Tag Archives: informationliteracy

Inequality: research and web sources

22 Nov

Relevant to Sociology (the UvA Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research AISSR has both a Programme Group, Institutions, Inequalities and Life courses IIL, and an interdisciplinary Research centre, the Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies AMCIS, working on the topic) and of everlasting interest for us all, inequality makes it to the headlines worldwide almost on a daily basis under the present financial/economical crisis.

Here follows some of my recent random encounters with the topic.

Growing Inequalities Impacts GINI is an international (Australia, EU, Japan and North America) and interdisciplinary (economics, political science, sociology) project which focuses on «inequalities in income/wealth and education and their social, political and cultural impacts […] the implications for policy and institutions […] potential effects of individual distributional positions and increasing inequality for a host of ‘bad outcomes’ (both societal and individual)». Country Reports are full-text available on the GINI-website. The above mentioned AMCIS and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced labour Studies AIAS belong to GINI’s core research teams.

Wealth inequality in America

“Wealth inequality in America” is a Youtube video that went viral after its publication in November 2012, and that represents a textbook case of evaluating web sources, no matter how alarming the video contents might be. Whereas the video provides some references (see screenshot above), its author’s identity remains mysterious: all we seem to know about Youtube user Politizane is that he is a Texas freelance filmmaker, as reported in an article at MotherJones, «a nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political, and social justice reporting». As you might have noticed, MotherJones belongs also to the sources mentioned in the video, together with:
– a 2011 peer reviewed article by Michael I. Norton (Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School) and Dan Ariely (Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University), Building a Better America—One Wealth Quintile at a Time;
– a 2011 post at ThinkProgress, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which is «an independent nonpartisan education and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action».
– a 2012 post at CNNMoney, the CNN business website.

MotherJones, ThinkProgress and CNNMoney all belong to the category of news, and as such they will make suitable information sources depending on what our research question is. Let’s focus on Mother Jones and ThinkProgress: their respective ‘About’ pages, ThinkProgress’ affiliation to the Center for American Progress Action Fund (whose President is a member of the Democratic Party) and the way they address news topics all indicate a liberal to left-wing political agenda. A likely candidate for a research question requiring the use of both websites could therefore be how progressive online media and/or “think tanks” report on inequality, both in the US and abroad (see The Rules for a worldwide take on the topic).

Who rules AmericaCredit Suisse Research Institute

– as far as inequality and evaluating web sources are concerned, two other interesting test cases are the following: Distinguished Professor Emeritus (University of California Santa Cruz) William Domhoff’s website Who Rules America, and the Global Wealth Report 2013, released in october by the Credit Suisse Research Institute. The two sources agree in reporting high levels of inequality (in the US and worldwide alike), yet how to assess the value of research methodologies as different as those likely to be expected from an academic and a financial setting? What sort of bias, if any, could possibly be present in each of the sources?

Peter Nicholson InterestingAustralian cartoonist Peter Nicolson‘s “gap tween rich and poor” may be twelve years old but is still just as topical today as it was back then.


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

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

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

Football & racism: (2) Political discourse

30 Jan

This post is a follow-up to the previous one, where footballer Kevin-Prince Boateng’s walking off in protest at racist chanting, during a friendly match in Italy, gave me the opportunity to search LexisNexis for related English-language news, thus renewing my exploration of the international database of news resources. In order to switch from LexisNexis to other scholarly search tools, I decided to refocus the theme (‘football and racism’) on ‘political discourse’.


As showed by such initiatives as UK’s Show Racism the Red Card, there has been in recent years a growing concern in football (and other sports as well) about supporters’ discriminatory attitudes becoming more and more aggressive, not infrequently even against one’s own players: whereas my personal memories of Dutch middlefielder Aron Winter being booed by the (extreme-right) fans of his own Lazio Roma (1992-96) might only be vague (being myself not into football but always quite attentive to discriminatory issues), news from Russia are as recent as last december, with Zenit St Petersburg fans wanting black and gay players excluded from the team.

showracismtheredcard homophobiaWhat makes Boateng’s case specially interesting in this context is that, amongst the supporters responsible for the racist chanting against the German-Ghanaian player, the Councillor (NB: Youth affairs & Sport) from a nearby town has been identified: Riccardo Grittini, who has by now resigned from his position, is a member of the federalist and anti-immigration Northern-Italian party Lega Nord, whose overtly discriminatory language (both racially and sexually) distinguishes the party rhetoric from its very beginnings in the late 80s.

