Collaborative Research using Google Drive

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The importance of peer collaboration keeps rising, for students, business, and research. Fortunately, the tools for collaboration keep improving, too.

One great tool, available to all AU community members through Google Apps for Education, is Google Drive. If you think you know Google Drive, but haven’t used it for a few months or a year, you should check it out again – Google is continually adding features to Drive products.

google drive

Google Drive is a cloud-based software and storage system that allows users to create, upload, and save documents online in multiple formats. That means you can either use it just as a storage drive, by uploading your Word documents, pictures, or many other formats, or you can create new documents using several native software formats. These include Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms, and others. Users at American University can access Google Drive through their american.edu email account. All you need to do to collaborate using the Drive is to share your document or folder with other users and set their level of permission. If all shared users can edit, you can all work on your research at once, with no need to email multiple copies back and forth.

Here are a few of the newer features that unique to online software systems like Google Drive, rendering them great collaboration tools:

1. Research in Documents

One of the previous shortcomings of Google Docs/Drive was that it did not allow for footnotes or connection with citation programs, like EndNote. Now, using the “Research” tool located under the “Tools” menu in a Document, Google Drive allows users to search for their sources directly from the web, or from Google Scholar, and then insert that source directly as a citation. You can even select the citation format, including APA, MLA, or Chicago. It’s really one of the easiest ways to cite sources around. Plus, it allows for you to conduct and save online research directly in the document, which means that multiple users can work together in both the researching and writing stages.

research tool

2. Comments in Documents

Writing is a part of the research process, and one that’s especially hard to perform collaboratively. Microsoft Word has some useful collaborative tools such as Track Changes and Comments, but usually only one user at a time can work on the document and you have to keep track of multiple versions. In Google Documents, multiple users can make edits at the same time, and inserting comments can be a great way to communicate about the edits. If the issue in the comment has been dealt with by everyone, then the comment can be marked as “Resolved.”

Comments

3. Creating Lists in Google Spreadsheets

This is a cool feature that really takes advantage of the fact that the software is online. If you type in two related items in adjacent cells in the Spreadsheet, highlight both cells, Click on the small box in the corner of the highlighted cells, and then press CTRL while dragging the box down to later cells, Google spreadsheets will pull information from the internet to auto-fill a list based on the items you’ve entered. Excel can do this with certain items, like numeric patterns or common entries like days of the week. But Google will pull lists from Wikipedia or the CIA World Factbook, too. (Maybe it’s not as much a collaboration tool as it’s just pretty cool.)

anigif_enhanced-buzz-27983-1362612794-16(gif from http://www.buzzfeed.com/justinesharrock/a-glimpse-into-googles-brain-hidden-in-a-spreadsheet-app)

4. Google Forms

This software allows you to create custom surveys, set your fellow researchers as editors, and then email the link to your survey respondents. Once you get all of your results in, you can convert the data to spreadsheet format or export them to your preferred data analysis software. The respondents you send the survey to don’t have to be Google users, and you and your research partners get to share and save all of the results in Google Drive. The tool is meant more as a planning tool, like Doodle, but it can be used for data collection, like Survey Monkey – the advantage over these programs is that you don’t have to create and keep track of separate accounts.

form

 

That’s all we’ll cover in this post, but please, share with us what your favorite features of Google Drive are in a comment, or let us know about other online tools for collaboration!

Keep Learning over Winter Break

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Finals week is almost over! Congratulations on making it through another semester (students and professors!).

Enjoy your much-deserved break, but don’t let your brain atrophy and résumé stagnate. Cruising Tumblr and Facebook can only get you so far – there are plenty of ways to improve your research skills and stimulate your critical thinking skills while browsing online. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Lynda.com

lynda

Access this learning website through your myAU portal, under the “Technology” tab. AU has paid the subscription for this fee-based service, so it’s completely free to members of the AU community. You can access thousands of videos covering hundreds of software programs. The videos are professional quality and take you step-by-step through either basic or advanced procedures in programs from Picasa to Python. By the time you complete a course, you’ll have a new resume bullet.

2. MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT

From the project’s own description: “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.” – Dick K.P. Yue, Professor, MIT School of Engineering. You can access the full course materials that MIT students pay big buck to take, totally free. Most classes include video lectures, syllabus, reading list, and lecture notes. Either fill in a gap in your knowledge or just pursue curiosity.

