Associate Professor - UWO Geography
Geography 2153 - Environment Economy and Society
All assignments are to be handed in at the beginning of class on the due date. Late? See "Handing in material" section on the main page.
Assignment #1 -There's more to the story.
Critical appraisal of environmental issue reporting in the media
The purpose of this assignment is to further hone your critical thinking skills - in this case, regarding environmental issue reporting. One of the challenges we face as media consumers is deriving meaning from environmental reporting. What are the "facts"? Are those "facts" distorted in any way? How so? One way to sift through the rhetoric is to consult academic material on the topic at hand. Thus, you will compare media reporting with academic reporting on the same issue. You are required to use at least two types of references for this project - *"newspaper" media reports and journal articles.
*"newspaper" can include online articles from media outlets (e.g., London Free Press, Globe and Mail) that also provide the same material in print form. Hence they are referred to here as "news media articles".
The primary goal of this assignment is to understand and write critically about similarities and differences in environmental reporting, while a secondary goal is to effectively use journals and media in essay writing.
Identify an environmental issue that interests you and retrieve at least 5 "newspaper" articles (avoid editorial or opinion section pieces) and at least 2 journal articles concerning that issue. The issues are limitless, and some relatively broad examples include:
In many cases you will have to scope the issue depending on what articles (media and journal) you can find. Further, what you find in the media will be very specific - i.e. about place X (e.g., Sydney Nova Scotia) experiencing issue Y (e.g., contamination of soil/groundwater from by-products of the steel industry) - while what you can find in the academic journals may be more general (e.g., a paper by a neurologist regarding the impacts of heavy metal contamination on human health, or by an ecologist on the impacts on bird migration). In other cases you may investigate the same issue across multiple places (e.g., impacts of acid rain).
Finding "Newspaper" Articles
Her is a webpage devoted to where to find newpaper articles online (if you are off campus make sure to sign in first at the main library page). Go to the library's database page to connect to the actual database search tools for each of these ones described there (LexisNexis Academic is a good news database - advanced search). It is recommended you focus on major daily papers (e.g., Globe and Mail, Hamilton Spectator) with wide readership, since these will typically have more detailed and comprehensive coverage, particularly of international events. If you have hardcopies (actual clippings) that is fine too. Of course you can use your favourite search engine to find articles as well.
Finding Journal Articles
Journal articles come mainly from academics, are peer reviewed by other academics, and can be located via the library's various journal databases. Geobase and Web of Science are good places to start.
Example: TOPIC: bird/bat mortality from wind turbines
See files - Owl Sakai > Resources > GEOGRAPH 2153A 001 FW13 Resources/Assignment 1 - example files
Canadian Newstand - searched: all(wind turbine) AND all(bird kill) - how could I have improved this search?
Web of Science - searched: Topic=(turbine) AND Topic=(kill*) AND Topic=(bird*) - I sorted these by number of times cited to find the most popular papers. The disadvantage to this strategy is that it ignores the most recent publications which have not yet had a chance to be cited.
Possible thesis/argument: The newspaper articles refer to large numbers of bird kills from wind turbines, while at least one researcher (Sovacool, 2009) estimates that bird mortality is much higher for other sources of energy (e.g nuclear and coal).
The plot thickens - Sovacool is heavily criticized by avian biologists (Willis et al., 2010), but his overall argument that fossil fuels kill more birds/bats is not undermined.
Say what!? - How to write it.
Write an essay that compares reporting (academic and media) on the environmental issue you have chosen. What are the gaps between these two forms of information on your issue? Are they complementary? Be sure to link your commentary to the course material by using key concepts from text/lecture wherever possible. Take a specific position - that is formulate a thesis - in your paper in your introduction. An example of a thesis might be: "While the media reporting on bird and bat kills overall suggest a moratorium on turbines, the scientific literature suggests that the ratio of kills/unit energy produced for turbines compared to other electricity generating technologies is relatively small.". What gaps in knowledge remain?
Hand in a hard copy of your essay (typed, double-spaced, formal style, title page, reference list, MAX 1000 words which is about 4 PAGES not including title and references). Please do NOT use any sort of folder, binder or protective cover (they are cumbersome and wasteful).
However, also submit your essay file to turnitin.com
1. Login to turnitin - register if you do not have an account.
2. Join the course with the following credentials:
TA "All Students" ID:
"All Students" password:3. View your originality report (may take a little while) to ensure you are not not flagged with anything but green - otherwise we may assume plagiarism. Learn why you are being flagged if not green, change your paper if required, and resubmit. Due to quirks of Turnitin, originality reports are only available to you up to the due date.
Note that you get an easy mark for submitting to Turnitin, on time. I reserve the right to refuse papers not submitted to Turnitin, and you do need to complete every course component.
Really, say what!? More on how to find material and write it.
Form and explicitly state identifiable argument(s) - you are given a lot of room to create your argument - but be sure there is some commentary on the two information sources - news media and scientific (journal) literature. For example, "While the news media articles make repeated reference to Robertson's article on habitat fragmentation, they fail to make any reference to wildlife crossings as a solution to the problem - one of Robertson's (2015, 202) main areas of research".
Find authoritative work on your issue - find papers that are cited frequently by other authors in the field. The Web of Science can be used to do this (check the Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index boxes).
Can I use books? - yes, academic books, reports, internet sources etc. may be used, and may be relevant, but for the (social) "scientific" state of the art, journals are good because they are typically peer reviewed by other scientists before they are published. Further, journals are the main source of up-to-date research in the area as books typically take years to publish. Books are very good for synthetic work - that is, they typically summarize empirical research and theory. Many books are peer reviewed, but it is often difficult to tell if this is the case.
