Google Reader: Emerging from mourning

It’s been a while, Internet, but I think that we’re ready to get back on track with Research Salad.  This year has held many sidetracks and ups/downs.  However, that does not mean has left us devoid of material.  Au contraire!  This year has given we here at Research Salad a wealth of information and experiences to share with you.  From dissertation bumps to new full-time employment, we’ve all had some changes.  But, with change comes growth, and the chance to try new things.

(Excellent image of uncertain origin.  Not my own.)

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Are You a Google Power Searcher?

Physical Search Box by Josh Ellingson, via Flickr user WillowGarage: http://www.flickr.com/photos/willowgarage/4788324036/

While I considered myself fairly adept at online searching in general and using Google in particular, there were things lurking behind the Advanced Search options that made me balk.  Date ranges and searching within websites, but filetype?  Those colour options in the Image Search?  Some features had been added since I’d focused on mastering online searching skills (aka grad school), and while I was picking up tips and tools through Google-a-Day, I discovered that far too often, I found the answer and then moved on, without looking at the tricks recommended by Google.

So when I saw announcements last year for a free online course titled “Power Searching with Google“, it sounded like a great opportunity.  Taught by Senior Research Scientist Daniel M. Russell, the course uses online videos, exercises, and assignments to help users learn more about how to effectively and efficiently search and retrieve valuable results using Google. There were Google+ hangouts, and Google+ was used as a forum on which participants could share strategies, experiences, and insight.

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Recharging when getting away is not an option

sign at swap meet indicating facilities closed till October

“Swap Meet” image cc license from Flickr user LukeJNovak: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2715/4030129420_ece87539ce_b.jpg

I remember when I used to look forward to summer — warmer weather, longer days, no homework, family vacations and time with friends. Even when I started working during the summer breaks, there seemed to still remain ample time to read and relax after work was done in those long months between school terms. Even when I had summer school, it would last only a fraction of the whole holiday period, leaving weeks to relax and recharge.

Now, I look forward to summer for some of the same reasons — the warmer weather and longer days — and some new ones — travel takes a bit less time without the traffic of parents driving children to school and fewer colleagues in the office means a slightly lighter load of internal requests.

Although I miss the family vacations, the biggest loss in the transition from school to work was the chance to decompress and relax that those summer months offered.  That time was fairly sacred and it was unlikely it would be scheduled over or co-opted by classes or meetings; one would dread catching a summer cold that seemed to suck up those valuable days of summer holidays, but never thought about a time in the future when unexpected work events or deadlines would force retraction of vacation days and a premature return to work.

As I cannot take off the several months I dream of to rest and relax during the summer, I’ve been trying to take advantage of the “Five Ways to Recharge During the Summer” recommended by Jamie Corcoran in her June post at Gradhacker.   Read the rest of this entry »


#FollowFriday: Who we are reading and retweeting

Analog Follow Friday courtesy of Flickr user brookelynn23

Okay, it’s Saturday.  Nevertheless, in the midst of these busy end-of-semester days, we at Research Salad want to make sure we are continuing to provide our readers with new and interesting content.  More new posts are coming in the next days, but I wanted to take today to reflect on all of the great resources that are out there that add to the conversation about graduate studies, research, libraries, and maintaining our sanity while developing our scholarly selves.  With that, I wanted to give a short list of who I am reading at the moment and who you should add to your Twitter or Feed Reader.  Enjoy!


Tech Tools: Digital Voice Recorders

Courtesy of Flickr user Badly Drawn Dad

“Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded” – Virginia Woolf

This semester, I have been part of a set of Faculty Development Workshops on Global Citizenship.  They have been interesting extracurricular activities allowing me to think about how we can globalize our syllabi and teach that next generation of global leaders.  At the same time, they have been interesting escapes during the day that have demanded reading of interesting articles and critical thinking/discussion of our world around us.  That being said, today was a busy day, and one where I could not attend my much-enjoyed seminar.  I am also a note-taker for those meetings, so the need to get an accurate read on the meeting was not only critical for my own enrichment, but for the ability to post a quality summary for the other participants.  This got me thinking about my trusty Sony voice recorder and, regardless of brand or toy, the ease and benefit of using voice recordings for a variety of educational and research purposes.  It may sound obvious, but with the number of tools and software available today to facilitate this task, I thought it would be of benefit to write up a post that gave an overview of the many options that are available today.

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Grad School for Beginners

Image Courtesy of Flickr User Jason Verwey

“A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.” – Lao Tzu

Graduate school is a large life decision that can both enrich your life and frustrate you.  Like our friend Lao Tzu alludes, it’s not the pursuit of comfort that you exercise by entering graduate school, but the pursuit of knowledge.  As I put the close on this semester and look back, I think about how many challenges and triumphs we had this Fall.  For one, my husband recently completed his first semester of graduate studies.  Now, I have been a student or worked in an academic environment for the last 11 years, so I took for granted the struggle of a professional coming back to school for the first time in a decade.  In this blog post, I want to give a little “Grad School for Beginners” for those who might be needing a little refresher in the basics.  Some of you may be seasoned veterans who are teaching a class for the first time,.  I hope this post serves as a good starting point for your students.  For others, you may be dipping your toe in the grad school waters, taking a class this Spring semester.  As we get ready to get back in to the swing of things, here are some of the best lessons and resources that I’ve learned to help get you through it.

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Searching strategically

Image cc copyright Flickr user Bindaas Madhavi: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4101/4872078284_c0f0165f7b_b.jpg

Hock (2004) asserts that “there is no right or wrong way to search the Internet. If you find what you need and find it quickly, your search strategy is good.”  This statement is true but makes one major assumption: that you have a search strategy already.  Easily as important as the tools you use to perform your online and print searches is the method used for organizing and performing these searches.  Search strategies can reduce the time spent searching by helping identify the most appropriate resources to search and the most efficient methods to use.

What is Your Question?

According to a survey by About.com, individuals perform searches for one of three reasons: to find an answer to a precise question, without unnecessary additional information and as quickly as possible; to become educated and learn as much as possible about a single topic, so as to gain multiple perspectives and insight to all sides of the matter; and to browse for ideas and become inspired.

Members of the first group of searchers are kin to those who arrive at a traditional library reference desk with directional questions (“Where is the bathroom?” or “Where is the nearest post office?”, for instance) or ready-reference questions (such as “What is the population of Iceland?” or “How tall is the world’s tallest building?”).  These searchers know exactly what they want and need and sometimes even know already where to go for their information — Google and Wikipedia, for example, are popular starting places for such queries.

However, finding answers to satisfy the second and third categories of users requires a different approach — a search strategy.  Search strategies will forever in my mind be tied to Marchionini and his publication Information Seeking in Electronic Environments (1997), particularly chapter 5, required reading for students in courses on online searching and reference services; the names of the different approaches were so easy to visualize as to be almost unforgettable — “building blocks”, “successive fractions”, “pearl-growing”, and “interactive scanning”. Read the rest of this entry »