“Fact Check Yourself Before You Fact Wreck Yourself”: A Primer on Information Literacy Resources

We have all fallen for fake news at some point in our lives and we can all learn skills to help prevent that from happening again. Technology can change our world for the better and help us combat the problem of fake news. Facebook and Google are increasingly incorporating fact checking and ways to see if sources are verified into their platforms, and we even have Illinois students working hard to solve the problem of fake news in social media from a technological perspective.

Snopes, Politifact, and Washington Post Fact Checker, are all great places to start. Plus, Snopes for example, has pulled pranks to make sure you aren’t too reliant on one source, which may sound bad but they want you to remain skeptical of all sources, and not become too dependent on one source.

However,  it’s more important to really learn that just because something sounds like it could be true does not mean that it isn’t complete baloney. My friend Jesse E., a playwright based in New York City, came up with a clever saying to think about before sharing any news stories on social media: “Fact check yourself before you fact wreck yourself”. Overall, you need to attain a certain level of information literacy.

What is information literacy?

  • Critically thinking about your sources of information, where they come from, and why they were created.
    • Even when that requires extra effort
      • Even when you are just scrolling through headlines on social media

How old is this problem?

Older than you may think!

The first fake photograph, was created in 1840 by Hippolyte Bayard, an early pioneer of photography. Specifically, in his Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man — a very meta demonstration of his photography process — he claimed he was a photography pioneer who committed suicide over getting overlooked for Daguerre and his Daguerrotype.

And of course feel free to debate or suggest more media literacy must reads in the comments!

What else hasn’t changed?

Statistics are still hard and people do crazy things with numbers all the time. Luckily, you can get a good overview of statistics and common errors here through our small but mighty non-circulating collection of stats books. And don’t be afraid to ask your wildest stats questions to our experts here!

Interested in becoming more information literate or helping your students become more information literate?

Digital Zombies

Inspired by Max Brooks’ World War Z, “Digital Zombies” is a hybrid online and in person information literacy scavenger hunt where players learn about and eventually make their own fake historical sources. This resource was created by history and information science researchers based in California and Ontario originally for students in the University of California system, but easily adapted to other locales.

“Sleeping with the Enemy: Wikipedia in the College Classroom.”

This provocatively titled article focuses on research done at Lycoming College, where professors decided to confront Wikipedia and online source use issues in a creative way, by having students actually write their own Wikipedia articles. This study shows a great way to get students interested in how sources are created and contribute to a source that the public often relies on for general reference information.

A great journalism LibGuide from FIU chock full of good tips can be found here at http://libguides.fiu.edu/c.php?g=626398&p=4374383 for those who enjoy LibGuides.

The Programming Librarian (ALA) has also recently put out a list of fake news fighting resources!

And of course our very own information literacy information portal!

SourceLab is a course sequence and digital history initiative here on campus!

And remember, Scholarly Commons is a great place to begin your quest for the truth!

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Telling Your Story With StoryMap JS

Earlier on the blog, we talked about ways to create story maps so we’re following that up with a tutorial for one of the options on there, StoryMapJS.

StoryMapJS is a web-hosted program that lets you create interactive maps by adding Google slides and images onto a map layout from OpenStreetMap. More advanced users can overlay their own map using the Gigapixel mode. But today we are keeping it simple and creating a map giving an around the world tour of cookies.

Getting Started:

  1. Click “Make a Story Map” and sign in with your Google account and come up with a snazzy title!

Name your map

2. If you come up with an even snazzier title you can change it by clicking “My Maps” and choosing the map and the settings option.

arrow pointing to My Maps in top left corner and arrow pointint to gear icon on

Finally, remember to save your work. StoryMapJS can get a little confusing and better to be safe than sorry.

Creating Your Title Slide:

Slide editing mode StoryMapJS

This is the title slide editing page but it’s not that different from the page to create your slides for the map. You can write a title — I’ve chosen “Cookies, Biscuits and Other Circular Treats” — in the “Headline” section and either write or paste your writing on the right side. You can  use the “Media” side to upload an image, but you also change the background of the slide itself by clicking Slide Background and uploading an image into StoryMapJS. To see how your map is coming so far you can check it out in the Preview section as seen here:

cookies in a plastic bag as background image of title page

If you’ve ever wondered who makes sure that cookies leftover from library events get eaten, you can thank the brave and dedicated graduate assistants of Scholarly Commons for providing this service.

