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Institute for Research Design in Librarianship: 9 days in southern CA; full scholarships available

Do you want to learn about how your user groups and communities find and use information? Do you want to gather evidence to demonstrate that your work is making a difference?

Exciting news! You can work on these questions, and questions like them, June 16-26, 2014!

The Institute for Research Design in Librarianship is a great opportunity for an academic librarian who is interested in conducting research. Research and evaluation are not necessarily identical, although they do employ many of the same methods and are closely related. This Institute is open to academic librarians from all over the country. If your proposal is accepted, your attendance at the Institute will be paid for, as will your travel, lodging, and food expenses.

The William H. Hannon Library has received a three-year grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to offer a nine-day continuing education opportunity for academic and research librarians. Each year 21 librarians will receive instruction in research design and a full year of support to complete a research project at their home institutions. The summer Institute for Research Design in Librarianship (IRDL) is supplemented with pre-institute learning activities and a personal learning network that provides ongoing mentoring. The institutes will be held on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California.

The Institute is particularly interested in applicants who have identified a real-world research question and/or opportunity. It is intended to

“bring together a diverse group of academic and research librarians who are motivated and enthusiastic about conducting research but need additional training and/or other support to perform the steps successfully. The institute is designed around the components of the research process, with special focus given to areas that our 2010 national survey of academic librarians identified as the most troublesome; the co-investigators on this project conducted the survey to provide a snapshot of the current state of academic librarian confidence in conducting research. During the nine-day institute held annually in June, participants will receive expert instruction on research design and small-group and one-on-one assistance in writing and/or revising their own draft research proposal. In the following academic year, participants will receive ongoing support in conducting their research and preparing the results for dissemination.”

Your proposal is due by February 1, 2014. Details are available at the Institute’s Prepare Your Proposal web site.

Factoid: Loyola Marymount is on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean, west of central LA.

New, Improved, and Available Now!

The 2nd Edition of the Planning and Evaluating Health Information Outreach Projects series of 3 booklets is now available online:

Getting Started with Community-Based Outreach (Booklet 1)
What’s new? More emphasis and background on the value of health information outreach, including its relationship to the Healthy People 2020 Health Communication and Health Information Technology topic areas

Planning Outcomes-Based Outreach Projects (Booklet 2)
What’s new? Focus on uses of the logic model planning tool beyond project planning, such as providing approaches to writing proposals and reports.

Collecting and Analyzing Evaluation Data (Booklet 3)
What’s new? Step-by-step guide to collecting, analyzing, and assessing the validity (or trustworthiness) of quantitative and qualitative data, using questionnaires and interviews as examples.

These are all available free to NN/LM regional offices and network members. To request printed copies, send an email to

Non-508 compliant pdf versions of all three booklets are available here: .

The Planning and Evaluating Health Information Outreach series, by Cynthia Olney and Susan Barnes, supplements and summarizes material in Cathy Burroughs’ groundbreaking work from 2000, Measuring the Difference: Guide to Planning and Evaluating Health Information Outreach. Printed copies of Burroughs’ book are also available free—just send an email request to

How clinicians use information resources at the point of care–a grounded theory study

An interesting study by clinicians of how clinicians use information resources has appeared in a recent issue of JAMA Internal Medicine:

Cook DA; Sorensen KJ; Wilkinson JM; and Berger RA. “Barriers and decisions when answering clinical questions at the point of care: A grounded theory study.” JAMA Intern Med, published online August 26, 2013. [epub ahead of print PMID: 23979118] This article provides details about steps that the researchers took in their qualitative study of how 50 primary care and subspecialist internal medicine and family medicine physicians use online information resources (such as UpToDate, MD Consult, Micromedex, and publicly available Internet resources) to answer clinical questions at the point of care. You can find details here about how the focus groups were conducted, how the participants were selected, and how data was collected and analyzed. This article provides a great template for an approach to collecting qualitative information via focus groups, and ends with an unsurprising conclusion:

“Physicians perceive that insufficient time is the greatest barrier to point-of-care learning, and efficiency is the most important determinant in selecting an information source.”

Photovoice – Evaluation through Photography

A picture’s worth a thousand words, and a method called photovoice takes advantage of pictures’ compelling qualities by incorporating photography into research and evaluation. Photovoice is a participatory evaluation method in which program participants are given cameras to capture images that convey their feelings, beliefs and experiences about an issue. The method is used frequently in advocacy projects, allowing the less powerful stakeholders to communicate about issues that impact their lives.