By which I come to the subject of the post: what kind of relation, if any, can be established between the use of discriminatory language in both (Italian) political rhetoric/propaganda and football/sport fandom? Has there any research been done on these possible relations?

For the sake of this blog’s scope I chose:

1) to translate the key concepts of my topic into the following (combination of) search terms (the search strings I used can be seen here):
“discriminatory language”
football OR sport
“political language” OR “political discourse” OR propaganda OR “political rhetoric”

2) to search with the above terms the following sources (access restrictions may apply outside the UvA-network) for peer-reviewed articles:
Communication & Mass Media Complete
Web of Science
ERIC, Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts (through ProQuest search platform)

3) to mention here only the ten most relevant articles (judging from their abstracts) out of a total of about seventy I retrieved from the whole set of databases, preferring those available online through the UvA-Library (again, mind possible access restrictions). Newest to oldest:

Gripentrog, J. (2010). The transnational pastime: baseball and American perceptions of Japan in the 1930s. Diplomatic History, 34(2), 247-273.

Van Hilvoorde, I., Elling, A., & Stokvis, R. (2010). How to influence national pride? The Olympic medal index as a unifying narrative. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 45(1), 87-102. DOI: 10.1177/1012690209356989

Bonde, H. (2009). The great male cycle: sport, politics and European masculinity today. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 26(10), 1540-1554. DOI: 10.1080/09523360903057559

Toohey, K., & Taylor, T. (2006). ‘Here be dragons, here be savages, here be bad plumbing’: Australian media representations of sport and terrorism. Sport in Society, 9(1), 71-93. DOI: 10.1080/17430430500355816

Brick, N., & Wilks, C. (2002). Les partis politiques et la féminisation des noms de métier. Journal of French Language Studies, 12(01), 43-53. DOI: 10.1017/S0959269502000133

Delgado, F. (1999). Sport and politics major league soccer, constitution, and (the) Latino audience(s). Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 23(1), 41-54. DOI: 10.1177/0193723599231004

Veri, M. J. (1999). Homophobic discourse surrounding the female athlete. Quest, 51(4), 355-368. DOI: 10.1080/00336297.1999.10491691

Muñoz, F. G. H., & Romero, F. G. (1996). Metáforas del deporte en los discursos políticos de Demóstenes. Cuadernos de Filología Clásica. Estudios griegos e indoeuropeos, 6, 107.

Semino, E., & Masci, M. (1996). Politics is football: metaphor in the discourse of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy. Discourse & Society, 7(2), 243-269. DOI: 10.1177/0957926596007002005

Strenk, A. (1979). What price victory? The world of international sports and politics. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 445(1), 128-140.

Somehow it didn’t come as a surprise that by far the most often cited of these articles is Semino & Masci’s from 1996, dealing with (football) metaphors in the political discourse of Italian former Prime Minister (and president of football team AC Milan) Silvio Berlusconi. Neither was I much surprised by the sheer variety of research scopes – from Ancient Greek to 1930s America, from gender issues to the Olympic Games – that even such a limited search for literature revealed as far as sport, racism (discriminatory language) and political discourse are concerned.

The afore-mentioned variety is in fact a confirmation both of the richness of academic research and of the need for conceiving and developing an appropriate topic, keeping in mind that I can gradually rephrase it according to the resources I (don’t) discover, and knowing how important academic search tools can be in the process.

Football & racism: (1) News

18 Jan

A recent event on a football field nearby my hometown Milan gives me the opportunity to blog on a search tool and a theme that I discussed in previous posts, that is LexisNexis and race and sport.