Don’t want it to say “Start Exploring” for your title page instructions? Don’t worry — you can change that, too! Click Options and check “Yes” for “Call to Action” and add a custom call. This is also where you can change the type of map (such as creating a Gigapixel) and other important features.

Options in StoryMap JS

Creating Your First Map Point 

Click “Add Slide”

We’re going to start this journey off knowing that various versions of cookies originated in the ancient world, with National Geographic, a trusted source, saying the first cookies appeared in Persia during the 7th century (B. Patrick, & J. Thompson, 2009). Since there’s no mural, painting or visual documentation of “The First Cookie” (like there should be for such a historically significant event), I am not using an image here, making this similar to a title slide. However, this time we’re using a location!  If you’re not sure exactly where something happened simply search the country and click on the correct date.

Adding a location on the map

Creating A Map Point With Images and More!

Unlike many types of cookies, we know exactly where chocolate chip cookies were invented and we can even look up coordinates in Google Maps. Specifically, they were invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield and were originally sold in Whitman, Massachusetts at the Toll House Inn, which has since burned down (Michaud, 2013). However, we have an address! Simply search the address on the map and it will place a point on the map approximating that location.

Typing in Whitman MA address in StoryMapJS

Upload media into your slide:

For this slide, I will be using a picture of a chocolate chip cookie in the GA office that I took myself. Since I took the picture myself I am the copyright holder, please take at least a minute to think about copyright law especially if you are using your StoryMap as part of, or in lieu of, an article. Go to the “Media” section and simply paste a link to your photo from your preferred photo cloud storage (make sure it you have the share settings so that it is public) or the source hosting the photo or upload an image from your computer. You can write where the photo comes from in the next box and can add a caption below that.

Uploaded media demo

Sharing Your Work:

Alright, so you’ve told your story through slides and map points. You’ve moved your slides into the order you want by dragging and dropping them on the side bar. You’ve edited your text, attributed your photos to their sources, and are ready to go. Simply hit “Share” in the top right corner and choose whether you want to embed your map on your website or share the link itself. A word of warning, these sites use aspects through Google and may have issues with link rot so make sure to back up your text and images elsewhere as well!

For Further GIS Assistance

If you’re looking for a more in-depth approach to GIS, please contact James Whitacre, our GIS specialist.

Works Cited:
Drop Cookies – Oxford Reference. 2017. 1st ed. Oxford University Press. Accessed April 17. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199313396.013.0166.

Michaud, Jon. 2013. “Sweet Morsels: A History of the Chocolate-Chip Cookie.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker. December 19. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sweet-morsels-a-history-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie.

Olver, Lynne. 2017. “Food Timeline: Food History Research Service.” Accessed April 17. http://www.foodtimeline.org/index.html.

Stradley, Linda. 2015. “History Of Cookies, Whats Cooking America.” What’s Cooking America. June 28. https://whatscookingamerica.net/History/CookieHistory.htm.

Sweets. (2009). In B. Patrick, & J. Thompson, An Uncommon History of Common Things. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society. Retrieved from http://proxy2.library.illinois.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ngeouc/sweets/0?institutionId=386

Toll house cookie. (2014). In J. F. Mariani, The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink (2nd ed.). London, UK: Bloomsbury. Retrieved from http://proxy2.library.illinois.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/bloomfood/toll_house_cookie/0?institutionId=386

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Summer Changes at the Scholarly Commons

Beginning on Monday, May 15th, the Scholarly Commons will begin our summer hours:

  • Monday to Friday, 10:00am to 5:00pm

Other changes:

  • The Survey Research Lab and our Statistical Consulting Hours will go on hiatus until Summer Term 2. They will become available again the week of June 12th.

Thank you, and we hope to see you at the Scholarly Commons soon!

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Choosing GIMP as a Photoshop Alternative

The GIMP logo.

