Accurate sources of information

Discussion in 'Science' started by neutralizer, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. neutralizer

    neutralizer Member

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    This is actually something that bugs me all the time. You can read two different articles (one each of for/against) only to find contradicting 'evidence'.

    Climate science is one of my favourites for this...."This graph clearly shows the earth has been cooling in the last 1,000 years"...."This graph clearly shows the has been warming over the last 1,000 years."

    If you find a good source of information, by which I mean the methodology, limitations and error are explained and estimated then please post it here. If you think its a good reference on any given topic for these reasons then please post it up. I don't actually care about what topic the source provides information on, but anything might come in handy at some point.

    I know one should spend their time back tracking articles, finding the sources they used, and understanding methodology, but it really can be a tiring amount of effort to do this for every god damn thing you read and want to validate. If you happen to go through this process, then throw it in here to save others the time.

    Once I finish uni up in a few weeks (YES!) then I'm going to contribute to this in relation to climate science where possible.

    Contributed Links:

    The-I-Have-No-Idea-But-I-Need-A-Starting-Point-Type sources of information:
    Scientific American
    Car Bibles (A well grounded, informative and concise explanation on the basics of all things car/bike/engine related).
    Australian Skeptics (An interesting and accessible read on a variety of things).

    Sources for Scholarly/Peer Reviewed/Academic journals:
    (Fortigurn) Directory of Open Access Journals
    (Fortigurn) List of journals available free online
    (Fortigurn) Scholarly Exchange
    Ulrichs Periodicals Directory (A database of peer reviewed papers, you'll need a subscription to access it, libraries are your best bet...)

    Climate Sciences:
    (Fortigurn) Skeptical Science (FAQ)

    Evolution:
    (Fortigurn) TalkOrigins (FAQ)

    Religion:
    (Fortigurn) JANES (Journal of Ancient Near East Studies, useful for archaeological information)
    (Fortigurn) Quodlibet (Christian journal on Biblical interpretation, theology, science, and social issues)
    (Fortigurn) JASA (extremely useful journal on the interaction between science and the Bible, written by Christians, many of whom have scientific training)
    (Fortigurn) iTanakh and The New Testament Gateway (...undergraduate level or higher, for the study of the Old Testament and New Testament/Christian origins, respectively).
    (Fortigurn) Evangelical Textual Criticism (Members only forum)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 2, 2013
  2. Foliage

    Foliage Member

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    Perform a meta study on all the topics you want then you will have a reliable source of information. In all seriousness though you can never be 100% sure, just try and find at least 3 sources claiming the same thing individually, eg not 3 sources quoting the same scientists.
     
  3. Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    This is what 'peer review' is all about, and why peer reviewed sources should be the first place you look (not just Google). This brief animated guide explains what a scholarly journal is, and how to identify them.

    Here are some links to lists or collections of free online scholarly journals:

    * Directory of Open Access Journals
    * List of journals available free online
    * Scholarly Exchange

    As you indicate, popular but contentious subjects (such as evolution and global warming), require a good background knowledge obtained from reliable sources. Without endorsing all of the statements on the following sites, I recommend these two in particular for accurate information on evolution and global warming:

    * Global warming: Skeptical Science (FAQ)
    * Evolution: TalkOrigins (FAQ)

    Well you did say 'any given topic', and 'I don't actually care about what topic', and 'anything', so here we go. These are some of the sources I use regularly when researching religious topics. This is why my posts on this topic in this forum constitute 'informed comment', whereas the vast majority of posts on this topic in this forum constitute 'uninformed personal opinion':

    * JANES (Journal of Ancient Near East Studies, useful for archaeological information)
    * Quodlibet (Christian journal on Biblical interpretation, theology, science, and social issues)
    * JASA (extremely useful journal on the interaction between science and the Bible, written by Christians, many of whom have scientific training)
    * iTanakh and The New Testament Gateway (two online resources aimed at providing material at an undergraduate level or higher for the study of the Old Testament and New Testament/Christian origins, respectively)

    I have a colossal collection of standard scholarly works (including lexicons, histories, encyclopedias, dictionaries, journals, and textual commentaries), in electronic form, but since they are modules for this software application I can't link to them. I can list a few of them.

    The following are journals I own which are useful for research on a range of topics relevant to the Bible and religion. Almost all of them are peer reviewed (I also own a smaller collection of non-peer reviewed journals).

