Author Archives: Marilyn Dow


headlinesVote_470322_7Did you know there’s an election coming up?  Hard to miss if you’ve been online, watched TV, listened to the radio or used email in the past month.  Election Day is Tuesday November 8 across the United States.  We’re told it’s the most important election in our lifetime.

Ssounds like quite a responsibility wtih a  lot to learn. There’s no shortage of info out there.  But it’s important to look at everything critically; make sure you’re getting the most impartial info available.

The State of Michigan Voter Information Center is a good place to start. You can find out if you’re registered to vote; hope so, because in Michigan that must be done 30 days before the election.   You can also find out where to go to vote and  you see the ballot that you’ll be faced with in the booth.

If that makes you want to learn more — always a good idea — check out VoteSmart where you can look up a candidate by name or search by zip code to find what offices and issues.

An interesting section of VoteSmart is called Vote Easy  

Find your political soul mate.

Based on your response to questions on several issues [healthcare, national security, etc.] VoteSmart will tell you which candidates in your area most agree with your positions.

Factcheck Another no nonsense site from the League of Women Voters, a group that has been providing objective information on elections since the 1920s. is a project of the Annenberg  Public Policy Center, “monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.”  Sort of a for politics.

FiveThirtyEight  One of the original sites using data and projections models to develop statistical odds of election outcomes.  In 2008 famously  forecasted 49 of the 50 state outcomes for the presidential election and correctly projected all 35 US Senate races.   It’s now run by ESPN and has branched out from politics, but still covers elections as its main focus.  If you like numbers, this is the site for you.   [538 is the total number of electors  in the Electoral College]


Lots of data, polls reported on races all over the country and on issues.  Notice that
Real Clear Politics is supported by advertising and includes links to news articles, so the content needs to be read with a particularly critical eye. There is still a lot of good factual reporting here.

There’s more, but this will get you started toward making you an informed citizen ready to enter the voting booth knowing what’s going on and what you think about it all.

Political cartoons & commercials

Democratic Republican Parties Arm Wrestling ClipartNo — don’t go away!  You’re probably tired of election season already and there’s three and a half months to go.

But there are political cartoons and ads online that are interesting without being annoying.


The Living Room Candidate is a free website that has videos of presidential campaign ads from 1952 – 2012.

Curated by the  Museum of the Moving Image  [a topic for another day] the database of videos is searchable by election year, issue,

candidate and key.  In 1964 the Lyndon Johnson campaign produced a TV spot in the election against Barry Goldwater that famously became known as the Daisy ad.   While production looks dated, there’s no doubt about it’s effectiveness.  And nastiness.  Negative ads are nothing new.


Another timely site from the National Archives has an exhibit on political cartoons called Running for Office.  

A  form of editorial content whether in online news or a newspaper, political cartoons are a serious — albeit funny –  form of commentary; a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning has been awarded since 1922

This collection is from one author, Clifford Berryman who worked from 1898 to 1948.  Political cartoons require some knowledge of the contemporary issues or appreciate what’s being made fun of.  These include a brief explanation of what’s going on.

A more recent collection can be found at Political  Searchable by artist and key word this group goes back to 1999.

Remember these are for sale so have fun browsing the collection for free — payment is required to reuse them.

Coffee may kill you. Or your dog. Or not.

coffee prohibitedGot your attention?

There’s no shortage of news about health and medicine.  Everyday there’s something online or on TV claiming that everyday activities or foods may be life saving or can do irreparable harm.   Often the words  “a new study has shown…” is featured in the story.

Your first thought is often “Huh?”  or something similar.

How to know what to believe?  What’s credible?  There’s a good bet that a website more known for celebrity gossip may not have peer reviewed medical information.

Health News Review provides info to the general public to  critically assess health & science claims.  To find out who’s behind this site check the about us link, a good idea for any website you’re not familiar with.  Check out the section Tips for Understanding studies.


Clinical researchers need to publish.  Press releases are sent out by medical journals and professional organizations hoping the mainstream media will pick up the story.  Often video is included with identification info deliberately vague so the local TV new can suggest the white-coated physician is at a hospital  “in your area”.   Websites  have unlimited space to fill  &  need to drive traffic to their pages  likely you’ll find something like this.


The public radio show On the Media recently devoted an entire program to  health news and what to be listen for. A check list from Health News Review lists Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Health News edition.  Beware of the words “breakthrough” and “miracle”.  Studies on mice are not always applicable to humans.
The fake news HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver had a recent segment on Scientific Studies. 

And there’s Snopes the fact checking site that’s been around since 2005 and although it is supported by advertising now it’s a good place to check out news stories that are more urban legends. No, Nutella isn’t “toxic”;   another  word that is often used incorrectly in an alarmist way.

Science & medicine are important and so is the way they’re reported to the non-technical audience. Critical thinking is important in all media.

Twitter for Research?

Twitter_logo_blueIf all you’ve heard about Twitter is that it’s an online place where users discuss the contents of their lunch bags, give it another look.

Since it’s founding in 2006 Twitter quickly became a source of news & research shared nearly in real time.  News media in every form tweet out headlines 24/7. Every professional association and scholarly journal use Twitter to bring traffic to their website. And can also be a valuable way to keep up on what’s going on.

By 2008 a paper was presented at an international conference on e Learning and Software for Education entitled Can we use Twitter for educational activities   

A major medical journal now includes a “tweetable abstract” of research studies encouraging authors to summarize the paper’s thesis, in 144 characters or less of course.

As with any information source Twitter has to be read with a critical eye   Be aware that some twitter feeds, just like websites are marketing devices; doesn’t make them worthless, but be aware of what you’re reading.

Following favorite authors is a good way to learn more about them and their work.

