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The Science Behind Media Reports

Take home assignment

Global Change 1 Lab Exercise




Updated 10/10/2016

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This week's lab assignment will build on the articles and discussion from Week 1. It will also serve as an introduction to searching scientific peer-reviewed journals, which you will have to do for your project.

The articles you read and discussed in week 1, "The Challenges We Face" and "Planetary Boundaires", covered several broad environmental issues meant for a wide audience of readers. Now we ask that you look at some of the peer-reviewed literature that forms the scientific basis for such articles. Peer-reviewed articles have been examined by other scientists who are qualified to evaluate the subject of the paper. Most journals listed in Google Scholar and the Web of Science (see below) are peer-reviewed. Choose one of the specific topics (derived from the general topics we explored in "The Challenges We Face") from the list below.


Then look up a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal such as Science or Nature (two of the leading science journals) related to that topic.


One way to double-check whether a journal is peer-reviewed and scholarly is to look up the journal’s title in Ulrich’s Web Global Serials Directory (U-M login & password will be required): (  Go to the search bar on the upper right and type in the Journal’s title (e.g. Nature) and choose Title (Exact) on the drop-down menu.  Note:  If you choose Title (Exact) make sure you know the journal title and not just the abbreviated title.  Then click “Search.”  If there are multiple choices, find the one that matches the journal title you have and look at the icons to the left of the title name.  The image of a shirt means the journal is peer-reviewed (or ‘Refereed’ as they say).

To do this, you can use Google Scholar or the Web of Science, where you can type in your topic and search.

When searching for papers, you may have to use keywords other than the exact words in the topic listed, rearrange the words in the topic with search terms like "or" or "and," or just use one key word from the topic (e. g. searching just "vector-borne" instead of "vector-borne disease" will get you more hits matching this topic).


The great thing about using the Web of Science is that most of the papers that come up during a search will be peer reviewed articles. This is not the case for other search engines such as Lexis Nexis.


Once you have found a paper that you want to explore in more detail, click the title to see if there is an abstract.  You can either "View Full Text" if the option is available, or "MGetIt" to see if the article is available online. 


Or, if that doesn't work, open a new window to the library webpage. You can get to many journal articles through the U of M library's online journals page (  Many papers will be available for download as a PDF.


The following is an additional resource for finding peer reviewed journal articles from the Michigan libraries:


DIY Toolkit: Modules for Teaching Research Concepts (Resource 1)


Read the paper you choose from the results of your search, and answer the questions below. You must read the full original research article, not just the summary or abstract.  If you can't tell if the source is the original research, look for a "Methods" section. The original should have one.  Submit your answers in Canvas.

List of POSSIBLE Topics (i.e. you don't have to limit yourself to these topics!)
Genetically modified crops
Agricultural sustainablilty
Tropical agriculture
Shade-grown coffee
Organic agriculture

Vector-borne disease
Rates of change in global or regional population
Population's effect on environmental resources
Family Planning Programs around the world and their effectiveness
Population migrations from rural to urban areas and the effects on health

Water recycling/purification
Water-efficiency techniques
Deteriorating water quality or pollution (microbial, bacterial, chemical etc.)
Sea-level changes
Oceans as a CO2 sink
Water vapor's role in global warming and cooling
Impacts of ocean currents on global climate

Atmospheric effects of a specific energy source
Geographic patterns of energy consumption
Clean energy sources and technology (wind, solar, wave-driven, geothermal, etc.)
Climate modeling
Effects of climate change on a specific ecosystem (e. g. Arctic tundra, Amazon rainforest, coral reefs, Northeastern temperate forests, etc.)

Extinction rates
Endangered species
Ecotourism and or other sustainable development projects
Biodiversity changes in a specific ecosystem
Biodiversity and ecosystem function or ecosystem services

ASSIGNMENT (To be handed in on Canvas):

1) Cite the paper as a "journal article" as described in the citation guide: ( Investigate the source and justify that it is a scholarly, peer-reviewed source. For example, you can look up the name of the journal to get information about it. (2 points)

2) What question or hypothesis did the authors of the paper address? (2 points)

3) How did the authors go about answering this question or testing their hypothesis? (2 points)

4) What were the findings of the paper? (Look at the "Results" or "Discussion" sections of the paper.) (2 points)

5) How does this paper relate to one of the broad topics discussed in "The Challenges We Face"? (2 points)

6) What do you think are the future environmental implications of the findings of this paper? (2 points)

7) Download a PDF of the paper you read and submit that along with this write up. (1 point)

Direct links (authentication through UM Libraries may be required for access):



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