Category Archives: Research Tips

Useful Google Hacks

Image by Jonathan Beard

Sure, you use Google all the time, even for your research. This doesn’t shock your librarian—actually, she uses Google for research, too. Not as an end-all, but as one more tool in the research arsenal, along with databases, the library catalog, and organizational websites.

But are you using Google to its full potential? Probably no one is—there are many features with more continually being developed. Here are a few suggestions of how to use Google to extend your research.

Two Ways to Find Books & Fulltext Articles Faster!

1: LibX Widget

You can save yourself some time and frustration by installing the Columbia Library LibX Widget. This is a browser plug-in for either Firefox or Chrome, which automatically links to CU's library resources from ISBNs, DOIs, and more. For instance, when you’re using Amazon, LibX will tell you if Columbia owns that book. When you find an article in Google that costs money to view, right-click and select "Reload page via Columbia Libraries Off-Campus Proxy" to see if that article is accessible through Columbia. LibX also adds a button to your browser for instant library searching, so you don’t have to remember or navigate to the library website.  

2: Full-Text Articles from Google Scholar

You can configure Google Scholar so that it auto-links to full-text articles at Columbia.

  • To configure this, go to Google Scholar and click on the gear icon for "Settings."
  • In the "Library Links" section, search for Columbia University.
  • Click the checkbox for Columbia when it pops up.
  • Now hit "Save," and you're done!
  • Now when you search, any articles that Columbia has in full-text will have an icon on the right marked “e-Link @ Columbia." 

Alternately, you can simply use this link: http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?clio5119262

Expanding Your Sources with Google Scholar

Found one good article (or book), and can’t find another on that narrow topic? Or did you find the perfect article—but it’s twenty years old and way out of date? You can solve both of these with Google Scholar.

Enter the title (and author last name, if you have it) into Google Search. When the article title comes up in your results list, look near the bottom of the entry. There will blue text that reads "cited by X." Click on “cited by” to see more recent articles/books that cite the original source. Often these will in turn be “cited by” more recent and relevant works, so you can accrue a lot of titles this way.

This can also help judge of the significance and popularity of a work. For instance, if you find a book in the Columbia catalog that seems relevant, you can get a feel for how it’s viewed in its research field by looking up its number of citations in Google Scholar (you can also do this with Scopus or Web of Science). A word of caution, though: some works may be cited often because they’re badly reviewed, or a quality work with few citations may be too new to have been widely read. So it’s best not to use this as your only judge of worth.   

Advanced Google Search Tips

To reveal every spot in a Google Maps area for which Google has information, type: *
 
Intext: words must appear in the website; quotes make the words appear in that order. Similar search strategies include inurl (text must appear in URL) or intitle (text must be in the website’s title).
  • intext:“Supreme Court” intext:“campaign finance law”
Ways to use “OR” to expand your search:
  • “Smith denied” OR “Smith claimed” OR “Smith argued” 
  • “Manuel Isquierdo” lien OR liens 
  • Jessica + Williams|Wiliams|William
Use the minus sign to exclude words.
  • government shutdown -congress
Use the tilde to find synonyms.
  • ~car  (Searches for “car” and synonyms of “car” like automobile, vehicle.)
Search for names that may also use a middle initial or additional name with “around.”
  • Hillary AROUND(2) Clinton
  • (Shows all pages that have the name “Hillary” within two words of “Clinton.”)
Wildcard search (*) plus a phrase search (“”) allows you to find quotes where you’re missing a word.
  • "a * saved is a * earned"
Search within a specific website with “site.”
  • site:http://www.nyc.gov/ city of neighborhoods
Limit your search to a date range.
  • nyc unemployment rate daterange:201309
  • (September 2013)
Limit your search to files of a specific type. Can help you find spreadsheets, reports, etc.
  • filetype:xls unemployment
  • filetype:pdf homelessness nyc

Government Information 101: Part 3, Finding Gov Info

How to Find Government Information

So, you've learned the basics of US government and you know the main government information resources. Now you're actually looking for a government document. Where do you start? Ask yourself:

  • At what level of government do I need this information?
    • Federal, state, local (county or city)
  • What government branch or agency might be involved? Stated another way: who would have a need to gather this data or information?
  • If you're looking for data or demographic information, you should also ask: what level of geography do I need this data for? The answer could be: nation, region, state, county/borough, city, PUMA, zip code, neighborhood, census tract, or census block. For more on geographies for NYC neighborhoods, see this handout.

Gov Info Search Example

Here's an example. I'm looking for the number of traffic accident fatalities in New York State in 2010.

At what government level do I need this?

Well, I'm looking for the total number of traffic accident deaths in New York State, so that's a state-level question–though it may also be reported at the federal level.

