JOUR 302: Infomania
Discussion Professor’s Name
Brief 3: Issue
Journalists and other communications professionals often need to become familiar with issues
in which they may not be interested, and to identify sources they can use to understand these
issues better. In this assignment, you are expected to demonstrate that you can (1) find
information about an issue with which you are not familiar, (2) describe and evaluate how you
searched for and found this information, (3) identify and evaluate the sources you found, and
(4) summarize the information you found.
When thinking about the information you search for, find, evaluate, and synthesize, imagine that
you are completing the brief for a local reporter who will write or record a story about your issue.
If you need to get in the right frame of mind, the episode Very Tough Love of the podcast This
American Life might help you get there.
Step-by-Step Instructions for this Assignment
Receive a local issue assignment from your instructor. You can appeal to your instructor to
cover a different local issue that’s not being covered by your classmates.
- Re-read the Search More Effectively chapter in the Be Credible textbook.
- Search the web for information about this issue.
- Read the News chapter in the Be Credible textbook.
- Search news archives for this issue and construct a chronology of this issue.
- Search news archives for similar issues happening elsewhere, and about any context that’s
important to understanding this issue.
- Read the Nonprofits chapter in the Be Credible textbook.
- Search for a nonprofit organization that specializes in this issue, related issues, or the
context that’s important to understanding this issue.
- Read the Scholarly Research chapter in the Be Credible textbook.
- Search for a research study that is related to this issue, or to the context that’s important to
understanding this issue.
- Read the Data chapter in the Be Credible textbook.
- Search for public data related to this issue, or to the context that’s important to
understanding this issue. Create a graph using data you find.
Source Evaluation Steps
- Re-read the Evaluate Information Vigorously chapter in the Be Credible textbook.
- Re-read the Go Lateral with Cues and Evidence chapter in the Be Credible textbook.
Identify all of the individual sources your searches turned up. For example, a news article is
a source, a nonprofit’s website is a source, Form 990 is a source, a research study is a
source, a dataset is a source.
For each source, determine if it is a primary or a secondary (or a tertiary) source. Collect
evidence to support this determination.
For each source, list the cues that say something about the credibility of this source. This is
an incomplete list of possible credibility cues: publisher, author, date, content, sources,
writing style, bias, visuals. Not every source will contain all of these cues.
Investigate each cue, and collect evidence about it. Use this evidence to determine the
extent to which the cue contributes to or diminishes the credibility of the source.
Keep detailed notes on the sources, cues, cue evidence, and your determination of each
Use all of this information to complete sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this document.
Section 1: Search Strategies and Results
Use bullet points or numbers to list all of the searches you performed, and to fully explain
your thinking behind each search.
As you list each search:
- Identify the collection of sources you searched (e.g., Guidestar, Google Scholar), and the
search term you typed into the search box.
- Briefly explain your thinking about why you used this collection and this search term. If your
thinking is related to the results of a previous search, explain this connection.
- Briefly explain the results of each search, which results you pursued further, which you
didn’t, and why.
At the end of this section, write a one-paragraph synthesis of all the searches you completed,
and all the information you found. Evaluate the effectiveness of your search strategies and
results. Support your evaluation with specific evidence from the list of searches and results. This
is a critical thinking class. Show some critical thinking about what you did, why you did it,
whether or not it worked, and what you learned in the process.
- In this assignment, your instructor is looking to see that you are searching the different
collections of information discussed in the four textbook chapters covered in this unit. As
you did previously, show that you are also using sophisticated search strategies.
- Show critical thinking as you reason through the search strategies you use and the
results you get. Your goal is NOT for all your searches to hit the jackpot. Your goal is to
show that you are a thoughtful and critical search user.
Section 2: Source Evaluation
Use bullet points or numbers to list all of the sources your searches turned up, and to fully
explain your evaluation of each source.
As you list each source, attribute it:
- Provide enough information so that anyone can find the source and look at it.
