How to use UvA library sources without VPN

During the current crisis it is good idea to use VPN as little as possible, so that the whole of the UvA community is better able to work online. This is particularly important for library sources, because in most cases, VPN is actually not necessary. 

Here are some common issues and how to work around them. If these tips don’t work, contact your subject librarian: Both the librarians and the IT department are working very hard to keep everything up and running and if something isn’t functioning properly we’d like to know because you are probably not the only one with this problem:

  1. The database does not work without VPN: Access the database through the database selector: . Is the database you want to use not in the list? Then you’ll need VPN (remember to turn it off after you’re done)
  2. The links to articles in the database don’t direct me to a website where I can access the PDF without VPN: always look for (and click on) UvA-linker. Several databases offer more links to full-text than just UvA-linker, but these often don’t work outside the UvA-domain (it cannot hurt to try, though).
  3. I want to share a link that won’t provide access to the full text without VPN: (this is a common problem for teachers, and the text below is adjusted for that. But feel free to replace ‘students’ with any other group or person)
    There are several ways to work around this;

        1. CataloguePlus: Look up the article in CataloguePlus ( ) and copy the permalink. If students access the article through this link, they will be prompted to log into the UvA-domain and then they can access the article. Test this in advance, and if the link does not work, contact your subject librarian
        2. Google Scholar: First, let the students set up UvA-linker in Google Scholar:
          1. click on the triple bar icon at the top left
          2. click Settings
          3. select Library links (left margin)
          4. enter Amsterdam and click the magnifying glass
          5. checkmark the University of Amsterdam and click Save
            This will enable UvA-linker within Google Scholar. Have the students look up the article. Once they find it, they can click on UvA-linker and access the article
        3. Databases: Direct students towards the database-selector and have them look up the article through the database.
          Example: the book is accessible through the database ‘ebook collection(EBSCOhost)’. Please access the database from here:
        4. Get a permalink to the article from a database: this only works if the permalink includes an extra bit of technology to log into the UvA-domain (EZproxy). Not all databases include EZproxy in their permalinks, so the easiest way to check this without technical knowledge, is to just try out the link outside the UvA domain (1. turn off your VPN, 2. open a different browser like Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer and 3. copy paste the link)
Posted in Corona, General | 2 Comments

Corona implications for the library

Although the UvA buildings are open, our libraries on these locations are closed until at least the 6th of April. Only our central library location at the Singel is open from Mon-Fri, 9 AM – 5 PM for returning or collecting materials/literature. Stay informed via our website:

All borrowed books from the library are automatically renewed to the 11th of May.

Questions concerning the library?
The social science librarians can help you with library related questions through email
Our contact information:

General questions can also be asked here:

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How to debunk fake news: some resources

Whether it’s about eating garlic to cure coronavirus, or about arsonists and not climate change being mainly responsible for the Australian bushfires, the ever increasing upsurge of fake news – or rather, and may be even preferably, of information disorders (check this essential glossary) – asks for tools that can help navigate our polluted information system. Here follows an overview of some (university-run) websites I had the opportunity to better explore thanks both to Canadian journalist Craig Silverman‘s recent talk in Amsterdam (video available on the website of De Balie) and to UvA’s Margriet van Heesch invitation to address the fake news topic – next to ‘traditional’ yet narrowly related information literacy skills – in a lecture I gave last week to first-year Sociology:

BBC on Fake news
Bellingcat: The home of online investigations
Calling Bullshit: Data reasoning in a digital world (Carl T. Bergstrom & Jevin West, University of Washington)
Drog: Hoe maken we onzin onschadelijk? (in Dutch) (The Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania)
First Draft
Here’s what non-fake news looks like (Michael Schudson, Columbia Journalism Review)
Lead stories: Just because it’s trending doesn’t mean it’s true
Nieuwscheckers: De factcheckers van Universiteit Leiden (in Dutch)

Next to the above, the IFLA infographic mentioned earlier on this blog, publications from both the Council of Europe (Information disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking) and UNESCO (Journalism, fake news and disinformation: Handbook for journalism education and training), and Public Data Lab‘s activities (an initiative of, among others, UvA’s Tobias Blanke, University Professor Artificial Intelligence, and Richard Rogers, Professor New Media and Digital Culture) are additional resources worth using.

As for why this all matters (as it did in the past, albeit on a smaller scale), please take a moment to read the following passage from Claire Wardle‘s (co-author of both First Draft and the Council of Europe’s report mentioned above) A new world disorder, first published in Scientific American (321, 3, 88-93, September 2019) and now available online (and a much recommended reading) as Misinformation has created a new world disorder (bold are mine):

«A complex web of societal shifts is making people more susceptible to misinformation and conspiracy. Trust in institutions is falling because of political and economic upheaval, most notably through ever widening income inequality. The effects of climate change are becoming more pronounced. Global migration trends spark concern that communities will change irrevocably. The rise of automation makes people fear for their jobs and their privacy. Bad actors who want to deepen existing tensions understand these societal trends, designing content that they hope will so anger or excite targeted users that the audience will become the messenger. The goal is that users will use their own social capital to reinforce and give credibility to that original message. Most of this content is designed not to persuade people in any particular direction but to cause confusion, to overwhelm and to undermine trust in democratic institutions from the electoral system to journalism.»

