Screen shot of DP.LA Home page featuring Primary Resource Sets

DP.LA – Digital Public Library of America offers new curated Primary Resource sets (from over 11.5 million items)

An exciting new development in the growing treasures made available through the Digital Public Library of America.  DPLA, in conjunction with educators, librarians and historians, have started to develop curated sets of primary resources to help faculty encourage engagement with primary resources and cultural heritage items. Selected sets cover the Visual Art During the Harlem Renaissance, women in World War II, Transatlantic slave trade, and more.

“DPLA Primary Source Sets are designed to help students develop their critical thinking skills by exploring topics in history, literature, and culture through primary sources. Each set includes an overview, ten to fifteen primary sources, links to related resources, and a teaching guide. “

Additionally, DPLA offers a video of their November 3rd Workshop “Using DPLA for Teaching and Learning” to help faculty and students in finding and curating collections that are pertinent to their own work.

The 2013 Digital Humanities awards came out relatively recently, offering an array of amazing projects to peruse — some public, some academic, all worth a gander.  It is worth highlighting that the best InfoGraphic award covered statistics on why “Humanities Matter” [PDF]  — making the infographic a meta-DH project of sorts.

As a follow-up to the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities’ “Quantifying Digital Humanities” infographic from 2012 (PDF), The Humanities Matter! starts a more expansive effort by the Center and 4Humanities to gather statistics and create infographics about the humanities. The Humanities Matter! is part of the 4Humanities Humanities Infographics initiative, including Infographics Friday online posts.

Another DH-for-fun award went to Serendip-o-matic — which acts as a federated-serendipitous-search engine:  insert a block of text, and the applet finds related images culled from the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and Europeana digital Libraries.

If you are curious about Digital Humanities at St. John’s, the next CTL Interdisciplinary Roundtable discussion will focus on Digital Humanities, on Monday April 7th; where Jen Travis will facilitate discussions about “projects and pedagogies of this emerging field.”  If you are interested in learning more about creating infographics, or using them as an alternative research project, the University Libraries are hosting an edutech workshop on infographics on Wed. April 2nd.  Does unearthing the treasures of the DPLA sound appealing?  Does making your own a mash-up of the DPLA resource-data sound sound intriguing ?  If so, join us Wednesday, April 9th, for a workshop on DPLA and engage with new treasure trove of primary resources and the meta-data that makes it tick!

If you are using RefWorks for the first time with a new computer (either using your new laptop, or using a lab or home computer for the first time to connect to an existing RefWorks account) you may encounter an “untrusted connection” certificate error.

In general it is a good idea to heed the certificate warnings, but as long as you are accessing RefWorks (or any database) from the Databases A-Z LibGuide or from a Resources by Subject LibGuide,  it is a trusted connection.

Note: If you click on Firefox alert screenshot (above & right), in the larger picture you will see the URL has the database name refworks and the library server name in the URL, in this case the library is providing the assurance that Refworks is a trusted site, rather than an “impersonating” site.

If you need help getting around the certificate error, this video tutorial will provide more information.

Refworks 2.0 link in upper right corner, next to Home

RefWorks is one of a number of bibliographic management programs that are available to the staunch researcher.  If you are a dedicated RefWorks user, you might want to take a look at the new RefWorks 2.0 interface that launched earlier this week.  The “Classic” interface  will be accessible until the end of the year (so you have an adjustment period), but if you want to review some of the highlights of the new interface, check out this video which highlights the differences between the old and new interfaces.

Also, if you want to play with the new interface before the end of the semester you will see links to access RefWorks 2.0 in the upper, right-hand corner at the log-in stage (pictured left, above)

Additionally, after you are logged in,  there is a link that lets you toggle back and forth between the classic and 2.0 interfaces in the upper, right-hand corner of your account screen (pictured right, below).

Toggle link lets you switch between classic and 2.0 interface

If you are new to RefWorks, you might consider looking into the new interface from the start — this preview video for new users will show you some of the features.

For those who like to learn on their own, but would like some extra help, there are free webinars and tutorials available from RefWorks.

Of course, for those of you who like a hands-on workshop, we offer in-library workshops on RefWorks and Zotero (another, open-source Bibliographic Management system)– among other topics. Register for one today!

“Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.” – Mitchell Kapor

For anyone with access to the Internet, finding information generally isn’t a problem. A Google search using the terms marijuana legalization, for example, retrieves 1,550,000 Web sites, while gun control retrieves 12,200,000. A student choosing to write on either of these popular undergraduate research topics will clearly find much, much more information than they actually need.

And herein lies the problem. While we tend to assume that more choice is better, a growing body of evidence suggests that too many choices can overwhelm people’s ability discriminate and make good decisions. In her Newsweek article titled “I Can’t Think,” Sharon Begley describes an experiment by Temple University neuroscientist Angelika Dimoka, in which the brain activity of bidders in combinatorial auctions was monitored. As researchers gave bidders increasing amounts of information about the items to be bid on, activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – the area of the brain responsible for decision making and control of emotions – suddenly dropped off, resulting in poor decisions.

