Monthly Archives: March 2017

Fact Fridays – Publication Bias

We’ve talked about ways to identify bias in individual sources like books and articles in magazines and journals. But what if we take it to a meta level and talk about the bias that may or may not come about when some manuscripts are published and others are not.

Peer review is the process through which experts in a field ensure the quality of a publication and it is largely successful. That doesn’t mean it isn’t flawed, however. Getting published isn’t easy and some manuscripts have been denied publication because the theories or ideas presented don’t match with editors’ or reviewers’ perspectives.

This kind of bias is called publication bias, and some argue it can affect how facts come to be in science. Here’s an excerpt from a recently published piece:

“Arguing in a Boston courtroom in 1770, John Adams famously pronounced, “Facts are stubborn things,” which cannot be altered by “our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passion.”

But facts, however stubborn, must pass through the trials of human perception before being acknowledged—or “canonized”—as facts. Given this, some may be forgiven for looking at passionate debates over the color of a dress and wondering if facts are up to the challenge.

Carl Bergstrom believes facts stand a fighting chance, especially if science has their back. A professor of biology at the University of Washington, he has used mathematical modeling to investigate the practice of science, and how science could be shaped by the biases and incentives inherent to human institutions.”

Read more at:

Women’s Power | Women’s Justice


Virginia Woolf was a revolutionary English writer, her name withstanding the test of time.

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf imagines that Shakespeare had a sister—a sister 510xum-k1rl-_sx332_bo1204203200_equal to Shakespeare in talent, and equal in genius, but whose legacy is radically different. This imaginary woman never writes a word and dies by her own hand, her genius unexpressed. If only she had found the means to create, argues Woolf, she would have reached the same heights as her immortal sibling.

“In this classic essay, she takes on the establishment, using her gift of language to dissect the world around her and give voice to those who are without. Her message is a simple one: women must have a fixed income and a room of their own in order to have the freedom to create.”

Anti-Procrastination Project is BACK!

Fact Fridays – Logical Fallacies

A logical fallacy is a flaw in reasoning. Logical fallacies are like tricks or illusions of thought, and they’re often very sneakily used by politicians and the media to fool people. Don’t be fooled! This website has been designed to help you identify and call out dodgy logic wherever it may raise its ugly, incoherent head. Rollover the icons above and click for examples.

Download your own version from this site.

Women’s Power | Women’s Justice


On this Theme Thursday, we shift gears to Women in Mathematics and their contributions to the field. Written by Lynn Osen, this book highlights “the colorful lives of these women, who often traveled in the most avant-garde circles of their day, are presented in fascinating detail. The obstacles and censures that were also a part of their lives are a sobering reminder of the bias against women still present in this and other fields of academic endeavor.

“Mathematicians, science historians, and general readers will find this book a lively history; women will find it a reminder of a proud tradition and a challenge to take their rightful place in academic life today.”


New Databases Available

The library has recently acquired access to some excellent scholarly databases that we hope will be useful to your students, as well as for your own research. These are linked and described below. Please let your liaison librarian know if you have any questions.

In addition, our video streaming service, Kanopy, continues to add some amazing content. A recent list of new titles is available here.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO)

Based upon the English Short Title Catalogue, ECCO offers access to the most comprehensive online library of 18th century book titles printed in the United Kingdom. Full-text searching across all 26 million pages, including books and directories, Bibles, sheet music, sermons, advertisements, and works by celebrated and lesser-known authors. Includes rare works from women writers of the 18th Century, collections on the French Revolution, and numerous editions of the works of Shakespeare.

Independent Voices

A digital collection of alternative press newspapers, magazines and journals, drawn from the special collections of participating libraries. These periodicals were produced by feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Hispanics, LGBT activists, the extreme right-wing press and alternative literary magazines during the latter half of the 20th century.

Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers

A full-text database of American newspapers published between 1800 and 1900. The complete content of each issue is available, including advertisements, serialized fiction and book reviews. Articles or full-page images may be printed, emailed, or saved in PDF format.

Sabin Americana;jsessionid=E99F2AEE8BA733F47929F7C6D9DF95C1?locID=uiuc_iwu

A comprehensive collection of works about the Americas from the time of discovery through the early 20th century. It provides original accounts of discovery and exploration, pioneering and westward expansion, the U.S. Civil War and other military actions, Native Americans, slavery and abolition, and religious history; includes valuable primary documents to support research in the areas of history, political science, anthropology, women’s studies, religious studies, Latin American/Caribbean studies and more.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive

Contains 5.4 million cross-searchable pages, from collections published through partnerships with the Amistad Research Center, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the British Library, the National Archives in Kew, Oberlin College, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the University of Miami, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and many other institutions.

