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Part 1: Identifying Reliability

An important part of being a critical thinker is the ability to distinguish types of information sources and analyze these for reliability. There is not only a tremendous amount of misinformation available at our fingertips, but sometimes even those with the best of intentions can write misleading headlines or interpretations of scientific research.

Open and skim through the following articles (access through Carmen). Your TA may have given you advice on how to skim, but essentially it means reading through the article to get a general idea of what the article is about and the major findings.   

Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

All three of these articles provided were obtained through googling “Cats kill birds.” You’re probably seeing that even though they are found using the same search, they all look quite different and may communicate different information.  

For each of the articles, compare the qualifications of the author(s).  (1 pt)

Which of these articles can be considered primary literature? How can you tell? (.5 pt)

What are other differences you notice between the primary and secondary articles? (1 pt)

Which of the articles do you think the average (non-scientist) person is likely to read? Why? (.5 pt)

Scientific literature is not written in a manner to be easily digestible by the average person. Journalists that write about the research and report it are invaluable in making scientific information accessible to a wide audience. We call these “lay articles” or “pop science.” As you’ve discussed your TA, when reading these articles, we need to use our critical thinking skills because they are a degree (or more) removed from the source of the information. Let’s work on these skills by evaluating different sources of information.  

Let’s focus on articles 2 and 3 for the following two questions.  

What are characteristics of article 2 might lead someone to think it is a reliable source information? What are characteristics of article 2 that might make you skeptical?  (1 pt)

What are characteristics of article 3 might lead someone to think it is a reliable source information? What are characteristics of article 3 that might make you skeptical?  (1 pt)

Part 2: Information Communication

As you can see, even though the three sources are all about the same topic, the information that’s communicated by each one varies. How does this impact the accuracy? How confident can we be that we’re getting reliable information from our secondary sources?

Let’s compare Article 1 and Article 2. Article 1 is the original study testing the hypothesis that a large portion of bird and mammal mortality is caused by free-roaming cats. Article 2 is the lay article that reports on that study.   

Compare and contrast the original study and the lay article on the following points. Make note of specific major differences and similarities between the articles. (3 pts)

a) Stated hypothesis:

b) Clarity of methods:

c) Main findings or conclusions:

One a scale of 1-10, how accurately did the lay article depict the findings in the scientific article? Explain your answer. (.5 pt)

Let’s revisit Article 3 and compare that to Article 1.  

How does message in Article 3 differ from Article 1? What might explain the discrepancies between the two? (1 pt)

10. If someone was to only see Article 3 and not Article 1, would they have an accurate understanding of the information in Article 1? Explain (1 pt)

These two articles, and indeed the bird/free-roaming cat conflict are great examples of how communication of scientific information matters. We see that when science is communicated for a scientific audience, the message can be misinterpreted or misunderstood when it’s communicated to a lay audience. This is why scientific literacy is so important! This can prevent miscommunication of information or motivation. After you do your research project in this class, you’ll get a chance to communicate your findings in both an accurate and a compelling way.  

Let’s summarize the major takeaways of critically analyzing secondary literature.  

How might the conclusions you draw from comparing scientific and lay media articles inform the way you approach reading of articles touting ‘new studies’ in the future? (1 pt)

In your own words, summarize the pros and cons of using secondary literature. (1 pt)

Part 3: Finding Primary Literature

The ability to seek out and use primary literature is an important skill in being a scientifically literate citizen. Why is this? Think about your future after this class or after college, what circumstances might cause you to do a primary literature search?

Let’s practice doing a primary literature search. Being an Ohio State student, you have access to several databases that you can use to search and read primary literature. Your TA will demonstrate how to use the library’s website to use these databases.  

Individually, practice searching for primary literature by doing a search for a primary source that relates to this Community Science project. Each person should pick one of the following topics to do your search.

Birds + citizen science

Birds + wind turbines

Birds + migration patterns

Birds + urban lights

Birds + urban noise

Birds + window strikes

Birds + nest site selection

Birds + edge effect

Birds + brood parasitism

Once each person has found an article, share your finds with each other and pick one for the group to go forward with.

a) Provide a full citation for the article you found (0.5 pt):

b) Briefly (3 sentences or less) and in your own words, what are the major findings from this article? Which section(s) of the article did you use to get this information? (1 pt)

How can you be confident that the authors in this article followed sound scientific practices and the data is appropriately interpreted? In other words, what parts of this article demonstrate that the data and conclusions are sound? (1 pt)

 Part 4: Using Literature to Formulate Observations and Hypotheses

To develop questions and hypotheses, scientists will spend time doing literature reviews. Primary literature tells us what is known and therefore can be considered an observation about the world around us. Many people (including novice scientists) would probably be surprised to learn how much time researchers spend reading articles about their research interests. This is a critical step in helping researchers develop well thought-out hypotheses that contribute new information to a growing body of knowledge.  

Use the article you found and wrote about in Part 3. If for some reason this article does not work well for this section, you are welcome to use one of the other articles your group found. Just make sure you include a citation for the new article you are using for Part 4.

Provide at least 3 observations about bird biology that sparked your interest while reading the article. (1 pt)

Your response above and to question 16 is an example of how we use literature to make observations. Now, let’s use those observations to develop your own hypothesis. Write a question that arises from your review of this article and provide a hypothesis for that question. This should be different from the hypothesis presented in the article your found. (1.5 pt)

a. Question:

i. Hypothesis:

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