From newspaper article to research article: backtracking to find original research

Submitted by Kirsten Hansen on November 20th, 2018
Share this on: 
Short Description: 

In this assignment, students are given a range of newspaper article about science topics and work in pairs to find the original research article that the newspaper article is based on in the library databases. Students then assess when they might use an original research article vs when they might use a well-written newspaper article.

After the activity, the librarian gave short lecture about online fact checking based on Mike Caulfield's excellent fast and frugal fact checking strategies. If time allows, students can do some of the activities that Caulfield lists in his textbook.

Powerpoint presentation to accompany the assignmentDownloaded 92 times93.52 KB
Outline of the assignmentDownloaded 85 times17.73 KB
Learning Outcomes: 

Frames: Authority is constructed and contextual/Information creation as a process
Students will be able to:
• recognize that information may be perceived differently based on the format in which it is packaged
• Assess the fit between a source’s creation process and the particular information need
• Assess the fit between a source’s argument, methodology, and authority and the particular information need
• Use research tools and indicators of authority to determine the credibility of sources, understanding the elements that might temper this credibility

I will know students have achieved the learning outcomes:
Students wil be able to move “backwards” from popular science articles (i.e. NPR, NYT, Scientific American and the like) to the original research articles on which the articles are based. Students will then articulate strengths/weaknesses of the types of articles and when they might use them.


Individual or Group:

Course Context (e.g. how it was implemented or integrated): 

The genesis of this activity was a class about why people do or do not believe scientific conclusions. Mechanically, it can be used to help students practice moving from information “in the wild” as reported by the media to the original research articles. Conceptually, it can be used to help students evaluate how well or poorly scholarly research is reported by the press and to understand that different formats are useful at different times, and that different types of authority (reporter vs researchers) are constructed and contextual.)

This activity could be used in any class where students need to learn how to find the original scholarly articles that give birth to newspaper or other media articles.

Potential Pitfalls and Teaching Tips: 

If you are not very familiar with a subject area, it may be challenging to find appropriate articles for this assignment. In my case, the professor found the articles we used and it worked out well.

Suggested Citation: 
Hansen, Kirsten. "From newspaper article to research article: backtracking to find original research." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2018.