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A. Global Warming

1.  Wikipedia
Wikipedia is the one of the most revolutionary information tools to emerge in the last few years. Whereas people once turned to respected print encyclopedias such as Encyclopedia Britannica for quick look-ups of information, now almost anyone with a computer and Internet connection will go first to Wikipedia. And with good reason: it’s quick; it’s easy; it contains an enormous number of entries on all kinds of topics; and it is reasonably accurate for most things.  Yet Wikipedia remains controversial, particularly for its policy of allowing anyone to contribute or edit information.  One sentence in Wikipedia could be written by an internationally known expert, the next could be written by a high school student. Wikipedia entries are often subject to constant revision or “edit wars,” making the entries difficult to cite.  For these and other reasons, Wikipedia is not considered a serious academic source by many college professors. It’s probably not a good idea to cite Wikipedia in a paper, and definitely not a good idea to use Wikipedia as the sole source for a college research paper. Wikipedia can be a good place to begin research, especially to obtain a quick overview of a topic and to find references to other sources. Alternatives to Wikipedia include the many subject specific encyclopedias in the Library’s Reference Collection, such as the three volume Global Warming in the 21st Century, for example. Use Wikipedia as a beginning but don’t end your research there; use it with caution and compare and corroborate!

2.  Climate Debate Daily
This web site collects news stories related to global warming and categorizes them in a pro- and con- format, making it easy to tell which stories support the view that global warming poses a threat to humanity, exists due to human activity, and that action should be taken to stop it; and stories that are skeptical to this view.  This would be a great site to gather resources for a pros and cons paper, or to gather resources that reflect the public debate about global warming.  All types of resources are linked to and from this site--from newspapers to magazines to scholarly journals and blogs.  Pay attention to which sources are editorially reviewed, which are peer reviewed, and if it’s a blog, who’s writing the blog and what are the person’s credentials.

3. Nature
This is an article with the title “Snowball Earth termination by destabilization of equatorial permafrost methane clathrate.” Let’s look at a sentence from this article: “Authigenic carbonates within the Reynella Member of the glacial Elatina Formation occur in coastal cliff exposures of the Marinoan type section in South Australia (Fig. 1 a–d) and provide constraints on the magnitude and timing of methane influence during deglaciation.”  Got that? OK, was this written by a) a science fiction writer, b) a scientist, or c) a crazy person?  Context provides the key. This article appears in Nature, one of the most prestigious journals in all of science.  It was written by professors at universities in the United States and Australia. It is about global warming, but it is highly specialized and technical. Reading and understanding it requires a scientific background in earth science. This article was referenced in the popular magazine Wired, but not hyperlinked, since access to the Nature article requires a special kind of access through your college library.  This is the kind of high quality scholarly information you will be expected to find and use in your upper level classes.    


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