Monday, February 19, 2007

The Gator Homeless Coalition

Good evening,

My name is David Reznik and I am one of the founding members of the Gator Homeless Coalition, a group of student volunteers seeking to change the nature of the University of Florida’s relationship with its surrounding community, particularly Gainesville's most victimized citizens: the homeless. UF has proven to be not only the largest, but also most influential institution in the city of Gainesville, and yet it has gentrified the city to suit the needs of privileged UF administration, faculty, and students.

Though the city may benefit from UF’s affluence, Gainesville’s permanent residents, specifically its homeless, suffer as well. There is now an affordable housing crisis and a shortage of shelter beds for the city with the highest poverty rate of any with a public university. The disproportionate number of students in Gainesville has also caused the scarcity of employment opportunities for local residents. It was these factors and more that sparked our mission to create the first student-run homeless shelter in Gainesville during the fall of 2006. We hope to bridge the campus-community divide in a more socially responsible fashion by having UF positively affect the city within which it exists.

While fostering leadership among students through hands-on experience in various disciplines, we seek to not just redefine the inhumane realities of Gainesville’s homeless. Our goal is to ultimately spark political action and social consciousness in making this university town a truly interdependent community.


If you would like more information about us, please check out our website at or email us at

Friday, February 16, 2007

Selecting a Database

So, Which Database Should I Use Already?

One major problem researchers often encounter is deciding which database to use. UF Librarians develop Subject Guides listing databases for each domain, but the lists may include 20 databases! How is a confused student to decide among them? Mostly, folks just use the databases they always use. Often it's not a good one for what they're looking for. And then they say...

"I can't find anything about sleep disorders! Someone must have written about it! I see it on TV commercials all the time."

Well, Sociological Abstracts is probably not the best database to find articles on sleep disorders. (Though I was surprised to find some interesting things on it there. But they might not be what a psychology students expected or needed.)

What are the differences between databases?
  • Which journals does the database index?
    • Which subject area are the journals in?
    • Are the journals all in one subject area or are the journals in all subject areas?
    • Are the journals almost all scholarly or almost all popular or is there a mix?
    • How many journals are covered?
  • What does the database index besides journals?
    • Does it include books, chapters in books, websites, encyclopedias, dissertations?
  • Does the database include abstracts or summaries of the articles or just citations?
  • Does the database have an interface that's easy to use?
    • Do you have a choice of interfaces?
    • Is the interface not easy, but powerful (You can find everything, if you spend a lot of time learning how to use it. Some well-designed interfaces are both.)
Here is a chart that compares the features of databases useful in our departments. I will writing more about making these decisions later. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Criminalization of Mental Illness

The Imprisoning of Deinstitutionalized Mentally Ill People

Last Sunday night, CBS's 60 Minutes reported on the death of Timothy Souders, a young man with Bipolar Disorder, who was in prison for shoplifting. The major contention of the producers is that since the deinstitutionalization of people with chronic, severe mental illnesses many are being shunted into the prison system. They are not able or willing to deal with them, not sensitive to their needs. Not aware of their illnesses.

For instance, people who are diagnosed as suicidal and may cut themselves (e.g. cut out pieces of their organs), the prison staff may call "manipulative with extreme behaviors."

Here is a search from PsycINFO about the prison system and deinstitutionalization.
(Remember you'll have to be logged into the library either by its proxy system or the VPN to access these articles.)

Frontline has a program (you can watch online) called The New Asylums, along with a website with more indepth interviews and research material.

I understand this response and the feeling that we might want to reopen or find havens for chronically ill people, but I also worked at a state mental hospital during graduate school. Horrible events occurred there.

If we do decide to find homes for people who are severely ill, we need to think hard about how to make them good places for the patients/residents living there and the staff working there. The working conditions at the state mental hospital took control and dignity away from the staff. Of course the residents suffered. There was a reason the State Hospitals were closed in the first place. It wasn't only because the drugs seemed to be miraculous. It was also because the hospitals appeared to be hellish.

Some books to look at:

Deinstitutionalization : promise and problems
San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, c2001.
EDUCATION LIBRARY -- -- RA790.A1 N43 no.90

The role of the state hospital in the twenty-first century /
San Francisco : Jossey Bass, 1999.
EDUCATION LIBRARY -- -- RA790.A1 N43 no.84

Baum, Alice S.
A nation in denial : the truth about homelessness /
Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, 1993.
LIBRARY WEST -- -- HV 4505 .B378 1993

Friday, February 09, 2007

Thesauri and Search Terms

What Words to Search With? Keywords, Subject Terms, Thesauri

Many of my consultations start with this question. "I've looked and looked for stuff. But I just don't know the right words to use. How do I find them?" (Even before the student tells me what they're looking for...)

