Field Learning

Newly graduated Master of Public Health (MPH) students Adenike Sosina and Joselyn Williams recently talked about the extra-curricular skills they acquired as research assistants at the Center for Community Health Equity (CCHE). Their analysis of one project will be displayed at the 9th annual Health Disparities & Social Justice Conference that CCHE and MPH will host at the DePaul Center on August 12.

In a conference poster, they will summarize the focus group discussions that CCHE helped Rush conduct in conjunction with Rush Medical Center’s comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment. The focus groups were made up of residents and stakeholders from the 8 Chicago West Side community areas (West Town, Austin, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, Near West Side, North Lawndale, South Lawndale, and Lower West Side) and 3 near west suburbs (Forest Park, Oak Park, and River Forest) that Rush serves. They were formed to discover what Adenike described as “the impact of the communities’ perceptions, their needs, things they believed to be beneficial.” That should help Rush understand what makes a good community and what relationships community members value, Joselyn added.

The two researchers began working at CCHE and with CCHE Co-Director and Associate Professor of Sociology Fernando De Maio in 2015—Adenike as CCHE Program Assistant and Joselyn as CCHE Graduate Assistant. Founded jointly in 2015 and based at DePaul, CCHE is a partnership between DPU and Rush designed to link social scientists, students, community groups, and health care professionals in a search for data-based solutions to community health problems.

Last fall and winter Adenike and Joselyn collaborated with CCHE on the assessment report Rush prepares every three years to evaluate the overall state of health in its service areas and to develop internal implementation strategies and community collaAdenikeborations. Using NVivo software, they later analyzed 11 “massive” focus group transcripts—also prepared by a number of DePaul and Rush students—to identify recurring themes such as resources, education, socialization, social division, health care, safety, responsibility, and ownership, Adenike said.

“The software itself served as a resource,” said Joselyn, a self-describJoselyned ‘data nerd’. “[It’s] kind of intuitive. There’s not a lot of bulky things you have to have previous help with.” The researchers also utilized SSRC technical and consulting resources, for transcribing the focus group discussions and for training in GIS and mapping fundamentals. The poster will illustrate the findings of their analysis.

“There was an array of other concerns, besides health, in which they wanted their voices to be heard,” said Adenike. She was impressed by the range of what focus group participants wanted to convey. Across communities, focus groups cited the lack of resources, including insufficient recreational outlets for youth, job opportunities, access to retail and good food, and inadequacies in the city’s educational system.

“…It’s like we’re almost a forgotten community…,” a member of the North Lawndale focus group complained. “And if we could just get a lot of these young guys some work and young women and young men to work, it will be a big change in the community,” a West Garfield Park participant offered.

In conversations about what they liked about their communities, participants voiced “probably a lot more positive thoughts around social cohesion,” Joselyn observed. “Most identified with their community,” she said. “I didn’t feel like anyone said ‘this is per se a bad community.’ They recognized the good and the bad. They wanted the community to be better.” Discussions about how Rush might partner with the community produced suggestions for collaborating with schools, operating mobile clinics to provide services such as back-to-school vaccinations, or pairing medical school students with community teens around health issues and mentoring, Adenike noted.

Both MPH graduates agreed that their work at CCHE leaves them feeling better prepared as they start their own careers. Joselyn, who made some GIS maps for the assessment to show where Rush ranked in child opportunity and hardship indices, appreciated the opportunity to work alongside hospital administrators and to observe how a big organization undertakes a report of this scope. She was struck by the length of the assessment process.

This fall Joselyn will begin teaching English to elementary students in the Gyeongbuk province in South Korea. From there she hopes to explore opportunities for a career abroad in global health. Adenike wants to work in community health practice after her position at CCHE ends in late summer. She’s especially interested in childhood obesity interventions.

At CCHE, graduate and undergraduate student researchers will continue to gain project-based experience working on analyses of the new Healthy Chicago Survey, the creation of an “Index of Concentration at the Extremes” for Chicago census tracts, and comparative analyses of health inequities in Chicago and other cities. DePaul faculty and students will continue collaborating with the Chicago Department of Public Health and other groups across the city as they build on CCHE’s contribution to “Healthy Chicago 2.0”, the city’s four-year initiative to assess and improve health and well-being and reduce inequities among Chicago communities.

