Critical Thinking Finding, Evaluating, and Using Sources Lecture Notes © 2008 McGraw Hill Higher Education.

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Transcript Critical Thinking Finding, Evaluating, and Using Sources Lecture Notes © 2008 McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Critical Thinking
Finding, Evaluating, and Using
Sources
Lecture Notes © 2008 McGraw Hill
Higher Education
1
General Purpose
• This lecture is intended to improve your ability to write research
papers.
• The ability to research is needed for…
– …nearly every profession that requires a college degree.
– …everyday life (hiring contractor or lawyer, investing in the stock
market, voting, deciding on entertainment).
– …your own intellectual pursuits.
• Being an informed member of society.
• Developing your own arguments on important issues.
• But remember, not all evidence is good evidence.
Lecture Notes © 2008 McGraw Hill
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2
Finding Sources
• We have access to a lot of information, so learn to
refine your search.
– Ask specific questions
• To identify the questions you need to ask, sometimes it’s
helpful to write your own argument, and then figure out what
question you need to answer to figure out if your premises are
true.
– Use directional material to guide you to informational
material.
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Directional Information / Material
• Bibliographies
• Indexes and Databases
• Internet Search Engines, Guides, and Directories
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Bibliographies:
• Lists of books or publications.
– These can be found in libraries or online
– San José State University - Powering Silicon Valley
– MLK Library > Library catalog > Title (Author,
Subject, etc.) > National Union Catalog
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Indexes and Databases:
• These are often lists of books and works by topic (e.g.,
The Philosophers Index). Often they include the works
themselves.
• Academic Gateway (SJSU) - SJLibrary.org
• Databases > Title (Keyword, Author, etc.) > Business
Source / Communications and Mass Media,
Philosopher’sIndex, Linguistics and Language Abstracts
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Internet Search Engines, Guides, and
Directories:
– Learn to restrict your search, so you don’t have to
go through so many pages to find what you need.
“Yahoo” and “about.com” are good.
– Also serious discussion groups (e.g.,
groups.google.com) are good, and can lead you in
the right direction.
– http://www.google.com/
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Activity
• Using the internet, find one of each of the
following for your major:
– Bibliographies:
– Indexes and Databases:
– Internet Search Engines, Guides, and Directories
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Informational Sources
•
•
•
•
•
Encyclopedias,
Almanacs, Yearbooks, Fact Books, etc.,
Biographical Sources
Dictionaries
Government Documents
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Encyclopedias
• Online or not, are good for basic information and
introductions to topics.
– They also have bibliographies that can point you in
the right direction.
– Be careful of “editable” ones (e.g., Wikipedia). Not
everything is checked before it is posted; read
with a careful eye.
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Almanacs, Yearbooks, Fact
Books, etc.
• are good for finding information on specific
persons.
• Who’s Who
• are good for answering uncomplicated
questions.
– e.g., “How many American’s are on Social
Security?”
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Dictionaries:
• general as well as specific dictionaries (e.g., legal
dictionaries, slang, philosophy, math, film) are also
useful.
– www.onelook.com indexes more than 600 online
dictionaries.
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Government Documents
• have everything from biographical information on
congress members to advice for repairing a home.
• firstgov.gov is a good place to start.
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Informational Sources
• Human Sources
– Instead of wondering around for hours, ask the librarian
(that is what they are trained for).
– Faculty members, local experts, government officials,
etc. can help answer questions within their area.
• Always have questions ready when you go into an interview of
an expert. Make sure they are precise and categorized (fact
and opinion questions).
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Evaluating Sources
• Content: Facts and Everything Else
• The Author and the Publisher
• The Audience
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Content: Facts and Everything Else
• Separate facts from everything else (such as falsehoods
and opinions).
• Separate verified and documented facts from other kinds
of facts (the unverified and the unverifiable).
– Some facts cannot be verified – e.g., a hole-in-one with no
witnesses
– Some facts can be verified through eyewitness testimony,
measurement, agreement among several sources,
documentation
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Content: Facts and Everything Else
• Don’t just assume that what people call “facts” are
facts.
– e.g., Freud : ‘The fact that women must be regarded
as having little sense of justice is no doubt related to
the predominance of envy in their mental life; for the
demand for justice is a modification of envy and lays
down the condition subject to which one can put
envy aside. We also regard women as weaker in their
social interests and as having less capacity for
sublimating their instincts than men.’
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Content: Facts and Everything Else
• Watch out for “false appearances” of being well documented.
– Instead of simply citing a survey’s conclusion, quote the survey
and give details of how it was given (let the reader decide if it
was biased).
– Conclusion: ‘Seventy-five percent of college students prefer t
live in coed residence halls.’
– Context: ‘According to a recent survey of one thousand college
students conducted for Campus Harbinger magazine, “75% of
college students prefer to live in coed residence halls.” The
survey included students from all four classes in six college
across the country.’
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Content: Facts and Everything Else
• Be careful of “cherry-picked” evidence (where the
author uses true information that supports his/her
claims but leaves out other true information that would
debunk his/her claims).
