Research InformationNetwork on Women and Girls in Illinois
About the Research Information Network
How to Use the RIN
Credible Research Information
Searching Large Data Sites
About the Center for Research on Women and Gender
About The Chicago Community Trust

About the Research Information Network

How to Use the RIN

The Research Information Network is divided into broad subjects which impact the lives of women and girls in Illinois and beyond: Each category is further broken into more specific topics, including information on research findings and reports, policy issues, and organizations which provide further resources. We indicate the level addressed by research reports, i.e.: city/county/state, federal, and international levels. The resources listed on the RIN are web pages, listservs, print publications, and networking contacts.

We primarily include resources which give information specifically based on women's lives. For example, we highlight research findings that disaggregate by gender. Where we are not able to find gender-specific data, we report on the general conditions of the population.

Objectives of the RIN Project

During 1998, the following objectives are primary for the start-up of the RIN.

Who is the audience?

The audience includes researchers, teachers, students, non-profit service and advocacy organizations, philanthropic foundations, elected and other government policy makers, media, and other citizens.

What are the perceived topics of interest?

Perceived audience needs at the start of project include: We encourage you to let us know your research interests and needs by participating in our online RIN User Survey.

Credible Research Information

The goal of the Research Information Network for Women and Girls in Illinois is to assist you in finding accurate and up-to-date information on the Internet and in other locations. The Internet offers so much information but unfortunately much of it is not accurate and the sources from the which the information is drawn are not described. Before we add information to the listings on the RIN, we check for the credibility of the information. The following are some of the clues we use to tell if information is likely to be trustworthy. We suggest you consider the following list and also check out the link below which gives a wide variety of resources about how to evaluate information found on line.
Trustworthy Internet information typically includes:


Bibliography on Evaluating Internet Resources
http://refserver.lib.vt.edu/libinst/critTHINK.HTM
Designed to help Internet users evaluate information found online, a database of academic resources on the Internet, and much more.

For an opinion article on teaching students the importance of critically assessing the reliability of information on the Web, see the article "The Web demands critical thinking by students" by Kari Boyd McBride and Ruth Dickstein in the March 20, 1998 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A General Introduction to Searching Large Data Sites

Much of the data and the documents listed on the pages of the RIN come from very large governmental or other public data sites and search engines, such as the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the National Center for Education Statistics. Although these sites are tremendously useful, they can be somewhat overwhelming for the first-time user.

When you get to the homepage of one of these data sites, you should get a quick overview of how this site is structured. There often is an "about this page" button that will give you helpful information about the site itself. Read this information carefully. Then click on some of the other options to see what types of information are offered under each.

For example: when you go to the U.S. Department of Labor homepage (http://www.dol.gov/), you have a number of options, including going to a specific department (eg. the Bureau of Labor Statistics), or finding out about DOL activities. There is also a Site Info, a What's New, and a Search button.
If you start with the Site Info button, you gain access to:

The most important button to find is the search button. Most developers of large sites have spent much time finding ways to guide you through their site. In our above example, clicking on the search button moves you to the search page. From here you have the option to start your search immediately by typing in your search term, or to get more help. When you go to the help page, you can further choose among several options: If you are new to this, you should definitely start with Constructing a Query, which provides step- by-step instructions and definitions of commonly used terms.

In general, your query should:

  1. be as specific as possible
  2. start more general and become more specific
  3. specify what part of the web site should be queried (when appropriate)
  4. vary your search terms to explore different ways of describing the same topic
For example: When you search for "sex" (i.e. gender) on all DOL pages, you get 100 documents that have something to do with "sex". Most of these documents will seem completely irrelevant to you. However, if you search the Bureau of Labor Statistics (a particular department of the DOL) for "wages" and "sex", you get 33 documents, including the Monthly Labor Review Online. If you run the same search using the terms "gender" instead of "sex", you get 35 documents. Some of these are the same as in the previous search, but some are not. Similarly, using income instead of "wages" will result in slightly different search results. These differences have to do with how documents are indexed. For instance, the Census uses "sex" in their surveys and data files. Searching for "sex" will therefore include Census documents that are indexed to include information about gender differences. It is therefore important to conduct searches using these different terms in a variety of combinations (i.e. "sex", "gender", and "women" -- or "wages", "income", and "earnings").

It takes some time and practice to become efficient with these searches. Any time spent in the beginning on reading the information provided by the web site is likely to minimize your frustration with your search. However, you will still need to learn how to best use these sites by practicing different search strategies and by varying your search terms.

