The autumn of information literacy (2): subject search in LexisNexis

8 Nov

Just as with the previous ‘autumn’ post on statistics, the aim of the present one is to illustrate a specific search need (news on a topic, in the case of LexisNexis Academic), building both on older posts on this issue and on several questions from UvA students and staff I have been dealing with in the course of 2013.

Let’s say I want to search both US and Dutch News for articles on youth and the media. Some English search terms I may come up with for the two concepts are the following:

– youth, girl, boy, teen, teenager, adolescent, child, toddler, baby, infant

– media, internet, social media, games, twitter, facebook, television, film, book, reading, digital, Ipad, computer, tablet, pc, socialbesitas, chat, webcam, groom, cyberbullying, multitasking

LexisNexis will in most cases automatically search for spelling variants singular/plural, i.e. ‘girl’ searches ‘girls’ as well, but ‘child’ does not search for ‘children’. Being an exclamation mark the character accepted by LexisNexis for replacing any number of letters at the end of a word, the search strings I am going to use in the database in order to fetch all (plural) variants look therefore like these (complete with the OR connectors):

– youth OR girl OR boy OR teen OR teenager OR adolescent OR child! OR toddler OR baby OR infant

– media OR internet OR social media OR games OR twitter OR facebook OR television OR film OR books OR reading OR digital OR Ipad OR computer OR tablet OR pc OR socialbesitas OR chat! OR webcam! OR groom! OR cyberbullying OR multitask!

After having selected the sources I want to search (Major US Newspapers; screenshot A, 1 to 5, click to enlarge), I will combine the above search strings with each other in Power Search, also adding the following three “Subjects” from the Index Terms: adolescents, children, students & student life, and thereafter choosing for Match any terms (screenshot B-C, 6 to 9).

subject search LN A

subject search LN B

Thereafter I will most likely want to limit the search by date (screenshot C, 10) and I may want to limit it by section as well, i.e. determine in which part(s) of the article my search is performed: HEADLINE or HLEAD (headline + first paragraph) being two interesting options (screenshot C, 11).

subject search LN C

What about Dutch news or, more generally speaking, news in other languages than English? The major difference is that the use of Index Terms (needless to say: particularly helpful when searching for a topic) is not possible, since such terms are not added to most non-English sources in LexisNexis.

After having the search strings translated into the preferred language and matched them to the relevant sources (same steps needed as for the example above), my best option is to limit the search by section, with HLEAD as favourite option (screenshot D). Practical applications of this strategy, just as of the one described for the news in English, so far confirm it as convenient for finding relevant newspapers articles on a given subject with LexisNexis Academic.

Should any reader, who has not only been patient enough to read the whole post, but has also got any clue which may help improve the above search strategy, I’ll be more than happy to hear her/his feedback.

subject search LN D

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The autumn of information literacy (1): statistics

11 Oct

No end of season (or worse) meant with the title, autumn just being my busiest time with information literacy courses and workshops, and therefore the richest in opportunities to expand my knowledge for answering students’ and staff’s questions.

autumn leaves oxford botanic garden Photo from the website of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden

I was asked sometime ago about how to find statistics for GDP per capita (Gross National Product) and unemployment rates in 15 West European Countries for the period 1945-1960. After having quickly overcome a brief feeling of disorientation, somehow occurring to my “humanities side” anytime I am dealing with figures, numbers and measurements, I eagerly took to work and found the following:

GDP per capita
– the University of Groningen‘s Maddison Project offers complete data from 1870 not only for European Countries but for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States as well; data for older years are irregularly available, and the same applies to recent data for East European Countries and other continents.

– data from as early as 1500 can be generated for all Countries in the world at Clio Infra, a joint project from among others the International Institute of Social History;

– data from 1950 onwards can be generated for all Countries in the world through the Penn World Table, offered by the Center for International Comparisons at the University of Pennsylvania.