• Biased language can reveal an author’s biases and give
good reason for suspicion of their claims.
– ‘President Clinton did not serve in the military’ vs.
‘President Clinton avoided military service.’
• Check the dates of information: Is the article up-todate?
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The Author and the Publisher
• Something being written or published doesn’t make it true;
we must ascertain if the author or publisher is reliable.
• Who is an ‘authority’?
• Author < Latin auctor = creator
• Are authors authorities?
– One does not have to be an expert to become an author.
– Something’s having been written does not necessarily
make it true.
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The Author and the Publisher
• What is the Author’s Background?
– Usually you need an author who is educated in the
relevant area (although there are exceptions).
• What are the author’s credentials?
• How long has the author studied the subject and what has
s/he done in it?
– Make sure you get good authors on both sides of
the issue (not just your own).
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The Author and the Publisher
• What are the Author's Bias and Purpose?
– A pamphlet published by the Tobacco Institute may not be the
most credible source for information on the effects of second
hand smoke. The same would be true of a pamphlet published
by anti-smoking organizations (e.g., “thetruth.com”).
• What stake does the author have in the topic.
• For surveys, how were the questions worded?
• What is the author’s purpose in writing?
– Double check possible biased material, or find non-biased
sources.
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The Author and the Publisher
• What are the Author’s Sources?
– Most writers respond to those who have preceded them.
– Make sure the Author’s sources aren’t biased.
– Make sure the Author uses them in non-biased ways
(e.g., not leaving out information that might hurt
his/her argument).
– Be wary of unnamed, undocumented, or completely
unreliable sources ina writer’s argument.
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The Author and the Publisher
• Who is the Publisher or Sponsor? (Be careful with
Websites).
• National Inquirer or People vs. New York Times or U.S.
News & World Report
• Academic journals, publishing houses –
Language, Oxford University Press
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Scholarly vs. Nonscholarly Periodicals
• Scholarly Journals: JAMA, Harvard Business Review,
Philological Quarterly, etc.
• Nonscholarly Periodicals
– Journals of Opinion (‘policy journals’): Mother Jones, New
Republic, American Spectator, Commentary, Progressive,
Weekly Standard, etc.
– News & General-Interest Magazines: Time, Newsweek, New
Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Scientific American, etc.
– Popular magazines: People, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone,
Vanity Fair, Men’s Health, Redbook, etc.
– Trade Publications: Industry Week, Advertising Age, Forbes,
Fortune, Business w\Week, Variety, etc.
– Sensational Publications: National Examiner, Globe, Star,
National Inquirer, etc.
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Higher Education
Peer Reviewed Articles
• Sometimes called ‘juried articles’
• Important because they’ve gone through a
vetting process conducted by peers (experts in
the field) to ensure accuracy
• See MLK Library tutorial
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The Audience
• Who is the intended audience?
– If the intended audience of a work is not college
educated, it probably won’t work (except as a starting
place) for a college research paper.
– If the intended audience already shares the conclusion
of the publication (like subscribes to a conservative talk
show host’s news letter), suspicion is called for.
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The Audience
• How has the audience responded?
– If a work written for a group was not received well by
that group, it probably is not a great source.
– Book reviews are a good way to find this information.
– Of course, works may not be well received by some
audiences because the author is trying to correct
mistakes in the audience’s thinking (and the audience
is not receptive even though the author is right).
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Pop Culture Connection
• Steven Colbert on ‘Truthiness’
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Taking Notes
• Be sure to be selective with your note taking
(when reading, don’t highlight every other
sentence).
• Bibliographical Information: write down the
author, title, publisher, etc. for each text.
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Taking Notes
• Content Notes:
– Quotations: Make sure to get it exact. Material
omitted for brevity gets ellipsis points (…). Added
material used to clarify goes in brackets [like this].
– Summaries: identify thesis and supporting points
(see chapter 7)
– Paraphrasing: restate the argument in your own
words (see chapter 7)
– Always be sure to read many times over.
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Using Sources
• Acknowledging Sources:
– Don’t Plagiarize: blatantly copying or paraphrasing
without effort to acknowledge the source.
– What doesn’t need citation: well known facts and
quotes.
– What needs citation: direct quotes, statistics, surveys,
obscure facts, unique descriptions or examples, any
ideas that are not your own.
– Perdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL)
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Using Sources
• Incorporating Sources:
– Quoting Words and Phrases: incorporate exact
words or phrases into your writing, using
quotation marks (“”).
– Quoting and paraphrasing longer passages:
• Introduce the passage to provide context and
sometimes bibliographical information.
• If you paraphrase, make sure that you are paraphrasing
(and where your paraphrase begins) is clear.
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Using Sources
• Block Quotations: If a quote is more than 50 words,
omit quotation marks, maintain double spacing, and
indent the left margin five spaces.
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Question for Discussion
• Some of these requirements may seem petty
and unnecessary.
• So why are they required for sound academic
and professional writing?
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