Image manipulation is a handy skill, but sinking time and money into Adobe Photoshop may not be an option for some people. If you’re looking for an alternative to Photoshop, GIMP is a great bet. Available for almost every operating system, GIMP is open source and free with lots of customization and third party plugin options.

One of the major aspects you lose when moving from Photoshop to GIMP is the loss of a major community and widespread knowledge of the software. While GIMP has its dedicated loyalists and a staff, they lack the same kind of institutional power that Adobe has to answer questions, fix bugs, and provide support. While Lynda.com does provide tutorials on GIMP, there are fewer overall resources for tutorials and help than Photoshop.

That being said, GIMP can still be a more powerful tool than Photoshop, especially if you have a programming background (or can convince someone else to do some programming for you). Theoretically, you could add or subtract any features that you so choose by changing the GIMP source code, and you are free to distribute a version of GIMP with those changes to whomever you choose.

There are a number of pros/cons for choosing GIMP over Photoshop, so here’s a handy list.

GIMP Pros:

  • Free
  • Highly customizable and flexible (with coding expertise)
  • Motivated user community run by volunteers
  • High usability
  • Easier to contact leadership regarding issues

GIMP Cons:

  • Less recognized
  • Changes are more slowly implemented
  • No promise that the software will always be maintained in perpetuity

Of course, there are more pros and cons to using GIMP, but this will give you a basic idea of the pros and cons of switching over to this open-source software.

For more information on GIMP, you can check out the GIMP Wiki, which is maintained by GIMP developers, or The GTK+ Project, which is a toolkit for the creation of graphical user interfaces (GUI). GIMP also provides a series of Tutorials. If you’re still loyal to Adobe, you can look at the Adobe products available on the UIUC WebStore, as well as tutorials on Lynda.com.

Do you have opinions on GIMP vs. Photoshop? Let us know in the comments! And stop by the Scholarly Commons, where you can use either (or both!) software for free.

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Unpaywall Supports Discovery of Open Access Articles

Open access (OA) works are, by definition, freely available on the internet. But in order for these works to be useful, we need an effective way to discover them. Library-based discovery systems generally gather information about a work’s “version of record,” that is, the article as published in a scholarly journal. And as most researchers know, most journals are subscription-based, which can serve as a barrier to access.

The University of Illinois Libraries’ house one of the largest library collections in the United States, but from time to time scholars may still come across electronic resources to which the Library does not have direct access. Colloquially, this is sometimes referred to as “hitting a paywall.” While the Library’s Interlibrary Loan service provides an excellent resource for obtaining access to materials outside of the Library’s collection, many “paywalled” articles are also available in OA versions.The problem is that discovery systems typically aren’t designed to get a user from a paywalled version of an article to an OA version.

A new browser plug-in from Impactstory called Unpaywall aims to address this issue by pointing users to OA versions of paywalled articles, when available. When a user arrives at a webpage for an article, Unpaywall attempts to find an OA version of the article by searching through open repositories. If the plug-in succeeds in finding an open version, this is indicated with an opened lock icon on the side of the screen. Clicking on this icon takes you to a copy of the article.

The circled green icon indicates that an open access version of the paper is available. In this case clicking the icon takes the user to a pre-print version of the paper that was deposited in arXiv.

Unpaywall can also distinguish between articles that are Gold OA (articles available from the publisher under an OA license) and Green OA (articles on a preprint server or an institutional repository, like IDEALS). This information is indicated by the color of the opened lock icon (Note that this is an option that is not turned on by default).

Unpaywall indicates that this article is Gold OA with a gold opened lock icon.

Unpaywall claims that they succeed in locating open access versions of 65-85% of articles (When an open version is not found, this is indicated with a grey closed lock icon), though librarian blogger liddylib reports a 53% success rate when trying it out on Almetric’s Top 100 Articles of 2016. Nevertheless, Unpaywall seems dedicated to improving their software, as Jason Priem, one of the program’s developers, responded to liddylib’s blog post, reporting that they had improved the product to locate some Gold OA articles that had originally been missed. Unpaywall also encourages users to report bugs.

