Monday, March 3, 2008

Shield your eyes if you're writing a college research paper

Of all the global warming blogs
in all the domains
in all the world...
she comes across mine.

One of the nice things about using a data service like Statcounter is that I usually find out pretty quickly when somebody has linked to this site. Today I found out that I had the distinct honor of being a case-in-point in a college freshman's lab exercise on reliable and unreliable sources of information on the internet.

In case you were wondering, I was singled out as an example of an unreliable source of information on global warming. As soon as I got over the shock and shame at being thus labeled, I read on.

Before I relate why Ms. Cooper determined my site to be unreliable, I thought it might be good to note the qualities that she thinks makes a site reliable and/or credible. To sum up, a reliable/credible source is:
  1. Associated with a commercial publication of some kind; or
  2. Associated with some known organization; or
  3. Associated with a government, military or academic internet domain.
That's about it. It's safe to cite anything that comes from such sources.

How did I fail Ms. Cooper? My sins are threefold:
  1. I use "sarcasm" in the "About the Heretic" section on the sidebar when comparing my credentials to those of Al Gore. I thought of it more as dryly humorous hyperbole, but okay. I guess her complaint here is that by the use of such humor, I have surrendered any claim to objectivity. However, objectivity is not my aim, as I explain in the next item.
  2. In that same blurb I mention that I use this site to present my opinions on the various issues surrounding the global warming debate. I have never pretended that this site was to be seen as a source of original news reporting or original research. There are other excellent sites out there (many linked in the sidebar) which accomplish this quite well. My goal is to analyze what others are reporting as news or publishing as science, and to look at possible cultural and ideological trends therein. So, if I was dinged for not being an original source for news and research results... guilty.
  3. I'm shocked -- shocked! --
    to learn that opinions
    are expressed on this blog!
  4. I publish on Blogspot. To the same extent that anything published on a site ending in .edu, .mil or .gov is deemed automatically reliable, so anything published on is automatically unreliable. In both extremes, the judgment is made without regard to actual content. Although I do work for a university, this site is a personal project of mine and is unrelated to my current work. Too bad. If I was a college professor I could move my analyses to my departmental web page, and by virtue of the .edu domain it seems that my essays would be citeable. Nice racket, if you can get into it.
Please note that I am not accusing Ms. Cooper of attacking my point of view. In fact, she presents fellow heretic as an example of a reliable site.

Ms. Cooper's assignment appears to have been about which kinds of sources should be citeable when writing a college research paper. Fair enough, but I think that the broad generalizations given by Cooper discourage critical thinking.

Better to have the following standard regarding internet sources: Cite whatever you want, but be prepared to defend your choices.

(P.S. Here's a philosophical poser: Was it okay for Ms. Cooper to cite this site in support of her thesis that this site should not be cited?)