Embed a link to every publicly accessible online source (avoid pasting unreadable URLs).
Include a screenshot or a photograph of each source that can’t be linked to online.
Evaluate each source:
- Your ultimate goal is to explain whether or not each source is credible enough for you to use
in a report on your issue.
- Use the evaluation information you generated earlier to explain and support your thinking
(see “Source Evaluation Steps,” above). Your explanation needs to include these parts:
- An explanation about whether the source is primary or secondary, evidence supporting
this, and a statement about whether this contributes to or diminishes the source’s
- A list of all of the credibility cues for this source.
- Evidence about each cue, including any necessary quotations, embedded links,
- An explanation about whether, based on this evidence, the cue contributes to or
diminishes the credibility of the source.
- A synthesis statement about each source that re-states the key evidence presented
above. This statement should start with the phrase, “Overall, this source is / is not
credible enough for me to use because … .”
Instead of writing in paragraphs, for each source you can (but don’t have to) use a table like
Source: Insert the name of the source here, and embed a link to it.
Contributes to (+)
or diminishes (-)
Cue 1 name
Cue 2 name
Cue 3 name
Evidence about primary/secondary
+/Evidence about cue 1
+/Evidence about cue 2
+/Evidence about cue 3
+/DO NOT stop at 3 cues. Add a new row for each
additional cue (right-click and press “Insert” and “Rows
Synthesis statement: Overall, this source is / is not credible enough to use because …
[synthesize the key evidence and arguments from the table]
- Your instructor is looking for you to show that you question the credibility of everything. For
every credibility assertion you make, ask yourself “why?”, and investigate further. Keep
- Do not rely on gut feelings about the credibility of sources. Your evidence needs to come
from somewhere other than yourself.
- If you use the table, make sure that the information in the “Evidence” column is complete. In
each row, use multiple full sentences, links, quotes, and any other information to support
- Don’t forget the synthesis statement, and don’t skim on the evidence you re-state in it.
Section 3: Topic Summary
Summarize the most important and interesting information you found about the issue. The
following are devices you can use to structure this summary. You won’t use all of these devices;
your issue will dictate which ones you use.
- Chronology of key developments
- Key issues
- Key points of view
- Key players (include contact information where appropriate)
Your writing should be thorough but not excessively detailed.
Attribute all information to the appropriate sources in the summary. Use the phrase “according
to” as much as you need to; do not worry about sounding redundant. Embed links to sources
that are openly accessible on the Internet. (For a refresher, read the Attribute All Sources
chapter in the Be Credible textbook.)
Remember that in journalism, paragraphs are short, usually no more than four sentences long.
There is no limit on how many paragraphs you write.
Section 4: Data
Paste the screenshot of a spreadsheet that contains data about your issue, and the graph that
you created yourself based on these data.
Write one paragraph explaining what these data show. Attribute and link to the source of these
How to Handle and Submit this Assignment
Save this document to your computer.
At the top of this page, change “Your Name,” “Discussion Professor’s Name” and “Due
Date.” The “Topic” is your assigned issue. Get rid of the yellow highlighting.
Save the document periodically so you do not lose your work.
As you complete the assignment, refer to the grading rubric on Blackboard to understand
how the assignment will be graded.
Delete all sections of the document that are in blue (like this one). All text in the final
document should be black.
When finished, click on the appropriate assignment in Blackboard and upload this document
using the “Attach File: Browse My Computer” button.
Submit a Word file. Don’t submit a PDF file. If you use Pages, save your file as a Word
document before uploading. If you upload a Pages document, your instructor will not be able
to read it or grade it.
Make sure that the assignment uploads completely. Your Internet connection and
Blackboard can malfunction during the submission process. It is your responsibility that
your assignment upload is successful.
Go back and check that your assignment is submitted. Take a screenshot to document that
your assignment was fully submitted before the deadline. Save the screenshot to your
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