As mentioned above, Unpaywall locates full text OA articles by using data from oaDOI, another ImpactStory project. oaDOI indexes upwards of 90 million articles. relying on data sources like the Directory of Open Access Journals, CrossRef, DataCite, and BASE. It is important to note that the OA articles to which Unpaywall directs users have all been legally made available. This distinguishes Unpaywall from projects like Sci-Hub, which provide PDFs that are often made available through less credible means.

Unpaywall is a brand new product, and so it is to be expected that some hiccups will occur. Nevertheless, it seems like a promising tool for helping more people get access to research by making open access resources more discoverable.

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Writing the next great American novel, or realistically, finding the “write” tools to finish your thesis

The Scholarly Commons is a great place to write the next great American novel; in fact, I’m surprised it has not happened yet (no pressure dear patrons — we understand that you have a lot on your plates). We’re open Monday-Friday from 9-6 and enjoy a well-lit, fairly quiet, and overall ideal working space, with Espresso Royale and the Writing Center nearby. But actually getting that writing done, that’s the real challenge. Luckily, we have suggestions for tools and software you can use to keep writing and stay on track this semester!

Writing Your First Draft:

Yes, MS Word can be accessed for free for University students through the Web Store and you can set it up to better address your research needs with features like the Zotero and Mendeley plugins to incorporate your references. And don’t forget you can go to Word > File > Options > Proofing > Writing Style and select Grammar and Style and Settings to set what Spellcheck will check for so that passive voice gets underline. However, believe it or not, there are word processors, other than MS Word, that are better for organizing and creating large writing projects, such as novels, theses, or even plays!

Scrivener

Scrivener is a word processor created with novelists in mind that lets you organize your research and notes while you are writing. With an education discount, a license for Scrivener costs $38.25. Scrivener is very popular and highly recommended by two of the GAs here at Scholarly Commons (you can email Claire Berman with any questions you may have about the software at cberman2 [at] illinois.edu). To really get started, check out our online copies of Scrivener: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide and  Scrivener for Dummies!

Mellel

Unfortunately, Mellel is only available on Mac. An educational license for the software costs $29. To some extent Mellel is similar in style and price to Pages for Mac, but also shares similarities with MS Word for Mac. However, this word processor offers more options for customizing your word processing experience than Pages or MS Word. It also provides more options for outlining your work and dividing sections in a way that even MS Word Notebook version does not, which is great if you have a large written work with many sections, such as a novel or a thesis! Mellel also partners with the citation managers Bookends and Sente.

Markdown Editors like Ulysses

Ulysses is a simple and straightforward word processor for Mac, but you do have to write in Markdown without a WYSIWYG editor. It costs $44.99 for Mac and $24.99 for iOS. However, it has many great features for writers (such as built in word count writing goals for sections of a paper, and Markdown makes outlining work very easy and simple). We have discussed the value and importance of Markdown elsewhere on the blog before, specifically in our posts Digital Preservation and the Power of Markdown and Getting Started with Markdown, and of course, want to remind all of our lovely readers to consider doing their writing in Markdown. Learning Markdown can open up writing and digital publishing opportunities across the web (for example: Programming Historian tutorials are written in Markdown). Plus, writing in Markdown converts easily for simple web design without the headache of having to write in HTML.

Staying Focused:

Maybe you don’t want to buy a whole new word processor. That’s fine! Here are some tools that can help creating the “write” environment to get work done:

Freedom : costs $2.50 a month, so Freedom is not free, indeed. This is an an app that allows you to block websites and even the internet, available for Mac, Windows, iOS devices. This app also has a lock feature that will not allow you to make changes to what is blocked for a set period of time.

RescueTime : another app option. Taking a slightly different approach to the rest here, the lite version of this app helps you track how you use your time and what apps and websites you use the most so that you can have a better sense of what you are doing instead of writing. The premium version, which costs $54 a year, allows you to block distracting websites.

SelfControl: a Mac option but Open Source, with community built Linux and PC versions, and most importantly it’s free! This app allows you to block websites, based on their server, for a set period of time, in which there is basically NOTHING you can do on your computer to access these sites. So choose which sites to block and the time limit wisely.

