Jamie Baxter   Jamie Baxter
Associate Professor - UWO Geography

Geography 2153 - Environment Economy and Society

GEOG 2153
Owl Sakai
Assignment 1
Assignment 2
Handing in Late
Critical Appraisal
HOME | Research | Publications | 2152 | 2153 | 3432 | 9108 | 9300 | Marking | GEOGRAPHY
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.

Topic Type Due Date Weight
1) There's more to the story - critical appraisal of environmental issue reporting in the media vs academia individual 20 %
2) Raising awareness for environmental change poster  group 20 %

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:
  • overpopulation
  • waste diversion
  • climate change
  • air pollution (ozone, AQHI)
  • land disposession in food production
  • nuclear waste disposal
  • impacts of wind turbines
  • mine tailings and aquatic life
  • industrial impacts on water quality
  • habitat fragmentation from road construction
  • consumerism

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)

Reference List:
Taylor P. (1993, December 27). Keyboard grief: Coping with computer-caused injuries. Globe and Mail, pp. A1, A4.

(Taylor, 1993)

Newspaper Article Without Author

Reference List:
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)
  • title page (-1)
  • reference list (-1)
  • introductory paragraph (-1) - introduce the purpose of your paper, state your position on the degree to which the two domains overlap, and provide a roadmap for the rest of the paper
  • concluding paragraph (-1) - revisit your main point, summarize, comment on potential directions for policy or research
  • spelling/grammar (-2 max) - up to two marks can be lost, the first few are free, from then on marks are lost at the TA's discretion
  • formal style (-2 max) - other formal style issues (e.g., slang, acronyms, contractions) TA's discretion
content (15/20 marks)
  • Introduction - 2 marks - give a clear context and road map for the paper.
  • Remaining Content - 12 marks - be sure to reference key concepts in the course - e.g., science, values/worldview, precautionary principle
  • Conclusion - 1 marks - summarize, conclude and point out potential implications
  • Not submitted to Turnitin? ( -1)

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.
  • The class will be put into groups of 4 (see group formation process)
  • Identify a topic (these first two steps may be be merged pending a class vote)
  • Find relevant sources on the topic, with a strong emphasis on academic sources - see Assignment #1.
  • Prepare your poster - the links below will provide some useful layout ideas
  • Print your poster - arrangements will be made to do this at no cost to you - you will upload the files to Owl as well as send them to Rick Cornwall (see Format and Delivery below)
  • Complete a peer review form and submit in class on the due date.
  • Participate in the in-class poster session
Forming Groups - in class Tues, Nov 3, 2015

Everyone (Fall 2015) has been assigned to a group.  See the news section of the website for details
  • General rationale: To avoid duplication and to use common interests as a way to form groups, you will be assigned a group based on the topic you prefer
  • Lottery
    • each person has been assigned a group selection slot for class on Tues Nov 3, 2015 - see the Resources section of Owl to view a spreadsheet that has the group selection order.  I selected the order randomly using random.org
    • in class  on Tues Nov 3, 2015 each person will select a poster topic
    • once 4 people sign up for at topic it is closed
    • again, this will all be done in class
  • Absent on lottery day: The lottery list sunsets once the inclass lottery is completed Tues Nov 3, 2015 .  If you know you will not be available in class,you have choices:
    • proxy - send a rank-order list of your topic preferences with a friend to pick for you (privide an email to me or signed written note as proof so your "friend" does not choose a topic that does not interest you (you are encouraged to include your ranked list on the note to be clear).  If you email me, send the full list of 20 topics in rank order of your preference and when your name comes up I will slot you in at the highest ranked topic still available when your number comes up
    • email me after the fact - AFTER the preliminary signup list is posted, you can select from what topics remain and I will honour those choices based on the order that emails come in
    • Thurs, Nov 5 - I will assign any who have not contacted me with their preferences.  Everyone has now been assigned.  See the news section.
    • DISCLAIMER - I am not responsible for lost/spammed emails or lost notes - please show up to class if you care about what topic you have for Assignment 2!
  • Please rank order your topic preferences from the following llist.  If you have a low number in the lottery your chances of getting your first choice are high, if you have a high number in the lottery your chances of getting your first choice are low: (DISCLAIMER: not all topic will be available every year - 4 per group, so the number of topics available depends on class size, see the news section for updates)
  1. Eating locally
  2. Diversion of waste from landfill
  3. Waste to energy
  4. Sustainable urban design
  5. Advances in sustainable forestry
  6. Oil pipelines
  7. Sustainable nuclear power (electricity)
  8. Sustainable wind power (electricity)
  9. Sustainable hydro-electricity
  10. Oil and the oceans
  11. Alternative fuel vehicles
  12. Altantic cod fisheries collapse and recovery
  13. Sustainable aquaculture
  14. Alberta oil sands
  15. Sustainable drinking water in the developing world
  16. Intensive livestock operations
  17. Advances in sustainable agriculture
  18. Smog
  19. Sydney "tar ponds"
  20. Transboundary water issues

