Thursday, September 11, 2008

Campus computer training

Both NU and BU offer free computer training classes, so I would take advantage of them. These classes cost a lot off campus. You can also take online tutorials, but with my short attention span, I find a three-hour class much more efficient.

So, if you don't' know how to make a web page, you can learn how at one of these classes.

I also would recommend Excel. You can do a lot with this simple spreadsheet. For example, I did some of what we call “computer-assisted reporting” (CAR) this summer using a a new, online government database of medical research grants. I was able to sort out the new grants in the state and rate them by amount. Then, I wrote a story about Boston researchers who got the most government research money in '07.

Find it here.

A lot of information comes in this format – marketing data, government records, catalogues, phone lists. And, Excel is not that difficult. But remember, you need to report on the data. The numbers/data alone won’t tell the whole story. For example, my dollar amounts were only for the current year, but these are 3 and 4 year grants. And, for some reason, NIH couldn't produce the full, multi-year grant amounts in this format. So, I had to ask the researchers. And, it limited me to reporting on who got the biggest NIH payout in ’07, rather than who in town currently has the biggest NIH grant.

For BU students:
For NU students:

For more on CAR, see


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