Photovoice seems to be a particularly popular way to engage youth in projects or in evaluation. For examples of photovoice projects with teenagers, check out the two articles listed at the end of this blog entry. The project described in Necheles et al. used photovoice to engage teenagers in identifying influences over their own health behavior. These teens then developed materials such as posters to advocate for healthier lifestyles among their peers. The article by Strack, Magill and McDonagh presents a project in which teens identified problems in their neighborhoods through photovoice. Both articles provide abundant advice for conducting photovoice projects, including how to engage youth in analyzing photos and ideas for presenting results.

Some photovoice projects carry potential risk for participants. Participants also must be taught how to get and document consent from others who appear in their photos. Consequently, photovoice projects require above-average planning and management. For an excellent resource on managing photovoice projects, check out


Necheles JW et al. The Teen Photovoice Project: A pilot study to promote Health through Advocacy. Prog Community Health Partnersh 2007 Fall; 1(3): 221–229.  (available at PubMedCentral,

Strack RW, Magill C, McDonagh K. Engaging youth through photovoice. Health Promot Pract 2004;5:49–58. Available at, particularly the organization’s methodology section at

How to Ignite Your Presentation: AEA Training Webinar

On July 27, 2012 Stephanie Evergreen, eLearning Initiatives Director for the American Evaluation Association, gave a half-hour webinar about the Ignite approach to giving presentations.  This approach involves a 5 minute presentation based on 20 slides that are each shown for 15 seconds.  (Yes, this is similar to Pecha Kucha.)  The American Evaluation Association, which is conducting a “Potent Presentations” initiative to help its members improve their reporting skills, has made the recording and slides for this great presentation available in its free AEA Public Library:

In her short, practical webinar, Stephanie demonstrated the Ignite approach with a great presentation about “Chart Junk Extraction”—valuable tips for creating streamlined, readable charts with maximized visual impact.  Spend an enjoyable and enlightening few minutes viewing the fast-paced and interesting “Light Your Ignite Training Webinar”—you can even learn how to set your PowerPoint timer to move forward automatically every 15 seconds so that you can practice your Igniting!

How to Analyze Qualitative Data

“Utilizing grounded theory to explore the information-seeking behavior of senior nursing students.” Duncan V; Holtslander, L.  J Med Lib Assoc 100(1) January 2012:20-27.

In this very practical article, the authors describe the steps they took to analyze qualitative data from written records that nursing students kept about their experiences with finding information in the CINAHL database.  They point out that, although the ideal way to gather data about student information seeking behavior would be via direct observation, that approach is not always practical.  Also, self-reporting via surveys and interviews may create bias because members of sample populations might “censor themselves instead of admitting an information need.”  For this study, students were asked to document their search process using an electronic template that included “prompts such as resource consulted, reason for choice, terms searched, outcome, comments, and sources consulted (people).”

After reviewing these searching journals, the authors followed up with interviews.

The “Data analysis and interpretation” section of this article provides a clear, concise description of the grounded theory approach to analyzing qualitative data using initial, focused, and theoretical coding using the nVivo 8 software.  [Note, as of this writing, the latest version is nVivo 10]

  • Initial codes:  “participants’ words were highlighted to create initial codes that reflected as closely as possible the participants’ own words.”
  • Focused codes:  “more directed, selective, and conceptual than word-by-word, line-by-line, and incident-by-incident coding.”
  • Theoretical codes:  focused codes were compared and contrasted “in order to develop the emerging theory of the information-seeking process.”

The authors reviewed the coding in follow-up interviews with participants to check the credibility of their findings:  “The central theme that united all categories and explained most of the variation among the data was ‘discovering vocabulary.’”  They recommend “teaching strategies to identify possible words and phrases to use” when searching for information.

You can do this even if you don’t have access to nVivo 8 software.  Here’s an illustration: “Summarize and Analyze Your Data” from the OERC’s Collecting and Analyzing Evaluation Data booklet.

Lessons Learned from a Black and Minority Health Fair’s 15-Month Follow-up Counseling

In health information outreach, one of the most common ways to connect with the public is through a health fair.  Recent literature has shown that school health fairs improve health knowledge in the short term (Freedman, 2010) and health fairs can be a valuable way to enhance public awareness of specific health professions or services (Stamat, Injety, Pohlod, & Aguwa, 2008).  Additionally, participating in health fairs as exhibitors is a manageable outreach activity that can help to address health literacy and health information inequalities in specific communities (Pomerantz, Muhammad, Downey & Kind, 2010). For non-profit health organizations and medical libraries, health fairs provide important outreach opportunities and  ways to reach beyond a traditional sphere of users.  Exhibitors can share targeted information for a population demographic or demonstrate new online resources and applications for health information access and health literacy.