What government agency would gather that information?

It turns out that this is reported by two different agencies. Traffic deaths are reported both by the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Bureau of Transportation Statistics (there is a GIS-run state statistic finder), and the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which lists data on Deaths & Mortality, including causes of death. Under causes of death, the NCHS reports traffic-accident deaths under the broader category of "Accidents (unintentional injuries)," which is subdivided into "Transport accidents," which is further subdivided into motor vehicle accidents, other land transport accidents, and water/air/space accidents. The NCHS also provides direct data through CDC Wonder, which allows you to choose variables such as age, and specify the specific type of transport accidents (for instance, you can choose to include pedestrian, motorcycle, car, bus, railway, and streetcar accidents, but exclude animal and water transport accidents). I chose ages 18+ (to capture all adults).

What level of geography do I need?

In addition to the total state number of deaths, I'd also like to see the total deaths for each NYC borough. Since the five NY boroughs are counties, in CDC Wonder I selected data for New York State, at the county level. I found that the total number of traffic-accident deaths in NYS in 2010 (according to the criteria I selected) was 1,242.

Note: Finding Recent Statistics/Data

It's not always easy to find data for the past year, or even the year preceding that. Data takes time to gather, clean up, and make public, and often you may find that the most recently available statistics are for 2-5 years ago.

CRS Reports: Valuable Sources

Looking for in-depth, expert research on current issues? CRS Reports are a great resource! The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is an arm of the Library of Congress that exists to keep members of Congress informed about issues related to pending legislation. CRS staff are subject experts in a variety of fields and they produce nonpartisan reports that relate these issues in an easily-digestible format.  

CRS Reports can be hard to find. The federal government doesn't currently make them widely available to the public: you must request a CRS Report by title (or report number) from a member of Congress. However, you can find CRS Reports through subscription databases (like ProQuest), for some vendors for a fee, or for free from the following collections. 

CRS Reports on many subjects:

Collections with specific topic areas:

Subscription database for CRS Reports:

Search strategy for finding other CRS Reports:

More about CRS Reports…

This presentation talks more about CRS, summarizes past legislation that attempted to make CRS Reports public, and how to write your member of congress to request a report. For more information about CRS Reports, see this OpenCongress.org page: http://bit.ly/CRSReports

Welcome, Summer MS Students!

Welcome to all summer MS students!  Here is today's library presentation – and a few other useful things:

Have questions?  Email journalism@libraries.cul.columbia.edu for more information, to ask research questions or to set up appointments for research consultations. 
 

Encyclo from Nieman Journalism Lab

Encyclo from Nieman Journalism Lab is an encyclopedia-style resource about the future of news and includes a variety of subjects and detailed summaries of their importance, links to articles so you can follow the conversation, and key industry competitor information.  And the entries are updated regularly as new contributions and innovations develop in the field.  Search Encyclo entries here!

You may also follow Nieman and their latest developments on Twitter – @niemanlab.

Resource Spotlight – Ashley Jester

Please welcome Ashley Jester, the new Data Services Coordinator in the Social Sciences Libraries!  Ashley holds a PhD from Stanford in Political Science with advanced specializations in international relations, organizational behavior, and political economy.  She's here to assist you with your research, from the initial steps of background research and finding data to analysis and interpretation of data.  She's great with Excel, STATA, SPSS, R, and you can find her staffing the reference desks at the Digital Social Science Center (DSSC) and Data Services in Lehman Library.  She's also available for individual/small group consultations…AND she thinks journalism students are super-cool, so don't hesitate to call upon Ashley!

ashley.jester@columbia.edu, (212) 854-0514

Ring in the New Year with Facts for Features

Happy New Year!According to the Census Bureau's Population Estimates, the United States projected population will be more than 315 million.  We'll definitely need a few extra glasses!  Enjoy these and other Facts for Features & Special Editions at the U.S. Census website.

Happy New Year from the Journalism Library!

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
<http://www.census.gov/population/projections/data/national/2008/summarytables.html>.

Thanksgiving Facts for Features

Some quick Facts for Features on Thanksgiving culinary delights!

  • 2.7 billion pounds = the total weight of sweet potatoes produced by major sweet potato producing states in 2011
  • 1.1 billion pounds = the total production of pumpkins in the major pumpkin-producing states in 2011
  • 254 million = the number of turkeys expected to be raised in the United States in 2012, up 2% from the number raised during 2011 (where did all the vegetarians go?)

Find these and other holiday statistics with cited sources at the U.S. Census Bureau's Newsroom, Facts for Features & Special Editions page – one of the census projects designed for journalists.  This collection of statistics from demographic and economic subject areas provides information, background, and source citing for topics in the news.  Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!