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Volume 1, Number 3 August/September 2000

Harnessing the Power of the World Wide Web for Conflict Studies Courses (page 2 of 3)

In addition to traditional textbooks and journal articles, conflict studies courses can be greatly enhanced through use of information found only on the web. The type of information you may find useful will vary based on your course, but it may include online essays, databases, cases studies, photos or audio and video clips, and various kinds of multimedia demonstrations and training activities. For the purposes of this article I will highlight a few general search aides first, and then point the reader toward some of the case studies, roleplays, and learning activities now available online.

Searching the Web for Relevant Information
A lot has been written on strategies for effectively searching the web. One of the most informed collections of this kind of information is found at the Search Engine Watch site. The site is dedicated to keeping up with the changing world of web search tools, and thus is quite informative regarding how various engines rank and categorize their findings.

Also very helpful is the Search Strategy Page developed by the librarians of California's Nueva School. This site helps you identify the most appropriate search engines for the job based on your specific needs. Another nice listing of specialized research tools and directories is the one written by Bernie Dodge, developer of the WebQuest concept (more on this later).

Just as important as finding the right search tool is the development of a good set of search terms. Writing a good search query is really an art given the vastness of the Web. Once you've got a search phrase that seems to bring back the kind and amount of information you are interested in, you may wish to automate the use of it to keep track of new information that comes available. I have had good luck building my campus conflict resolution information collection using a nice tool called the Informant, which has sinced merged with TracerLock, from Dartmouth University. The tool permits you to enter up to three different queries. At a periodic interval which you specify the Informant uses the Altavista, Lycos, Excite, and Infoseek search engines to find the ten Web pages that are most relevant to your keywords. If a new page appears in the top ten, or if one of the pages from your previous top ten list has been updated, the Informant sends you an e-mail message. Once you receive the e-mail, you return to the Informant where you will find a table of the Web pages that are new or updated. Or, if you prefer, they will include the URL's of the new or updated web pages in the e-mail that gets sent to you.

The other auto-search tool I use is called the Northern Lights Search Alert service. The Northern Lights service works in a similar fashion to The Informant, but it searches using the Northern Lights' own Web index, one of the largest on the Web. The Northern Lights tool is also nice because it presorts your "hits" into various subject folders, so you can quickly narrow the range of what you are looking at. In addition to canvassing the Web, Northern Lights locates full-text articles found within their special collection. A document delivery service that makes these articles immediately available for a fee.

So-called Power Users will appreciate the sophisticated and little-known browser add-ons available at no cost at the Bookmarklets site. These mini Java-scripted bookmarks do a wide range of jobs (see especially the MoreInfo tool) for you when chosen from your browser's list of bookmarks. Bookmarklets allow you to modify the way you see someone else's webpage, extract data (links, emails, index of words) from a webpage, and search and navigate in new ways. Over 150 bookmarklets are available.

BullsEye linkPeople who spend a lot of time searching for information may also appreciate the now free browser add-on from Intelliseek called BullsEye 2 (available for Windows users only). The tool gives you rapid access to information by searching over 800 search engines and information sources on the Web. You can also refine or organize the results, save the findings, pick up where you left off, or work off-line. Additionally, you can create your own reports and send them to colleagues. Pretty handy.

CRInfo logoWhile the aforementioned search tools are certainly valuable for getting a handle on the web, they are not specifically focused on conflict. Soon, however, conflict studies faculty and students will be able to take advantage of a new "one stop shopping" information site for people in the conflict resolution field. The CRInfo project, funded by the Hewlett Foundation and profiled in an earlier issue, represents a major step forward for conflict resolution information access. Data entry began in earnest this summer, and as of mid-August 2000, a beta-test version became available for initial exploration. The site will eventually offer a comprehensive set of print, web, and organizational data on conflict resolution. In terms of initial holdings, beta-testers will find that web-based resources are being entered into the system most rapidly at the start of the project, with the bulk of the more standard print publications scheduled for data entry later this year. Bugs are still being worked out in the structure and coding procedures, and a spell-check system is still being installed, so if you choose to do a beta-test, please be forgiving and helpful when pointing out inconsistencies.

