I attended Mary Schoenborn's Information at Hand: Introduction to Research Tools and Techniques for Public Affairs Students in August. It was an excellent introduction to the tools—database and others—available via the U of MN library system. Mary has an MPA from Humphrey and is our own personal library contact.
I don't see her course currently offered but the Library does have some Unravel workshops that look similar.
Mary's main handout from the workshop—PA Resources & Tools for Public Affairs research: An Orientation—is available online here: http://urltea.com/1f75. (This is a shortened URL that's easier to read than the Library's.)
Mary previewed several of the databases with examples. She chose ones that she thought would be useful for us as we write our papers. I've listed them below. Find links and descriptions at the site.
RefWorks is a web-based citation manager that allows you to create your own databases of citations by importing references from MNCAT and other databases, and then in seconds automatically generate bibliographies in all major styles (MLA, APA, Turabian, Chicago, etc.).
If you're going to cite works in your papers (generally necessary for a decent grade), you will want to use Refworks. Learn about Refworks here.
I will recommend a few other tools that I find useful in doing research.
Wikipedia. But Peter, how can I trust Wikipedia? It can be edited by anyone!. Use Wikipedia as a starting place for learning about a topic not as a primary reference. It will provide you with reference links. The articles there are generally very good.
Google Alerts. You can have Google do an ongoing search for you and email results. You can use this if you're writing about something that has potentially breaking news. You can also specify the alert to search blogs. You may need a Google account to use Alerts.
Library Lookup Tool. This will find an ISBN on a page (like at Amazon) and then tell you if the book is available in the U of M library system. Very nice. (To give credit where credit is due, I believe lookup tools like this are all forked off of Jon Udell's work.)
Minnesota Policy Soup. This is the blog of another MPA candidate, David Curle. Besides blogging policy issues, he has a MN Policy Research Search Engine.
If you want to contact Mary Schoenborn with any questions about library research, her email is hawki003 AT umn.edu.
I hope everyone's summer went well. It's time to go back to school, folks.
Who will I see in Barbara Crosby's Transforming Public Policy?
I was admitted to the MPA program and this Fall marks my official beginning although the real beginning was last Spring in Gary DeCramer's Leadership course where I met many of you. Whether you continue at HHH Institute or not, you can certainly use this blog as a way to keep in touch or email me (fleck004) with news and I'll post it (which does make it public remember).
The summer potluck was great and many thanks to our organizers Rashmi, Reena, Manoj, and Makeda. (Hope I didn't miss anyone.) Pictures are available but you must email me and I will share the somewhat private link with you.
If you had posting rights to this blog last semester, they still exist. If you want posting rights, let me know and I'll add you. I'm open to anyone at Humphrey joining this exclusive club and anyone else who makes a strong case for why I should let tem. (You too can be a blogger!) That's really what this Internet community thing is about, isn't it?
What have I been doing?
I switched jobs from Webmaster at the U's Cancer Center to Web Manager at U of M Extension, with the Family Development Capacity Area. It is a bresh of really fresh air job-wise for me. (I can't begin to tell you how much fresh air but give me a couple of beers some time and I might be willing to share.)
I also went to a thirty hour work week which I really like although I'm not at all sure where the extra ten hours goes.
I am sitting on a committee that is working on digital inclusion for the City of Minneapolis in conjunction with the deployment of the wireless network. Here's a blog post at my other blog about the committee and the RFP that went out recently. Some of you may want to share this with various nonprofits. It's pretty late in getting a proposal in on this cycle but more money will be forthcoming early next year and another RFP.
I took John Bryson's Action Mapping skills course this summer. Wow. I'm into creating action maps now. For work, for home, etc. I like the somewhat chaotic quality that then slowly gets organized to get things done (but always keeps a level of chaos if it's an ongoing map which many of mine are.) It really impresses your boss when you use these things.
On a personal note, our tenant of twelve years (we live in a duplex) just left. (She was living in our house when we bought it.) So we had to find a tenant. Well finding the tenant was relatively easy, thank goodness. We did it over a few days and found a nice young guy who works at the U and will hopefully be long term. He loves the place. (We produced an action map for the process.)
So that part was easy but then we wanted to paint and clean. The old tenant left 8/21 so we had some time but with both of us working, it wasn't enough time-- especially since the old tenant seemed to forget to clean much and it was a bit (actually a lot more than a bit) grungy. Sigh.
We finished around five yesterday (8/31). I think it's good for a new tenant to see the landlord down on his hands and knees scrubbing the floor. He brought us some fine Belgian beer to celebrate. (We didn't really finish but got enough done to get him in the place.)
Last weekend was the Milk Run (5K) at the State fair and I had a good run with my daughter (who I couldn't keep up with) and my wife who couldn't keep up with me as she had to walk a bit with a knee that was bothering her. (She still put in a decent time.)
So what have you been doing?