Photo’s from Wikipedia and the website of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

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Women murdered by (ex)partners: some figures

Last week, Zeit Online made available an extended report by the title Frauenmorde: Von ihren Männern getötet (Murdered women: killed by their men). While addressing the situation in Germany – yet not without some international comparisons – the article, and its alarmingly telling data (see following graph: “Number of people murdered by their (ex)-partner in Germany”), mostly resonated with recent news from Spain.

Only some ten days before Zeit‘s report was published, and right on the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, an extreme-right party in Madrid had refused to endorse a declaration on violence against women with the (predictably, ludicrous) argument that «There are also men who suffer violence from women and are killed by their wives» (source: The Guardian; see also El Pais report of the debate). In 2017, in Spain, there were 131 female and 17 male victims dying at the hands of their (ex)partner (source: Colectivo Profesional de Policía Municipal/Professional Group of the Municipal Police).

Made curious about the situation of both my Country of birth and the one where I live, I embarked in a quick search of the Italian and Dutch cases. Data from both Countries for 2017 basically confirm the German and Spanish statistics. In The Netherlands, 5 men (out of a total of 112 murders; 4,6%) and 18 women (out of 46; 39,1%) were killed by their (ex)partners (source, in Dutch only: CBS Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek/Statistics Netherlands). In the same year in Italy, 8 men (out of a total of 234 murders; 3,4%) and 54 women (out of 123; 43,9%) died at the hands of their (ex)partners (full report and data, in Italian: ISTAT Istituto Centrale di Statistica; summary, in English).

In times of roaring post-truth discourse (and therefore of fake news), it is hard to underestimate the importance that statistics can have for discussing social issues in a well-reasoned manner rather than out of an emotionally driven (aggressive) mood, mainly if not exclusively aimed – as Marc Bloch had already written in 1921 – at expressing «prejudices, hatreds, fears». Therefore, the video ‘On an average day’, made in 2017 by the above mentioned Statistics Netherlands, looks like a suited closing note for the present post.

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Computational Communication Research: a new OA-journal

Founded from the Computational Methods Interest Group at the ICA International Communication Association and published by the Amsterdam University Press, Computational Communication Research is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal «that encourages and facilitates the sharing of 1) developments in computational tools and methods, and 2) the application of computational methods to answer theoretical questions about (human) communication».

Lead by Wouter van Atteveldt – Associate professor of political communication at the Amsterdam Free University – the journal’s editorial team counts among its members also two UvA-researchers: Damian Trilling – Assistant professor for political communication and journalism – and Rens Vliegenthart, Professor in Communication Science.

While the journal has been added to the UvA Library CataloguePlus, and will also be registered at the open access journals browser available at Open, access to its content is free to everyone.

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Fake news: a video from the UvA Library

The UvA Library has made a video on fake news, available both in English (see below) and in Dutch. More on the video – and on the topic – can be found at the History & American Studies Library blog.

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Fake news in historical perspective: an article by Marc Bloch

Last week, while reading Francesco Filippi’s Mussolini ha fatto anche cose buone: le idiozie che continuano a circolare sul fascismo (Mussolini also did some good things: the idiocies that keep going around about fascism), I came across a reference to the Réflexions d’un historien sur les fausses nouvelles de la guerre, by French historian Marc Bloch, a name earlier mentioned on this blog with regard to his landmark book Apologie pour l’histoire: ou métier d’historien (written in 1941, first published in French in 1949; English translation as The historian’s craft, Manchester University Press, 1954).
Photo from the website of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Published in 1921 in the Revue de synthèse historique, Bloch’s article (translated as Reflections of a Historian on the False News of the War in the Michigan War Studies Review) gave the French historian an opportunity to go back to his own First World War experiences also through the lens of some works, then recently published, which had addressed the issue of false news at times of war (Lucien Graux, one of the authors discussed by Bloch, will – like the historian himself – be murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War: both men had become members of the French Resistance, and Bloch was also of Jewish descent).

The whole article makes for great reading, and among the many exemplary passages are those discussing Germans’ fears and (as a consequence) false reporting on Belgian snipers, or Bloch’s own memories of a German POW whose city of residence got deformed – by the multiple accounts of the soldier’s capture by the French – from the original Hanseatic town of Bremen into the frontline French village of Braisne, therefore transforming an ordinary private into a spy (with fifth column’s rumours always convenient to the military propaganda machine).

What mostly captured my attention, though, are two more general – one would almost say, methodological – observations (see quotes below) made by Bloch in his article, and grounded in his own research about false news (or legends) in the European Middle Ages, such as those described in his book (1924) Les rois thaumaturges: Étude sur le caractère surnaturel attribué a la puissance royale particulièrement en France et en Angleterre (English translation The royal touch: Sacred monarchy and scrofula in England and France, Routledge, 1973).

