Research at the Year End, 2017

On June 1, the SSRC held its first Research Round Up, to commemorate the end of the academic year.  DePaul faculty members who have worked with SSRC staff or resources over the course of the year were invited to present on their work.

The event was held in Arts and Letters and was well-attended by members of the DePaul community.  After SSRC Director Greg Scott introduced each of the presenters, CDM Faculty member Robin Burke gave an update of the Reading Chicago Reading project- an interdisciplinary venture he has been working on during the last year with DePaul English faculty member John Shanahan.   Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Burke and Shanahan started with a well-defined question and problem: Is it possible to predict popularity of One Book, One Chicago selections using library and demographic data?  As the project has advanced, their connections and relationships to other scholars in the DePaul community have allowed them to broaden their interests and start pushing the boundaries of what is possible.  Currently, they are working on text analysis of One Book books, but also text analysis of reviews of those books.

Shailja Sharma from International Studies talked about her experience breathing life into a new research area and project.  She talked about the lengths that she went to, cobbling together small grants, and relying on Skype interviews to move her recent book project, Postcolonial Minorities in Britain and France: In the Hyphen of the Nation-State forward, little by little.

Next, Writing, Reading and Discourse faculty member Sarah Read discussed strategies for keeping two separate research agendas going.  In her presentation, she showed a table that included a work plan and how she moved each project along, little by little.  For Sarah, wanting to maintain two separate research agendas meant that she had work on them simultaneously- not one at a time.  In her talk, she discussed the importance of making sure that all of her scholarly activity fit squarely within those agendas.   She also discussed the importance of having a group at DePaul that kept her accountable and productive.  She said that this kept her research on her desk every week, so that when there were breaks in teaching, she was able to spend less time reorienting herself with her research and materials, and more time writing.

Finally, Political Science Assistant Professor Ben Epstein reported on his experiences turning his PhD into a book proposal and how he survived the revision and re-submission process before signing the book contract.  One of the biggest issues he grappled with during the revision process was staying true to the spirit of the original work, and not letting suggestions from others change the book.  For him, revising came down to three things: 1.  Make it better, not different.  2.  Agree with a suggestion or defend why you can’t.  3.  Don’t underestimate the energy and time it takes to write the response to the editors and reviewers.  He stressed the importance of finding tools that work.  For some people, they work better in an analogue environment, writing their to-do list down others do better with an app that helps them manage their process.  He also strongly recommends the book, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser.

The event closed with a Q&A with the presenters.  In all, it was a great event, with many agreeing that there should be another event in 2018.

Transcription Tools

The Social Science Research Center at DePaul has a micro-lab where researchers (or their graduate students) can access hardware and software to transcribe audio files.  Typically, researchers have used these tools to transcribe interviews and focus groups.  The process is relatively simple: researchers bring their audio files on portable media, which are loaded onto a machine in the micro lab.  This machine has a software called “Express Scribe” and a pedal.  The pedal is used to stop, start, rewind and fast forward the audio within the environment of Express Scribe.  Additionally, the speed of the audio playback can be modified.  In all, this is a great tool and process for individuals to transcribe audio files.  However, it is not without its flaws.  The main flaw is that it requires users to be in the physical space during business hours.  Also, it requires that someone spend the time actually typing the text of the transcription.

In this post, I review two relatively new transcription tools and demonstrate how they might be used to help researchers transcribe spoken language.

The first, oTranscribe is a web-based transcription tool.  With it, you upload an audio file and from within the web page, you control audio playback.  Keep in mind that if a researcher were going to do this on their own (without coming to the SSRC to use our machine and pedal), this would require playing the audio in something like iTunes and typing the text in a text editor (like MS Word).  Which is likely fine, if you’re working on a machine with two monitors.  Even so, stopping and restarting the audio file can be quite cumbersome using this approach- even if you are capable and have figured out how to use hotkeys and shortcuts.  Remember that hotkeys usually require that you be in the program to use it.  So, you’re typing in MS Word, but in order to get audio to stop you have to get back to iTunes with the mouse and actually press stop (or click in the window with iTunes and use a hotkey to stop the audio file).

oTranscribe allows you to do this all in the same place.  Even better, when audio is restarted, it repeats the the last bit of where you left off.  This gives you a chance to get your hands in place and allows for a much easier orientation.  In the default setup, the key to stop and start the audio is the ESC, but you could change that.  Additionally, the audio can be slowed down quite a lot.  I have demonstrated what the process is like here.