Even though the aforementioned studies show positive trends for short-term effects of health fairs on health information and health literacy, it can be difficult to evaluate long-term effects or to determine participant behavior changes from attending health fairs. As such, it can also be difficult to justify the staff time and monetary expenses for hosting a health fair.  However, results from a recent research study show that health fairs have potential to provide a foundation for ongoing and integrated outreach. In a study conducted in Indiana in 2006-2007, health professional contact 10 and 15 months following a health fair (to determine health fair effectiveness) led to more in-depth and personalized involvement with participants that resulted in greater changes in health behavior and attitudes.  Librarians can use health fairs to begin an engagement process with targeted individuals.   Additionally, librarians can evaluate health fairs using similar pre and post test methods as this study used, but focus more on assessing changes in health information literacy and knowledge from health fair participants.

The study published in 2011 evaluated both the short-term and long-term health effects of attending a health fair, and assessed the impact of personalized follow-up health counseling sessions for select participants.  The Indiana Black and Minority Health Fair included more than 100 health education booths and addressed a variety of health topics, including prevention and screening, as well as general healthy living.  Sponsored by the Indiana State Department of Health, the annual health fair is part of an ongoing effort to develop health literacy skills. The study was constructed as a pre-post test evaluation with baseline data collection at the health fair and then again after 10 and 15 months.  All participants from the original sample group received health education materials between the 10 and 15-month posttests, and a select group participated in health counseling sessions with a registered nurse. The researcher designed the study to explore a paradigm where, “health fair encounters were aimed to translate from episodic experiences to long-term educational experiences via 15-month follow-up health counseling sessions in a partnership among the state government…local government…and a university…” (p. 898).

With a stationed booth at the health fair, the researchers evaluated a baseline level of willing participants’ health information knowledge through a pretest. In this study, the pretest was a 16-item short-form questionnaire.  This questionnaire was adapted from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System questionnaire and included questions on “perceived body weight, vigorous and moderate physical activity, TV/video watching hours, fruit and vegetable consumption, tobacco use, and perceived health status” (p.899).  The pretest evaluated the major health indicators and behaviors of health fair participants.

The first posttest was conducted 10 months later in a follow-up mail survey to all health fair participants in the form of a 99-item long-form questionnaire, also adapted from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.  This round had a response rate of 47%, with 266 participants responding. This posttest evaluated if attending the health fair had any short-term effects on the participant’s health knowledge and other health habits. It looked at the “participants’ health knowledge, eating behaviors, sedentary behaviors, exercise self-efficacy, exercise goal setting and adherence, and changes in health status” (p. 899). Results from this posttest showed that more people perceived themselves as overweight (an increase of almost 7% from the baseline measure) and fewer people watched TV/videos 4 hours or more on a usual weekday (a drop of almost 22%) 10 months following the health fair. These behavioral changes were not matched by any other changes in notable health behaviors or conditions included in the questionnaires.

This lack of health behavior change is an important aspect of this study, and a revealing situation for librarians.  Health fairs may not produce immediate changes but they can provide an educational space where health professionals and librarians can connect with at-risk health populations and start a conversation about their health behaviors. This potential was seen in the intervention step of the study from which participants’ health information materials and personalized counseling over the course of three to four months offered another opportunity to connect health information professionals with targeted populations.

All participants from the posttest received mailed health educational materials, and this was considered the comparison group. A small subset agreed to personalized health counseling by a registered nurse via phone. The intervention group set at least one health goal and received four counseling phone calls over the course of 12-16 weeks.  Then all comparison and intervention group participants received a second posttest questionnaire 15 months after the health fair (the same 99-item long form questionnaire from the first posttest).  This second posttest evaluated the effect of the personalized follow-up health counseling sessions, as well as the effect of receiving the health information materials.  Of the initial 266 participants, 188 followed through with the second posttest. The second posttest showed some increases in self-reported measures of general health status, with the percentage of overweight or obese participants decreased in both the intervention and comparison groups.  Additionally, participants in the intervention group showed a significant increase in choosing leaner meats, and showed improvements in exercise self-efficacy, exercise goal setting and adherence, and health knowledge.  However, there was little significant gain in health knowledge, as the emphasis in the intervention group was on addressing individuals’ health concerns.  A takeaway message from this study is that long-term follow-up interventions have the potential to provide health support over a longer period of time, which can increase the likelihood of healthy outcomes and health literacy.

Yet, this study shows that health fairs can be an important stepping-stone for health information outreach and evaluation.  Due to the inherent nature of health fairs, they are typically a one-time interaction, and participants run the risk of information overload in unfocused health fairs.  Librarians can use health fairs as an initial contact setting for population groups, and develop an ongoing relationship by providing consistent and meaningful health information materials and personalized outreach to former health fair participants.  Furthermore, evaluations of this ongoing outreach in the form of written or online questionnaires, in-person focus groups, or even individual case studies, can be compelling support for continued participation in health fairs.

