Archive for January, 2008

The Journey From Alert to Research Notes

This past summer, I began searching for dissertations on my research topic, videoconferencing in K12 education. I began at the Andrews’ library page (link, went to List All Databases, and selected Dissertation Abstracts. After some searches, I found that the term “videoconferencing” was getting the best results. Then I noticed a button that shows up after you search: “Set Up Alert.” Since I’d learned about alerts from Dr. Covrig in Orientation, I clicked it. I forgot all about it until November, when I received two “alert” emails from ProQuest telling me about really important dissertations that are very applicable to my topic!

Now I’m sold on alerts. I’ve since dug out Dr. Covrig’s alerts instructions from Orientation and set up alerts at all the major sites listed. I’ve signed up fairly broadly, because articles about my topic show up in all sorts of places. Usually at the beginning of the week or month, I get an email announcement that I quickly scan.

If something sounds interesting, I click the URL and open it up. I open it up in Internet Explorer because I have Firefox set up as my regular browser, and Internet Explorer (IE) with the Andrews proxy. When I use IE, I’m “on campus”. If I really like the article/dissertation, I export the reference to Endnotes and save the full text PDF to my Full Text Folder for my research. My Full Text Folder is organized with file names like the start of an APA reference, i.e. Lastname2007MyOwnWordsorPiecesofTitle.pdf. Then when I get around to it, I read and blog the article as my research notes.


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Book Review: Writing Your Dissertation With Microsoft Word

Just finishing skimming through Writing Your Dissertation with Microsoft Word. This handy little reference book covers several important topics. Each section includes screen shots and step by step what to click.

Chapter 1 covers how to set up a template for your chapters, front matter and back matter. The templates cover not only the margins and page numbers, but also the style of headers, fonts, indents, block quotations, footnotes, endnotes, and even fixes widows & orphans. Need that for sure! Kiernan highly recommends starting with the template your university provides, if they do. Here’s the AU Word template, although the caveat mentions that it doesn’t include the front matter required for dissertations.

Formatting Chapters
Chapter 2 covers formatting chapters. It includes how to bring in existing text and not lose important formatting, lists, block quotations, auto text and more. The gem from this chapter is creating cross-reference. I.e. if you plan to reference Table 1, it may not still be Table 1 when you’re done editing. So instead you cross-reference Table 1, and Word keeps track of the latest title. Cool!

Tables & Figures
Chapters three and four include important tips for creating tables and figures. Important tips are – plan your table before you start making it in Word. It’s a pain to add columns later! Word can deal with “column spanners” which are important for some types of statistical tables as I learned in the last class. How to deal with page breaks is another important section.

A critical tip from the equation chapter is for dealing with subscript and superscript. Most universities don’t want the smaller typeface due to it being unclear in microfilmed versions of the text. So, instead you use Raised Position or Lowered Position. Cool tip! Wouldn’t have found that on my own!

Back and front matter
Chapters six and seven deal with the beginning and ending pages. Setting the paragraph style for the bibliography is a key section in these pages. Getting Word to automatically create your table of contents and figure/table lists is another critical section. This requires following the instructions about headings and chapter titles in section one. Clearly it’s critical to start off on the right foot!

Final documents
Chapter seven suggests two options for putting it all together – merging into one file, or keeping a master document. Instructions for both methods are included. The author also highly recommends saving each chapter separately until the very end for backup and sharing reasons.

Finally, the book ends with tips to avoid a total loss: antivirus software, backups, multiple copies, etc. I’m sure I’ll be referencing this resource again in the future!

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Zotero for your bibliography

Here’s an interesting announcement from the online journal, Innovate. (Free registration required to view the article.)

We open the December/January issue with an exciting new development in bibliographic technology. My interview with Trevor Owens explores Zotero, an open-source bibliographic tool that runs as a Firefox plug-in and has the potential to reshape the way research is done and how it is shared.
This webcast is scheduled for January 10, 2008 at 2:00 PM EST.

I think their tag says it all: “Research, not re-search”. Check it out if you haven’t settled into a bibliography tool yet.

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