Editing Tools:

Hemingway

Named after Ernest Hemingway, this text editor is supposed to help you adapt his style of writing, “bold and clear.” When you paste your text into the free web version, the applet gives you the text’s reading level as well as pointing out instances of awkward grammar, unnecessary or complicated words and adverbs, and sentences that are too long or too complicated.There’s a Desktop version available for $20 though I honestly don’t think it’s worth the money, though it does give another simple space on your computer to write and get feedback.

A note about Grammarly 

This is an alternative to MS Word spell check with a free version to add to your browser. As a browser add-in, it checks automatically for critical spelling and grammar mistakes (advanced ones cost a monthly fee) everywhere you write except situations where you’d really want extra spell check such as Google Docs and can be wonky with WordPress. You can always copy and paste into the Grammarly window, but at that point, you’re probably better doing spell check in MS Word. There are also only two versions of English available, American and British (take that Australia!). If you are trying to learn English and want instantaneous feedback while writing on the internet, or studying for high school standardized tests, or perhaps a frequent YouTube commenter in need of a quick check before posting, then Grammarly is for you. For most people at Scholarly Commons, this is a plugin they can skip, though I can’t speak for the paid version which is supposed to be a little bit better. If you uninstall the app they try to guilt trip you, so heads up.

SpellCheckPlus: It’s BonPatron in English! Brought to you by Nadaclair Language Technologies, this web-based text editor goes beyond MS Word’s spellcheck to help identify grammar errors and ways to make your writing sound more normal to a native (Canadian) English speaker. There is a version that costs money but if you don’t import more than the allotted 250 words of text at one time you will be fine using the free version.

Let us know what you think and any tools we may have missed! Happy writing!

And to learn more and find more great productivity tools, check out:

Personal Information Management LibGuide

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Learning how to present with Michael Alley’s The Craft of Scientific Presentations

Slideshows are serious business, and bad slides can kill. Many books, including the one I will review today, discuss the role that Morton Thiokol’s poorly designed and overly complicated slides about the Challenger O-rings played in why the shuttle was allowed to launch despite its flaws. PowerPoint has become the default presentation style in a wide range of fields — regardless of whether or not that is a good idea, see the 2014 Slate article “PowerPointLess” by Rebecca Schuman.  With all that being said, in order to learn a bit more about how to present, I read The Craft of Scientific Presentations by Michael Alley, an engineering communications professor at Penn State.

To start, what did Lise Meitner, Barbara McClintock, and Rosalind Franklin have in common? According to Michael Alley, their weak science communication skills meant they were not taken as seriously even though they had great ideas and did great research… Yes, the author discusses how Niels Bohr was a very weak speaker (which only somewhat had to do with English being his third language) but it’s mostly in the context of his Nobel Prize speech o trying to talk to Winston Churchill, or the kinds of opportunities that many great women in science never got… Let’s just say the decontextualized history of science factoids weaken some of the author’s arguments…

This is not to say that science communication is not important but these are some important ideas to remember:

Things presentation skills can help you with:

  • Communicating your ideas with a variety of audiences more effectively
  • Marketing your research and yourself as a researcher more effectively
  • Creating engaging presentations that people pay attention to

Things presentation skills cannot help you with:

  • Overcoming systemic inequality in academia and society at large, though speaking out about your experiences and calling out injustice when you see it can help in a very long term way
  • Not feeling nervous especially if you have an underlying anxiety disorder, though practice can potentially reduce that feeling

For any presentation:  know your topic well, be very prepared, and actually practice giving your talk more than you do anything else (such as making slides). But like any skill, the key is practice practice practice!

For the most part, this book is a great review of the common sense advice that’s easy to forget when you are standing in front of a large audience with everyone looking at you expectantly. The author also offers a lot of great critiques of the default presentations you can churn out with PowerPoint and of PowerPoint itself. PowerPoint has the advantage of being the most common type of slideshow presentation software, though alternatives exist and have been discussed in depth elsewhere on the blog and in university resources. Alley introduces the Assertion-Evidence approach in which you reach people through presenting your research as memes images with text statement overlay. Specifically, you use one sentence summaries and replace bullet points with visualizations. Also you have to keep in account Murphy’s Law, where slide color or a  standard font not being supported can throw off a presentation. Since Murphy’s Law does not disappear when you create a presentation around visuals, especially custom-made images and video, you may need more preparation time for this style of presentation.

