Friday, January 22, 2010

Jing! An Awesome Way to Promote Information Literacy

Jing offers free downloadable software that enables you to create audio tutorials, simple screen shots, and then share them freely with others. It seems that reference librarians could easily create an audio tutorial while serving a patron on the phone or via chat reference. By creating a free account with, you can have 2 GB of storage space for your screen shots and screen casts.

Look at the table showing the difference between the free Jing and the Jing Pro version.

Creators of this software have made it relatively easy to share your screen casts with email messages, web code to embed it into a web site or blog, and a stable URL however you wish to share it. Naturally, Jing created a video introducing their product, which I do recommend.

For library instruction, this could really be beneficial. Quick audio tutorials can be created and shared in the ways just mentioned, leaving more time to focus on information-literacy standards. The URLs can be distributed on handouts, to instructors, on Libguides, etc. (Recently, I took the time to learn about Google Sites, which is how I may begin creating my own Libguides, since my institution cannot afford the real Libguides.) With a good pair of headphones that include a microphone, an audio tutorial can be creating lickety-split.

Some might consider the limitation of 5 minutes to be detrimental, but it seems that many students do not appreciate lengthy demonstrations. Most are of the following mindset: "Get in, get done, get out." Of course, if any humor can be inserted, all the better.

Take a look at a couple of my spontaneous audio tutorials:
  • Course E-Reserves: Finding Your Professor's Electronic Documents (2 minutes 34 seconds)

  • Reference Books: Limit Results by Location in the Library Catalog (2 minutes 30 seconds)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

CQ Researcher: A Tool to Jump-start Research Projects

CQ Researcher continues to create great reports that can facilitate student research. These reports provide basic background on their topics, which are usually of current interest. The bibliographies point to other sources the students can cite, and the Pro/Con section can point to different viewpoints from respected experts.

The following are some titles of CQ Researcher reports that might be of interest to students who need to decide on a topic for a term paper, project, or speech. If you are a college student or instructor, check your libraries listing of databases. At ISU, CQ Researcher can be found in the alphabetical listing of databases in the C's.

“Biofuels Boom: Can ethanol satisfy America's thirst for foreign oil?” (Sept. 29, 2006)
“Global Food Crisis: What’s causing the rising prices?” (June 27, 2008)
“Factory Farms: Are they the best way to feed the nation?”(Jan. 12, 2007)
Business, Banking, & Economics
“Middle-Class Squeeze: Is more government aid needed?” (Mar. 6, 2009)
“Business Bankruptcy: Are U.S. bankruptcy laws effective?”(Apr. 10, 2009)
“Socially Responsible Investing: Can investors do well by doing good?” (Aug. 29, 2008)
Communications and the Mass Media
“Online Privacy: Do Americans need better protection?”
(Nov. 6, 2009) “Cyberbullying: Are new laws needed to curb online aggression?”
(May 2, 2008) “Conspiracy Theories: Do they threaten democracy?”
(Oct. 23, 2009)
Culture, Sports, and Recreation
“Stolen Antiquities: Should museums return relics to their country of origin?”
(Apr. 13, 2007)
“Extreme Sports: Are they too dangerous?”
(Apr. 3, 2009)
“Prostitution Debate: Should the United State legalize sex work?” (May 23, 2008)
“Student Aid: Will many low-income students be left out? (Jan. 25, 2008)
“The Value of a College Education: Is a four-year degree the only path to a secure future?”(Nov. 20, 2009)
“Drinking on Campus: Have efforts to reduce alcohol abuse failed?” (Aug. 18, 2006)
Employment, Labor, & Income
“Straining the Safety Net: Is joblessness overwhelming aid programs?” (July 31, 2009)
“Rethinking Retirement: Can Americans afford to retire?” (June 19, 2009) “America’s Border Fence: Will it stem the flow of illegal immigrants?” (Sept. 19, 2008)
“Confronting Warming: Can states and localities prevent climate change?” (Jan. 9, 2009)
“Coal’s Comeback: Can coal become a clean energy source?” (Oct. 5, 2007)
“Oil Jitters: Are the days of cheap oil gone forever?” (Jan. 4, 2008)
Family and Domestic Life
“Future of Feminism: Are women returning to a 1950’s mindset?” (Apr. 14, 2006) “Cyber Socializing: Are Internet sites such as Myspace potentially dangerous?” (July 28, 2006)
“Sex Offenders: Will tough new laws do more harm than good?” (Sept. 8, 2006)
“Heart Health: Is America ready for the coming cardiac crisis?” (Sept. 12, 2008)
“Regulating Toxic Chemicals: Do we know enough about chemical risks?” (Jan. 23, 2009)
“Stem Cell Research: Is Pres. Bush blocking important medical research?” (Sept. 1, 2006)
“Religion and Politics: Is President Bush too vocal about his faith?” (July 30, 2004)
“Understanding Islam: Is Islam compatible with Western values?” (Nov. 3, 2006) “Protestants Today: Can U.S. Protestants survive today’s challenges?” (Dec. 7, 2007)
Science & Technology
“Human Spaceflight: Are missions to the moon and Mars feasible?”(Oct. 16, 2009)
“Science in America: Are we falling behind in science and technology?” (Jan. 11, 2008)
“Intelligent Design: Should alternatives to evolution theory be taught?” (July 29, 2005)
Social Movements
“Changing U.S. Electorate: Are demographic trends reshaping U.S. politics?” (May 30, 2008)
“Gay Marriage Showdowns: Will voters bar marriage for same-sex couples?” (Sept. 26, 2008)
“Hate Groups: Is extremism on the rise in the United States?” (May 8, 2009)
War & Conflict
“New Strategy in Iraq: Will President Bush’s troop surge work?” (Feb. 23, 2007)
“Mexico’s Drug War: Is the violence spilling into the U.S.?”(Dec. 12, 2008)
“Cost of the Iraq War: Are economic woes a casualty of unexpectedly high costs?” (Apr. 25, 2008)