3. TED 

TED

Many of you will have already heard of this site, for good reason. The “Technology, Entertainment, Design” series of conferences invites well-known and dynamic researchers to “give the presentation of their lifetimes”. The result is often a 20-minute mind-blowing video. It’s hard to go wrong picking a TED talk. There’s also a new portion of the site called TED-Ed, which are mini-lessons prepared by educators and animated by professional animators, complete with quizzes and further resources. It’s a great way to learn without feeling like you’re learning.

4. Information is Beautiful

info

This is David McCandless’s website, filled with great examples of creative ways to display data. In our world of academic research, we see far too many ineffective and boring graphs and charts. One way to make your paper stand out is with an eye-catching and intuitive data visualization. In addition to “Information is Beautiful,” check out these tutorials from UC Berkeley’s journalism school to learn more about creating unique and effective designs.

Have a great Winter Break, and stay posted for information about CTRL’s workshops and research seminars for Spring 2013

Teaching through Hurricane Sandy

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NOAA image as of 11:00AM EDT 10/29/12

The East Coast is shutting down in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, and American University is no exception. But you don’t have to cancel your statistics, econometrics, or research methods course just because you can’t come to a lab – Use the online Virtual Computing Lab instead!

As this previous post explains, the VCL is a service that allows AU faculty, staff, and students to use their AU credentials to access a virtual desktop that’s loaded with SPSS and Stata.

Important links:

Access the VCL here: https://vcl.american.edu/Welcome.html

Troubleshooting and FAQs: http://www.american.edu/vcl/troubleshooting.cfm

Handouts on using SPSS and Stata via VCL: 1. SPSS handout: http://www.american.edu/vcl/upload/SPSS_on_VCL.pdf ; 2. Stata handout:   http://www.american.edu/vcl/upload/Stata_on_VCL.pdf

For any VCL related questions, please email us at  vcl@american.edu or skype us using screen name: ctrl_research.

Good luck riding out the storm!

 

BONUS FEATURE:

Since we here at the CTRL notebook are always interested in unique methods of data visualization, we’ll be following this amazing map of current wind patterns in the US as the storm progresses.

Overwhelming quantity for qualitative

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I am excited to see the positive response to RSG’s NVivo workshops! Within hours of sending out initial email announcements of workshops, we had RSVP steadily emailed to us. Last week I led two introductory workshops with 22 people RSVP’d for each! Due to this high demand and space limitations of 22 computers in our training room in Anderson Lab, we had to turn some people away. But I also promised we’d schedule additional workshops. Now I can share the dates.

Who would use NVivo?

Consider using NVivo to analyze your qualitative research

Introduction to NVivo
Wed. Mar. 21, 2:30-4:00 pm
Thurs. Mar. 22, 12:00-1:30pm
Anderson Lower Level, B-13
RSVP at ssrl AT american.edu

There are many students across AU who prefer to do qualitative research for their SRP, thesis or when working for professors as research assistants. Of course it would be awesome to find a software program that could aid the process! Many of the people who attended last week fell into these prior categories: I’m preparing to analyze for my SRP now; I hope to use it next year on my SRP; I’m working with a professor’s research project this semester; I’m a PhD student and think this would be excellent! Faculty members also attended or requested private trainings.

NVivo is one of the most respected and robust software programs for qualitative research projects including content analysis, open-ended surveys, focus groups, etc. It is not the only software, but the RSG team has been building staff capacity to support it and now train others to use it. Last semester we offered NVivo 8, but we’ve just upgraded to NVivo 9. This brings a learning curve for our staff, but also some very cool new features!!

If you have an interest, check out these video tutorials created by the company:

Coding your data
Importing your “data” or sources
What’s new in NVivo 9?

Each qualitative or mixed method research project is unique and requires a slightly different approach. Our introductory trainings, as advertised above, will provide a nice overview of the basics for coding text, audio or video. I hope you can attend, but please remember to RSVP! Also, you can always stop by our lab to “play with” NVivo 8 or 9 using our staff-created tutorial found on the CTRL website here.

Fall in love with SPSS again: Mapping in SPSS 20

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SPSS manages to keep their throne as the most widely-used statistical analysis software in social science. They have outdone themselves, yet again, with SPSS 20.

The Maps feature is at the forefront of the collection of new updates in this recent release. Now, you can incorporate geography into your quantitative research, in order to visualize geographical observations or trends.

