Evaluating Information Sources
Being able to find quality sources of information and critically evaluate them is a key skill in our information-saturated age. For this assignment, you will search for and find 5 information sources, 1 each from 5 different types, described below. You are to look for and evaluate information sources on a key driver of deforestation in a region of the world that is not the Amazon Basin. You will formulate 1 – 3 questions that you’d like to have answered about your topic through your information search. You will then summarize and evaluate each of your sources according to the instructions below.
Step 1: Find 5 Information Sources
Find 5 sources of information that are relevant to your chosen deforestation driver and region and that can help you answer the questions you posed. You will be using each of these sources and referencing them, so be sure to save their location information once you find them!
You must find and evaluate 1 information source that fits each of the following 5 types of information sources.
1. Peer-reviewed research article
A peer-reviewed research article is published in a scholarly journal. The journal had expert scholars in the field(s) relevant to the article’s research topic (the author’s “peers”) review the article, evaluating its questions, hypotheses, data, methods, interpretations and conclusions. The reviewers then reported back to the journal’s editor with a recommendation to accept, reject or accept the article with specified revisions. This is a double-blind process (authors and reviewers are not known to each other) meant to insure that published research articles are scientifically valid.
Peer-reviewed research articles are written by scholars with identifiable credentials and (typically) affiliated with an institution, such as a university, a government or inter-government agency, or sometimes a reputable non-profit organization or “think tank.”
Ways to find research articles (I prefer #2):
1. Google Scholar
2. UA Main Library SUMMON
***NOTE: The University of Arizona Libraries pays publishing companies so that University students, faculty and staff have unlimited access to their journals and articles. You can get just about any published article (including newspaper and magazine articles) for free. If the UA does not have immediate online access to it, you can request it and the UA Library will obtain it and send you a PDF of it, usually within a day. If you find a research article via Google Scholar or other means, you must get access to the whole article, not just the abstract, for this assignment. Do not pay for it – use the publication information to find it through the UA Library portals, through which you will be able to download it for free.
2. Government Agency or Inter-Government Agency article or report
This is another high-quality information source. Government agencies have internal review processes and standards for collecting, analyzing and reporting data and the results of their research.
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO)
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
3. Non-governmental organization (NGO) or “think tank” report
These may be relatively independent, non-partisan, apolitical, policy analysis organizations. They might, however, be advocacy organizations with specific goals, priorities, policy positions, values and/or partisan or political affiliations. It’s up to you to find out what you can about the organization and the report or article you find (authors, data, methods, etc.) so you can evaluate whether the information presented might be biased in some way. NGO’s and “think tanks” can, though, be very high-quality sources of data and research reports.
The Center for American Progress
The Union of Concerned Scientists
The Pew Research Center
To find Think Tanks (and their publications) check out the 2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report uploaded to the Assignment 1 module which lists and ranks think tanks by various categories, then look them up on the internet.
To find Non-governmental Organizations (and their publications) go to the World Association of Non-governmental Organizations (WANGO – itself an NGO!) website and search an interactive map and database by region and specialty.
4. Magazine article (can be fully online, but must be a formally published magazine)
Your magazine article can be a hard copy you find at your bookstore or library. Or it can be fully online. Again, the UA Libraries have thousands of subscriptions, so if you find an article, but it is not accessible for free, search for it through the UA Library database. Magazine articles on your topic are generally written by journalists, who may specialize in a particular topic but are reporting on research and events for a public audience. These can be very good (and more interestingly presented!) sources of basic facts and ideas and help familiarize you with an issue. You should, however, look for and read for yourself the published, peer-reviewed scientific articles that a magazine article references.
Here are some examples of online magazine articles:
5. Weblog article, video or audio (i.e. a podcast episode)
Here’s where the quality of information and writing widely varies. There are experts, writers, activists, producers, media authors, filmmakers, journalists, scholars, and regular people world-wide providing amazing content on every topic under the sun through numerous web platforms and in an array of formats. There are also terribly written diatribes based on skewed, bad data (or rumors!) and lazy, poorly reasoned, or biased “analysis.” Also, there is targeted disinformation, with particular political agendas or goals (such as paralyzing debate and precluding social action) being published in many platforms – Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc. Your job as an information consumer is to be able to ferret out the difference! Which should be easy, but sometimes it’s…not.
So take a shot at it – find a quality independently published (i.e. not authored by people working for any of the above organizations) weblog article (or video or audio episode) on your topic and assess it for information quality, accuracy and presentation value.
Step 2: Review the Resources on Web Source Evaluation
Read “Research Quality Web Searching”
Review the “Web Page Evaluation Checklist” for each of your 5 sources.
Both of these resources are uploaded to our D2L Assignments module.
Step 3 Prepare a Report that Evaluates Each of Your Sources
Follow the instructions below to write a report with summaries and evaluations of each of your 5 sources assembled into one document.
Use the following format for your Report:
Write a brief paragraph explaining your chosen driver of deforestation and region. Include 1 – 3 questions you’d like to have answered about your topic. Write your question(s) in the form of a question (i.e. with a question mark at the end). Then summarize and evaluate 5 information sources (as directed in Step 1) relevant to your questions.
Provide a complete, properly formatted bibliographic reference for Source 1, in a standard citation style. See the links in the Assignments module for resources for how to cite in text and format a bibliography. The UA Library Citation Guides has links to websites with examples for how to reference every potential source type (I prefer Penn State’s APA Quick Citation Guide). The Purdue OWL website is very good and user-friendly as well.
Double space and then begin your evaluation in paragraph form. In 2 – 3 paragraphs, writing in complete sentences, summarize and critically evaluate Source 1. Address each of the following points in your paragraphs:
1. Briefly (in 2 – 5 succinct, clear sentences) summarize the content obtained from this source. What is it about? What questions are addressed? What data was collected or used? How was the data or information analyzed? What are the main conclusions offered?
2. What type of source is this? Who is the author? When was it published?
3. What information or understanding have you gained from this source?
4. Does this source display bias or a particular (cultural, economic, or political) viewpoint that might be affecting the information presented and how it is portrayed?
5. If the source contains an explicit or implicit opinion or advocacy message, what is it? How do you know? Use specific examples (i.e. direct quotes) from your articles to show this.
Same as above.
Each source summary and evaluation should be 2 – 3 paragraphs. Overall length will vary, but your report should be 3 – 5 pages – using double-spaced, Times New Roman font, 12 point typetype.
Step 4: Edit
Every piece of written work you turn in should be edited for clarity of expression, organization, grammar, spelling and typos. It should be cleanly formatted – consistent margins, font, type size, etc.
Step 5: Submit your Information Sources Report
Save your report as “Last Name Assignment 1.” Your submitted document must be readable by a PC – you may submit a Word doc or PDF, but note – not a “.pages” document.