Help Obtaining Data is Available from the Library

This fall marks the fifth annual Data Purchase Program, where the University Library accepts applications from campus researchers for purchasing data that will be useful to them in their research.  The data must under $5,000, must be used for teaching or research, and it must be available to all of campus.  Some vendors are only willing to sell access for one person, but often we can negotiate campus access.

The library has purchased a large variety of data: from tax assessor’s data for the Chicago area to satellite imagery of a river in Argentina and the locations of villages in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India.  A full list of purchased data is on the program description page at

The deadline for first consideration is September 29, but the Data Services Committee will consider applications that come in later as long as we have funds available and can complete the purchase by the end of the fiscal year.

If you are interested in applying for the Data Purchase Program, the online application is at  If you have questions about the program or need help identifying data for your research, please contact Karen Hogenboom, Numeric and Spatial Data Librarian, at  We look forward to connecting you with the data you need!

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Learning with

Finally, you’ve located the software you need. Now, how to use it.

The ever broadening world of software, programs, applications, coding languages, and technical services can be hard to keep up with. Youtube can be a great option when you want a quick fix of how to convert file formats, install things, and the like. However, if you’re looking for a well-made tutorial that will walk you through learning a piece of software, look no further. is a subscription service available through the library with your netID.

What can it teach me? Lynda offers courses on much of the software available in the Scholarly Commons in categories of Animation, Music, Business, CAD, Design, Developer, Education, Marketing, Photography, Video, and Web.  Although there are hundreds of tutorials on specific software, they also feature tutorials on learning discipline specific fundamentals and principles. Lynda also remembers which tutorials you watched and displays an eye-icon next to them so that next time you’ll know where you left off. No need to watch a whole series though if you just want to learn a particular feature. Tutorials are often broken down into specific items or features that you might want to use (e.g. how to sort tables in Excel).

Where can you find it? Lynda is available through all three campuses and the different links are listed below. Once you’re logged in though, finding the software you need is a simple search in the search box or navigating their tutorial catalog.

Whether you’re looking to update your software skills, want to explore an application before deciding to purchase it, or need to learn some programming for your research project, is a great place to start.

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New GIS Specialist at Scholarly Commons

The Scholarly Commons has a new GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Specialist, James Whitacre. James’s expertise will enhance the Scholarly Commons’s ability to help students and faculty with their geospatial research needs and geodata design and management. He will be available by appointment to help researchers acquire geodata, design and manage spatially enabled databases, find the geoprocessing tools needed to analyze geodata, and enhance maps to be publication ready and will hold office hours during fall and spring semesters.

If you are unsure of what GIS is, the Scholarly Commons will continue to offer an introductory workshop on how GIS can be used in research, to help researchers understand the power of geospatial technologies. Additionally, the Scholarly Commons plans to expand GIS training opportunities to help expand students’ knowledge of GIS concepts and techniques. Topics will include finding geodata on the web, geodata design and management best practices, map publication, free and open source and online software tools, coordinate systems and projections, and software scripting tools such as ModelBuilder and Python.

James comes to us from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History where he served as the GIS Manager for three years, after finishing his Master of Science in Geography, concentrating on GIS and Cartography, at the Indiana University of the Pennsylvania. James has a strong background in natural sciences, but also has experience with many other GIS applications, such as population analysis, crime mapping, and cartographic production.

Welcome, James!

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The Image of Research Gallery

Behold! All image entries from the very first Image of Research Contest are now viewable in the online gallery!

The Image of Research is a multidisciplinary competition celebrating the diversity and breadth of student research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Inspired by the contest at the University of Chicago graduate college, this spring was the first edition for the students at Illinois. Both graduate and undergraduate entrants were asked to submit an image along with a brief abstract articulating the ways in which the image relates to their research. The entries were then judged by an interdisciplinary panel and monetary awards were given to the top contestants.