For the long-term, Seo also states that the findings of this study have other implications for health promotion and education, in particular, “explor[ing] the possibility of utilizing BMHF [Black and Minority Health Fair] participants as lay health workers or social support groups in their own communities to address low health literacy and high-risk lifestyles in this population” (p. 903).  In other words, you can reach new (and possibly elusive) groups of people or target small specific high-risk populations by investing in a small group of participants over a long-term period, as initiated by a simple health fair.  Short-term and long-term evaluation can complement this long-term outreach program by evaluating changes in teaching methods, changes in health information literacy within communities, or even show differences over time in health knowledge and health information literacy for the lay health workers.  This study shows how heath information professionals can build long-term relationships with targeted populations by using health fairs as an initial contact point. With coordinated evaluation strategies, health information professionals can ensure that their long-term health outreach activity is consistently meaningful, relevant, and adaptive to their targeted populations’ needs.


Survey Research Problems and Solutions

Susan Starr’s editorial in the January 2012 issue of JMLA (“Survey research: we can do better” J Med Libr Assoc. 2012 January; 100(1): 1–2) is a very clear presentation of 3 common problems that disqualify article submissions from being full-length JMLA research papers.  Making the point that the time to address these problems is in survey development (ie, before the survey is administered), she also suggests solutions that are best practices for any survey:

Problem #1:  The survey does not answer a question of interest to a large enough group JMLA readers.  (For example, a survey that is used to collect data about local operational issues.)
Solution #1:  Review the literature to identify an issue of general importance.

Problem #2:  The results cannot be generalized.  (Results might be biased if respondents differ from nonrespondents.)
Solution #2:  Address sample bias by sending the survey to a representative sample and using techniques to encourage a high response rate; including questions to help determine whether sample bias is a concern; and comparing characteristics of the sample and the respondents to the study population.

Problem #3:  Answers to survey questions do not provide the information that is needed.  (For example, questions might be ambiguous or might not address all aspects of the issue being studied.)
Solution #3:  Begin survey development by interviewing a few representatives from the survey population to be sure all critical aspects of the topic have been covered, and then pretest the survey.

Logic Models: Handy Hints

The Coffee Break Demonstration webinar  for Thursday, January 5 from the American Evaluation Association was “5 Hints for Making Logic Models Worth the Time and Effort.”  CDC Chief Evaluation Officer Tom Chapel provided this list:

1.  See the model as a means, not an end itself

His point here was that you may not NEED a logic model for successful program planning, but you will ALWAYS need a program description that describes need, target groups, intended outcomes, activities, and causal relationships.  He advised us to identify “accountable” short-term outcomes where the link between the project and subsequent changes can be made clear, and differentiate between those and the longer-term outcomes to which the program contributes.

2.  Process use may be the highest and best use

Logic models are useful for ongoing evaluation and adjustment of activities for continuous quality improvement.

3.  Let form follow function

You can make a logic model as detailed and complex as you need it to be, and you can use whatever format works best for you.  He pointed out that the real “action” is in the middle of the model.  The “middle” of the logic model, its “heart,” is the description of what the program does, and who or what will change as a result of the program.  He advised us to create simple logic models that focus on these key essentials to aid communication about a program.  This simple logic model can be a frame of reference for more complexity—for details about the program and how it will be evaluated.

4.  Use additional vocabulary sparingly, but correctly

Mediators such as activities and outputs help us understand the underlying “logic” of our program.  Moderators are contextual factors that will facilitate or hinder outcome achievement.

5.  Think “zebras,” not “horses”

This is a variation of the saying, “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.”   My interpretation of this hint is that it’s a reminder that in evaluation we are looking not only for expected outcomes but also unexpected ones.   According to Wikipedia, “zebra” is medical slang for a surprising diagnosis.

You can find the slides for Tom Chapel’s presentation in the American Evaluation Association’s Evaluation eLibrary.

Can Tweets Predict Citations?

Can Tweets Predict Citations? Metrics of Social Impact Based on Twitter and Correlation with Traditional Metrics of Scientific Impact.”  G. Eysenbach, Journal of Medical Internet Research 2011; 13(4):e123

This article describes an investigation of whether tweets predict highly cited articles.  The author looked at 1573 “tweetations” (tweets about articles) of 55 articles in the Journal of Medical Internet Research and their subsequent citation data from Scopus and Google Scholar.  There was a correlation:  highly tweeted articles were 11 times more likely to be highly cited than less-tweeted articles.  The author proposes a “twimpact factor” (the cumulative number of tweetations within a certain number of days since publication) as a near-real time measure of reach of research findings.