Thursday, November 17, 2011

Information Literacy Class Progresses

The one-credit course I am teaching this semester is an information-literacy course.  Its official name is ACAD 1199: Information Research.  We have now finished week 5.  I have a Google Sites page that offers a bit more information about this class.  That page has a number of links to my syllabus, outlines, worksheets, and more.  Take a look at it, and let me know what you think.

Are you teaching or taking such a course?  What do you do when you teach it?

I also have a couple of presentations posted there.  One that I enjoyed making talks about the differences between catalogs and indexes (Catalog vs. Index).  For more information on this topic see my blog post "Catalog vs. Index."  It continues to be one of the most viewed blog posts that I have written.

Today we talked about Ulrich's Periodicals Directory, which is a useful source for discovering if a journal is peer-reviewed or not.  It may be better to say that it will tell you if articles in a journal are refereed or peer reviewed; these two terms are synonymous.  We also talked about how to find the full text of an article, using the resources at Idaho State University

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Putting LC Call Numbers in Order: The Game

Need a break?  Try something relaxing, like playing a quick game of placing library books in proper order according to their Library of Congress Classification System call numbers.  Look at this webpage on Understanding Call Numbers if you need a refresher. 

Do you ever teach others how to use call numbers?  Does it go something like this?

First, remember to place them in order alphabetically.  When a call number begins with one letter, it comes before another that has two letters: N before NA, for example.  Then, look at the numbers.  Count up from the number  one: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 45, 100, 101, 789, 1001, etc.  Third, notice the decimal .5 comes before .52, which also precedes .6, since it is a decimal.
  • N100.C45 comes before NA99.A33
  • N100.C45 comes before N100.5A32
  • N100.C45 comes before N100.C5
Now play the call number game if you have not done so already.  Thankfully the Lewis-Clark State College Library has made this game available after it disappeared from elsewhere.  Michael Ford, formerly at the University of Pittsburgh, created the game originally.  Once he moved on, his game became unavailable on the U. of Pittsburgh's website.

Browse the Library of Congress Classification Outline.  Drill down the outline to see how the narrower topics shoot off from the broader ones.

An Aside
In looking for the links to the Library of Congress, I discovered a very brief message from Clint Eastwood, America's tough guy.  He encourages the viewer, you and me, to make our day by reading a book: Clint Eastwood video.  We are talking about finding books in the catalog and on the shelves today in the ACAD 1199 class I am teaching.  This video seems like an appropriate one to start the class. 

It seems like a good idea to teach about keyword Boolean searching, subject heading searching, and understanding call numbers.  Ideally, students will leave the class more confident searching the catalog and finding books on the shelves.

If you teach library instruction classes, what have you done to instruct students in searching your library's catalog?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Finding Primary Sources for U.S. History Papers

Where can you go if you need primary sources for a research paper in your history class?  As a reference librarians, sometimes it is challenging to help students looking for primary sources.  Wikipedia defines a primary source like this:
 Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied.
The University of Maryland Libraries also explains the differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources in more detail, offering useful examples.  Essentially an item or document created by a single person at the time of the event can also be considered a primary source, so primary sources could be any of the following:
  • Letters between individuals
  • Diaries or personal journals
  • Speeches written and given at an event
  • Newspaper articles written at the time of the event
  • Original studies published in peer-reviewed journals
  • Books reviews of titles that are recently published (Some people may argue that any book review is a primary source as it recounts the recent event of someone's experience or reaction to reading a book, whether it is a new book or not.)
 Milestone Documents of American Leaders: Exploring the Primary Sources of Notable Americans. Ed. Paul Finkelman.  Dallas, TX: Schlager Group, 2009.

This four-volume title contains many primary documents of well-known Americans, beginning with colonial figures like Abigail Adams and George Washington while also including more recent figures like Sandra Day O'Conner and George W. Bush.  Yes, this could be one of the best places for finding primary sources.

The first entry in volume #4 features Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1908-1972), who was a U.S. Congressman in the 1940s through the 1960s.  His entry commences with these life details, plus mention of the three primary sources associated with him:
  • Speech on Civil Rights (1955)
  • "Black Power: A Form of Godly Power" (1967)
  • "Black Power and the Future of Black America" (1971)
Each entry holds to the same structure: overview, explanation and analysis of documents, impact and legacy, key sources, further readings, essential quotes, questions for further study, and, last of all, the primary documents themselves.  The overview about Representative Powell's life provides specific details about his life that are relevant to the documents in question.  In the pages that explain and analyze the documents there appears a timeline of his life, noting significant events mostly related to his political life.  A glossary explains words, contextual references, and may give an entire person's name when a partial one is given in the text.

Each of the entries include a large, full-page photo on the page before the article begins.  Use the subject index at the end of the fourth volume if you need to find where certain persons or ideas are mentioned within the four-volume set.  Placed before the index is a list of documents by category:
  • Correspondence and Diaries
  • Essays, Reports, and Manifestos
  • Interviews
  • Legal
  • Legislative
  • Military
  • Presidential/Executive
  • Speeches/Addresses (looks like the lengthiest section)
Each volume contains a "Contents" section at the beginning for the whole set, listing all the individuals in alphabetical order.

All in all, this appears to be a great resource for anyone looking to find primary sources of American leaders.  Take a look in your library's catalog to see if they have this reference set.  If your library does have this title, they may also have the E-book version that you could access online.  Look for a link to access the E-book.