The graduate Image of Research contest was held in February and the winners were announced during graduate student appreciation week in April at a showcase in the Illini Union. There were an impressive 64 entries this year! The winners included: Keith Cassidy in first place, Marissa Brooke Siebel in second place, Lauren Fields in third place, and Aron Katz and Nico Brown with honorable mentions. The people’s choice award (voted on at the showcase) also went to first place winner, Keith Cassidy. The images have since been archived in the institutional repository (IDEALS) and they have been organized into collections and exhibits using a platform called Omeka, making them accessible long-term for those who are interested.

The undergraduate edition of the contest was held in the Illini Union this year and showcased the works of 23 participants. This year’s contestants of special recognition included: JunYoung Gwak in first place, Aimee Gottlieb in second place, Le Wang in third place, and Tayana Panova of honorable mention. This year’s student contributions illustrated some of the creative and exciting research that undergraduates are involved in at the University of Illinois. All entries have also been put into IDEALS as well as Omeka.

You can navigate through each image and read each abstract submitted by the contestants in the gallery. Browse the winners in the 2014 Winners Exhibit! Go take a peek at this great demonstration of the scholarly research being done by the students at Illinois.

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ICPSR 2014 Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research

Still making a list of summer plans? As you gear up for summer, keep in mind that the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan is offering a wide range of classes on quantitative data-analysis. Whether you are a beginner or you are ready to study more advanced techniques, the program has something unique to offer each individual. Course instruction is centered around interactive, participatory data-analysis within a broader context of substantive social research.

Courses for the summer 2014 program are offered in two four-week sessions, May through August. These sessions include lecture, seminar, and workshop formats with participants from a diverse range of departments, universities, and organizations.

The following are a few examples of courses that will be offered:

Basic Foundation
Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis
Introduction to Regression
Introduction to Computing

Linear Models and Beyond
Regression Analysis
Hierarchical Linear and Multilevel Models
Categorical Data Analysis

Substantive Topics
Race and Ethnicity
Curating Data & Providing Data Services
Designing, Conducting, and Analyzing Field Experiments

Advanced Techniques
Applied Bayesian Modeling
Advanced Time Series
The R Statistical Computing Environment

Multivariate Techniques
Multivariate Statistical methods
Scaling and Dimensional Analysis
Intro & Advanced Network Analysis

Formal Modeling
Game Theory
Rational Choice
Empirical Modeling for Theory Evaluation

Registration is now open. There are also a few free workshops that will be offered over the summer, but registration for those sessions ends May 15, 2014 and seats are limited!

For a full list of courses, fee and discount information, and to fill out an application visit the website.

Call: (734) 763-7400

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Need Assistance With Financial Planning?

Not sure where to start? Next Tuesday, March 18th, there will be two Savvy Researcher Workshops geared to help guide students through the first steps in the creation of a future financial plan. The two workshops will be held in room 314 on the third floor of the Main Library. The first session will run in the morning from 11:00am-11:50am and the second session will take place in the afternoon from 1:00pm-1:50pm.

The Scholarly Commons and the Student Money Management Center (SMMC) have partnered to create: “Steps Toward Financial Planning.” These workshops will address ways to handle issues such as unburying yourself from undergraduate student loans, securing a brighter financial future after graduate/professional school, and implementing a smart financial plan for your future dreams. The sessions will also cover the ins and outs of necessary financial documents, important questions to ask a financial planner, and how to set realistic future financial goals. Both sessions are free to attend, so you’ll already be taking a step in a fiscally responsible direction.

If you have any questions or require any special accommodations, please contact SMMC at To register for one of these sessions, or for more information on this and other Savvy Researcher Workshops, take a look at the schedule. You can also check out the Savvy Researcher’s Twitter account @learnlibrary. We hope to see you there!


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Google Developers Introduction to R Series

R is an open source software programming language that is widely used among data miners for data analysis. The popularity of R has grown exponentially in the last couple of years and, if you are new to the R language, Google Developers has created a series that will help you get started with R.  Each video is relatively short, ranging from 2 to 4 minutes. The entire series is split up into 4 sections. Videos have feature captions that can be translated into any language to make them easy to follow. These videos are a gateway to both the R language and the fundamentals of programming.