Elements of a CQ Researcher Report
  • Overview
  • Background
  • Bibliography
  • Pro/Con Discussion
  • Outlook
  • Current Situation
  • Chronology
  • Maps/Graphs
  • Contacts (Addresses and websites of reputable organizations)
  • Next Step (Additional articles and resources to explore the issue.)
  • “Cite Now!” shows you how to cite in various formats.
  • You can email a pdf copy of the whole report or individual sections.
  • Search by Keyword
  • Browse by Topic or Date

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ideas for Papers & Speeches

• Raising children in affluent America
• Child geniuses: how smart are they?
• Breast feeding vs. the bottle
• How to instill in children a respect for the natural world
• Shy children: causes, concerns, and corrections
• Disciplining children
• Pros & cons of marriage without children

  • Frauds & deceptions in the used automobile market
  • Would the consumer benefit from the breakup of large corporations?
  • How electronic banking affects the consumer
  • Financing abuses: common instances, current regulations, and techniques for avoiding misleading & dishonest practices

Contemporary Issues
  • Should sex education be taught in school?
  • What are human rights?
  • Can democracy survive?
  • Refute/defend: free enterprise & environmental issues are incompatible
  • Substantiate or refute: America recovers from recessions by waging war
  • Objections to legalized gambling
  • The case for a stronger United Nations

Crime & Criminal Justice
  • Police training standards
  • Police weaponry
  • Mental illness among law enforcement officers and national surveys
  • Should prison be abolished?
  • Women behind the badge
  • Child molesters: detection, prevention, and punishment
  • The correlation between education levels and crime

  • Preventive measures for common running injuries
  • New ways to manage stress
  • Problems of health care in rural areas
  • Permanent effects of methamphetamines
  • Exercise and pregnancy
  • Prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States vs. other countries or Idaho
  • How the United States controls epidemics

Family Life
• Changes in the American family since the 1950s
• Sex-role changes in the American family
• Complex problems single parents face
• Teenage suicide and families
• How children view divorce
• Why sibling rivalry develops and how to cure it
• Dealing with Alzheimer’s in the family

Essay Ideas
  • Books that changed my life
  • How to teach children manners
  • How to flirt
  • Advantages of honesty
  • Why get married nowadays
  • A little learning is a dangerous thing
  • Absence makes the heart grow stronger
  • Life’s most painful lesson(s)
  • The very best way to make fool of yourself
  • All’s fair in love and war
  • Worst experience I ever had
  • The ‘good old days’ weren’t so great
  • Information overload

The Future
  • Refute or substantiate: “By 2050 the world will consist of two cultures—the permanently rich and the permanently poor
  • Potential energy sources
  • What will be the effects of worldwide overpopulation on the environment?
  • Can acts of international terrorism be forecast? How?
  • United States’ funding of health care

  • Current immigration issues and their possible solutions
  • Birth defects and their demographic implications
  • Impact of populations on tropical soils
  • What are the geographic dimensions of poverty in the United States? Why?

Food & Drink
  • A comparison of commercial and homemade baby food. Consider nutritive contents, convenience, additives, and appearance.
  • The widespread mechanization of food production has affected food quality. Review some of those changes, both pro and con
  • Cooking with solar energy
  • Bioengineering and food: what’s ahead
  • Are fast foods synonymous with junk food? Evaluate them from a nutritional point of view.

• These ideas come from 10,000 Ideas for Term Papers, Projects, Reports & Speeches. 4th Ed. REFDESK REF LB1047.3 L35 1995. Check for prices of this title in its several editions.

Term Paper, Project, and Speech Ideas

Websites with Ideas for Topics

Speech Topics Help, Advice & Ideas

Good Speech Topics

Best Essay Topics: Essay Topics Suggestion Homework/Study Tips

Custom Writing: Top 50 Ideas for Argumentative/Persuasive Essay Topics

Find ideas for all kinds of speeches and papers: persuasive, argumentative, funny, popular, demonstrative, definition, controversial, compare/contrast, informal, expository, research, response, etc.

Titles Worth Browsing
1. 10,000 IDEAS for Term Papers, Projects, Reports & Speeches (REFDESK REF LB1047.3L35 1995)
2. Encyclopedia of American Social Movements (REF HN57.E594 2004)
3. Encyclopedia of Social Issues (REF HN57.E59 1997)
4. Social Issues in America (REF HN57.S624 2006)
For more titles, see the Library Catalog.

Digital Titles to Explore Topics
  1. Oxford Reference Online: Premium Collection
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica
  3. Social Issues in America
  4. Wikipedia
  5. Google
  6. Google News
  7. Google Scholar

How can reference materials be helpful?
• make it easy and quick to browse potential research projects.
• point to other sources that are quotable.
• provide basic background you should know.
• offer ideas that can help you narrow down your topic and create a more interesting report/project/paper/speech, etc.
• give keywords to increase searching efficiency & effectiveness in the databases.