Such decisions can have significant consequences. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen estimates that he received 300 – 400 pages of e-mails, texts, and reports per day during the BP oil-well blowout of 2010, and that the deluge of information might have contributed to the failure to close the air space near the rig on the day of the explosion, when there were eight near midair collisions. According to a poll by Lexis-Nexis, workers are increasingly overwhelmed by information, posing a significant threat to worker productivity.

Overabundance of information also has significant influence on the research and learning habits of our students. Many faculty members lament students’ indiscriminate use of whatever Web sites quickly come to hand – a time-saving practice that probably reflects the impossibility of sifting through ALL available information on a subject. (After all, trusting Google’s algorithm to deliver relevant Web content within the first few pages of results is a logical strategy.)

It is in the context of information overload that libraries must consider the services they provide. Google’s Web page is elegant and simple, presenting just a handful of choices. Library Web sites, by contrast, are too often cluttered, full of library jargon, and generally uninviting. For many of our users, the library Web site IS the library, and it is crucial that it be designed in a manner that meets the needs of those we serve. In practical terms, this means using the terminology of our users, reducing the number of links on our pages to the bare essentials, and whenever possible, running tests to obtain user feedback.

It also means promoting library collections as an antidote to the mishmash of good and not-so-good information on the Web. Sources like CQ Researcher, for example, not only provide reliable information in their own right, but also bibliographies that can be used to find additional, reliable information. The fact that CQ, Academic Search Premier (EBSCO), and more subject-specific databases retrieve only tens or hundreds of search results should be marketed as a strength of these resources, because they provide scholarly information in more manageable amounts than is found in Google.

For those of us who work with students and faculty directly, this may also mean opting for a “less is more” approach. Instead of giving students an exhaustive list of database or catalog search results, for example, it might be better for us to suggest a smaller, more manageable number of books and articles. Rather than advising students to perform searches on their own, it might be better for librarians to perform the searches themselves, and use their superior expertise to find the best information available for the student. While we may think we are serving the student by using the “teach a person to fish” philosophy, students will not return to the reference desk if we do not provide them with something of immediate, tangible value. Re-dedicating ourselves to patron service, and helping users navigate the information clutter, is the most important role that libraries can play.

We are very much looking forward to the next installment of the Academic Lecture series on Stereotypes in the Media, featuring Mike Reiss — Emmy-Award winning writer and producer of the Simpsons (among other comedy and animated series).  In addition to being entertaining, it should be a neat insight into the evolution of television as a medium, from someone who has been involved in shaping and poking fun at the medium for a few decades.

For folks interested in other groups and organizations that study media and act as watch-dogs for veracity in the media, check out the Information and Communication Ethics LibGuide

For more scholarly articles  on the impact that The Simpsons have had in Media , try the Communications and Media LibGuide, and do a search for “The Simpsons” (both words in quotation marks to avoid results where Simpson is an author)  in Communication and Mass Media Complete (EBSCO)

Search Results from Communication and Mass Media Complete (EBSCO)

or in Communication Studies: Sage Full Text (CSA)

Search results from Communication Studies: Sage Full Text (CSA)

One of the most frequent misunderstandings I encounter when I talk to students about plagiarism is that they think “plagiarism is the same as copyright infringement.”  Same as in “it is a legal issue” rather than an “ethical issue” or a “scholarly communication issue. ”  Same as in  “if it doesn’t have a copyright logo on it, like NBC or Elsiver — or if it isn’t on TV or in print,” it isn’t really “published.” So, they think, freely borrowing the material isn’t a problem…whatever comes from the web or from a friend’s paper isn’t citation-worthy.   Although we do talk about citation-trails in scholarly communication and talk a little about how/when something is copyrighted  (i.e. once a paper/poem/ assignment is in material or computer-readable format, it is automatically copyrighted) , trying to get across the overlaps and distinctions between plagiarism and copyright infringement can be a little tricky.  I am a fan of Venn diagrams, so I use the diagram below, and ask students to come up with examples for each part, and then ask them where a few “case studies” would fall.  For example: One can plagiarize a friend’s idea or a methodological approach without commiting copyright infringement.   One can give the full citation for a copyrighted piece of music, but, lacking permissions, can still be guilty of infringement.