Variety of Newspapers and Times - Choose a variety of time periods and "representative" articles to be fair about news media coverage. For example, you may find the same article appearing in several newspapers around the same time - because it is from a news wire - use only one such article.
Critical appraisal not retelling - you are given a lot of leeway in this assignment - some would say, "you have been given just enough rope to hang yourself". Thus, keep your messages/arguments focused. Do not simply retell what you see in the media articles and journal articles. In fact, the best papers will not do much summarizing/retelling at all, they will synthesis and interpret far more. Show the reader what can be learned by comparing these two domains (media and academia).
Subheadings - I am a big fan of subheadings, and you will notice most journal articles and book chapters have them. Your TA will be much happier marking with these "signposts" in your essay.
Citing Newspaper Articles - UWO libraries have style guides for APA and MLA. You can find other style guides out there - I tend to use APA if given a choice. However, you should know that I will generally accept any popular/accepted citation style as long as you use it correctly and consistently (e.g., APA, MLA, Harvard). That is, there should be enough information for the reader to get the source. The web is full of newspaper citation style guides that claim to be APA, but appear to be inconsistent. This is not necessarily a problem, as long as the reader can distinguish one article from the next, and there is enough information to find each article. That said, here is a common and acceptable way (APA) to cite (in-text) the newspaper articles and include them in your reference list:
Newspaper Article With Author (do not use url, unless it is a strictly online newspaper)
Taylor P. (1993, December 27). Keyboard grief: Coping with computer-caused injuries. Globe and Mail, pp. A1, A4.
Newspaper Article Without Author
Amazing Amazon region. (1989, January 12). New York Times, p. D11.
("Amazing Amazon Region" ,1989)
Cite All 5+ Newspaper Articles?
The short answer is, "Yes, why not?". You will most likely cite all 5+ newspaper articles in the text of your essay. For example, the following line cites 10 articles in one sentence:
Six of the Ottawa Citzen articles (Po, 2002; Zeffer, 2002; "Killer Earthquake", 2002; Blog, 2002; Said, 2002; Ableson, 2002) and four of the London Free Press articles (Domi, 2002; Williams; 2002; Carsons 2002; "Earthquake Toll Rises", 2002) focus attention on specific "human dramas" by telling a story about an individual or a family.
20 marks 5 style + 15 content
see comments from TAs for 2015
style (5/20 marks)
Assignment #2 - Raising awareness for environmental change group poster
The purpose of this assignment is to leverage the power of a team to produce a poster to raise awareness of an important environmental issue. This could flow from assignment #1 in the sense that you could select an issue one of your group members wrote about for that assignment. While you are supposed to use your critical thinking skills for both assignments, the intent of assignment #2 is to do this in the context of providing the best available information on your topic - e.g., to motivate poilcy change, mitigation, or individual behaviour change.
As the poster is meant to raise awareness, assume that the audience is quite broad. That said, the material requires some sophistication, to convince the audience. You need evidence to support the main messages. Imagine displaying your poster in the UCC for the campus community.
Summary: Create and print a poster on an environmental issue/topic that interests your group and participate in an in-class poster session (re: peer grading below) on the due date.
Everyone (Fall 2015) has been assigned to a group. See the news section of the website for details
Format and Delivery
Ensure that your group # is somewhere on your poster/video
Helpful Hints (in no particular order)
Poster Design Websites
Though these links relate mainly to academic posters concerning original research, many of the basic principles will be relevant to your poster:
We have Karen Van Kerkoerle coming to the Nov 26, 2015 class to give us 30 minutes of pointers on putting together posters. Karen is our resident expert on the topic so be sure to be in class!
Poster Presentation Day the posters will be brought to class by the TAs or myself. They will be displayed either on mobile display boards at the front of the room along the walls. Reminder: we need a copy of each poster file on Dec 7 - one person in your group upload to Owl dropbox.
Timing - we will take about 90 minutes of class time for the posters. That means the TAs and I will each spend no more than about 4 minutes at your poster. That means you have to make an impression and get across your main messages succinctly.
The two TAs and myself will each complete the following grading sheet for every poster. Previewing the posters ahead of the class will ensure we have a good look at each one, but your responses to the questions we ask at the "poster session" matter too. We will meet afterward and complete one grading sheet for your group - this will be grading by consensus, not by simply calculating an average of the three grades we iniitially assigned. You will eventually receive this sheet and coments from your peers (see below)
Intra-group Peer Review (of members in your group)
A portion of your grade (10%) will come from peer review. Peer review is meant to be anonymous. Please download and print the peer review form. Complete a peer review table for each member of your group. With 4 in a group and only two tables per sheet you will need to print at least two sheets. Hand in the completed form before the end of class on the due date () These forms will not be shared back to the group - only the TAs and myself are meant to see these.
Inter-group Peer Review (of each others' posters)
All present on the poster presentation day will have the opportunity to provide feedback to your peers. When the TA(s) and I meet to decide the final grade for each group's poster, we will use these comments as one piece of information in our decision-making. Perhaps more importantly, we will cut and paste the comments for each group into one file (i.e. one file per group) and that will be attached to your grade sheet. NEW - You will ultimately enter your comments online through a survey link that will be emailed to you on the poster day. The following is a peer-review tracking sheet that allows you to jot down - one strength and one limitaiton for each group's work while walking around in the poster session. Again, this form is merely for tracking, your comments will be logged online (check your email). Those who complete the online survey will be awarded a (whopping) 1% bonus mark - added to the course grade. You do NOT need to print the form, we will bring enough for everyone.
Best Poster (or approved alternative) As Voted By You (the second annual "BPAVBY" awards)
At the end of the poster session you will be asked to vote on the posters you like best. You will be given two "votes". We will use a simple dotmocracy procedure to accomplish this task at the end of the poster session.
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