Preparing Your Course Learning Activities

Note: While not easily categorized within the scheme of this article, readers may be quite interested in the recently posted slides and videoclips from the March 10-12 2000 Hewlett Conference focusing on Negotiation Pedagogy held at Harvard University.

Classroom teaching activities take many forms. Perhaps the most common kind is the formal lecture. Typically lectures review and expand on assigned readings, provide course content not found in the readings, provide a broader context for an issue, or bring current events or case examples into discussion to ground course concepts in practical examples. Preparing lecture notes is a familiar chore for most faculty. However, the Internet provides a few new aids that might be worth a look.

Literature Summaries - As you prepare your lectures consider scanning for information related to your session's topic in the collection of summaries of major works in the conflict resolution by the Conflict Research Consortium. The set of several hundred abstracts is available for searching via the Core Literature Abstracts page. These summaries can be used to refresh your memory of books you've already read, help you summarize key points from a work, or extend the material covered in your course text or reader by connecting it to related works.

Data Sources - If you are looking for quickly available descriptive statistics or research data to provide some context for a class discussion, check out the Finding Data on the Internet site developed by Robert Niles. It provides quick links to the full range of data sources online. If you are tracking ethnic conflicts around the world, you may wish to use INCORE's (Initiative on Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity) conflict data source, including their country guides and full text of recent peace agreements. Another valuable source in this area is the Carter Center's Conflict Resolution Program which provides regular updates on world conflicts.

News and Current Events - Including information on current events helps to keep lectures relevant to student interests. A multitude of news sites are now available to provide all the news you could ever want. Some folks use "push" tools such as Excite's NewsTracker Clipping Service or PushCentral.com to follow current events and topics of particular interest. Individuals specifically interested in Arbitration and Mediation practice news may subscribe to the Recent Developments in Dispute Resolution newsletter list to receive biweekly updates on recent cases and court rulings related to ADR. ADRWorld.com provides a similar ADR News service via their website.

Despite these valuable information "push" services, most often, one must actively search to find stories and information on the particular dispute or issue you will be exploring in class. The American Journalism Review provides an extensive set of links to news sources from around the country (including links to campus newspapers), many of which allow full-text searching of their archives. People with a particular interest in campus conflicts, for instance, may find the online archives of the Chronicle of Higher Education (available free to subscribers of the Chronicle) to be an interesting source of case examples. Others may find more of use in the daily national papers like the New York Times or the Washington Post, or from stories covered by National Public Radio or documentaries from the Public Broadcasting System.

Specialized news outlets that may be of particular interest to conflict studies faculty include the American News Service (ANS) and the Pacific News Service. The American News Service focuses on what they call solution-oriented reporting that provides balanced views of difficult situations. The archives are searchable for free, but in order to access the full articles you must be a subscriber, which costs less than $20 per year for individuals. The Conflict Resolution Resource Center (an affiliate of Mediate.com) is an ANS subscriber, and you can find examples of ANS stories in the CRRC article collection if you want to get an idea of their style and content before subscribing.

The Pacific News Service specializes in what they call a "chicken's eye view" of social life, "looking at the world from two feet off the ground -- through the lens of culture rather than of politics." Of particular interest is their regularly updated Civil Conflicts news archive providing Interpretive Reports on Ethnic, Religious and Inter-National Conflicts Worldwide.

Case Studies - The World Wide Web is also becoming a great source for conflict case studies. In addition to cases you can pull together yourself based on news stories, there are now a number of sites that can help you find already summarized case examples.

Conflict Resolution and Collaboration CASE STUDIES from the ELECTRONIC HALLWAY (reviewed in a previous issue)

Conflict Research Consortium's online case study database

International and Environmental Dispute Case Study Database (from Inventory on Conflict and the Environment project at American University)

CAIN (Conflict Archive on the Internet - provides a broad range of information on the Northern Ireland Conflict from 1968 to the present day.)

Conflict and Collaboration in Natural Resource Management (Case Examples from International Development Research Centre)

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Page last updated 11/27/2005

A project of Campus Conflict Resolution Resources.
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo project.


Correspondence to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.

Please send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.

© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU, All rights reserved.