Visit CCHE’s website to see the Rush Community Health Needs Assessment report and to learn more about the upcoming Health Disparities & Social Justice Conference at DePaul. Faculty or students doing research on faculty projects who want to access NVivo are invited to contact the SSRC where the program is available in our Lincoln Park computer lab or through remote connection.


How Sarah Read Works


Location:  DePaul University (or Starbucks, where I am right now?)
Current Gig:  Assistant Professor, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
One word that best describes how you work:  Interval training
Current mobile device: Iphone 4S
Current computer: MacBook Air

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? My At-A-Glance paper planner (without it I am a useless woman) and Dropbox, which means I can move seamlessly between work and home and the coffeeshop.

What’s your workspace setup like: Minimalist and open. I use a fully adjustable computer desk. I’m a short, small person, so conventional desks are just too big.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack? Do you automate something that used to be a time sink? Do you relegate email to an hour a day? Back when I ran track and cross-country in high school and college my greatest strength was pacing. I wasn’t the fasted member of the team, but I always ran my intervals during practice at a consistent rate; i.e., I didn’t tire myself out on the first few and then die through the last ones. This is my approach to research projects and writing. Small chunks. Over time at the same rate. The down side of this strategy, however, is that I don’t accelerate very well. In a nutshell, I don’t do all-nighters.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? Good ol’ fashioned At-A-Glance monthly paper planner. I am very visual person and I like to see my whole month at once. I also find it that takes less time/thought/energy to enter a few cryptic notes with a few scribbles of my pen.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? Do I need to mention the almighty At-A-Glance planner again? Seriously, without it I am a woman without a plan or a life.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?Tracking the family to-do list and the contents of the fridge (which I can recite from memory at any given time). It drives my husband crazy. My secret? Well, my theory is that girls are trained to pay attention to things like the contents of the fridge (to plan the shopping list), the location of items (clutter clean-up) in the house, and the chores that need to be done (no one else will do them) by just observing what their mothers’ paid attention to as they grew up. My parents had a traditional division of labor at home, and this is how it imprinted on me, whether I like it or not.

What do you listen to while you work? Mostly the chatter of my own mind. However, if I am grading or doing administrative tasks I listen to WFUV FM (public radio from Fordham University in New York City—new alternative/folk/rock music) via the web.

What do you do to stay inspired? Who are some of your favorite artists?  Right now I am educating myself about contemporary dance choreography by attending all of the amazing contemporary dance company performances in Chicago. I am a particular fan of Hubbard Street Dance Company, a truly world-class dance company born right here in Chicago—their creative and interesting choreography and world class technique blow me away. As a language person, I am enjoying learning about the language of dance and how to join the conversation about it.

What sort of work are you up to now? Right now I am finishing up ethnographic field work about technical documentation and reporting processes at a supercomputing research facility int the Chicago area. I am starting to work on my book project, Writing Infrastructure.

What are you currently reading? Pride and Prejudice (By Jane Austen), the graphic novel (not by Jane Austen)

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Maybe both?  Total introvert, although I have to come out of my cave sometimes in order to maintain my sanity. Teaching is good for that.

What’s your sleep routine like? Totally regular. Sleep by 11pm. Up at 6:45.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see__________ answer these same questions. Woodstock.  

Why? Sorry, I only have goofy answers to this question.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Wow—this is the toughest question. I couldn’t tell you the source of this advice, but for me an essential insight has been to have the courage to believe that my ideas, my writing, my work has value and to put it out there in the conversation. It is an act of courage to declare oneself a writer (an academic writer, creative writer, etc.) and to just start doing it. I feel like I have to be courageous in this way almost every day. Writers, of all kinds, are incredibly courageous people.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? Thanks for asking these questions. And thanks for reading.

