Monday, March 25, 2013

ICPSR - teaching & educational resources

Last month I attended a webinar hosted by ICPSR (the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research) which highlighted and explained the resources available to educators and students. As a social worker who loves research and education, I was excited to learn more about these resources! (You can watch the whole webinar on YouTube! Click here.)

The first exciting tool is the Data-driven Learning Guides (aka Short Exercises). These are meant for use in non-research-methods courses, usually for undergraduates. They will be helpful for introducing students to the utility and purpose of data. ICPSR advocates for introducing data earlier in the life of a college student rather than waiting until substantive years such as junior or senior year, because if students learn earlier on that data is a useful/meaningful tool, then perhaps fewer of them will abandon research knowledge in the future. All of the modules are standardized. ICPSR has made it so easy for any educator to use this resource: they have the following sections of information on each guide: goal and concept of that particular guide, the dataset, variables contained in the dataset, and ideas for application (which help students think about certain research questions, and has links to pre-made tables for the purpose of analysis).

The next tool is the Exercise Sets. These are more suited for students in research-focused classes. They provide a series of modules designed as a sequence to follow throughout a class rather than just for one assignment. One module uses Robert Putnam's book on social capital, Bowling Alone, which is very applicable to social work education.

The last tool is the Crosstab Assignment Builder (which is in beta-level development). According to the website, "The instructor selects an appropriate dataset and identifies relevant variables. The students can be given varying degrees of autonomy; instructors can designate placement of specific variables (row, column, control) or they can leave the choice up to students."

In addition to these great tools, the website also contains pages on: resources for students, videos on teaching, and external links. Be sure to browse through the full site so you can discover the full range of the wonderful resources available here!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - like Linked In

This website is becoming more and more popular as more folks embrace social media as a means of professional networking. On the site, you can create a profile with your current affiliation and position, post your publications, identify what areas of research you are interested in, and "follow" any other member (similar to "friend-ing" someone on Facebook or following someone on Twitter).

On your profile, you can add your CV. But that's not all! You can add specific sections to highlight your experience, such as talks/lectures, paper drafts, conference presentations, book reviews, and more. So, this seems like a similar features to Linked In, because you can specify your qualifications and experiences for colleagues and employers to see.

You can also use analytic tools (similar to Google Analytics) in order to find out how many times your page has been visited, how many unique visitors you've had, how many times your papers have been uploaded, and some other generic website stats. This could be useful during a job search, or if you are just curious about how many people in the world have clicked on your work! It's easy to start following your Facebook friends and Gmail contacts who also have profiles on You simply import them during your account creation process.

I know that many of my readers don't have time to upload a profile or start a new social networking venture. But consider making a profile on this site... it literally only takes 5 minutes to set up, and then you can get e-mail notifications whenever someone interacts with your page, follows you, or wants to contact you. As a doctoral student, I know that networking is key in this stage of my career, and I'm sure many of you can relate!

So, create a profile. Then, follow me! :) Just click on this link:

Follow me on

Monday, March 11, 2013

Google analytics - Stalk in secrecy

Thanks to the paid subscription provided to me by the VCU library system, I get access to subscription content of The Chronicle of Higher Education, which is an online periodical about topics related to higher education.  I signed up for weekly e-mails that pertain to my interests. One of the recently highlighted articles discussed how an academic job candidate created a website with his contact information, CV, and links to his publications, then started using Google Analytics to gain detailed information about who visited his website (Dunn, 2013).

Google analytics is yet another nifty tool provided by the Google universe that tracks information about visitors to your website. You can find out what seems like an endless amount of data about your site visitors, such as how they found your website, how much time they spent on your website, and what pages within your website they visited. The job candidate used it to track when visitors from a geographic location also matched up with schools at which he applied. So, once he submitted an application to a potential employer, he could watch out for when he got 17 visitors from the same locality, and assume that it was a department or school reviewing his application materials.

I'm not on the job market yet, but I can imagine how stress-inducing the process is when you don't even know if your application has been reviewed. Of course, not every potential employer will look at your website, and also you never know why they might be visiting, but at least you have an idea of what's going on behind the scenes.

So, to test it out for you, my readers, I added Google Analytics tracking to my blog. It's pretty interesting! (Says the quantoid.) One of my posts had visitors from Richmond, Charlotte, and Davidson. I can tell you that it is not extremely user friendly for a novice webmaster. But if you are savvy enough to create a website, you can  figure out how to use this tool. Even if you can't create your own website, you certainly don't need to know HTML or other coding languages in order to use this, but the part that was difficult for me was navigating through the website itself. It was difficult for me to find even the simplest features. But when I did, it was easy to add the tracking code to my blog. But, proceed with caution.

As a note, for those at VCU, if you want to view the original article, you must either access it from a university computer (or your computer that is connected to the VCU wifi), or you  must log in remotely and use the proxy connection from home, because it's subscription-only access.

Dunn, S. (2013, Feb 18). Some job candidates watch a potential employers' every click. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Monday, March 4, 2013 - No really, that's all there is to it

For those of us who want to buy really expensive books about concepts and theories and propositions and prepositions... and who also happen to be poor doctoral students, this website is a wonderful time-saver and penny-saver! It searches multiple book seller websites and finds the best price. That isn't my favorite feature of the website, though. If you are anything like me, you know that there are books out there that you'd like to buy, but can't right now. It will save your wishlist, and you can set a price alert so that when the price (total + shipping) is lower than a price you set you will get an e-mail notification. Another feature I like is that the website is clean and has no ad's or filler material. I also find it helpful to look at user reviews of booksellers that I'm not familiar with so that I can start to get an idea of whether it's a trustworthy seller. It also searches for out of print books for you history buffs out there :).

So, head on over and create a free account so you can find and save money on the books of your dreams!