Following is one of the "Essential Quotes" from Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.:
Tremendous changes are taking place in our country eradicating the concept of second-class citizenship.  Yet the United States Congress has done absolutely nothing in this sphere.  We are behind the times.  We are a legislative anachronism.  In an age of atomic energy, our dynamic is no more powerful than a watermill.  (Speech on Civil Rights, 1955, p.1740)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Choosing a Topic for a College Research Paper

Three weeks ago I began teaching an information-literacy course.  This one-credit course runs for eight weeks and is called ACAD 1199: Information Research.  In week two we talked about choosing a topic, brainstorming, and narrowing down a topic to a manageable size for a 5-6 page college paper. 

For one of these classes, I created a PowerPoint presentation, outlining some of my ideas and those of Mary W. George, as written in her book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know.  Quite simply, this presentation is titled "Choosing a Topic."  Take a look at it, and let me know what yo think.  Still, sometimes it is a challenge to know how to help students narrow down a topic to one that interests them but still avoids trying to do too much.

What do you tell students when they need to narrow a topic?

If you are a student currently, what research projects have carried off successfully?  What made it work so well?

"Narrow City."  by Nick Peligno.
This photo seemed appropriate with the topic of narrowing down a topic as it appears that this street gradually gets narrower.  I like the colors, shapes, and lines.  Seems like a fun photo.  Thank you for sharing this, Nick Peligno.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Choosing a Peer-Reviewed Journal in Which to Publish

As an assistant professor I need to publish in order to qualify for tenure.  Recently I resurrected a graduate student paper I had written for a History of Reading class I once took at the University of Iowa's School of Library and Information Science (SLIS).  Essentially, the paper uses Louis H. Sullivan's Autobiography of an Idea as a primary source, citing references to his personal readings that contributed to his aesthetic and artistic philosophy. 

After revising this paper a bit, I had intended to submit this article to a certain regional, peer-reviewed journal.  My supervisor advised me to publish in a national journal instead.  "What's the worst that can happen?  They say 'no.'"  This makes sense, so now I am starting to think of national journals in which I can submit my manuscript. 

First, I thought to ask my former professor (the one who taught the History of Reading class).  She has responded, saying that she remembers my paper even from the first time I had written it.  Due to her busy schedule she may not be able to look at if for two to three weeks, but this would still be great to get some feedback from her.

Second, I thought to look at Writer's Market, thinking that it would give some suggestions on where I might be able to publish.  Unfortunately, this is not the right tool.  If a writer want to make money writing, then this is the correct tool, because it focuses how much specific magazines pay for accepted submissions.  A writer can also identify the various markets available for publishing: Animal, Aviation, Business, Health and Fitness, Humor, Juvenile, Photography, Sports, and many more.  The book includes sections on promoting your work, managing your work, and finding work with short essays on "Feature Article Writing," "Contract Negotiation," and "The Art of Promoting," just to name a few.

As a blogger, the essay titled "Blogging Basics: Get the Most Out of Your Blog" naturally caught my eye (I believe he is the main editor for Writer's Market as well).  Robert Lee Brewer gives some great tips.  It was gratifying to see that I had actually followed one recommendation without even knowing it: "Use your name in your URL."  (Searching his name in a search engine will bring up his two main blogs.  He writes the blog titled My Name is Not Bob, while it does not have his real name in the blog title, it is the URL.)  He says: "This will make it easier for search engines to find you when your audience eventually starts seeking you out by name."  While I have not put my name in the title of my blog, I did update the description by adding my name and trying to be a bit more welcoming.  I used to say the readers should remember to keep copyright laws and maintain civility, that I have the right to delete comments.  While I still support these ideas, they did not seem very inviting or welcoming.

Anyway, I digress.  My supervisor recommended using Ulrichs Periodical Directory, aka Ulrichs Web.  In reality I looked up Ulrichs Web before looking at Writer's Market, but it did not seem to be as promising.  The results list were quite lengthy.  True, it tells you the names of many periodicals and if they are peer reviewed or not.  It even gives a basic description of the title, what kinds of articles they publish and for which audience.  I believe I searched with the terms "history" and "reading."  Perhaps I should go back and try a few different searches to see what I get.

A fourth option: open some scholarly databases and search using keywords related to my topic to see in which journals they are found.  Looks like I have some work to do.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scholarships for Undergraduate Students

Earning and maintaining scholarships can be a full-time job.  Students should treat their college studies as a full-time job.  The benefits can be huge.

Today I attended an open forum on scholarships.  The presenter talked about finding them, applying for them, and offering thanks for them.  The ISU Scholarship Office put on this forum.  They suggested that students talk with parents and grandparents to see if their workplace offers scholarships to their children.  Additionally, students can ask their departments of scholarships of which they may know of already. 

Many scholarships can be found on the internet.  Again, the Scholarship Office updates a list of outside scholarships, or rather websites that focus on searching and finding all kinds of scholarships available to anyone and everyone.  If you are a college student, consider a visit to your college's scholarship office and dedicating an hour a week to researching and writing scholarship applications.

In the library, you might look for The College Blue Book (LA226 .C685) to see what it can tell you about scholarships, grants, and fellowships.  This titles gets updated yearly and usually resides in a reference collection.  For this book there were two subject headings that looked relevant to this topic:
Other titles worth considering:
  • The College Board scholarship handbook.
  • College student’s guide to merit and other no-need funding
  • Scholarships, fellowships, grants and loans.
The library provides books that can help you write a good application as well.