Format and Delivery

Ensure that your group # is somewhere on your poster/video


  • size: 2.5 feet by 3.5 feet
  • send your file to Rick Cornwall rmcornwa@uwo.ca OR drop in to SSC1226 (near shipping/receiving) with a USB. Go to Social Science Technology Services (see "SSC Receiving" on this map)
  • upload: a copy of the file to your Owl dropbox 9:00 am Mon. Dec 7 - only ONE person in your group needs to do this.  The TA(s) and I want to preview the posters prior to the in-class poster session
  • be sure to identify Geog 2153 poster and/or Dr. Baxter in the email subject line
  • your file must arrive for printing no later than 9:00 am Mon. Dec 7
  • pickup: the TA(s) or I will do this, no need for you to pick up the posters.

Helpful Hints (in no particular order) 
  • Focus your ideas - The best posters will have main message e.g., "Build up not out" (re: sustainable urban design) and the remainder of the poster will be context and evidence in support of that message.
  • Evidence - you will notice on the grading sheet (see below) that much of your grade is weighted on the degree to which you draw in evidence to support the claims and calls to action in your posters.
  • Alternate topic - The topics are purposely general so that your group can choose to scope the issue in the ways that interest you most.  However if your group can unanimously agree on an alternate topic altogether, that is fine if it is approved by me.  The topic must be relevant to the course e.g., it was mentioned in lectures, is touched on in the text or links direclty to themes in either of these;
  • Remember the stool - be sure to include the main elements of the stool metaphor used in class - i.e., that environment, economy, and society are the key elements of sustainability
  • Layout that provides effective 'eye-catching' visual impact, with efficient use of space;
  • Effective use of images (e.g., borrowed from Google searches) with proper citation to web-site sources;
  • Main message - make sure it is clear and easy to find;
  • Eye-Catching - the visuals should draw the reader in to make the topic (main message) interesting/important;
  • Judicious use of text - get the point across effectively with as few sentences as possible;
  • Spelling and grammar - yes, they matter on a poster too;
  • Font sizes - large enough to be read easily at a distance of 2 m (print letter-sized sections to test readabilty)  in the printed version; generally, nothing smaller than 20pt - larger text for headings
  • Commentary/implications - what does it all mean? Does high bird deaths from wind turbines mean we should scrap this as an energy production choice?  See "main message".
  • Reference list and citation - at least 5 journal article references that were used directly in the production of the ideas in the poster.  You may have consulted many more, but include the most relevant 5.  This is the only section that may violate the 20pt font rule.  Put this list in a small box in a corner of your poster.  Cite the papers in this list in the text of the poster the way you would in a formal essay.
  • Names - make sure the full names of the members of your group are on the poster
  • What software? - Powerpoint style software is likely the simplest since object can easily be moved and resized, but destop publishing and even word processors can be used

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.

- 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.

Your roles:
  1. Mount your poster somewhere in the room - you will be provided mounting material (pins or duct tape).
  2. At least one person from your group should stand by your poster and be prepared to answer questions about it.  Everyone else will have the opportunity to have a close look at the other posters in the room  - and ask questions.  Allow everyone in your group a chance to move about the room and view the other posters.
  3. This will run like a conference where people will mingle among the posters.  When a TA or myself arrives at your poster you will be asked to "present" the poster (you may do this for groups of your classmates as they arrive too).  You should be able to summarize what is in the poster in about a minute or less each time you are asked for a summary. The three of us (evaluators) will try to viist each poster individually not as a group - i.e. you will have each of us at your poster at differnt times.  It does not have to be the same person(s) from your group presenting and answering questions each time.  Others from the class may listen each time somebody (andybody) from your groups "presents" the poster.  If you are already presenting to a classmate, we may just eavesdrop then ask a question or two.
  4. Complete your Peer Review (of group members) form (see below).
Grading and Evaluation Criteria
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.

  Copyright: This material is for students registered in this class. Others, particularly instructors, please do not use without permission.