Thursday, September 20, 2007

Localizing Google Scholar

I'm encountering more students and faculty who have discovered Google Scholar. Google Scholar is Google's attempt at creating a database of relevant information about scholarly books and articles. Those books and articles that have free full-text on the web can be linked to directly. The problem arises when the article is from a publisher who holds the copyright and only wants to allow subscribers ($$$ paid)to have access to these articles. If you are a faculty, staff or student at South Alabama you MAY have access to these articles IF the library subscribes to the journal. But you have to make your association clear to Google.
On the homepage of Google Scholar to the right of the search box click on the words "Scholar Preferences." In about the middle of the page that comes up enter "University of South Alabama" next to the words Library Links.

Click on the words "Find Library." A line with our schools name will show up below this box. Check the box in front of our name. Now Google Scholar will let you know which of the journals we subscribe to by indicating "USA eText" next to the citations returned. Click on "USA eText." On the next screen pick a USA Library subscription database through which you can access the article.

Google has not, or will not, let us know which publishers are included in this "database." Your best bet for a thorough search on your topic is to use the library databases. Sure, supplement with Google Scholar, but be aware that much more may be available through the library's subscriptions to databases and online journals. Limiting yourself to only one tool is never a good idea. Talk to your librarians about where you might go to find the best info on your chosen topic.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Games for the Brain

Toys for the weekend--or before. Games for the Brain

If you are at all like me and spend hard time conquering a new technology or wrapping your head around a foreign concept or worrying about your finances, you probably find that taking a vacation or even just a break doing something totally devoid of that specific kind of thinking gives you the distance and perspective to tackle the problem afresh. That's what hobbies and travel and sleep AND computer games are for--aerobics for different parts of the brain.

Try some of these if you just have a ten minute break. They are fun. Each one calls for a different way of coming to an answer. Some require memory, some making odd connections. I haven't tried them all, but I will--though I may skip the memory ones so as not to become too depressed. js

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Old Magazine Articles .com

Old Magazine Articles .com
This site is one of the reasons I can never discourage a student from using the Web. Matt Jacobson, affiliation and credentials unknown, has taken it upon himself to scan old out-of-copyright articles and mount them as pdfs. Old articles are hard to find in library databases with the exception of JSTOR. The articles on this website are of a more popular genre and provide those kinds of primary documents that are so interesting to read because they contain clues to the culture of the time they were written. They are all pdfs.

Here's the "About Us:" is a private undertaking and the effort of one old magazine enthusiast in particular who believes deeply that today's readers of history can learn a good deal from the old periodicals. It is a primary source website and is designed to serve as a reference for students, educators, authors, researchers, dabblers, dilettantes, hacks and the merely curious. The old articles, essays, poetry, cartoons and photographs that can be found on the site have all been collected from a number of different libraries, bookshops and yard sales throughout the United States and Europe. The topics selected reflect the whims of the editor as well as the growing interests of the internet community. To the best of our understanding, all the content is in the public domain . . .

I picked up this website from an email from Research Buzz. Check it out.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Wikiscanner--Whitewashers Are Not Quite Anonymous Anymore

Virgil Griffith, a graduate of Mobile's own Math and Science High School has made big news this week by developing a piece of software that points to who is doing anonymous editing of Wikipedia articles on government or corporate entities. Sorry FBI, FEMA, EXXON and other biggies--you are going to have to work harder to hide your positive spins.

"How does WikiScanner work?
When you make an edit to Wikipedia, you have two choices. First, you can register and leave your username, or you can edit anonymously. But, when you edit anonymously, it uses your IP address, a number which identifies what computer network are you from, in lieu of a username. Wikipedia does this for convenience to distinguish your anonymous edits from someone else's anonymous edits. In essence, WikiScanner combines two databases: (1) The list of all IP adresses that have made edits to Wikipedia, and (2) What IP addresses belong to which companies. So with WikiScanner you can type a company name, and it shows you what edits have come from IP addresses owned by that company."

Virgil Griffith says,

". . . I've found three common kinds of vandalism.
Wholesale removal of entire paragraphs of critical information. (common for both political figures and corporations)

White-washing -- replacing negative/neutral adjectives with positive adjectives that mean something similar. (common for political figures)

Adding negative information to a competitor's page. (common for corporations)"

Try it this weekend. Great fun being a detective.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wikimindmap and Wikirage

Research Buzz is one of the blogs I track to keep up with the new, weird, or even possibly useful, sites on the web. Two items appeared this week one of which is under the "possibly useful" category; the other is more on the weird part of the continuum.

One of the hardest things for any student researcher to do is to find a focus when doing a library paper. Faculty sometimes fail to realize that students have not yet found their interests, their passion. Nothing is more fun for an academic than to hunt and find overlooked or new info on a subject with which they are intimately familiar. They already have a built in skeleton on which to place the new bit.

What happens when a student is assigned a paper in a course about which they only have some rudimentary conceptual framework, if that. They flounder; they doubt; they despair; sometimes they plagiarize. (At least that's the part the librarians see.) I think that anything that will help students find a focus and think about ways to narrow an idea into a workable, researchable, and maybe even interesting, subject is worth mention. Sometime ago I mentioned EBSCO's visual search as one way for a student to find focus. Now someone has found a way to mine Wikipedia for broader, narrower and related concepts. It's called Wikimindmap ( Here's the "About." Try some general topic like "advertising" and play with the ways one can use it to brainstorm a concept.

The other app is Wikirage--a website that compiles a list of the most edited Wikipedia entries. Like those sites that rate the most frequently accessed or emailed websites, it tracks the Zeitgeist of the hour, the day, the month.

While exploring these sites I also ran across this webpage: Ten Things You Should Know About Wikipedia. Number 6 should probably be on every syllabus.

"#6 We do not expect you to trust us.

It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish. We are fully aware of this. We work hard to keep the ratio of the greatest to the worst as high as possible, of course, and to find helpful ways to tell you in what state an article currently is. Even at its best, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, with all the limitations that entails. It is not a primary source. We ask you not to criticize Wikipedia indiscriminately for its content model but to use it with an informed understanding of what it is and what it isn't. Also, as some articles may contain errors, please do not use Wikipedia to make critical decisions."

Monday, August 27, 2007