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  1. 1. Critically Evaluating Scientific SourcesSeparating Fact From Fiction in 21st Century Society
  2. 2. 21stCentury: The Information AgeWe live a culture of infinite access. We canliterally access millions of sources ofinformation, in seconds, with the click of amouse....
  3. 3. But where does that information come from...
  4. 4. “With great power comes great responsibility”In this technology driven age being able tocritically evaluate sources of information is anessential life skill.
  5. 5. “The Most Heart Breaking andInspirational Story of the Football Season”....Was a Hoax?
  6. 6. Major News Outlets Who Ran Manti Te’o Story Over a 5 Month Period... Without Doing Any Fact Checking. • Sports Illustrated • CBS Sports • ESPN • New York Post • The New York Times • NBC Sports • The South Bend • Notre Dame Tribune • Yahoo • Bleacher Report • Associated Press • Chicago Tribune • Palm Beach Post • Chicago Sun-Times • Miami Herald • Sporting News • Tampa Bay Times • USA Today • Grantland • Boston Globe • Los Angeles Times
  7. 7. Scholarly Sources vs. Popular Media• Author: Experts in the field • Author: Journalists or Freelance (i.e., professors, researchers) – Usually don’t include credentials – Articles are signed, often including • Target Audience: General public authors credentials and affiliation – Easy to read - aimed at the layperson• Target Audience: Other experts. – Articles are usually short, and often – Assumes a level of knowledge in the entertain as they inform. field (specialized vocabulary). – Contain lots of pictures and ads. – Articles are often lengthy and narrow in • Rarely include footnotes or focus. – Primarily print with few pictures. bibliography. Tables, graphs, and diagrams are often • Not held to peer review standard. included • Published in “for profit” media. – Usually few or no advertisement – Magazines and Newspapers.• Includes a – Often readily available. bibliography, references, notes • Rarely cite original research. and/or works cited – Can pick and choose.• Peer Reviewed• Published in technical journals. – Look for “Journal” “Review” or “Quarterly” in the name.• Often cite original research and data. – Explain procedure used.
  8. 8. Authority• Questions to Ask: – Who is the author? – What are his or her academic credentials? – What else has this author written? • Have they published other papers on the topic? • Do others frequently cite them? – Primary vs. Secondary Research?• The authors credentials, or lack thereof, tells a great deal about the pieces reliability.
  9. 9. Validity• Is the author transparent? – Experimental procedure outlined. – Data included. – Be very cautious of “secret” methods.• Is the experiment well designed? – Appropriate Sample Sizes – Use Controls and Mitigates Sources of Error.• Are experiments repeatable? Have they been repeated? – Experimental procedures are reported so that others may repeat them. – Valid results can be reproduced by others. – Check to see that there has been more than one study, and that the studies support past research. • One single study may produce results that other studies can’t repeat. • The more independent studies that exist which can support a claim, the more likely it is to be true.• Are specific, well-defined conclusions made? – Scientists use careful, precise language and make quantitative predictions if possible. – Pseudoscientists use vague and imprecise terms that can be interpreted in many different ways.• Was the work conducted at an established facility, which could provide the support necessary to conduct thorough research?
  10. 10. Bias• Who published the piece? – Biased organizations often choose names that appear non- biased• Who funded the research?• Are they trying to sell you something?• Is it an opinion piece? – Editorial – Letter to Editor• Do they acknowledge other points of view?• Inflammatory language?
  11. 11. Types of Persuasive Devices1. Straw Man An argument directed not at someone’s actual position, but at a weaker version (the ‘straw man’) created by the opponent. This weaker version would seem, for example, illogical or irrelevant.2. Ad Hominem (‘to the man’) An argument directed at an individual, rather than the individual’s position. The person themselves is attacked, rather than the evidence or the logic of their argument.3. False Dilemma Two choices are proposed, and one of these is more easily attacked. This leaves the other choice as the only obvious possibility. However, in reality there may be many other alternatives or complexities which are not addressed.4. Begging the Question This type of argument (also called ‘circular reasoning’) assumes the truth of its conclusions as part of the reasoning leading up to the conclusion.5. Slippery Slope An argument in which the position argued against is depicted to result in something terrible. The terrible result is then argued against, rather than the position itself.6. Bandwagon ‘Everyone else is doing it.’ This technique takes advantage of the desire of many people to feel as though they belong to a group. The argument is that if most people believe a certain way, then the reader should also feel that way.7. Slanted Words or Phrases In this technique, emotionally charged or biased words are used to convince the reader of a certain position (contrast ‘mature citizen’ with ‘old fogy’).8. Scare Tactics This technique tries to scare the reader into siding with a particular position. The argument is evaluated on the basis of emotion (fear) rather than logic and reason.
  12. 12. Currency• When was it published? Look for a publication or copyright date on the – Title page (books, journals) – Reverse of the title page (books) – Cover (journals, magazines, newspapers) – Table of contents (journals, magazines) – Bottom of the page (web sites) – Dates on web pages may indicate: • When the page was created • When the page was published on the web • When the page was last revised• Is your topic one that requires current information? – Topic areas requiring the most up-to-date information include: • Science • Medicine • Current events• Has this source been updated in a subsequent edition?
  13. 13. Quick Note: Blogs• Use with Extreme Caution. – Typically no editorial oversight. – Often serve as a soap box. Prone to Bias. – Anyone start a blog.• There is however a culture shift occurring in how news is reported. – Blogs are becoming an important tool in 21st century society. – Typically these “good” blogs are still associated with a reputable parent publication. • Be aware that they are still more prone to bias.