The How I Work series featured on the re/search blog is shamelessly stolen from Life Hacker’s How I Work series.  The SSRC’s version asks DePaul’s heroes, experts, and individuals of note to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Jessi Bishop-Royse at jbishopr AT

NVivo 10: First Steps

Pretty regularly, I am asked to do NVivo trainings.  Remember, that NVivo is a qualitative analysis software package.  Often, requests are by faculty who are thinking about adding a qualitative component to their research or maybe they are thinking about doing a qualitative research project.  Sometimes faculty requests are rather specific (they might need some specific help with a type of coding or such), but for the most part, a lot of people just need help getting off the ground with NVivo.

The Basics:

QSR International offers a free two week trial of NVivo.  A license for an Individual Starter Pack will set you back $700, while a 2-year license for the Pro license is $710.  There is a fundamentals course that can be added on for $100.

This is all well and good.  But the best part is that QSR International has a Youtube Channel with 21 “how-to” videos to get up and running.  The hits:

Importing PDFs in NVivo 10 in 1 minute:

Creating codes (read: nodes) in NVivo 10 in 2 minutes:

Creating a word frequency query in NVivo 10 in 4 minutes:

Actually pretty great.

Visualizing ‘The Star’

While Mozart is popularly believed to have originated the lullaby, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” the words to the famous cradle song were written by Jane Taylor, an English poet and novelist. It was first published in 1806 in “Rhymes for the Nursery,” written and complied by Jane and her sister Ann Taylor. Like other lullabies, it came to be paired with the melody of a popular French children’s song, “Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman,” a tune popularized further by Mozart’s twelve different tune variations.
The infograph below creates a contemporary visualization of this classic lullaby.

Click through to see the enlarged image.


Techniques Used
The above visualization includes 3 types of analysis techniques:

Text Analysis: The word trend graph shows the relative frequencies of the words used most. The word cloud displays all the words of the lullaby in the form of a cloud with the size of the text proportional to the word frequency. The text network shows the most influential words in the lullaby responsible for the theme shifts and other themes associated with these influential words using a non-linear network diagram.

Statistical Analysis: The statistical analysis ranges from basic counts such as total characters and words, number of lines and syllables, and average words per line or sentence to more complex indices and densities.

Quantitative Analysis: Two chart types were used to visualize quantitative data — a trend chart showing word counts of the most frequently used words and a bubble chart showing the word count of all words in the lullaby.

Implementing visualization techniques in faculty research
The image above shows different visualization techniques used in analyzing text such as books, articles or even candidate stump speeches. These might be used to effectively convey data or research conclusions to different types of audiences in various disciplines or industries.

Ask us how to visualize your research
If you want help visualizing your own research findings or wonder if your research lends itself to similar techniques including data acquisition and preprocessing of both quantitative and qualitative data, contact Nandhini Gulasingam at

How Ben Epstein Works

Name: Ben Epstein
Location: DePaul University
Current Gig: Assistant Professor of Political Science
One word that best describes how you work: Musically
Current mobile device: iPhone 5
Current computer:  Macbook pro


What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Twitter, Word, Workflowy, Google Calendar, Google Scholar, Probably whatever Google comes out with next.

What’s your workspace setup like: Office at work is embarrassingly messy but has what I need. I also do a lot of work at my local Starbucks, the clean space helps me be much more efficient.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack? Do you automate something that used to be a time sink? Do you relegate email to an hour a day?  I use workflowy and set up hashtags for specific days to give myself deadlines. I assign myself a certain amount of time to actually do my own work each week but I allow that time to be flexible in terms of how much is used each day because life (read: my kids) happen. Also Google calendar reminds me of things all the time.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? Workflowy

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? My big headphones. I’ve been using some iteration of these for over 20 years.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret? There are a ton of talented people around. I work very hard, stay humble, and try to ask good questions and listen. There are no secrets.

What do you listen to while you work? Spotify (and sometimes Pandora) and I have a ton of music but I need it to be without lyrics. I listen to a lot of vitamin string quartet and other groups that do contemporary music with strings or pianos. When I can do something like emails etc. I will listen to more Soul and Hip Hop. If you pass the office playing Vitamic String Quartet, followed by Sam Cooke, and the Kendrick Lamar, it might be my office.