I recorded myself reading the beginning of a chapter in Howard Becker’s Writing for Social Scientists on an iPhone (using the Voice Memos app).  Although it sounds like I might be drunk, I am actually not.  I have slowed the audio down enough so that I can keep up typing it.

Overall, not a terribly onerous process.  I think it beats having to toggle back and forth between different programs.

I learned about Scribe, a tool that does automatic transcription.  According to Poynter, it was developed by some students working on a school project.  One of the students had to transcribe 12 interviews, and he didn’t want to do it (who does?).  He built a script that uses the Google Speech API to transcribe the speech to text.  Based in Europe, the Scribe website asks that a user upload an mp3 and provide an email address.  The cost to have the file transcribed is €0.09 cents per minute.  As of now, there is a limit to how long the audio file can be (80 minutes).  Because the file format from the Voice Memos app is mpeg-4, I actually had to convert my audio file before it could be uploaded.  Once this was done, I received an email with a link to my text when the transcription was finished.

Below is the unedited output that I received.  I pasted the text into OneNote so that I could add highlighting and comments.

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In all, I am fairly impressed with the output from Scribe.  Obviously, there are some problems with it.  The text is generally right- organized in paragraphs, but not naturally.  For example, the second paragraph is separated from the first, when they should have been kept together.  There were periods at the end of the paragraphs.   Also there is some random capitalization (i.e. “The Chronic”). Amazingly, names were capitalized (Kelly and Merten), which I thought was remarkable.  My guess is that the mix-ups with chutzpah/hot spot and vaudeville/the wave auto are fairly common with words borrowed from other languages.

Obviously, the text will need a little work.  While I think Scribe works well for interviews, I am not sure how well it would work for focus groups.  Of course, the text needs some review and editing, but I think that in the long run it would be faster to correct mistakes than it is to manually type the transcription.  The kicker for me, is how cheap it is: at €0.09 cents per minute, an 80 minute interview could be transcribed for less than $10.00.

I think that both oTranscribe and Scribe lowers the bar to entry for researchers wanting to transcribe audio material.

2017 Year End Research Round Table

The SSRC is wrapping up the academic year with a year end research round table that looks inside the projects and strategies that drove the scholarly investigations four DePaul faculty served by the Social Science Research Center. Assistant professor Ben Epstein (Political Science) will discuss his R&R process in finishing a manuscript for a book on political communication.  Assistant professor Sarah Read (Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse) will talk about how she balances two unrelated research agendas.  Assistant Professor Shailja Sharma (International Studies and Refugee and Forced Migration Studies graduate program director) will discuss how to lay out a step by step research plan.  Finally, CDM Professor Robin Burke (School of Computing) will talk about the new data, tools, and research questions that have come from his current project Reading Chicago Reading.  10388748355_9dfd61280b_o.jpg

The event will take place on Thursday June 1, from 4:30-6:00pm at Arts and Letters #404.  Light refreshments will be served.  Please contact the SSRC at ssrc[AT]depaul.edu for more information.

SSRC Event: Speaking in Light and Dark

On January 18, 2017, the Social Science Research Center is hosting “Speaking in Light and Dark”, a discussion between four DePaul Scholars.  The event, which is free and open to the public features Steve Harp (Art, Media, and Design), Daniel Makagon (Communication), Bill Sampson (Public Policy Studies), and H. Peter Steeves (Humanities Center).  The discussion will focus on notions of lightness and darkness, and the ways in which both inform the work of the presenters; figuratively and literally.

light-and-dark

A reception will follow the discussion, which will take place from 4:00-6:00 pm in Cortelyou Commons (2324 N. Fremont Ave, Chicago, IL).  Individuals interested in attending the event should RSVP by sending an email to SSRC@depaul.edu.