A lot of times, students are really just looking in the wrong database. A very general database, a database they're comfortable with because they used it before. Or perhaps in Google and their topic isn't too Googleable. Check on our Subject Guides. Or talk with a Librarian about the various databases.

UF Librarians have put together an excellent tutorial on how to analyze your question and develop search terms and a search strategy using your own mind.

But a big part of the problem with searching is that you're really trying to get out of your own mind and trying to figure out how other people are describing things. How authors and other researchers are describing what you are looking for. And how librarians and database designers are indexing and organizing articles.

So here are some ideas about using other people's minds to help you.
  • Read subject specific encyclopedia and handbook articles on the topics you're interested in. Scour them for words that you hadn't thought of.
  • Talk with anyone you can corral -- especially other students and faculty members (ply them with coffee or chocolates). Make note of how they talk about your topic.
  • Use the thesaurus for the database you're searching:
There are a couple of ways to do this. And databases and interfaces vary in how good they are at this. But the idea is that you type in the words you're thinking of, and they give you words that they use to describe the same things. (Duh.) They'll usually give you the definition they use and other words that describe a broader concept; those that describe narrower; and others that are related. Check out the tutorial on PsycINFO's thesaurus.

If you are in Ebsco, using PsycINFO, GBLT Full Text, or Academic Search Premier, you can use the Visual Search or the regular search to see what the most common subject terms are in the articles you find. In the regular search, the most common subject terms will come up on the left hand side of the results screen:Click on image to enlarge

In CSA databases, like LLBA or Sociological Abstracts, the subject terms appear next to the results of individual articles.
If there isn't enough room to show all of the terms, you can look at the whole article. The nice thing about the CSA database, is that when you find an article that looks good, you can select a couple of the terms that describe it, and the database will search using them together for you. (Don't choose all of them. Usually the whole set only describes that one article.)

So with this article, since I wanted to look at "how people listen to verbs in a sentence" and used the keywords "sentence processing" and verbs, I might choose complements and syntactic processing. And later verbs and syntactic processing.Click to enlarge image
The more you read and chat, more terms you'll come upon. Visit me and we can talk and read together! Collaboration helps more than you can imagine. Take care!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sage e-Reference and Methodology Encyclopedias

Online Now! Statistics and Measurements! Methodology Encyclopedias!

It's 2 a.m. You're reading an interesting paper on sentence processing: Reading sentences with a late closure ambiguity: Does semantic information help? Lipka, Sigrid; Language and Cognitive Processes, Vol 17(3), Jun 2002. pp. 271-298. And you get to a paragraph in the methodology section that states they set up a 2X2 Latin Square.

"What?" you think. "A Latin Square? I don't remember that. They started dancing in the middle of their analysis? It does help break the tension..." Well, I usually don't do that myself. But luckily, I remembered that the library has a trial subscription (soon a regular subscription) to several online encyclopedias from Sage Publications. So I searched for the term "Latin Square" and found an article explaining what a Latin Square is and why they are used.

As the Psych, Soc, Ling, and CSD Librarian, I am especially happy about this, because it includes something I've dreamt about for several years: 3 methods related encyclopedias -- 1 in Statistics & Measurements, 1 in Research Methods in the Social Sciences and 1 in Psychological Assessments.

Yep. In the middle of the night, you can have questions answered! Plus the interface is excellent. The Home Page for each encyclopedia has a list of broad topics that branch off to more specific articles. Or you can look through all of the articles in an alphabetical list. Or you can search for terms in a basic search or a more specific search. Or look through the index.

Each signed article has links to other, related articles. Each article also includes several articles and books for further reading. This is wonderful for another use of the encyclopedia. Doing your own research.

Say you decide to develop a questionaire. You read the several articles in the Methods Encyclopedia on Questionaires/Survey Design, (even an article on Internet Surveys) but are hungry for more! Here are suggestions for further reading from one of the articles:

Blumer, H. Sociological analysis and the “variable.” American Sociological Review vol. 21 pp. 683–690 (1956).

de Vaus, D. (Ed.). (2002). Social surveys (4 vols.). London: Sage.

Groves, R. M. (1989). Survey errors and survey costs. New York: Wiley.

Marsh, C. (1982). The survey method: The contribution of surveys to sociological explanation. London: Allen & Unwin.

Rosenberg, M. (1968). The logic of survey analysis. New York: Basic Books.

Not bad!