The programming concepts that appear in this series are listed below:

  • Variables are storage locations that contain information. This concept is introduced in video 1.2.
  • Control structures (also called control flow) are blocks of code that decide how a program will respond when given certain conditions and parameters. An example of a common control structure is “if-else” statements. They are introduced in video 2.3.
  • Data structure is a way of organizing data so that the program can use the data in an efficient way. An example of a data structure is a Variable. For larger sets of information R uses particular types of data structures which are unique only to the R language. There are vectors (1.3), Matrices (1.6), and data frames (2.1) all of these types of data structures are objects that can be stored and manipulated.
  •  Syntax is the set of rules and arrangements that can be correctly interpreted in that language. This concept is covered through the entire series.

The following is a synopsis of the beginner introduction to R videos from Google:

Section 1 Basics:

The initial install of R on your computer includes a tour around the R environment and practice entering commands. This section also has an overview of working with vectors; they are the heart of R. It also teaches you about other object structures of R such as data frames and matrices.

Section 2 and 3 Control and Data Structures:

This portion of the series deals with the process of creating data structures from your own data. It also teaches how to manipulate the data structures you have created by using control structures.

Section 4 Functions:

The final section of the R series uses the skills that you learned in sections 1-3 in order to create your own custom R functions.

Overall this series is a good way to get started with R if you are an absolute beginner.

Here the link to the Google’s Introduction to R series so you can get started:

More Resources:

20 free tutorials for R

Free interactive tutorial on R

R syntax cheat sheet

More information about programming concepts

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The Thinking Eye: a presentation by Edward Tufte

This April Edward Tufte, a statistician and professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University, will be giving a presentation at the University of Illinois in Foellinger Auditorium. Topics of the presentation include evidence and inference, strategies for identifying excellence, and practical advice for seeing better in the real world and on the glowing flat rectangle of the computer screen.

Edward Tufte, or ET as he is commonly called, is a man who has dedicated his life to the complex understanding of the important connections between science, technology, and art. As a data theorist and visualization pioneer, he is interested in demonstrating what happens in the place where art meets science to create awe-inspiring displays of data sets. As an expert in informational graphics and design, his work varies from data-rich illustrations to sculpture, and even entire landscape pieces such as his 243-acre landscape sculpture park and tree farm in Woodbury, Connecticut. He has also written and designed 4 books: Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information, Visual Explanations, and Beautiful Evidence. The vastness and beauty of his work has prompted such publications as The New York Times and Business Week to call him “The Leonardo da Vinci of Data” and the “Galileo of Graphics.”

An incredible example of his ability to visually convey an understanding of data sets is his art exhibit, “The Cognitive Art of Feynman Diagrams.” Feynman diagrams, named after Richard Feynman, are diagrams that show what happens when elementary particles collide. Though these diagrams already represent a visual display of data sets, Tufte brings the diagrams into a three-dimensional optical experience using stainless steel that completely alters the ways in which we communicate with and understand the data they represent. These stainless steel sculptures hanging from the walls represent the space-time paths taken by all subatomic particles in the entire universe using just 120 diagrams. It’s safe to say that he takes the word “visionary” to a whole new level. ET’s art exhibit, “The Cognitive Art of Feynman Diagrams,” will be at the Fermilab Art Gallery in Batavia, Illinois (near Chicago) from April 15 to June 26.

For more information on this and his many other projects you can visit his website and you can check out his twitter.

You can also take a look at all 4 of his books in the Data Presentation and Visualization Collection in the Scholarly Commons. If you would like to get hands on experience with your own data visualization projects, check out the Savvy Researcher Workshop, “Visualizing Your Data” on April 9th. For more information and to register take a look at the Savvy Researcher Calendar.

April 10, 2014 7:00 pm
Foellinger Auditorium, UIUC
This event is sponsored by NCSA and is free and open to the public.

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