Creating visualizations and one sentence summaries as well as practicing your speech to prepare for these things not working is a great strategy for preparing for a research talk. One interesting thing to think about is if Alley admits that less tested methods like TED (Technology-Entertainment-Design) and pecha kucha work for effective presentations, how much of the success of this method has to do with people caring and putting time into their presentation than a change in presentation style?

Overall this book was a good review of public speaking advice specifically targeted towards a science and engineering audience and hopefully will get people taking more time and thinking more about their presentations.

Presentation resources on campus:

  • For science specific, the definitely check out our new science communication certificate through the 21st Century Scientists Working Group and the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. They offer a variety of workshops and opportunities for students develop their skills as science communicators. There’s also science communication workshops throughout the country over the summer.
  • If you have time join a speech or debate team (Mock Trial or parliamentary style debate in particular)  it’s the best way to learn how to speak extemporaneously, answer hostile questions on the fly, and get coaching and feedback on what you need to work on. If you’re feeling really bold, performing improv comedy can help with these skills as well.
  • If you don’t have time to be part of a debate team or you can’t say “yes and…” to joining an improv comedy troupe take advantage of opportunities to present when you can at various events around campus. For example, this year’s Pecha Kucha Night is going to be June 10th at Krannert Center and applications are due by April 30!  If this is still too much find someone, whether in your unit, the Career Center, etc. who will listen to you talk about your research. Or if you have motivation and don’t mind cringe get one of your friends to record you presenting (if you don’t want to use your phone for this check out the loanable tech at the UGL!)

And for further reading take a look at:

http://guides.library.illinois.edu/presentation/getting_started

Hope this helps, and good luck with your research presentations!

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Scholarly Smackdown: Ulysses vs. Mellel

On today’s edition of Scholarly Smackdown we are looking at Mellel and Ulysses, two word processors for Mac created with novelists, playwrights, and thesis writers in mind. Both of these programs let you control and customize aspects of your documents and give you control over your word processing experience in ways that MS Word and Google Docs do not. Both also have features such as easy-to-configure automatic saving, version control, outlining, and are adaptable for languages other than English.

The Basics:

Mellel actually is probably most similar to Pages for Mac but with less default templates to work from or MS Word for Mac 2011.

Blank document in Mellel

I’m not sure what the hieroglyphs in the top left corner mean, or my general feelings about the user-friendliness of Mellel.

Mellel blue and yellow document with font tab open

A lot of options for customization!

Mellel features  a WYSIWYG editor. For example, in Mellel if you drag and drop photos into the window they appear and can be edited there. However, you can’t see the videos or other media content when dragged and dropped in Ulysses.

Yet despite lacking a WYSIWYG editor, Ulysses is much easier to use. Ulysses’ documentation is incorporated right into the app itself while Mellel forces you to scroll through its user guide (which, to its credit, is well written and accessible). Yes, as much as we praise Markdown here at Scholarly Commons, before Ulysses I felt pretty indifferent to Markdown, but now I may convert. This is a great Markdown editor for people who have never used Markdown before — it includes a plethora of instructions on how to use Markdown, shortcuts for using Markdown, and other useful features. Plus, Ulysses has lots of neat features like setting writing goals, and it lets you preview how your document will look in different formats.

HTML view of Markdown text in Ulysses and example of writing goal feature

Text in Markdown in the background, HTML version in the foreground! Easily set easy to see writing goals!

Typewriter mode allows you to focus on the sentence you are writing and encourage you to keep your writing and your story moving forward, instead of getting stuck editing the same sentence again and again. Also, typewriter mode is fun if you miss using typewriters (especially since one of the few places on campus that still had typewriters available back when I was an undergraduate has had its original building condemned and is being rebuilt).

For Your Thesis:

But I know what you really want to know: can I use this to write my thesis? Well, to get a better idea I inputted my thesis outline into the software from MS Word for Mac 2011 Notebook layout. I can see, though from playing around with the titles/headings/etc., how useful Mellel’s features would be for creating outlines for a thesis structure. It may even present said outlines even more effectively than Microsoft Notebook. Mellel, unlike Ulysses, is known for allowing users to have multiple types of footnotes/endnotes. However, when I imported my MS Word Notebook into Mellel it did not keep my endnotes or acknowledge the sections.