What do you do to stay inspired? Who are some of your favorite artists? See above. Plus if I need to get particularly pumped up, there is no better song than I Go To Work by Kool Moe Dee. 

What sort of work are you up to now? I am finishing a book manuscript this month (fingers crossed). It presents a theory about repeating patters of political communication change throughout American political history and explores the theory through a historical narrative comparing major changes from the newspaper to the internet. I also have projects involving e-government services, political internet literacy and online political influence in the works.

What are you currently reading? Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It is extraordinary and a must read.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Maybe both? I took the Myers Briggs test but always forget what I am. I think I am honestly more of an introvert but I think that I can generally be around other people without needing a paper bag to breathe into.

What’s your sleep routine like? I try to go to be around 10:30, I go to bed around midnight, my daughter wakes me up around 3:30 3-4 days a week and I get up around 6:45 to help get the family moving for the day.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions. Why?

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Nobody knows you as well as you do.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? I am a gigantic Minnesota fan and sports fan. I am therefore a huge fan of Minnesota sports.

The How I Work series featured on the re/search blog is shamelessly stolen from Life Hacker’s How I Work series.  The SSRC’s version asks DePaul’s heroes, experts, and individuals of note to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Jessi Bishop-Royse at jbishopr AT

The Evolution of E-Gov

Political Science Assistant Professor Ben Epstein brought his research project on web-based government services to the Social Science Research Center this summer, phase two of an on-going project to chart the evolution of e-government.

His survey analysis of 83 small, medium and large U.S. cities in the first phase of the project identified 32 types of financial, informational and interactive e-government services available. San Francisco led the group with 28 services, followed closely by downstate Santa Monica with 24. Minneapolis, MN and Fort Collins, CO also ranked high, despite having fewer financial resources to draw on. The cities were randomly selected from the country’s 792 cities with populations of at least 50,000 (Chicago was not among them). They were analyzed for the number, type and level of e-government services they offered.

E-GovWhile the number of services and how long cities have been engaged in e-government vary greatly, “we’re seeing a stabilization over time,” he noted. An estimated 75–80% of the cities analyzed offer their citizens the option to pay their utility bills online, followed next by online parking ticket payment services. But when it comes to decisions on expanding their web-based services further—be it payment of taxes or interactive social media features like Facebook—governments weigh a wide range of considerations, from cost and staffing, to issues of security, transparency, confidentiality, control and administrative complications.

“The verdict on e-government service is still out, and far from universal,” Ben said. To get the story behind the numbers, he and two assistant professors at other universities interviewed city managers, communications directors or other decision-makers from six of the 83 survey cities: Santa Monica, CA, Scottsdale, AZ, Lakeville, MN, North Richland Hills, TX, St. Lucie, FL and Margate, FL. Working with Ben were Leticia Bode of Georgetown University, who shares Ben’s interest in political communications and media and has co-authored a journal article with him, and Jennifer Connolly of the University of Miami, whose knowledge of city government and administration added a new dimension to the project. “E-government was totally new for us,” said Ben. They used an inexpensive application called TapeACall Pro to record their 20–50 minute interviews on an iPhone and then emailed or texted the digital recordings to each other. Mike Constantino, a DPU journalism graduate student, used the SSRC’s transcription software to script the interviews for analysis.

The interviews exceeded expectations, Ben said. “We had an incredibly rich variety of qualitative data that we could use from only six interviews.” They revealed that “cities are thinking of e-government in a number of ways,” Ben said, and are talking about it in terms of citizen expectations. Next spring or summer, the project will turn its attention to citizens’ perceptions and experiences to find out if cities and citizens are thinking alike about e-government. “I think cities assume a lot,” Ben explained, including the extent of what citizens know. The ultimate goal of the project, he said, is “to get a more holistic view of what e-government is” and what it means today, both top down and bottom up. “It was a fun project and I’m glad that it will continue moving forward,” he added.

During his teaching leave this fall quarter, Ben is completing a book manuscript with the working title, “The Political Communications Cycle: The Process of Change from the Newspaper to the Internet,” that will offer a theory of the cyclical process of changes in political communications over time. It will include a chapter on e-government.