«False news is probably born of imprecise individual observations or imperfect eyewitness accounts, but the original accident is not everything: by itself, it really explains nothing. The error propagates itself, grows, and ultimately survives only on one condition—that it finds a favorable cultural broth in the society where it is spreading. Through it, people unconsciously express all their prejudices, hatreds, fears, all their strong emotions. Only great collective states of mind — I will have occasion to return to this later — have the power to transform a misperception into a legend»

«Finally, add to these minds susceptible to unconscious recall a mass of old literary motifs, the ones that the basically impoverished human imagination has always nourished from the dawn of time — stories of acts of treason, of poisonings, of mutilations, of women gouging out the eyes of wounded warriors — of which bards and troubadours used to sing and which serials and movies popularize today. Such are the emotional states and the intellectual representations that prepare the way for the formation of legend. Such is the traditional material that provides the legend its elements» (pp. 3, 7-8 of the English tranlsation).

Bolds in the quotes are mine and aimed at the inspirational – or rather, distressing – similarities between the time of First World War and now. Then, as now, false news need(ed) a “favorable cultural broth” to appeal people’s “prejudices, hatreds, fears and strong emotions”. While present-day social media – far beyond the role played by traditional mass media – have helped making of each and every individual with an internet connection a potential “troubadour”, a creator or (distorted) amplifier of those motifs «that the basically impoverished human imagination has always nourished from the dawn of time».

Marc Bloch’s photo from the Smithsonian Magazine‘s article History heroes: Marc Bloch.

Posted in Communication Science, General, Political Science | 2 Comments

Summer breaks for the social science librarians

The social science librarians will be on their summer breaks:

  • Bjorn Witlox (political science): 6 July – 22 July
  • Janneke Staaks (anthropology, psychology, child development and education): 29 July – 19 August
  • Judith Opitz (human geography, planning and international development): 29 July – 19 August
  • Stefano Giani (sociology and communication science): 5 August – 23 August


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No land for love: IHLIA photo exhibition about LGBTQ+ asylum seekers

Open from April 19th to June 8th at IHLIA’s (International Homo/Lesbian Information center and Archive) – on the third floor of Amsterdam Central LibraryNo land for love features black and white portraits by French photographer Jean-Christophe Husson, who introduces his work for the exhibition as follows: «We aim to set off a dialogue, to break stereotypes, to address societal questions with a visual vocabulary different from that usually featured by the mainstream media. Our wish is to create a conversation between LGBTQ+ refugees, asylum seekers, and the public. These women and men had to flee their countries, facing a violent discrimination that started within their own families. They were sometimes forced into marriage or raped by a close relative, forced to leave their houses, their town, finally their country, and often their children. Frequently, they had to escape from human trafficking. We met many men and women from Syria, Libya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Morocco. We were deeply touched by their stories and amazed by their energy, dreams, and goals for the future».

Opening Thursday 19th at 17.30. Entrance free, no registration required.

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How to deal with Anglo Saxon Author Bias in your search results?

I recently did a workshop with social science master students, and one of the attendants posed an excellent question;

How do you deal with the bias in the literature of Anglo-Saxon authors?

The short answer is; this takes effort. The databases that we use, tend to be created by Anglo Saxon companies or institutions, and a search engine like google scholar will rank articles higher if they are highly cited and are published in a journal with an impact factor.

The longer answer depends on what you’re interested in. Are you looking for French, German or Spanish literature? Or will you be doing field work abroad? And what happens when you’re not (yet) fluent in a language? How do you go about finding English literature from local researchers if they are not highly cited (and how would you know)? The list below is the result of what we came up with (if you’re one of students, thank you).

How to deal with the Anglo-Saxon bias?

  • Search in other languages in Google Scholar. Yes trivial. But useful nonetheless.
  • Some databases are less US or UK centered (probably still very western); e.g. Anthropology Plus, LLBA and Scopus.
  • From the Web of Science interface, you can also find other databases (Click on the drop down menu behind ‘select a database in web of science’). They offer:
    • SciELO
    • the Korean Journal Database
    • the Russian citation index
      The extra advantage of using the access through web of science instead of the publicly available versions, is that you can use the wildcards (* and “”) like you would in Web of Science, and you can use the adjacency operator for word distance (e.g. social NEAR/2 capital to find articles where social has a maximum word distance of 2 words from capital)
  • Databases in Spanish: SciELO (multi-disciplinairy), LILACS (health), and Hispanic American Periodicals Index (HAPI)
  • The collection from the Centro de Estudios y Documentación Latino Americanos, better known as CEDLA can be accessed through the UvA library Catalogue. Their library is currently located on the Roeterseiland campus
  • The library of the Africa Studies Centre in Leiden offers a nice overview of Search Tools for Africa
  • Try to find a dedicated library like the Africa Studies Centre and check out their website for relevant resources. When in doubt, ask their librarian, most of us are willing to help
  • If you don’t speak the language, but are interested in what local researchers have published, you can use the author’s affiliation information in your search. Several databases offer this option (check their multi-field/advanced search option), and especially Web of Science and Scopus are good at this.
    • Take spelling variations into account
    • Once you’ve found a few articles, switch to Google Scholar and try citation tracking. Chances are that local researchers also cite each other.

Example Scopus

Example Web of ScienceScreenshotWebofScience

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