This feature is contained in Graph > Graphboard Template Chooser. There are three types of map templates:

  1. Choropleth Maps, where you can use color gradation to reflect the value of statistic on a variable (mean, median, and sum).
  2. Mini Charts, displaying a chart for certain regions; each labeled with the respective location.
  3. Overlay Maps, combining two map files into one visualization; one as reference, another for data display.

You can work with the following data:

  1. Latitude and Longitude, in order to generate a reference map with geographical coordinates.
  2. Existing map files: ESRI shapefiles easily converted with the Map Conversion Utility
  3. Pre-installed maps in SMZ format, including the U.S. map with states and cities indicated

For additional map files: “Many of the templates in this product are based on publicly available data obtained from GeoCommons (http://www.geocommons.com) and the U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov). Another source for U.S. federal, state, and local geospatial data is the U.S. Geological Survey (http://www.geodata.gov).”

There are various ways to customize your map to display the data as you desire, including color schemes (stylesheet) as well as Pie on a Map.

Pie on a Map

Reference Map with Latitude and Longitude

SPSS 20 is now available on all the computers in Hurst 202 and 203.

References:

IBM. SPSS. Program documentation. Converting and Distributing Map Shapefiles. Vers. 20. IBM, 2011. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. <http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/infocenter/spssstat/v20r0m0/index.jsp?topic=%2Fcom.ibm.spss.statistics.help%2Fmapconversion_intro.htm&gt;.

The Push to Publish

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When I began grad school at AU I never imagined I’d be drawn to publishing my research. I was more interested in gaining knowledge and new practical skills for a second career. But after so many semesters and an intense thesis experience, I’ve learned to enjoy research! And now I want all that effort to contribute to existing knowledge, maybe spark some new research and more! I’ve learned that one way to do this is to publish. That, after all is the way this scholarly system works.

Recently there have been many emails through the SIS listserv about additional research opportunities pertaining to publishing. They aren’t offered in neat sequential order, I’m afraid. But I still think they’ll be valuable for other developing academics (or practioner-scholars).

  • Call for submissions to the Journal of International Service, the School of International Service’s premier academic journal. The deadline for the Fall 2012 journal is Feb. 12!! Submissions of 4500-8000 words emailed to editor AT journalofinternationalservice.org
  • Spring Research Symposium showcasing original research by graduate students at SIS.  The symposium will be held during the day on Monday, March 26, and will feature presentations of original research by students, as well as panel discussions with area professionals. Interested students should submit an abstract to SISGradResearch AT gmail.com by Wednesday, February 14.
  • “Write to get Published in Scholarly Journals” workshop presented by the Writing Center. Held Feb. 22, 5:30-7:00pm. Please RSVP to gradstudies AT american.edu by Feb. 19th.

So now I am not only writing my thesis, I am imagining ways to edit it for publication. May you also find a few of these resources helpful.

By: Crystal

How to Get a Copy of a Stats Program

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Usually at the beginning of the semester (or at any time during the semester!) we get requests from students, faculty, and staff about installing software onto their personal computers.  Remember that we support a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative statistical programs here in the lab computers, but if you need your own copy of the software, we may be able to help. The three kinds of statistical software on demand for distribution are SAS, SPSS, and STATA.  Here is our general policy on software distribution:

If you’re a student

SPSS:  We do not distribute SPSS to students. Students who want to own a copy of SPSS on their personal computer must purchase the software online. You could also download a trial version of SPSS for a limited time use.

STATA: We do not distribute STATA to students. If you would like your own copy of STATA, you must purchase it online. There is a special AU discount on the STATA website.

SAS : You can get a free copy of SAS on your personal computer IF you are taking a statistics class AND/OR you are a PhD student.

If you are a staff or faculty member

SPSS: We can install SPSS on any AU-owned computer*.  Come by the lab or make an appointment with us.

STATA:  If you would like your own copy of STATA, you must purchase it online. There is a special AU discount on the STATA website.

SAS:  We can install SAS on your personal or AU-owned computer.

*AU-owned computer means that you have a computer or laptop that was distributed to you by American University.

For more information on additional software supported by our lab that we can or cannot distribute, visit our website to learn about statistical packages such as R, EViews, and alternative open source software.

If you have questions about any of this, or about obtaining a different statistical program, please do not hesitate to contact us!

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