallum, Carole “History of the Institution: Report 1875-1918”

McCallum, Carole “History of the Institution: Report 1918-1945”

“Hotel extensions in Dunblane, Lochearnhead and Aberfoyle” Stirling Archives, 30 May 2016. Online at [Accessed: 26/01/2018].

The Tale of Gordon McCulloch

It’s an odd feeling this, sorting through someone’s papers when you didn’t know them. I never met Gordon McCulloch. And now that he is gone he’ll always remain somewhat opaque. Yet as I read his correspondence, see the handwritten addendums to letters, the typed and re-typed drafts of university essays, slowly, almost by osmosis; a narrative starts to form.

Here’s a story for you. Three men appear side by side in two photgraphs. In the first they are rakish and young, cigarettes aglow. Smiles – though present – are guarded. A tilt of your head and they are thirty years older. Re-united, they stand arm in arm. Hair greyed, age has told upon them. Smiles (and stomachs) much broader. Such is life. They are The Exiles: Bobby Campbell, Enoch Kent and Gordon McCulloch.

I see a jovial man, a natural raconteur, steeped in the folk tradition. A lifelong musician and collector of urban legends. A graduate of Stirling University – I leaf through his dissertation, appreciating the work and scholarly effort. I read entreaties from academics, asking him to present papers at conferences, exemplifying the high regard in which he was held by his peers. Articles and letters to newspapers show a buzzing, constantly active mind, a keen intellect continually pushing forward (the irony being that his life’s work was the preservation of the past).

But what I don’t know are the little details. His favourite tipple, what made him laugh? Such things are not revealed in his papers. The minor key notes in the music of life, the small aspects that coalesce into the intricate mosaic of what it is to be a person. That Gordon, I’ll never meet. That Gordon remains for the people who loved him, family and friends. The Gordon McCulloch in my mind exists in broad strokes, in articles and scribbled poems, in correspondence with Sandy Hobbs and his work for the Jimmy Mack show and so much more besides. It seems to me a life well lived, a full life.

Yet though I knew not the true man, part of me is presumptuous enough to feel Gordon may have approved. His papers, passed on from his family to Glasgow Caledonian University Archives, have now been initially surveyed and will in turn be fully sorted and catalogued. In this way his memory is shared and broadened. He becomes what he dedicated his life to – a story, a myth, his own folk tale.

Gordon McCulloch (left) with his Exiles bandmates Enoch Kent (centre) and Bobby Campbell (right) circa 1964/1965.
(From the papers of Gordon McCulloch)


Gordon McCulloch (right) reunited with his Exiles bandmates Bobby Campbell (left) and Enoch Kent (centre) at a tribute event for Norman Buchan. Glasgow, 24th February 1991.
(From the papers of Gordon McCulloch)

~ David Ward, Archive Assistant.


Resolved: Technical issue [Discover]

*This issue is now resolved*

Due to problems outwith our control, we are currently experiencing issues with Discover when searching for journal articles.

In the meantime, users can still find journal articles by accessing journal titles through the Journal A-Z and searching directly on the publisher’s website.

We are working with the vendor to resolve this issue as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.