Online Additional Content with Print Books

Many textbook are adding additional information at their website to accompany the text of print books.  Depending on the publisher this feature could be called ThePoint, ExpertConsult or Evolve.    This is really useful in the health sciences.


Most are available at a specific site using a login provided in the print copy.  Some have been set up by the UDM Library  In the past some textbooks came with CDs or later DVDs — this is more convenient.




Wheeler’s Dental Anatomy, Physiology Occlusion  has explanatory animations  and drag and drop labeling exercises to test your knowledge.  There are also questions to create quizzes.




Modern Dental Assisting has extensive material including an audio glossary for each chapter, video explanations and quizzes. Office management, legal aspects of dental practice as well as assisting techniques Modern Dental Assistingare included. Studying with friends? Use the quiz show feature to turn review into a game. This text also includes mock Dental Hygiene Board review material.





Another example is Fundamental of Implant Dentistry This book cleverly has the url and specific info on how to find the login included in the text of the book





Next time you’re using with additional content, check it out.  And remember, see Library staff for assistance.

OER: Open Educational Resources


OER handsOpen Educational Resources are teaching learning and research resources released under an open license that permits their free use and repurposing by others.  OER can be full courses, course materials, lesson plans, open textbooks, learning objects, videos, games, tests and  any other tool that supports access to knowledge.

In other words, free.

Here’s a further explanation:

What are Open Education Resources

They can be a great source for both students and faculty.

You may have heard of Khan Academy It’s a site with videos on many subjects including math, science and humanities. Learn about human anatomy & physiology or differential equations. There are test prep materials for MCAT, GMAT and NCLEX-RN

MOOCs   [Massive Open Online Course] are another type of resource.  Online courses from major universities and colleges they are available in a wide range of subjects.

Open source books are another huge category. Project Gutenberg was established in 1971 and currently has over 49,000 online books in several formats for download to a mobile device or available to read at the website.

Open access journals can be found at DOAJ

Librarians have put together a research guide on Open Educational Resources where you can find lots more info.

And we’ll be glad to assist in any way.

Digital Literacy – How literate are you?

What do you think of when you hear the phrase digital literacy?  Knowing how to use Google to make a restaurant reservation?   Being able to  knock out a PowerPoint presentation that won’t put your audience to sleep?

Sure that’s all part of it.  It’s also knowing when the right source of information may be a print dictionary.  While there may not be a clear agreed upon definition,  the concept addresses the ability to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”

The UDM Library has a book from 1984 on Computer Literacy; but digital literacy is a broader concept than the use of computers.  Privacy issues are also part of being digitally literate.  Do you really know what’s online there about you, openly available to anyone?

Using critical thinking skills to evaluate resources is an important aspect.  Do you know why your instructors don’t want you using Wikipedia?  Check out this eBook  How Wikipedia Works Hint: anyone can edit it, so it may not an authoritative reference.  But it can still be useful for background info and for links to other, possibly more credible sources.

Cornell University has a Digital Literacy Resource that includes info on finding and evaluating sources, Internet privacy and academic integrity.

Digital literacyDigital is an initiative of the Obama administration created by ten federal government agencies. It’s intended to provide info to those providing digital literacy training in schools or in the community, but there’s lots for users.  Here’s a list of links to Basic Computer Information, including MS Word basics and Google Docs.  Confused about all the Social Media platforms?  Learn about Twitter and Skype in the privacy of your own device.

Here’s a quiz from the Pew Research Center: Internet,Science, Tech called WebIQ

Learning Express Library is a test prep site from the Michigan Electronic Library. After setting up a user id & password, check out the Computer Center where you’ll find quizzes on PC hardware, the Internet and popular software programs.

Ask a librarian for additional information — you’ll find we’re quite [digitally] literate.




Finding health statistics

chart image
Looking for health related stats can be a daunting task. There’s so much info out there, how do you find the right fact?


CDC logoThe good news is lots of reliable info is freely available through various federal government sites.  Many have tutorials to help with use of the data.


A good place to start is the National Center for Health Statistics site maintained by the CDC [Center for  Disease Control].

You can find birth, death, marriage and death stats at National Vital Statistics Reports  When the President mentioned in the recent State of the Union address that teen pregnancy is declining, this is where that info likely came from.


Check out the MMWR – Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report  for data on   influenza activity throughout the United States. An explanation of reportable diseases can be found here as well.

Another useful undertaking of the CDC/NCHS is the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHNES.   This is an ongoing program of studies to access the health of adults and children.  Use of dietary supplements, nut consumption among adults — it’s all here.

 Health Data Interactive  provides downloadable tables of data on infants, children, adolescents, adults, and older adults. Tables can be customized by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and geographic location to explore different trends and patterns. [from the website]

If you like reading the dictionary — wait, doesn’t everyone? — it’s easy to get lost following all the information available.  Remember if you need any help finding or using this data see a librarian.


PubMed is a free database created by the National Library of Medicine [NLM], a part of the National Institute of Health. It’s the best place to begin a literature search on any healthcare, medicine, nursing, dentistry or basic science topic.

Pubmed smaller 2

It is the broadest index of medical, science, and healthcare.  There are currently about 24 million citations from about 5,500 journals.

Here are some short tutorials about searching PubMed.
While the site is free, access to the full text of an article depends on several things: UDM subscribes to thousands of electronic journals and often there’s a link at the PubMed citation directly to the article. Look for this logo in the upper right corner of a citation.UDM Linkout logo

Some articles are available under the National Institute of Health Public Access Policy. Publications about research funded by an NIH grant must be freely available within 12 months. In addition, some journals offer a few articles from each issue available at no cost.

To see if UDM has online access to a journal, check here .

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