Tag Archives: statistics

Microsoft Academic Search

With scholarly communications on the brain, I was thrilled to learn about Microsoft Academic Search (MAS).  Building on the work of resources like Google Scholar that gathers and indexes journal articles and Scopus and Web of Science that gathers information about how and where articles are cited by other researchers, Microsoft Academic Search brings these two items together in a *free* search. MAS also enhances the information with direct organization and department scholarly output comparisons.  Some features, like the Call for Papers (CFP) Calendar, are very much in beta but would be an overwhelmingly useful tool for academics to help manage the many, many CFPs and conference submission deadlines.

To better understand my resource comparisons, I took a sample author and compared the citation results in MAS and Scopus; images of my search results appear in the slideshow below.  The author information in MAS and Scopus both listed 4 articles publications, indicating that perhaps this information was correct.  Yet, when I looked at the 4 articles listed in each, I found that MAS had a duplicate entry for one article and, therefore, completely missed a publication.  Using the Help on MAS, I could get a look at all of the publishers they are working with and could identify that the missing article was from Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Witkins.  For the health sciences, nursing, and medicine, they are a pretty major publisher so the absence of their information in MAS would be a significant hindrance.  At the same time, the openness with which Microsoft lists their sources made this tracking down easy.

At the article level, in Scopus, the article “Breast cancer disparities and decision-making among U.S. women” was cited 24 times since its publication in 2007 (although Scopus lists the default “Cited by since 1996”) and has 84 references within the paper.  In MAS, only 60 references are listed and 15 cited papers are listed.  What happened to the rest?  This may be one of the drawbacks to the *free* service.  Looking a little closer at the details, it appears that Scopus is more complete while MAS currently stops at about 2010 for its citations.  I’m guessing a similar limitation may be the issue with the references.  While the resource appears to be in a very early beta phase, may need some data corrections, and, currently, it still doesn’t seem to account for other measures of impact such as social media sharing, it looks like I have another new toy to share with faculty in the Fall….

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For updates on MAS, you can stalk, er, follow them more directly @MSFTAcademic

Teaching revisions

Well, my utter absence over the last few months derives from my own coursework and my attempt to teach a Library Studies course for the first time.  As a short term, 8-week, online course, the pressure was, well, intense.  However, without my own school stuff going on, I’m trying to test out new ways to possibly make my life easier and thought I would share my research findings.

1) Weekly homework assignments are part of the learning process of the course, forcing students to download, enter in their answers, save, and upload their responses back to the course Assignment Drop-Box (I’m using WebCT).  The number of problems this routine activity causes students is astounding.  To avoid the proprietary file format issue, the standard set forth is RTF (rich text format) so students can use it in Google Docs, Microsoft whatever version, WordPerfect, etc.  However, at least 10-20% of the time students fail to either a) include their names or b) save the file they edited in the correct format.  Other issues tend to arise from uploading a file.    In order for me to markup their assignments, I have downloaded each RTF file, converted it to PDF, marked up the PDF, and reuploaded it as a Graded Assignment for the student to review.  To say the least, getting through a batch of 30 kids can take 8-10 hours.  Therefore, I thought I might be able to trim the time down (at least on the uploading, converting end) and try to reduce the number of issues students encounter by changing the RTF document into a form of some sort.  The library is also keen on understanding the student learning outcomes (SLOs) from this course to help either a) advocate for more sections since this is a graduation requirement but we only currently offer 3 sections of it or b) propose more funding to develop the library’s resources and programs.

Option 1: Create PDF Interactive Forms for students to fill out

With government agencies like the IRS having made the transition to interactive forms available online (instead of waiting for paper ones to arrive), I figured it was worth a shot.  Previous experience with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0 (yes, only this version is form-creator friendly) helped me feel comfortable jumping in.  The forms seem like a good idea since students wouldn’t struggle with changing text font into a different color than black and then I could download all answers in a spreadsheet at the end of the semester to evaluate question effectiveness.  The only real trick to making this successful is remembering that after running the Form Wizard and creating all of your fields to go to Advanced>Extend Features in Adobe Reader so students completing the form can save copies of the form with their answers.  (Granted I only discovered this trick with drafting up this post).  I still need to see how things work with exporting the data, but I know that all goes to a CSV (comma-separated value) file that opens nicely in Excel and Excel like programs.

Example of an Interactive Form made with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0
Example of an Interactive Form made with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0

Option 2: Google Forms

I use Google Spreadsheets to track grading progress, I use Google Powerpoint to create my Powerpoint-like presentations, so why not test out a Google Form? Unlike Adobe’s forms, Google Forms are unbelievably user-friendly, as you can see from the image of how to create a Multiple-Choice quesiton below.

Google Form example - How to Make a Multiple-Choice Question
Google Form example - How to Make a Multiple-Choice Question

Another great thing with Google Forms is its ease of distribution.  You email the form itself to be completed in the email or give a URL for the form or even embed the Form into your own site.

Example of a Google Form embedded in a website, particularly a course page
Example of a Google Form embedded in a website, particularly a course page

Although, I think my favorite part of Google Forms is the pretty summary graphs and charts it gives you about each response, as you can see in the gallery of images below.  You can also view the responses in a spreadsheet if you’d like but its less fun that way.

However, for my purposes, there are some drawbacks with Google Forms such as I can’t markup assignments and send them back to students to see what they got wrong and students don’t learn how to save a file, edit the file’s name, download a file, or upload one.  While those aren’t technically part of my curriculum, these life skills are important for students moving into professional settings or moving on to other online or hybrid-type classes that most universities offer nowadays.  Therefore, Google Forms will simply be just that, a simple form tool to get feedback for my own use and not to use as a feedback tool between me, others, and back to others.

Fun with Statistics!

So, according to the NY Times, today’s graduates ought to be statisticians…Hmmm, well, libraries already seem to place a large focus on statistics as metrics to evaluate the utility and value of libraries in our communities; some of the common sets of stats range from usage stats, return on investment figures, and program attendance.  Admittedly, statistics aren’t that much fun, but I wanted to learn more about my patron community and figured some government system must have some information on the web about it.  California’s Community College Data Mart is one prime source for basic info on gender, race, and enrollment types.  Expanding on Data Mart’s basic information, RAND California provides a more user-friendly, content rich set of statistics, including percentages and figures of students based on the number of units taken, but at a cost.  For a brief, pre-digested overview, you can also look at the Community College League’s Fast Facts. Taking a general look at community college statistics on the web, I came across a few surprises:

  1. Women in the 50+ crowd, regardless of ethnicity, were almost double the amount of men from the same age range and ethnic group enrolled.  This trend also appeared to be consistent across the other colleges I surveyed in Santa Barbara, Compton, and San Francisco.
  2. As of Spring 2009, the hardest hit areas by the recession did not see the greatest enrollment increases, as Cuesta College presents as both a graphic and a spreadsheet.
  3. The University of Phoenix, online campus had a total enrollment of 165,373 students, making it the largest degree granting university of college in the entire US.
  4. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, in 2003,  state appropriations make up approximately 38% and tutition and fees 20% of the average community college’s revenue.  In California, I found that the current appropriation of $3.114 billion is actual lower than the 2002-2003 amount of $3.685 billion and a significant decrease from the 2007-2008 amount of $5.135 billion.  No wonder everyone is in a state of shock.  I’m almost afraid to look at the impact on individual campuses.

While I still keep the thought in the back of my mind that 60% of statistics are made up on the spot, these sources of information provide some interesting starting points to develop queries and analyses about the who, the what, and the revenue source for our library and education centers and how things like budget cuts, economic recessions, and my patron base will impact our future careers.