SSRC Solicits Applications for the Second Annual Academic Research Retreat

One of the missions of the Social Science Research Center is to facilitate and support faculty research.  To this end, the SSRC is hosting a faculty research retreat in Kenosha, WI during Spring Break March 20-23, 2017.  During this time, selected faculty will participate in two and a half days of intensive research time.

The retreat will take place in a rental property large enough to accommodate 3-5 researchers for three nights.  The retreat events will be organized by a facilitator, who will organize the retreat and conduct accountability sessions.  Attendees will be responsible for their own meals and for securing transportation for themselves to the retreat location.

Applications are due by 5pm Monday February 27, 2017 and should be emailed to Jessi Bishop-Royse at jbishopr@depaul.edu.  In 2-3 pages, potential applicants should indicate the name of their project, its current status, and what they intend to complete during the retreat.  The competitive review process will favor established research projects over those that need more development.

Last year, participants from Sociology,  Public Health, The School for New Learning, and Writing, Reading, and Discourse attended the retreat.  Generally, participants appreciated the opportunity to network with faculty from other departments.  On average, participants completed about 90% of planned research tasks.  Two of the four participants submitted manuscripts for publication within one month of the retreat.  Additionally, the manuscript that participant Sarah Read completed during the retreat was recognized for the James M. Lufkin Award for Best International Professional Communication Conference Paper.

Tentative Schedule

Monday 3/20

6pm-8pm Check in and Welcome Chat, Dinner +Evening Accountability Meeting

8-10pm Writing Session

Tuesday 3/21

8am-9am: Morning Accountability Meeting/Breakfast

9-Noon: Morning Writing Session

Noon-1pm: Afternoon Break

1pm-4pm: Afternoon Writing Session

4pm-7pm: Evening break.

7pm-9pm: Evening Writing Session

Wednesday 3/22

8am-9am: Morning Accountability Meeting/Breakfast

9-Noon: Morning Writing Session

Noon-1pm: Afternoon Break

1pm-4pm: Afternoon Writing Session

4pm-7pm: Evening break.

7pm-9pm: Evening Writing Session

Thursday 3/23

8am-9am: Morning Accountability Meeting/Breakfast

9-11: Morning Writing Session

11-12: Evaulation +Check Out

Questions should be directed to Jessica Bishop-Royse by email (jbishopr@depaul.edu).

Stats and Methods Mini-Workshops

The Social Science Research Center will present a series of short statistics and methods workshops, beginning in February 2017.  Senior Research Methodologist Jessica Bishop-Royse will present on topics of interest to the DePaul Research Community.  The first of these workshops will be on Stata File and Data Management.

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In this session, Jessica will discuss various methods for getting data into Stata, as well as proper file management in order to reproduce results for publication.  This workshop will take place at noon on Thursday February 23, 2017 in the conference room in Suite 3100 of 990 W. Fullerton.

Mess Hall: Robin Burke and John Shanahan Talk about Reading Chicago Reading

 

In October, Robin Burke (of CDM) and John Shanahan (of English) stopped by the SSRC’s Mess Hall to discuss their venture, Reading Chicago Reading.  The project, which was recently funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is an empirical examination into who reads what kinds of books.  The digital humanities project started by examining the One Book, One Chicago (OBOC) program, operated by the Chicago Public Library.  Essentially, Burke and Shanahan (as well as their research team, which also includes SSRC Staff Members Nandhini Gulasingam and Jessi Bishop-Royse), are using OBOC data from CPL to examine various aspects of the well-known reading program.

oboc

The Reading Chicago Reading project is innovative in that the team is combining data from texts, community demographics, circulation records, and social media to yield book-level predictions on who is interested in a particular item.  Combining CPL checkout data with other data, such as Census data, the Reading Chicago Reading research team is hoping to determine how the characteristics of branch libraries influence OBOC participation.  Burke and Shanahan are hoping to use these various data sources to predict community interest in various titles CPL might consider for future iterations of OBOC.

For more information on their recent projects, please check out the results page of the Reading Chicago Reading website.