Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Database of the Week: Points of View

This week's database is Points of View Reference Center, which is a full text database that provides a series of essays presenting multiple sides of current issues. According to the product's website, the database provides more than 280 topics, each with an overview (objective background/description), point (argument), counterpoint (opposing arguments), and Critical Thinking Guide.

There are a few different ways to find information about a topic. The first is to conduct a search in the search box at the top of the homepage. This is a basic search. The next way to find information is to use the advanced search link at the top of the homepage. This will allow users to search for topics and narrow results based on characteristics such as document type, date range, and whether or not the results are peer-reviewed. The final way to find information is to use the tabs provided on the homepage and browse by category or view all topics. The topical browsing is a good way to find out available information on a topic that interests you.

Once you have selected a topic, you will be taken to another tabbed page that has different types of results. The topic you choose may not have every type of results, but many of them have essays, periodicals, newspapers, books, radio & TV news transcripts, primary source documents, and images. Some topics also have related charts and graphs that can be used as visual aids in presentations.

Along with presenting essays about current issues, Points of View also offers research guides on topics such as creating an essay outline, writing a topic sentence, and evaluating a website. These short research guides are great for anyone looking for introductory information or for those who simply need a refresher over the topics. As with all of our databases, check the database's help files if you need more information or ask a librarian for help. Next week's database of the week (and final one in the series) will be Tell Me More.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Check It Out...at the Vise Library: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

With exams, term papers, and stressful holidays on the horizon, it's the perfect time of the year for a fun, easy read. Mindy Kaling's new memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) fits the bill.

Kaling, a comedy writer who plays gossipy Kelly Kapoor on The Office, writes about topics ranging to her chubby pre-teen years (in a section of the book titled "I Forget Nothing: A Sensitive Kid Looks Back"), her road to success as a comedy writer (she co-wrote a successful played called "Matt and Ben" about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's fictional exploits), her work at The Office, and random musings, such as why chest hair on men is sexy and her favorite revenge fantasies while jogging.

This hodgepodge of thoughts, memories, and lists makes for an easy read--and that's not an insult! Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a great book to read while drinking your morning coffee, curled up in bed before you go to sleep, or during commercials while watching syndicated television. It's an overall pleasant--but not too challenging--experience.

Comparisons to Tina Fey's recent memoir, Bossypants, are inevitable. Admittedly, Kaling's memoir is not as substantial or in-depth as Fey's. But I would argue that Kaling is not (yet) the icon that Fey is in the comedy world. As talented as she is, Kaling is still young, and I believe she has a lot more to experience and, eventually, write down and publish for our amusement.

This Thanksgiving break, if family drama and the looming specter of 15 page term papers is dragging you down, I strongly advise hiding out in your room (or the bathtub, if you share a room with someone) with a cup of hot chocolate and a copy of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? It's the perfect escape.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Database of the Week: Newsbank

This week's database is Newsbank, a database that includes access to the full-text of over 1,000 newspapers from around the world and is updated daily. The Vise Library's subscription does not cover 1,000 titles but still has access to content from titles such as Newsweek and Popular Science.

Newsbank has useful features beyond the access to newspaper and magazine titles. On the homepage, users will find a current events section that has a link to "hot topics" such as the Occupy Wall Street movement and the 2012 Presidential election. This section provides students with research questions on these topics to help them formulate their own research questions. This section also provides search terms so students can do research about these topics in other databases.

Another useful feature of Newsbank is the special reports section on the homepage. According to the website, the special reports section focuses on topics of current interest and new information is added daily. Once users choose a topic from the special reports section, they are taken to a page that has articles, background data, videos, images, maps, search topics, and websites. This is a great resource for finding a lot of information about a topic in one place.

Newsbank also has a year in review section, which is found on the special reports page. The year in review has information about business and economics, government and politics, people, natural disasters, social and legal issues, military, obituaries, sports, science, technology, health, the environment, education, the arts, and literature. Stories in this section have been compiled from national and international newspapers. The year in review section would be a great resource for current events classes or anyone interested in remembering the major events that happened during the prior year.

Newsbank differs from some of the previous database of the week selections because there is not a specific way to search by keyword or topic. This is another database where it is better to browse and see what comes up, rather than trying to start with a topic in mind. It's a good starting point for research and users can find a lot of information about current topics. Next week, we'll talk about Points of View.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Database of the Week: Learning Express Library

This week's database of the week is Learning Express Library. This database is an online platform of practice tests, exercises, and tutorial courses designed to help students and adults succeed on academic or licensing tests. Learning Express Library has a variety of practice tests, including graduate school entrance exams such as the GRE, LSAT, and MAT. There are also licensure practice tests for fields such as education and law enforcement.

Learning Express Library also offers resources that help with basic academic skills. For example, in the "college students" section, there are resources to improve skills in public speaking, writing and grammar, math, science, and reading comprehension. Additionally, there is a section for improving job search and workplace skills, which includes resources on interviewing, business writing, and creating cover letters and resumes.