Shortly, the facts: on last January 3rd a friendly match between Milan and Pro Patria, played in the latter’s stadium in Busto Arsizio, was abandoned after Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng walked off in protest at racist chanting from local fans. The rest of Milan players followed suit. The Guardian, amongst others, reported the news. What about other English newspapers? Let’s take a look at LexisNexis, beginning with the following print screen (click to enlarge).

lexisnexis news1

After having chosen for ‘News’ (1) and then for ‘All news’ (2), we will:
– formulate a simple query: ‘kevin prince boateng’ (3) (LexisNexis treats adjacent words as phrase by default) and search in ‘Headline & Lead’ (i.e. headline and first paragraph of an article);
– define the time limits: ‘date is between’ 03/01/2012 and 06/01/2012 (4);
– identify the information source: ‘All English News’ (5);

On the results page (see the following print screen) we can first limit the results to ‘Newspapers’ (6) and then refine further at title-level (7) (The Times, The Independent, The Guardian etc.). More edit/refine options are available (8).

lexisnexis news2

If choosing for one of the two articles from The Guardian, we will note that Racism in football: Milan players walk off pitch in racist chant protest (see the following print screen), published in the January 4th print issue of the newspaper, reproduces the January 3rd online version, yet provided with some LexisNexis tools that may prove specially convenient if using the database for a systematic search:
– print, mail, download, export bibliographic references, copy the permanent link (9);
– ‘find documents with similar topics’ (10), that is whether narrow the current search results (by ticking off terms from the list) or launch a new search (by using terms from the list as alternative or additional search terms).
lexisnexis news3

RefWorks to pickup artists (PUAs)

5 Dec

Dealing with young people and their (intellectual) expectations and development, and considering the sheer variety of the world of knowledge are among the most important reasons that make a (library) job at the University so exciting.

jitse schuurmansWhile discussing a RefWorks question some time ago with UvA-anthropologist Jitse Schuurmans I not only came to know of the existence of pickup artists and who they are, but also that Schuurmans – who recently started his PhD on the subject at the AISSR research group Dynamics of Citizenship and Culture – had already written a (Dutch) book on the subject in 2010, De versierkunstenaars.

Should the meaning of ‘pickup’ («a casual encounter with a stranger with a view to having sexual intercourse», Oxford English Dictionaries) be not enough of a clue, the following from the University of Pittsburgh Women’s Studies wiki might prove clarifying: «The seduction community is a transnational male subculture with its origins in the U.S. It consists of pickup artists (PUAs) who systematically work to get better at approaching and attracting women».

This being said, and apart from Schuurmans’ book and ongoing research, are there any scholarly publications on the topic? Searching for ‘pickup artists’ in both the ProQuest-databases and Web of Science (online available through the UvA-Library: restrictions may apply outside the UvA-network) retrieves one relevant peer reviewed article (Hall, J. & Canterberry, M. (2011). Sexism and assertive courtship strategies. Sex Roles, 65 840-853) and several reviews of Neil Strauss’ book The game: penetrating the secret society of pickup artists.

fragonardGiven both Strauss’ and the more recent Confessions of a pickup artist chaser: long interviews with hideous men, released this year by Clarisse Thorn, aren’t scholarly publications, and while waiting for Schuurmans’ research output, a valuable exercise – so far information literacy is concerned – is to go through Hall and Canterberry’s references and to note the keywords the databases provide for their article and for Strauss’ reviews: (ProQuest) sexism‎, prediction‎, males‎, internet‎, females‎, courtship‎, “college students‎”, artists‎; (Web of Science) “ambivalent sexism”, “assertive behaviors”, courtship, “relationship initiation”, sociosexuality, “nice guy stereotype”, “chat-up lines”, “benevolent sexism”, “hostile sexism”, women, gender, men, personality.

How to use such terms in a systematic search for more relevant literature has been the topic of last week’s post. How such notions as ‘sexism’ and ‘courtship’ can possibly lead to the most diverse research areas is aptly illustrated by my immediately thinking of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing as significative example of (18th Century) man/woman relationship.

Photo’s: Jitse Schuurmans’ is found on TEDxYouth@Amsterdam, to whose team the UvA-researcher belong. Fragonard’s painting and image belong to the London Wallace Collection.