2012-GDP per capita 2012-GDP per capita map generated at the World DataBank

Unemployment rates
– these data proved more difficult to be found (online and for free), since there is no global overview for 1945-1960 for all the 15 Countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom), in any case not according to the comprehensive University of Stockholm‘s Portal for Historical Statistics.

– partial datasets (in terms of geographic or period coverage) are also those which are available at ILOSTAT (International Labour Organization Department of Statistics; from 1969), at the World DataBank (World Bank; from 1980) and at the OECD iLibrary (from 1955), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development‘s database to which the UvA-Library has a subscription (access restrictions possible).

– given that the datasets available at the National Bureaus of Statistics for the relevant Countries proved not complete as well (with the notable exceptions of the Dutch CBS Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek and the French INSEE Institut National de la statistique et des études écomomiques), it was a relief to discover that at least printed copies of the ILO Year Book of Labour Statistics for the relevant years are still available at the Library of the earlier mentioned, Amsterdam based International Institute of Social History.

unemployment, total (% of total labor force) Excel chart generated with 2011 unemployment data (% of total labor force) from the World DataBank

Abbreviations, the revenge: Nepal, Shakespeare and online sharing

4 Sep

sherpa_little_girl_bA while ago, posting on Sakai and the UvA in the context of research data management (RDM) gave me the opportunity to discuss my unease with abbreviations.

A topic which is not only just as relevant as RDM in present-day academic life, but seems to be somehow affected by the same ‘abbreviation fever’ as well, is online sharing of scholarly publications, i.e.: what can scholars do online with their papers and articles?

The (excellent, to prevent any misunderstanding :-)) University of Notthingham’s SHERPA/RoMEO project helps answering the above question. Just go to the project website, search the journal title or ISSN where you have published, and get “a summary of permissions that are normally given as part of each publisher’s copyright transfer agreement”.
Shakespeare_William-An_excellent_conceited_tragedie-STC-22322-353_11-p1
By the way: SHERPA stands for “Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access”, and RoMEO for “Rights MEtadata for Open archiving”.

As for the illustrations: the “very happy little Sherpa girl” belongs to a webpage by Pete Poston at Western Oregon University, while Shakespeare’s title page comes from EEBO Early English Books Online, a database containing “digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700”.

Opening academic year

2 Sep

CW cube
Next to the groups of students I already had the pleasure to welcome to Library skills workshops (among others, during the UvA Master’s Introduction on August 22), I got last week two more signs of the approaching new academic year, which has officially started today:

– the Communication Cube Calendar, functioning as well as a countdown to the move of the departments of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (and the Library with them) from the present location in the centre of Amsterdam to the Roeterseiland campus in July 2014.

– the 3rd revised printing of the academic skills guide for Sociology (Sociologie als ambacht, ‘sociology as a craft’), to which I have been contributing with a chapter on the ‘bibliotheek’ from the first edition two years ago.

3e editie Sociologie als ambacht

UvA’s Spanish “competitor”

7 Aug

Short “back-to-work” post, with the University of Valladolid’s acronym, which I came across while on holiday in Spain.UVa

Summer break (and readings)

10 Jul

On the eve of my summer leave, here follows two quotes (relevant for topics I addressed earlier on this blog) from books that might be worth taking in your luggage.

Milan Kundera, The book of laughter and forgetting
«The bloody massacre in Bangladesh quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the assassination of Allende drowned out the groans of Bangladesh, the war in the Sinai Desert made people forget Allende, the Cambodian massacre made people forget Sinai and so on and so forth until ultimately everyone lets everything be forgotten. In times when history still moved slowly, events were few and far between and easily committed to memory. They formed a commonly accepted backdrop for thrilling scenes of adventure in private life. Nowadays, history moves at a brisk clip. A historical event, though soon forgotten, sparkles the morning after with the dew of novelty. No longer a backdrop, it is now the adventure itself, an adventure enacted before the backdrop of the commonly accepted banality of private life». (pp. 7-8 of Penguin’s 1983 edition).

