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TC 302: Water, Ethics, Law and Politics / Cohen

Diagnosing your information need

Using sources as evidence

How information is created tells you what role it should play in your information gathering.

  • Newspaper: daily; current events and investigative reporting; journalists and reporters seek to be objective and unbiased
  • Magazine: monthly or weekly; personal interest stories and interviews; writers often write from a viewpoint shared by subscribers (liberal, conservative, religious, scientific)
  • Web-only sources: updated frequently; writers often write from a viewpoint shared by visitors; revenue is generated by online ad sales which rely upon number of clicks
  • Television news: daily/weekly; current events, investigative reporting and entertainment; hosts and reporters may be personalities speaking from a viewpoint shared by viewers
  • Academic journals: quarterly; research articles and data from experiments; authors are scholars and researchers at universities or private labs and companies; audience is other researchers in their field
  • Statistics: gathered by governments and organizations; always ask for what purpose

How research is communicated...

Primary research: Peer-reviewed articles written by authors (scientists or researchers) who actually performed an original experiment or are reporting their field observations, i.e., of organisms or medical patients. 

Secondary research: Peer-reviewed articles written by authors (also scientists and researchers) who summarize or discuss trends in the primary literature. In the sciences, these are called "review" articles.
Tertiary research: Non­‐peer-reviewed articles, books, newspaper articles, encyclopedia entries, etc. These are often written by journalists who summarize the highly technical scientific literature for a general audience. They will reference or link to the primary research. 

drawing by Elise Nacca, 2016

How to read a scientific article

Use this infographic from a scholarly publisher in the sciences. It walks you through approaching a scientific article - even if you aren't an expert.

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