Times Digital Archive, 1785-1985

Provides access to the entire newspaper, with all news articles, advertisements and illustrations/photos, editorial and commentary, and features. A valuable primary source tool for history, social science research, arts, and humanities courses.

Fact Friday – Beyond Bias

Last week we talked about bias, but recognizing bias isn’t the only way to identify quality in a source. Here are some questions to consider when looking at a source.


A. Author

  1. What are the author’s credentials–institutional affiliation (where he or she works), educational background, past writings, or experience? Is the book or article written on a topic in the author’s area of expertise? You can use the various Who’s Who publications for the U.S. and other countries and for specific subjects and the biographical information located in the publication itself to help determine the author’s affiliation and credentials.
  2. Has your instructor mentioned this author? Have you seen the author’s name cited in other sources or bibliographies? Respected authors are cited frequently by other scholars. For this reason, always note those names that appear in many different sources.
  3. Is the author associated with a reputable institution or organization? What are the basic values or goals of the organization or institution?

B. Date of Publication

  1. When was the source published? This date is often located on the face of the title page below the name of the publisher. If it is not there, look for the copyright date on the reverse of the title page. On Web pages, the date of the last revision is usually at the bottom of the home page, sometimes every page.
  2. Is the source current or out-of-date for your topic? Topic areas of continuing and rapid development, such as the sciences, demand more current information. On the other hand, topics in the humanities often require material that was written many years ago. At the other extreme, some news sources on the Web now note the hour and minute that articles are posted on their site.

C. Edition or Revision

Is this a first edition of this publication or not? Further editions indicate a source has been revised and updated to reflect changes in knowledge, include omissions, and harmonize with its intended reader’s needs. Also, many printings or editions may indicate that the work has become a standard source in the area and is reliable. If you are using a Web source, do the pages indicate revision dates?

D. Publisher

Note the publisher. If the source is published by a university press, it is likely to be scholarly. Although the fact that the publisher is reputable does not necessarily guarantee quality, it does show that the publisher may have high regard for the source being published.

E. Title of Journal

Is this a scholarly or a popular journal? This distinction is important because it indicates different levels of complexity in conveying ideas. If you need help in determining the type of journal, see Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals.

Women’s Power | Women’s Justice


On this Theme Thursday, we explore Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientifist Problem of His Time. Though focusing on a male contribution to scientific knowledge, Dava Sobel is an New York Times author and American writer of popular expositions of scientific topics. She was presented with the Klumpke-Roberts Award for outstanding contributions to public understanding and appreciation of astronomy in 2008. In 2006, she was the Robert Vare Nonfiction Writer-in-Residence at the University of Chicago. She received the 2001 Public Service Award of the National Science Board for fostering public awareness of science.

41paxs50q2lFrom Amazon, “Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that “the longitude problem” was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day-and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives, and the increasing fortunes of nations, hung on a resolution. The scientific establishment of Europe-from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton-had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in its certain pursuit of a celestial answer. In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution-a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land. Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest, and of Harrison’s forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.”

Fact Fridays – Recognizing Bias

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as recognizing fake news and reporting it. There are legitimate news and scholarly articles published loaded with bias. The current news rhetoric is really good at pointing out political bias and how facts are “alternative” or misconstrued, but there are more types of bias than political bias. Be sure to watch out for:

Commercial Bias
News is sponsored by advertisers.  Does the news presented reflect the advertisements embedded within the media?

Temporal Bias
News agencies look for “breaking stories,” often relegating old news to the back page or leaving it entirely uncovered. Scan the back pages too!

Visual Bias
Including visuals will draw the reader’s attention.  Do images presented evoke specific responses?  Do they prejudice the reader to view the news one way?

Good news is less exciting than news that is shocking or frightening.  Does the media exaggerate details to make a story more interesting?  Does the news agency focus only on the negative aspects of a story?

Narrative Bias
Writers will generally develop a plot line – beginning, middle, and end – complete with drama.  News, however, is rarely so tidy. Remind yourself that stories you read in the news are “unfolding.” If a story captures your attention, its best to follow that story over a period of time.

Fairness Bias
Ethical journalism is, in theory, fair.  When a controversy arises, reporters will generally attempt to get the “other side” of the story.  When a rebuttal is reported, it can seem like the media is taking one side or another.  Read carefully to determine if presentation of both arguments is neutral.

Expediency Bias
News is driven by deadlines. Those deadlines sometimes mean that reporters will return to experts they know well and have had successful contacts with previously. This may slant news in towards the political views of these experts.

Women’s Power | Women’s Justice


On this Theme Thursday, we dive into the Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, a book with an interesting take on who has control of women’s bodies. In the world of the near future, who will control women’s bodies?

“Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable…,” from Amazon.