About the Center for Research on Women and Gender

The Center for Research on Women and Gender (CRWG) at the University of Illinois at Chicago designed and now coordinates the Research Information Network for Women and Girls in Illinois (RIN). Begun in 1997, the RIN project fits well with the mission and past experiences of the CRWG.

History

In September 1991, the Illinois Board of Higher Education voted to approve the Center for Research on Women and Gender. Since July 1992 Dr. Alice Dan has served as the appointed director of this Center as it has expanded its staff, funding, and space. The Center currently includes a dozen women: full-time and part-time staff, graduate student research assistants, visiting scholars, and volunteers on special projects. The CRWG director reports directly to the UIC Vice Chancellor for Research, who provides core funding for the Center. An Executive Board composed of UIC faculty serves the Center in an advisory capacity. The Centers independence from disciplinary and departmental lines facilitates its ability to work with faculty from a wide variety of fields on research and policy questions of an interdisciplinary nature.

Mission

The mission statement of the Center identifies the following four key goals:

Projects

The CRWG conducts funded research and evaluation about women and gender crossing a range of disciplines, holds major conferences and other research discussion meetings, has a seed grant research funding program for UIC faculty, periodically hosts and funds visiting scholars, and offers technical assistance and training to facilitate the evaluation of community organizations in the Chicago area. Given these projects, the Center has many strong ties to Chicago area community organizations with shared interests in women and gender-related issues. These organizations include many that are the audience for this Research Information Network.
To see a sample of current projects underway follow this link.

CRWG Supporters

The Center has received generous support for previous projects from a number of sources in addition to its allocation from the University of Illinois at Chicago. The Chicago Community Trust supports the RIN project. The John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has funded the Center's work on several previous and current projects on women's health. The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women's Health, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Girl's Best Friend Foundation, the Lesbian Community Cancer Project, the Illinois Humanities Council, the Spencer Foundation, the UIC Great Cities Institute, Campus Research Board, and others have also provided funding for Center projects.

About The Chicago Community Trust

The Chicago Community Trust is Chicago's community foundation. For more than eighty years, thousands of individuals, families, and businesses have used the Trust as an innovative way to put their charitable dollars to work to address the many needs of our diverse community. These numerous bequests and contributions form permanent endowments, the income of which is used to make grants to not-for-profit organizations serving the residents of greater Chicago.

The Trust's reach extends to organizations and programs filling diverse needs across metropolitan Chicago. The Trust makes roughly $35 million per year in grants to organizations in the arts and humanities, social services, civic affairs, education, and health, as well as other projects and special programs.

As Chicago's community foundation, the Trust also recognizes its important role as educator and convener. As such, it has initiated and funded surveys and other projects to gather and disseminate valuable information to community and civic leaders, service providers, public officials, donors, and the general public. Recent surveys sponsored by the Trust include a comprehensive study of children at risk, and a statewide poll of women on issues of concern to them. In addition, the Trust annually sponsors the Chicago Matters public broadcasting series and a newspaper supplement that have addressed such issues as aging, immigration, religion, the arts, and the family. Many people in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors have come together to discuss these issues and learn from one another as a result of the Trustís efforts.

Because of its central role within our community, the Trust has seen countless examples of how important informed, compassionate and creative leadership is in the success of communities and organizations. In response, the Trust has developed and supported a variety of programs to encourage and nurture leadership talent. These include Leadership Greater Chicago, Young Leaders Forum and Fund, Future Leaders Chicago and the Community Service Fellowship, each of which strengthens leadership skills at different ages and career stages.

In 1996, The Chicago Community Trust initiated and co-sponsored, with Chicago Foundation for Women, a statwide poll of women. This survey grew out of a desire on the part of the Trust to explore women's issues in the community. An advisory committee was convened in November 1995 which identified a pressing need for new, comprehensive and detailed information about women's priorities, concerns, and goals. The survey would represent a continuation of the Trust's ongoing commitment to inform its own grant making and the wider community with community-based input and fresh research data. This project followed on the heels of the Trust's very successful Children at Risk poll, which was released in March 1996.

The statewide survey which the Trust commissioned comprised women all backgrounds, varied by region, race, age, class, religion, education level and career. The resulting report highlights key issues and findings from a comprehensive telephone survey of 1,203 women in Illinois conducted in July, 1996. The survey uniquely provides these women with the opportunity to raise their own concerns and list their own priorities pertaining to their communities, families, professional and personal lives.

Date Last Updated: 8/21/00


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