Communication overkill in the mass media: does this necessarily reduce news to a product, ever changing in order to provide the thrill of adventure to the ‘banality of private life’? Or can there still be – nowadays even more than at the time (1979) of Kundera’s book – mass media as a source of information to build knowledge from? Are periodicals such as Le Monde Diplomatique and Die Zeit examples of informative mass media?

newsPhoto from the News & events page of King’s College, London.

Marc Bloch, The historian’s craft
«What is it, exactly, that constitutes the legitimacy of an intellectual endeavor? No one today, I believe, would dare to say, with the orthodox positivists, that the value of a line of research is to be measured by its ability to promote action. Experience has surely taught us that it is impossible to decide in advance whether even the most abstract speculations may not eventually prove extraordinarily helpful in practice. It would inflict a strange mutilation upon humanity to deny it a right to appease its intellectual appetites apart from all consideration of its material welfare. Even were history obliged to be eternally indifferent to homo faber or to homo politicus, it would be sufficiently justified by its necessity for the full flowering of homo sapiens». (pp. 9-10 of Manchester University Press’ 1954 edition)

marc blochAs far as higher education and democracy are concerned, I think that few people better than French historian Marc Bloch embody the idea of critical thinking as essential to political freedom (and courage) and a healthy democracy. In case you don’t know: despite age and his position at the Sorbonne, Bloch not only volunteered for the French army at the outbreak of World War II, but also joined the Resistance in 1942. He was arrested, tortured and killed by the Nazis in 1944. Bloch was also a Jew «if not by religion, which I do not practise, no more than any other, at least by birth. […] I never claim my origins, with one exception: when facing an anti-Semite» (English translation – from Bloch’s L’Étrange défaite. Témoignage écrit en 1940 – is mine; original French text available online at the website of the Université du Québec à Quicoutimi).

Marc Bloch’s photo from the website of the Association Marc Bloch.

To measure, for profit (2) : (science) fiction

26 Jun

Just as with books, so with travels: the good ones always provide also a good starting point for further explorations. My visit to Prague a couple of months ago has been the occasion for me to undertake a voyage of discovery into 20th Century Czech literature.

Being imaginative power, which makes reading such a thrilling activity, at all times related to who I am (professionally, among other things), the imaginative reader and the information specialist go hand in hand through almost any book I happen to be reading. This explains why even such a theatre classic as Karel Čapek‘s Rossum’s Universal Robots (the book to which we owe the meaning of ‘robot’) and an undeservedly less known Holocaust-inspired novel as Jiří Weil‘s Mendelssonh is on the roof (masterly in its combination of surrealist irony and violent tragedy), could provide the following two quotes to my ‘information specialist’s’ side, just at the time I was writing the previous post about the measurability of ‘lucrative’ higher education.

RURplayStageing of Rossum’s Universal Robot (source)

«DOMIN: […] A diesel engine needs no tassels and other fripperies, Miss Glory. And manufacturing artificial workmen is just like manufacturing diesel engines. Their production should be kept as simple as possible and the end product ought to be the best in purely practical terms. What do you reckon? What workman is the best in purely practical terms? HELENA: The best? Perhaps one who’s… who… provided he’s honest – and loyal… DOMIN: No, no, the cheapest. The one with the fewest needs. Young Rossum invented a workman with the fewest needs possible. He had to keep him simple. He jettisoned everything that didn’t contribute directly to the work process, and in so doing he effectively did away with the man and created the Robot» (quote from Hesperus Press edition of Čapek’s classic, p. 12).

weil «Finally Schlesinger had an idea. ‘Go around the statues again and look carefully at their noses. Whichever one has the biggest nose, that’s the Jew.’ Schlesinger was taking a course called World View, where they gave lectures on ‘racial science’ and showed slides. The slides showed a lot of noses, with measurements next to them. Every nose had been carefully measured. It was a very deep and complicated science, but its findings were simple. The upshot was that the biggest noses belonged to the Jews» (quote from Daunt Books English translation of Weil’s book, p. 6).

Cover of Weil’s original Czech text (source)