* While there maybe some cases where using the copyrighted materials of others doesn’t infringe —  say, in  a comedy sketch or for  a classroom demo — sometimes publishing a class project on a blog or slideshare can blur the line.  (**Note to hybrid and distance learning faculty:  A student  and the “responsible faculty member” can be guilty of “contributory infringement” by allowing a course page to host a re/posting of  a YouTube clip that one has reason to believe was not uploaded by the original artist)

Best bets in class:  for images:   use “creative commons” materials in ;  for music be sure to get permissions or use “podsafe music” and abide by artists requests. Sources of podsafe music include: and,  For Videos: look at the “more” section in a video platform to learn about the poster and gain an idea whether the poster has original rights ,  and above all — cite sources ethically.

refworksIf  you are wanting to add the most recent versions of APA and MLA output styles into your refworks account — or if you want to add a specific Journal style to your list of outputs, the following is a brief  “screenshot tutorial” of how to do so.  TUTORIAL:  Adding a new or updated style guide to your Bibliography Output options 

Please note that the newest APA and MLA  ouput styles are still in “Beta” — that is they are not without flaws — but RefWorks is releasing these versions of the styles “before the program development can be completed… to give our users a chance to review the style and to send us their input and suggestions with the intent of having an accurate and comprehensive presentation …prior to the next academic term. …If you have any feedback, questions, comments or concerns please do not hesitate to contact”

For a note about some of the major differences between APA 5th and APA 6th editions, and how RefWorks is dealing with them, please see this excerpt (from a RefWorks letter) below:

      APA 6th style is not a major change from APA 5th output style.  The new version does not use the database name with the exception of ERIC documents (reports).  We have removed the database field from all reference types with the exception of reports.
     The new edition of APA has changed the manner in which authors are to be listed in the text and in the reference list. The new reference list guidelines state that when there are seven or more authors there should only be seven authors presented. When there are more than seven authors the first six are to be listed, ellipses added after the sixth, and the last author added at the end.  In order for RefWorks to adhere to these changes, we will need to make modifications to our current Output Style Editor which will require program development.  In the short-term, our new APA style will list all authors and will require the user to manually remove the extra authors and add the ellipses.
     The new guidelines allow for the inclusion of up to five authors in the first instance of an in-text citation and the use of the first author with ‘et al.’ in all subsequent citations of the same reference. This too, will require [further] APA specific development in RefWorks.

From the RWADMIN-L Digest – 21 Jul 2009 to 22 Jul 2009 (#2009-84)

header-apple-photoUniversity of Washington’s iSchool, has launched Project Information Literacy,  a large-scale research project which “investigates how early adults on different college campuses conduct research for course work and how they conduct ‘everyday research’ for use in their daily lives.”  Their first progress report came out earlier this month. The report analyses 11 discussion groups held on 7 college campuses in Fall of 2008 (Schools enlisted were Harvard University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mills College, Diablo Valley Community College, University of Washington, West Valley Community College, and Shoreline Community College).  The initial report, entitled Finding Context: What Today’s College Students Say about Conducting Research in the Digital Age,  indicates:

…that no matter where students are enrolled, no matter what information resources they may have at their disposal, and no matter how much time they have, the abundance of information technology and the proliferation of digital information resources make conducting research uniquely paradoxical: Research seems to be far more difficult to conduct in the digital age than it did in previous times.

A PDF of the 1st progress report and a video of some of the research groups are available on the Project Information Literacy site.


If you are a student or faculty member who is interested in joining this program as part of  St. John’s project effort, please contact Prof. Kathryn Shaughnessy, Instructional Services Librarian.

Thanks to John Garino and our colleagues at WALDO/KOHA  for directing us to this report.

Craig Silverman’s Regret the error blog tracks the range of errors (and, in some cases, a lack of errata acknowledgements) found in various English-language news sources. Recent entries include a posting on plagiarism in a March 11th NYTimes article regarding New York’s gubernatorial succession process, while another notes a Sun-Sentinel subtitle typo for an “AP story about the hallucinogenic plant salvia divinorum,” they mistakenly ran a subtitle which read “Bill makes possession of Saliva a felony.”

picture of author erasing pencilWhile it could easily be passed over as a “Leno’s Headlines” site, upon closer examination it is a good resource for class discussions on the serious responsibilities writers have towards their reader, including fact-checking, spell-checking, plagiarism and ways to handle errors in online publications, since print, audio, video and online-text versions of a publication often handle error-correction in different ways, whether out of a desire to bury an embarrassing mistake or out of technical necessity. An example of the latter would be the use of strikeout letters to leave original error text in a blog, but to put a line through it, and then add the corrected text – this practice alerts blog readers to post-publication edits.

In addition to providing timely examples of plagiarism, the blog’s 2007 Plagiarism/Fabrication Round-Up entry can provide a good springboard for discussing the different types of plagiarism and the consequences outside of a strictly academic environment. The advent of “digi-born” and multimedia resources, including blogs, wikis, videos, and podcasts requires resource-savvy authors to keep up with protocols for original citations and subsequent corrections. The proliferation of online and social resources can also contribute to making the rules of plagiarism more confusing for some students, while simultaneously making intentional plagiarism both easier to execute and easier to discover for others.

Please note that the Library provides a number of Information Literacy resources to support you in your efforts to helps students understanding the role of information resources in research and scholarship. For more assistance, please contact us at

Picture courtesy of Washington University Writing Center Website, Accessed March 15, 2008,

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