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Info Comp - Exercises

Statements of Projects for Information Competency Grant
Bakersfield and Fresno
September, 2001

Gene Clark
This is an abstract of a more detailed report that will be presented in conjunction with a workshop that should be scheduled Fall 2001. The grant’s purpose was to enable me and a student assistant to add to the ESRI data that the University acquires with its purchase of ArcView Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software. Typically, the data available in the basic package are primarily demographic and geographic with little or no "political" content, i.e. no variables on parties, elections, controversial issues, etc..

Although the most experienced student assistant, Bonita Coyle, was not available as originally promised, I was able to employ Brian Taylor, a double major in geology and computer science, who has command of GIS basics. My job was to identify sources and actual data that fit the categories of variables we needed; Brian’s job was to handle all data operations, including organization, coding, etc. Because TLC did not fund the entire proposal and the China data is very expensive to acquire, I had to limit this phase of the work to the following: nation-state and/or state/province data for the United States, México, Canada, and Europe. The Canadian and European data have yet to be entered, but should be completed with support from the Politics Research Center by beginning of Fall Quarter 2001. Tremendous progress was made through intense searches to give us very rich U.S. and Mexico political data.

These data will allow students to work with hypotheses that include such variables as state and regional cultural traditions, political party strength and concentration of votes, support of death penalty, federal economic subsidies, etc. In other words, they will enable students -- particularly in courses in U.S. and comparative politics courses -- to go well beyond social demographics to "politics." For our purposes the audience includes not only students in American government and political sciences majors and minors, but quite importantly also, teacher candidates both in multiple and single subject preparation programs.

Entered into a faculty folder under my name, the data will be available on CSUB servers to students at all sites where they can access our GIS software. A hard copy and on-line codebook will also be available to provide information on variable sources, labels, and meaning.

Christy Gavin and Jim Ross
I am developing a tutorial on researching Sociological Abstracts (WebSpirs).  The tutorial will cover database construction, free text and fixed vocabulary searching,  and will include step by step instructions on transforming a hypothesis into Boolean logic and applying the logic to the database's  search engine.
Beth Hartung, John Tinker, Daniel Cervi
Working on a "reading media" competency project that we see as potentially useful in both upper and lower division courses. The key questions that frame this project are both quantitative and qualitative: that is, how much do our students know about an actual event, time period, personage, issue; and how well can they evaluate the quality of information they locate (veracity of the source, nuances of the argument, etc.). The idea borrows heavily from the 1996 edition of George MacDonald Fraser’s Hollywood History of the World (London: The Harvill Press). In the book, Fraser discusses how Hollywood has treated historical subjects from the ancient world through the present, sacrificing (of course!) accuracy for entertainment. We feel this would be a fruitful exercise for a generation who is media savvy in some senses, but challenged by or disinterested in history.
Ed Nelson
  1. Revise subset of General Social Survey to be used with web-based book for teaching SPSS and currently on the TRD (Teaching Resources Depository) (
  2. Merge 1998 and 2000 General Social Surveys and create subset that focuses on religion. Also includes other variables on social issues.
  3. Revise exercises on the TRD that use the religion subset of the 1998-2000 GSS (see relg1, relg2, and relg3 on
  4. Create new exercise (relg4) that focuses on religious fundamentalism
  5. Create exercises that can be used in critical thinking courses to teach hypothesis formation, development of arguments to support arguments, and hypothesis testing. One exercise will focus on two-variable hypotheses and the other exercise on three-variable hypotheses.
  6. Work on design of the TRD to include section on information competency.
Elizabeth Nelson
  1. Update TRD modules on social issues and on women’s issues
  2. Using Blooms’ Taxonomy with GSS (SDA) exercises on information competency, critical thinking, and clear written communication skills.
  3. Exercises on the relationship between concepts and measurement and the consequences of various ways of wording questions.
  4. How to Read a Table
  5. How to Construct a Table
  6. Interpreting Your Crosstab (Example: Student’s Information about Pregnancy by Sex) including template for interpreting crosstabs."
  7. Qualitative measures of classrooms in California’s diverse, poor schools
  8. Review of Measures of Central Tendency with Class Income Data ("Make a Movie" format)
  9. Favorite Pizza ("Living Crosstab" format)
  10. Quantitative—definition, measurement, data gathering, frequency distribution, percent distribution, interpretation, construction of crosstab 
  11. Favorite Pizza ("Living Crosstab" format)
  12. Qualitative—definition, measurement, data gathering, describing and analyzing.
  13. Katsuyo Howard’s Passages—work with her to get copyright permissions and make it available for qualitative analysis of immigrant experiences.
  14. TRD Module on Aging and Old age with GSS and other survey data, Census 2000 and other available data, obituary and death notice data, retirement home residents by age and sex.
  15. Obtain permission to excerpt Overcoming Math Anxiety Ch 6 on everyday math and Ch. 7 on advanced math for TRD
Bob Palacio and Laura Hecht
Focus is on accessing, analyzing, and presenting data in Urban Sociology classes.
  1. We are developing a unit where students access, analyze, and present social indicator data from the U.S. Census. The Census in the past has published Social Indicators, County and City Data Book, Census of Population, Population and Housing, among others, where we find a variety of data. 
  2. The second module will show students how to obtain and analyze qualitative data; it may involve some observations of areas in Fresno and Bakersfield and some simple interviews. At the same time that students engage in this activity we will be reading the book SideWalk, which is an excellent example of an urban ethnography. The book has a chapter on the methodology used, which may be useful as a model.
Jim Ross
  1. Student Info/Comp Toolbox
  2. Faculty Info/Comp Toolbox--hints etc for faculty in teaching Info/comp
  3. Basics of Searching (Web for sure may be library sources as well)
  4. Basics of evaluating sources (Web for sure may be library sources as well)

Kimberly Robles Smith and Jim Ross

We are working on a web page for students to help them learn how to evaluate information.  We have some basic tools in mind that would serve all subject areas (i.e. tutorials or quiz type tools that show differences between appropriate and "bad" sources, what to look for in evalauting information, how to evaluate the substance of the information, etc.)

We have also discussed adding subject specific links as well that would be in a chart-like format listing things like "what is the primary literature of this field? what is the appropriate writing style for this field? what are the major indexes for locating appropriate articles in this field? etc."

We envision this page as a place instructors can refer their students to, but also a place where students could "stumble" upon the information themselves and be able to use it without instruction.