Category Archives: Reflection

End of Semester Reflection

Here are the same prompts we discussed in class for an end of semester refection:

  1.  How do you view research differently after this class?
  2.  How does a  geographic viewpoint impact your approach to research and understanding of place?
  3. Will you use (and seek out) primary sources in the future? Why or why not?
  4. How can research in general, and place-based research in particular) be made more engaging?

Reflection: “Students can’t access essential research”

The main obstacle to access is the subscription fee journals require. They are very expensive, even for libraries, and their price only increases.  This makes the feasibility of purchase for individual students (most of whom have incurred prior debt) impossible, and for libraries, very hard. This has to do with hard financial times for students and institutions.

Summaries of important work could be paraphrased on Wikipedia, allowing students to get the gist of the research, without access to the source material. This requires those with access to reference that which they have read onto Wikipedia on a regular basis.

Reflection: Mid-semester

At the mid semester, I felt I had learned a lot about both the Vinegar Hill area, a topic of which I knew nothing about, as well as some techniques into gathering research data (and presenting it as well).  The concept of visiting archives was foreign to me as well.  Actually going to an archive (like the Brooklyn Collection at the BPL) was an illuminating experience, which will definitely prepare me if I need to visit one again.

Of particular interest were the NYPL maps collection, and the general introduction to GIS.  The NYPLs online collection was an amazing tool to use; the access to the maps I needed was seamless, and there were a lot of maps to choose from.  On the GIS side, CartoDB was a useful tool for me, due to my novice level at GIS mapping.  However, my background knowledge in data science and SQL made it a tool I could learn easily, if I ever needed to apply GIS.

Refelction: GIS Tool, CartoDB

CartoDB is an online tool that streamlines the creation of GIS based visualizations. It’s easy to use GUI allows users to rapidly upload datasets containing geographic information, and to plot the data onto maps.  Built on industry proven open source software, like PostGIS, PostgreSQL, and JavaScript, CartoDB allows users to write powerful code (if desired), and to produce reliable and content-rich visualizations.

CartoDB offers many of its services for free, however access to their API, and some more advanced features requires a subscription and payments.


An image of a map  created using CartoDB shown below:

Parking Pay Boxes in Chicago - map screenshot (12425234683).png
By Steven Vance from Chicago, United States – Parking Pay Boxes in Chicago – map screenshot, CC BY 2.0,

Reflection/Summary: “Why Is Academic Writing So Academic?”

Rothman makes an interesting juxtaposition about academic writing. He states that academic writing is supposed to be “dry but also clever; faceless but also persuasive; clear but also completist,” but yet it is “actually among the most personal writing there is.”  He attributes this paradox to the “very small audience of hyper-knowledgeable, mutually acquainted specialists” that academic writing targets.

Rothman goes further to attribute the marginalization of academic writing to the “tightly-packed, super-competitive jungle” authors face when publishing.  This is due to the shrinking interest in topics which would have, at one time, had an audience of like-minded academics.


Rothman, Joshua. “Why Is Academic Writing So Academic?” The New Yorker. Advance Publications, 20 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 May 2016. <>.

Finding Aid Analysis: Robert Moses Papers

How are the papers organized?

16 “Series”

â—¦Series 1. Personal and “Library” Correspondence

â—¦Series 2. Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority

â—¦Series 3. Emergency Public Works Commission

â—¦Series 4. Office of the City Construction Coordinator

â—¦Series 5. New York Gubernatorial Campaign

â—¦Series 6. New York City Department of Parks

â—¦Series 7. New York State Constitutional Convention

â—¦Series 8. Long Island State Park commission

â—¦Series 9. New York State Council of Parks

â—¦Series 10. New York State Power Authority

â—¦Series 11. Committee on Slum Clearance

â—¦Series 12. New York World’s Fair, 1964-1965, Inc

â—¦Series 13. Housing

â—¦Series 14. Speeches

â—¦Series 15. Printed Matter

â—¦Series 16. Photographs


What kinds of materials are included?

The collection consists of speeches , correspondence, memoranda, reports, press releases, plans, clippings, photographs, and other printed matter. These all document the career of Robert Moses

How could you access these resources?

One must give advanced notice to the archive, and go to:

Manuscripts and Archives Division

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018-2788

Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room, Third Floor, Room 328

RECAP: The power of family lore: uncovering Brooklyn’s “Auld Irishtown”

Relevance: This article will help me write my reflection about Brooklyn’s history.

Expertise: Eamon Loingsigh, a writer, sired by Irish immigrants. There is a little biopic about Eamon Loingsigh on the webpage.  He has released three books on historical subjects, so my trust in him is high.

Currency: Article published on April 8, 2013 – 3:49pm. Concerns historical information, so publication date is not so relevant.

Accuracy: Eamon references several primary and secondary sources, in text, in a way that one could easily find the original sources.

Purpose: Eamon is researching his heritage. He was interested in the White Hand Gang, so the information about Brooklyn is highly relevant in his own research.  There is no bias, but Eamon definitely wants exposure for his upcoming book.

Reflection: “Wikipedia And The Death Of The Expert”

While a little on the lengthy side, “Wikipedia And The Death Of The Expert” by Maria Bustillos was a witty, well-written read that held my attention the entire time. In addition to being amusing, the content of the article was informative and could be related back to what we have been doing in class all semester. Throughout the semester we as a class have been using Wikipedia extensively. We have utilized Wikipedia both as a base for starting our research as well as adding research we found to be pertinent to the Vinegar Hill Wikipedia page. Contrary to most classes I have taken in the past, we were encouraged to look to Wikipedia as a starting point while performing research.

I especially liked when Bustillos discussed the benefits of viewing the history of Wikipedia pages. The history provides the viewer with additional insight to any potential controversies surrounding the topic that might exist. In addition, it provides a sense of transparency to how the page was formed. Unlike printed encyclopedias, the viewer can see who edits and contributes each piece of information. I think a sense of confidence in the material  develops when an option to see every single edit exists.

Reflection: “Why is Academic Writing so Academic?”

An interesting point the author, Joshua Rothman, of the “Why is Academic Writing so Academic?” article made is that while journalism is moving in a populist direction, academic writing is doing the opposite. Academics write their articles and papers with the mindset that only very small, select groups of people will read them. I have noticed that when I have read academic articles in the past that the targeted audience is specific. The method in which the material is discussed in academic writings is dry and concentrated. Typically, the author writes in such a way that he expects the reader to already have knowledge on the subject. Because of this, these academic writings fit into a small niche.

I think another reason why the audience reading academic writing has shrunk is because of how difficult it has become to access academic journals. Rothman attributes the exclusive nature of academic writing to the way the system that produces these writings is. I agree with him. He did not explicitly address this factor, but after reading “Students Can’t Access Essential Research” for a past reflection, I believe that if more people had access to academic journals, it would expand academic writing. Not only would students, professors, and other members of academia read academic writing if access to it was easier and more affordable, but people who simply have an interest in the topic would read it.