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You are to choose an environmental topic for your first research report assignment. The topic should be an issue on which there are at least two opposing interest groups. In other words, it is to be a controversial topic. You must submit this topic for approval and state which position you will be advocating for the controversial topic. The topic may be of local, regional, national, or international scope. This topic will be your principal topic for much of the writing you will be doing this semester. The good news is that if you do a good job you will only need to research the topic once. You will then have all of the information and sources you need for the rest of the semester.
You must also choose an organization for which you will be writing your report. This organization must be identified when you submit your topic for approval. You will be writing as a researcher and staff writer for the identified organization. The report should be written in the style common to that organization.
Some major general environmental topics are listed below. You are in no way limited to these topics. They are listed only to provide a starting point for your thinking. In most cases it is recommended you not select the major topic listed. The topics listed are much too broad to be researched adequately in a semester class. You may take a specific portion of the general topic listed. For example, there is no way you will be able to adequately research “global warming” or “climate change” in the time allocated for this class. You might, however, be able to research the “hockey stick” temperature increase. Rather than choose the topic of “pesticides”, you could choose to write on the reintroduction of DDT to control malaria. Rather than write about the general topic of genetically modified organisms (GMO), you might write about the introduction of a specific genetically modified species, such as corn, soybeans or salmon.
General major topics that you might consider, but certainly are not limited to, include the following.
Human population growth
Genetically modified organisms
Global warming or climate change
Coal exports to Asia
Sustainable energy production
Solid waste disposal
The upper management of your organization is concerned that some of the organization’s basic position statements may not be fully defendable with reliable sources. Policy statements that originated five to ten years ago have become part of the culture of the organization. At this point nobody currently working in the organization remembers the origin of these statements and nobody knows the background information that was the basis for the original policy statement. It may be that recent developments in the science or the political and economic climate make the policy statement out dated, or incorrect.
You have been hired specifically to gather a list of all of the organization’s policy statements on the topic you have selected. You then will investigate each of the policy statements to identify the technical support that exists for the policy statement as it is presently being published by the organization. That means you will find the reliable sources that support the statements. You will document these sources in your report.
Please keep in mind, if a number of independent reliable sources have documented the support for a policy statement, that carries a great deal more weight that a single source. When possible you should document multiple independent sources that support the policy statement, not just one. This additional effort is especially important if there are other creditable sources that support a policy position in opposition to the policy of your organization.
To research this report you will first need to create a list of all the policy statements your organization has published and/or distributed. You will need to document where you found each of these statements. You will need to carefully research the publications and statements your organization has released. Once you have this list you will need to find reliable sources that backup each of the policy statements you have in your list. For each of the policy statements you will need to provide an analysis of the credibility of the policy statement based on the reliable sources you can find the back up the statements.
The analysis will include a review of any reliable sources that provide information that is not in agreement with the policy of your organization. The best place to find these sources is to read the policy statements of organizations that oppose your organization’s position on your topic. One of the principles of advocacy research is that you must know the opposition’s positions and strengths as well as you know your own positions and strengths. If you do not know your opposition’s positions as well as you know your own, you have not done a complete job of research. To do well on this assignment, and to do well in this course, you must know the strengths and weaknesses of your organization and the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.
The topic assignment
For this week you will only be selecting a topic for your advocacy report. You will not be writing the actual report. That will come later.
For this week submit a one page paper containing the following information.
- State the topic you have selected for your advocacy report.
- State the name of the organization for which you will be writing your report.
- Provide a statement on why you are interested in researching and writing on this topic. Provide sufficient detail to convince the reader (your professor) that you have done enough research on this topic to assure yourself that you will be able to find adequate information on the topic to write a research report. Convincing your professor will probably mean you will have some quotations or attributions in your statement. Of course, your citations will also mean you will need a bibliography. There will be a need for a little research to complete this assignment.
The topic assignment for your research report will be due September 4, 2016 at 11:59 PM. This is one of the short assignments for the class and will be graded.
The Research Report 1 itself will be due on October 16, 2016 at 11:59 PM. The Research Report 1 is a major assignment and will count 20 percent of your final grade for the course. There will be a number of intermediate assignments between September 4 and October 16 that are building blocks to help you write the final report.
The professor’s suggestions
Based on past student actions, I make the following suggestions.
- Pick a topic in which you have a personal interest. It is assumed you elected to take this class because you have an interest in the environment. This is your opportunity to explore that interest at a fairly in-depth intellectual level.
- Grades on major papers are usually higher when a student has a personal interest in the topic as opposed to just picking a topic because it is a requirement and you think a specific topic should be easy. I am not sure there are any easy topics. If there are easy topics, they will not be approved.
- To emphasize the material above, do not pick a topic that is too big. You will not change the world in this class, so don’t try. You can change the world after you graduate. As stated above, if you wish to select a topic concerning genetically modified organisms I suggest you limit yourself to a specific plant or animal, such as corn, soybeans or salmon. You will not be selecting the topic of climate change, but you might be able to find a specific topic within the broad field of climate change that will provide a significant challenge for you.
- Start your research at once. Delaying the research because you have a lot of time before the final report is due invariably results in a poor grade.
- Spend as much time researching the opposition to your organization’s position as you do researching your own position. The only way to thoroughly research a controversial topic is to know the opposition’s position, and all the data and reasoning behind that position, as well as you know your own position. Your organization must be able counter all of the opposition’s arguments. The only way it can do so is to know those arguments well.