Online Information Fair: ETH Library –Your partner for managing the research life cycle

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In cooperation with the Doctoral Administration of ETH Zurich, the ETH Library offers a two-hour online information fair every semester for the approximately 800 new doctoral students each year.

The online information fair is structured along the Research Life Cycle, which makes individual research activities visible and depicts their ideal-typical sequence in a simplified way. Research activities include literature and image searches, the processing of information and data, which encompasses literature and knowledge management, the analysis and storage of data, and the processing of results. The ETH Library is the main point of contact for skills that are essential for various research activities.

The event offers an introduction to search, reference management and knowledge management tools, a discussion of the function and structure of a research data plan, an explanation of key aspects and services in publishing and open-access publishing, and the relevant points of contact at the ETH Library will be made known.


The doctoral students

  • know why and how the search portal ETH Library @ swisscovery supports them in their search for scientific information and how to find the media and databases suitable for their subject area.
  • know tools for reference and knowledge management as well as learn more about the advantages they offer.
  • understand why it is essential to plan their research data management from an early point in the process.
  • know the most important contact persons and support services of the ETH Library when it comes to scientific writing and publishing.

Didactic idea behind the online information fair

The content of the presentations is based on the ETH Library’s information literacy competence framework. This framework was created in line with the ETH Zurich competence framework so that the courses and advisory services offered by the ETH Library could be set up and developed in a skills-oriented manner. It plays an essential role in helping students, doctoral students and lecturers understand the range of information literacy skills that are vital for successful study and doctoral work. Students, doctoral students, and lecturers are often not aware of do not know about the support offered by the ETH Library.

The information literacy competence framework served as a basis for developing the content of the online information fair to identify a selection of competencies to be addressed and fostered.

“By locating the ETH Library's services in the research life cycle, doctoral students gain an excellent overview of the complexity of their research project and the information skills needed.”
Dr Giorgia Zandomeneghi

We faced various challenges in conceptualising the content of the event: large-group moderation for around 50 to 150 participants with activating elements, a heterogeneous group of participants (both in terms of subject matter and their prior knowledge of information literacy) and the coordination of six specialist areas of the ETH Library, to be represented by six speakers.

In the first round of the project, a red thread was drawn using the metaphor of a roller coaster. A doctorate is like a roller coaster ride, featuring ups and downs as well as special challenges. This metaphor is misleading, however, because neither the research nor the writing processes are linear; instead, the work stages run in parallel. The research life cycle was therefore re-visualisedusing a model of concentric circles. This visualisationof the overlap was supported by the mutual reference of the respective speakers to one another.

Feedback from three perspectives was taken into account for the development of the information fair:

  • Feedback from the course participants
  • Feedback from the speakers via Padlet directly after the event
  • Overall impression of the Doctoral Administration, Dr Giorgia Zandomeneghi

Like this the online information fair could be further developed in a participatory and iterative process.

Development of the online information fair during the pandemic

In addition to the visual and thematic design of the event, the didactic setting was discussed and revised several times. In view of the pandemic, we faced the challenge that it was not feasible to implement the originally planned format of a physical information event with networking and discussion opportunities in an informal setting.

The first basic idea of the course was that the doctorate is like a roller coaster, during which doctoral students experience highs and lows on the one hand and go through various stages of work on the other. The doctoral students were asked about these highlights and challenges in advance.


Getting and maintaining an overview of subject-specific literature, finding relevant literature.
Challenges participant, May 2021

The ETH Library can provide support for this process through its numerous services. However, during the first online session, which lasted three hours on Zoom and featured a series of presentations in a conventional format one after the other, it became clear that the doctoral students were at different points in the research life cycle.

Thanks for this broad and nicely-themed presentation! For me, the most interesting things were about how to distinguish the relevance of papers, the licensing and Open Access. There was a lot of new information for me! (:
Feedback from a participant, May 2021
“Break down the workshop into smaller segments based on their similarity with each other, 3-hour commitment during the day is pretty significant.
Feedback from another participant, May 2021

The concept was therefore revised, the focus was shifted to the research life cycle, and the event was redesigned as a two-hour marketplace event with the aid of a Miro board. Participants were able to choose their own topics and visit the relevant breakout room. All speakers gave their input presentations three times in a row and thus came into contact with a different group each time.


A varying number of participants in the breakout room was actually not a bad thing. In a round with fewer participants, I was able to address everyone by name.
Speaker’s comment, November 2021

The marketplace atmosphere was perceived as more dynamic by Georgia Zandomeneghi, and the speakers also appreciated the closer contact with participants that resulted from dividing the groups among the breakout rooms.

For the third event on 11 May 2022, the Miro board will be replaced by the new website In this way, doctoral students can obtain the information relevant to them on the services offered by the ETH Library independently of the event, and they gain a better overview of the individual presentations in advance. The marketplace concept will be maintained.

Future of the online information fair after the pandemic

The online information fair is designed for a large, heterogeneous group of participants. For doctoral students, the online marketplace concept has proven successful because it allows them to participate more flexibly from their workplace and eliminates the need to travel. The event is also integrated into the introductory programme for new doctoral students, which offers other opportunities for personal interaction on site.

A similar event is planned for Master’s students, incorporating the marketplace concept with selection options in presence in order to promote personal exchange with the speakers and provide competencies in a targeted manner. The event needs to be designed in a way that is attractive for students, as it is not part of ETH Zurich courses and provides no ECTS credits to students. With the addition of a planned supporting programme (such as a science slam), the aim is to incorporate edutainment elements while also showing that science can be fun, and that information literacy is truly a key skill. After the pandemic, holding the event in person will furthermore support the students’ renewed need to come together and network face-to-face.