Science in Media

Research Project:
Science Reported in Media vs.
Scholarly Sources

Goals of the Report
to demonstrate that you are able to research diverse scientific aspects of the topics covered in the course
to research material at a sufficient depth
to compare the quantity and quality of research as reported in popular media sources versus original scholarly research findings

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Topics of Research

Since this is a very interdisciplinary course, a wide variety of topics are suitable for this research project. The only topic-suitability requirement is that the scientific research in question is on a topic related to any of these three major scientific units of our course: physics of light and/or matter, physiology of human color vision, and chemistry of surface colorants. The other requirement is that the research is of an observational nature (i.e. where quantifiable observations/measurements were taken), rather than of theoretical nature (i.e. where only computer models and/or simulations were studied, without observational measurements taken). These are very broad topic categories, to allow you the greatest flexibility in finding a suitable research article.

Media articles used outside of your allowed date range will result in a grade of zero assigned to the media-article component of the project. Late project submissions will result in a 5%-per-day late penalty, up to 1 week from the original deadline.

Stage 1: Finding the Media Article

You must find an article from an acceptable news magazine or other popular media news source that specifically describes the contents of a published scientific research experiment (of a physical/measurable/observable nature, and not theoretical-only modeling), on any of the appropriate research topics (see page 1). Note that websites which only ‘explain concepts’ in general (eg: How do rainbows form? How does light split into colours? etc) are NOT suitable for this project, as they are not analyzing newly published discovery-based research.

For help with ideas about appropriate key words to use when searching the media sources, look to the general topics listed in the Schedule. Or, alternatively, you can also simply browse the most recent news stories posted at these media news sources, in the allowed date range, to find one on a suitable topic.

The following are some examples of acceptable media sources for this project:

Phys.org, Science News (sciencenews.org), ScienceDaily, SciTechDaily, Universal-Sci, Science News Online, Astronomy Magazine, Universe Today, Portal to the Universe, Science/AAAS, Nature, CBC News: Technology & Science, Scientific American, Popular Science, National Geographic News,
Science and Technology for Canadians, Maclean’s Magazine, The Toronto Star, Globe and Mail; plus many others!

Media articles must be at least 1,000 words in length (though longer is better), and should focus on one primary original research experiment/study, rather than discussing the results of many different experiments (and/or theoretical papers).

required information:
When was this media article published? (if it’s not between May 1st to June 1st, 2021 then it’s not
suitable)

How long is this article? (if it’s not at least 1,000 words of actual article text then it’s not suitable)

Which of the three major topic units – as listed on the first page – do you think it falls into?
What is the original scholarly journal article on which this media article is reporting? (provide URL)

Stage 2: Finding the Scholarly Article

Having found the media article, you must now find the original (primary) scholarly article in which this research was first reported. The media article itself should mention the names of the researchers (who may or may not be the authors of the actual media article itself), the title of their original research article (as

published in the scholarly journal), and where it was originally published. Note that as a York University student, your library privileges include subscription to an enormous database of journals that normally require a subscription fee. (If you need help with accessing paid-subscription journals with your York U. account, contact a librarian.) If you happened to choose an article from a journal to which York does not have a subscription, then you should look for a new article that is covered by a subscription, instead. You do not need to pay for any special-access articles for this project.

Stage 3: Your Report: Comparing the Science in Media and Scholarly Articles

After reading both the media and the scholarly article, you will now compare them in your own written report. To be complete, your report must address all of the following questions.

Complete the following identifier table:
Media Article Research Article
Title of Article
Source of Article (Publication Name)
Date of Publication
URL to the article
Was the research done by the author of the article?
Where are the Authors from (if information is available)?
Give the name and location of their place of work.
Note: the contents of this table do NOT count toward the final word count limit on your report.

Provide a précis (short summary) of each article in your own words. A good way to make sure you write the précis in your own words is to read the article a few times until you feel you understand its content as much as possible, and then put the article away and write the précis without looking at the article. Don’t forget to articulate the significance of this particular discovery/experiment/study to the broader field of science it is contributing to. Once you have written the précis, reread it and the article together to make sure you have not missed any important points. If your words seem much simpler than those of the article, so much the better!

Describe the structure or format of the article – how is the information presented to the reader? Is the article divided up into sections, and if so what are they? (This applies to both media and scholarly articles).

For the media article, how are the experimental results presented? (For example, is it just a general written description, are actual numbers reported, are there tables, graphs, statistics?)

Compare the general conclusions of the media article with the general conclusions of the research paper. Do they differ in any way, and if so, how?

Does either of the articles criticize the data, criticize the conclusions, provide alternate hypotheses or conclusions to explain the data? If so provide details.

Does one article provide criticism or alternate viewpoints that the other article fails to mention? If so, what are they? (For example, do the authors of the research article mention limitations of their research and conclusions that are left out of the media article?)

Does the title of the media article accurately reflect the content of both the media article and the research article? If not, provide details.

Has this exercise given you any insights into how scientific research is done and reported, or into how the media covers such research? What do you think is the main advantage and disadvantage of new scientific research being presented in media and scholarly articles? (Discuss at least 1 advantage and 1 disadvantage for each media and scholarly article.)

Format and Expectations of the Report

This is NOT AN ESSAY; therefore, you do not need to have a thesis, or try to ‘prove’ or ‘disprove’ any argument(s). Instead, you are asked to report on the differences between science research as presented in popular media versus scholarly journals. Your report can simply answer each of the numbered items as they are presented above, in a numbered sequence. Do NOT include the text of the questions in your report; simply label each answer with the corresponding question number only.

The report should be about 1,500 – 2,000 words, of standard font 12 text, single-spaced.

Use the APA style for references and citations. (You will use only 2 sources in your report, so citation of them should be quite straightforward.)

Quoting of the articles themselves should be kept to a minimum, and is NOT to be used as ‘content substitute’ of your report (even if it is cited). Your report should consist mostly of your own writing.

The report should be written with proper English grammar; have your report proofread by someone else who is not in your class (such as your family or friends), especially if English is not your first language. For more information on Science in Media see this: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/science-journalism-and-television

Science in Media

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