Other sections include resources for elementary, middle school, high school students, and adults. These sections are great for brushing up on forgotten knowledge, helping children with homework, or even for creating lesson plans.

To access the resources in Learning Express Library, users must create a free account. In order to create an account, click on the "login" link in the upper right corner of the page. This will lead you to a page to create a new user account. Once you've created an account, you can save tests, courses, and eBooks in an area called "My Center". You will also be able to receive customized score reports with an analysis of your strengths and weaknesses and personalized recommendations of how you can improve your test scores.

The best way to learn about Learning Express Library is to create an account and start looking at resources. This posting just scratched the surface of everything that is available on the database! For more information about what Learning Express Library offers, visit their help page. Next week, we'll look at Newsbank, a database with access to over 1,000 newspapers from around the world.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Database of the Week: Tell Me More

Welcome to the last Database of the Week series! This week we're going to cover Tell Me More, which is a language learning database that focuses on all major areas of language learning- speaking, comprehension, reading, and writing. Tell Me More offers the following languages : English (ESL/ESOL), Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Dutch.  

When users sign up for an account, they will be taken through an instructional video that gets them started on how to use the database. Once you have viewed the video, you will then select what language you want to learn and your level of familiarity with the language (complete beginner, beginner, intermediate, or advanced). The next step is to begin your lessons, called learning paths. The learning paths involve choosing responses to statements and pronunciation exercises (you will need a microphone for this portion). As you begin to go through the learning paths, the database will keep statistics of what you are learning, the different skills you practice, and how much time you spend on the learning paths. 

The database also features a section of resources about the language you are trying to learn. There are language explanations, verb conjugations, and a glossary. There is also information about the culture in which your language is spoken and an atlas to see the places where the language is spoken. 

Tell Me More is a great way to learn a new language since users have to work on pronunciation, which helps them more than simply listening to the language being spoken. There are plans for the database to add Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese as well. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Database of the Week: HeritageQuest Online

This week's database is HeritageQuest Online. HeritageQuest Online is a database that contains a collection of six core data sets that has its own features and rules about how searches can be formatted. Let's look at each data set and its different rules.

The first set is the U.S. Federal Censuses Collection. This set features the original images of every existing federal census in the United States, from 1790 through 1930. There are name indexes for many decades, and the collection covers more than 140 million names. This collection does not support the use of Boolean operators in searches, so users couldn't do a search using connectors such as "and", "not", and "or". Searches do not have to be case sensitive, though, meaning a search for 'George' is read the same way as a search for 'george'.

The second set is the Books Collection. This set includes more than 7 million digitized page images from over 28,000 family histories, local histories, and other books. The titles have been digitized from HeritageQuest's microform collections, as well as from the American Antiquarian Society. Users can search with Boolean operators in this collection. Users can also use wildcard characters in their searches. One wildcard character is the asterisk (*), which matches zero or more characters. For example, a search on 'Sam*' will give results that include 'Sam', 'Samantha'. 'Samuel', etc. Another wildcard character is the question mark (?), which will replace a single character. A search on 'Eli?abeth' will bring back results on 'Elisabeth' and 'Elizabeth'.

The third set is the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). PERSI is published by the Allen County (Indiana) Public Library. It is considered the most comprehensive index of genealogy and local history periodicals and contains more than 2 million records covering titles published around the world since 1800. PERSI supports the use of Boolean operators to find multiple terms. Users can also utilize double quotes around a phrase ("like this") to search for an exact phrase.

The fourth set is the Revolutionary War Records Collection. This set contains original images from pension and bounty land warrant application files, which help to identify more than 80,000 American Army, Navy, and Marine officers and enlisted men from the Revolutionary War era. This set does not support the use of Boolean operators, but it does allow users to use the asterisk wildcard character in searches. This set also does not require searches to be case sensitive.

The fifth set is the Freedman's Bank Records Collection. This set has more than 480,000 names of bank applicants, their dependents, and heirs from 1865-1874. This particular collection can help those who want to trace African American ancestors prior to and immediately after the Civil War. This set does not support the use of Boolean operators but does allow asterisks and question marks to be used as wildcard characters, as listed in the Books Collection paragraph. This set also uses a tool called Soundex searching. Soundex searching is a system of indexing names by the way they sound rather than how they are spelled. So, a Soundex search for 'Smith' would return results of 'Smith', 'Smyth', 'Smitty', and perhaps other closely related names. This is a good tool for searchers who are not sure how to spell a particular name.

The sixth set is the LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set. This set records the memorials, petitions, and private relief actions made to the U.S. Congress, back to 1789 through 1969. There are more than 480,000 pages of information available in this set. This set does support the use of Boolean operators and the asterisk and question mark wildcard characters.

HeritageQuest Online is a terrific database for anyone interested in conducting genealogical research. This database could also be used by anyone who needs historical primary resources. For more information about this database, please visit the HeritageQuest Online info page, which also contains the descriptions of the sets that were used in this blog posting. Next week's database is Learning Express Library, which features practice tests and skill-building courses.