23 Research Things – Thing 20

Today is all about data visualisation, which I have to admit is not a subject I’ve given a huge amount of thought in the past. This programme has been great in this way, getting me to consider aspects of research (and research support) that I’d previously avoided or ignored. Given that I typically deal with data that’s fairly simple, I’ve mostly been able to present it in a very simple format (usually Venn diagrams or brief tables).

I can see that the resources described in today’s presentation would be tremendously helpful for researchers wanting to jazz up their data and present it in a visually meaningful and memorable way, but I’m going to talk here about another data visualisation tool that I’ve used, TurningPoint polling software. Today’s Thing is very timely, as I arrived at work to find that I would need to conduct an impromptu TurningPoint training session for a user, which was a great opportunity to brush up on my knowledge of this software.

TurningPoint is used not to present a researcher’s own data, but rather to gather data from attendees at presentations, seminars, or other group events. The way it works is simple: a user installs the TurningPoint software, and then creates PowerPoint presentations through it. These presentations typically will include a number of slides with options for the audience to answer multiple choice, true or false, or other types of questions in which multiple potential answers are displayed on the slide. Attendees register their answers using special ‘clickers’, and the live presentation will keep a tally of how many answers have been provided (but not who gave which answer, which remains anonymous). Once all have answered the question on a slide, the presenter is able to display the resulting answers (usually through a bar graph), and also, if they wish, indicate the correct answer on the slide. The software can also be used in situations where there is no correct answer to gauge the knowledge or background of attendees in the room (e.g. how strongly they agree or disagree with a particular statement, how much experience they have with a particular resource, and so on). I have used TurningPoint in presentations to check that students understood certain concepts (giving them multiple choice questions on boolean operators, for example) in an anonymous way, which can be useful in situations where they might feel uncomfortable revealing their lack of understanding publicly to the group.

I really like using TurningPoint, but I should mention that it is not cheap. It may be that free apps (such as Poll Everywhere) would be more useful to you as a researcher or trainer. Apps also have the advantage of not requiring the presenter/trainer to lug around a large quantity of TurningPoint clickers, although of course they do require every attendee to have a smart device, and to have installed the app prior to the presentation or training session.


About thelibrarianerrant

I'm a senior library assistant in one of the faculty libraries of the University of Cambridge. My posts here are in a personal capacity, and are on any topics relating to library and information services.
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