When I repeated this experiment, and opened my thesis outline on Ulysses, it also was clear some of the usefulness of this program. To start, it preserved my Notebook document’s structure and linked the endnotes in the HTML view which was beautiful to behold.

Levels of text with example of a linked footnote

Look at that linked endnote, absolutely gorgeous.

If you have already started writing in MS Word and have documents to convert this could be one advantage of Ulysses, though it did put all of my Notebook as one very large document instead of giving each section it’s own page. However, it converts back to MS Word with very different formatting.  With Ulysses it’s easy to create outlines and formatting. Also because it’s easy to create sheets and connect them together moving around sections is a lot easier than in MS Word, even in Notebook layout.

The Verdict:

Ulysses is the clear winner here. But Mellel has some advantages especially if you’re a Bookends or Sente power user and are really attached to having a WYSIWG editor.

Learn more here:

Link for Mellel

Link for Ulysses

And remember Scholarly Commons is a great place to work on your writing and get expert help with your research!

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Use Sifter for Twitter Research

For many academics, Twitter is an increasingly important source. Whether you love it or hate it, Twitter dominates information dissemination and discourse, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. However, actually sorting through Twitter — especially for large-scale projects — can be deceptively difficult, and a deterrent for would-be Twitter scholars. That is why Sifter will go through Twitter for you.

Sifter is a paid service — which will be discussed in greater detail below — which provides search and retrieve access for undeleted Tweets. Retrieved tweets are stored in an Enterprise DiscoverText account, which allows the user to perform data analytics on the Tweets. The DiscoverText account will be part of a fourteen day free trial, but for prolonged use the user will have to pay for account access.

However, Sifter can become prohibitively expensive. Each user can get three free estimates a day. Following that, it is $20 per day of data retrieval and $30 per 100,000 Tweets. Some more expensive purchases (over $500 and $1500, respectively) will receive longer DiscoverText trials with access added for additional users. There are no refunds. So prior to making your purchase, make sure that you have done enough research to know exactly what data you want, and which filters you’d like to use.

Possible filters that you can request when using Sifter.

Have you used Sifter? Or DiscoverText? What was your experience like? Alternatively, do you have a free resource that you prefer to use for Twitter data analytics? Please let us know in the comments!

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Creating Eye-Catching and Collaborative Charts with LucidChart

A sample chart I whipped up in just a few minutes.

Sometimes the way that you display your data can be just as important as the data itself. However, for those of us who are less artistically-inclined, finding a way to present our ideas in clear, appealing ways can be difficult. That is why LucidChart can be a powerful ally to help you in your quest to present your research!

LucidChart is a free online tool (though there are paid storage packages for heavy users) that allows you to create and share various kinds of charts, with options ranging from mind maps to Cisco Network diagrams, cause and effect diagrams to floor plans. The categories that LucidChart sorts their standard templates into are: Android, Business Analysis, Education, Engineering, Entity Relationship (ERD), Floorplan, Flowchart, Mind Map, Network, Network Infastructure, Org Chart, Other, Site Map, UML, Venn Diagram, Wireframe, and iOS. You can also create and save personal templates. Each of the many options can be customized, and if elements from other templates can be added to whatever chart you are using.

The chart template selection screen.

LucidChart takes (some) of the difficulty out of designing a chart. While you have the option to change every aspect of the chart, you can also use the recommended shapes, colors, and lay-outs that LucidChart provides for you. While every template will need at least a little tweaking (because all data is different), these options can make the process of creating your chart less stressful and quicker.

The basic work space for LucidChart.

One of the greatest aspects of LucidChart is your ability to share charts. Similar to other collaborative creation websites like GoogleDocs, you have the ability to send the link out to collaborators. You can then allow collaborators to edit, comment on, and/or view your document. You can also share your document on social media, or embed it on a website. A chat option makes for easy commentary on your chart, as well.

Overall, LucidChart is a great data visualization tool, especially for newcomers who may need a helping hand with creating charts that adequately communicate their ideas to others!

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