NATS 1775 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Infotrac, Thesis Statement, Proquest
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1775 Guidelines for Technological Controversy Assignment
Instructor: Dr. Vera Pavri
The purpose of the technological controversy assignment is to get you to start thinking crically
about technology and how science and technological issues are presented in the popular press
as well as in academic literature. Not only will this assignment give you the opportunity to
thoroughly examine all sides of a modern day technological debate, it will also allow you to see
how your own ideas and understanding about technology are inuenced by the dierent kinds
of sources you examine.
This paper is not your tradional argumentave essay where you have a thesis statement and
then spend your me trying to prove your point of view. While there is value in this kind of
assignment, the problem is that if you spend all of your me focusing on one side of a debate,
you are unlikely to understand or examine the arguments that might go against your own ideas.
The type of paper I have assigned you will allow you to explore a current day technological (or in
some cases scien#c) controversy from dierent points of view. You will have various topics to
choose from and they are listed below. The reason it is called a controversy assignment is
because the topic you will examine is one currently being argued about by dierent groups of
people who can’t agree on anything. That means your responsibility is to #gure out and
describe the various arguments on either side of the debate.
Another important reason I have assigned this kind of paper to you is to allow you to start
thinking crically about where informaon comes from. In other words, think about the sources
you use to get evidence. For this paper, I want you to examine your controversy topic by
choosing both SCHOLARLY (ACADEMIC) sources as well as POPULAR MEDIA sources. You will
pick a minimum of #ve (5) scholarly sources and a minimum of #ve (5) popular media sources to
gain informaon about your controversy and the various arguments on either side of the
debate. While you must look at 10 sources in total, to get a decent mark on the paper I would
suggest using (or referencing) at least 7+ sources altogether.
Part of this exercise is to #gure out what an academic source is, and to make things easier for
you I will give you two great examples of this type of resource. One type of scholarly source you
can use are books that have been published by an academic or university press. Look at the
publisher of your book. If it has been published by a university or academic publisher you are
good to go. Do a google search if you are not sure about the publisher. Now, if you come across
a book that hasn’t been published by a university or academic press, you will need to be very
careful about labelling it as scholarly. You may need to do further research on the author or
examine the book to see if it is well referenced. Ulmately, you will need to make a judgement
The other kind of scholarly source you can use is a peer reviewed journal arcle. Peer reviewed
arcles are wri:en by experts in a #eld which are then sent to other experts for review. A;er a
period of me, this arcle, which has now been peer-reviewed, is published in a reputable
journal. The easiest way to #nd peer reviewed journal arcles is to search various e-resource
databases through York’s library page. There are a number of databases you can use and I urge
you not to just look at science and technology databases since your topics are likely to touch
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upon other #elds like economics, law, sociology or polics. I would suggest starng with a
muldisciplinary database such as ProQuest, Scholar’s Portal, Web or Science or Expanded
Academic ASAP before moving to subject speci#c ones. Another research p is to limit any
search to peer-review or scholarly sources. This li:le box can be found on almost all the search
engines on these sites.
You can choose to use all books, all arcles or a combinaon for your research. Just make sure
to choose sources that have been published within the last six years, although one of your
sources can be older. I would also recommend viewing the document on scholarly sources that
was prepared by a librarian for this course. It can be found in this secon of Moodle.
I am aware of the fact that there are lots of other kinds of academic sources out there like policy
papers, government documents, or independent research studies. Feel free to use these kinds
of sources as well, but be very careful when deciding whether they do constute as an
academic source. For example, you might go to a government website and come across a policy
paper that has been wri:en by experts in that #eld. This is a very dierent however, from a
posion paper wri:en by a polician who might not know very much about that same subject.
Scholarly (academic) sources are very valuable when obtaining informaon about any topic, but
in reality, very few people have access to these sources. Probably less than 10% of the
populaon. You do since you go to York and pay fees to access these materials, but if the
majority of society doesn’t use academic sources, where do they get their informaon from?
The answer is popular media, and that is the second type of source I want you to use. You can
choose any kind of media source for your paper. Newspapers, magazines, YouTube videos,
random website informaon, blogs, TV shows, movies, radio programs, documentaries – these
are what I mean by popular media, and the reality is that most people out there are more likely
to learn about an issue from YouTube then they are a peer-reviewed journal. Again, please make
sure your sources have been published within the last six years and again, one can be older than
Once you have selected your academic and popular sources, I want you to gather informaon
about each side of your debate and then start organizing the various arguments. Don’t worry
about choosing sources that only present one side of the argument or another. That is not the
point. Many scholarly sources for example, are likely to provide you with arguments that you
will use for both sides of your controversy. While you don’t have to worry about choosing the
same number of “for” arcles and “against” arcles, it is important to make sure you have a
balanced number of arguments for each side of your debate. Finally, you also don’t need to
separate your popular and scholarly sources as they are likely to examine similar issues. You
don’t want to be repeve when describing various arguments, so think about a way of
eecvely organizing the arguments you will presenng.
Your paper is essenally going to be divided in two parts. The #rst part will be about describing
the arguments on either side of the debate. I call this the descripve component of your paper.
The second part of your paper is the analysis. You will be analyzing two things. First, I want you
to compare and contrast how your topic is presented in scholarly versus popular media. Think of
areas like language (simple versus complex), use of references, and length of arcle as a starng
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