    * The Bible and Critical Theory, 2004-2009 (ISSN 1832-3391)
    * Bible and Spade, 1972-2000 (ISSN 1079-6959)
    * The Bible Translator. Technical Papers, 1950-2008 (ISSN 0260-0935)
    * Biblical Archaeology Review, 1975-2005 (ISSN 0098-9444)
    * Bibliotheca Sacra, 1934-2005 (ISSN 0006-1921)
    * Bulletin for Biblical Research, 1991-2008 (ISSN 1065-223X)
    * Journal for Christian Theological Research, 1996-2007 (ISSN 1087-1624)
    * Journal for the Renewal of Religion and Theology, 2006-2009 (ISSN 1834-3627)
    * Journal of Biblical Studies, 2001-2006 (ISSN 1534-3057)
    * Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, 1996-2009 (ISSN 1203-1542)
    * Journal of Late Antique Religion and Culture, 2007-2008 (ISSN 1754-517X)
    * Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality, 2007-2009 (ISSN 1177-2484)
    * Journal of Ministry and Theology, 1997 (ISSN 1092-9525)
    * Journal of Philosophy & Scripture, 2003-2008 (ISSN 1555-5100)
    * Journal of Religion and Society, 1999-2009 (ISSN 1522-5658)
    * Lectio Difficilior, 2000-2008 (ISSN 1661-3317)
    * The Saint Anselm Journal, 2003-2008 (ISSN 1545-3367)
    * Semeia Studies, 1974-2002 (ISSN 1567-200X)
    * Society of Christian Ethics Journal, 1975-2009 (ISSN 1540-7942)
    * T C: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1996-2009 (ISSN 1089-7747)
    *Trinity Journal, 1980-2004 (ISSN 0360-3032)

    Textual criticism (the study of the textual context of the Bible, rather than what it means), is a hotly debated issue, concerning which most people are almost completely ignorant. On this topic I would recommend the site Evangelical Textual Criticism. It's a 'forum for people with knowledge of the Bible in its original languages to discuss its manuscripts and textual history from the perspective of historic evangelical theology'. It is not an amateur blog (membership is by application only, restricted to evangelicals actively involved in textual criticism). Two main figures responsible are Peter Head and Tommy Wasserman.

    Examples of the material which is featured in ETC include:


    Although written by and for academic textual critics, it is not entirely inaccessible. The book reviews are in fact quite useful, as are the pointers to upcoming scholarly papers.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 4, 2013
  4. OP
    OP
    neutralizer

    neutralizer Member

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    That's an excellent contribution there Fortigurn, thank you :thumbup:.

    One of the general education courses I did was about the differences and, ah, similarities, between science and religion. That was a particularly hard course to find good references for. Shame I didn't ask for this information about 3 years ago ;)

    It's probably somewhat heinous to true academics but I've always considered the articles in Scientific American to be of a high standard. Sure there not a peer reviewed paper but its always been a good starting point for me when trying to get my head around a new concept that I know nothing about.

    So if you need a starting point, and know nothing about what you are trying to learn this often one good port of call:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009
  5. Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    Welcome. I might as well place here an introduction online searching I once wrote for another forum. Information literacy basics.

    Google and Wikipedia

    Let's get these two out of the way right from the start. Google is the best search engine out there, and Wikipedia is a very useful starting point when you're looking for an overview and looking for leads. However, both of them have their limitations.

    Google, as a search tool, is only as effective as the skill of the user wielding it. It's not an exaggeration to say that many people don't know how to use search engines effectively. At the libraries in Australia where I used to work, we ran information literacy training programs specifically for this reason. Using Google effectively requires a clear idea of what you're looking for, a good understanding of the search terms you'll need to find it, and some knowledge of how to evaluate your results. The first of these is dependent on you knowing at least something useful about your subject. The second is all about using alternative search terms, thinking of synonyms for the key information you're after, and generally constructing intelligent search strings. There's plenty I could write on this, but why bother when others have already expressed it so well?

    The third point is arguably the most important, and it's where so many go wrong. Evaluating your results with care is critical. A good result is not simply a source which says what you hoped to find. Who was the author? What are their credentials? Is the site credible? Is the information verifiable? Is it up to date? Does it cite reliable sources, such as the relevant scholarly literature? Are there other sites which say the same? Simply put, can you be certain of what you have found?

    What to look for:

    * Sites belonging to academic institutions
    * Scholarly articles
    * Well known or peer reviewed authors
    * Articulate and objective writing

    This is why instead of using Google, you should use Google Scholar. Go here to understand the difference between the two.

    Now let's move on to Wikipedia. I'm sure we're all aware that its greatest weakness is the fact that anyone can edit articles, and there is little to no oversight of article content. On theory there are guidelines to keep articles accurate and encourage the use of academic reference sources, but in reality these are frequently ignored. Using Google is like using a spade to search through a huge mine. Looking through Wikipedia is more like digging in a minefield.

    However, keeping in mind the weaknesses of Wikipedia, you can use it to your advantage. Once you're aware that verifiability is the key issue with Wikipedia content, you can evaluate article content for yourself. Look for statements which are properly referenced. Is the content supported by citations and quotes from reliable sources? Are the references verifiable? Is there anything in the article (perhaps in the 'Further reading' section, or 'External links'), which could direct you to useful reliable sources for further investigation of the subject? Check the article tags. Is the neutrality is the article under dispute? Check the article's Talk page. Who is editing the article regularly, and are there any content disputes? Treat Wikipedia as a resource for providing you with a general overview and a starting point for your own research, pointing you in the direction of more detailed and reliable academic sources.

    Specialization

    Right, now they're out of the way we can move to the next point, which is that you shouldn't start with either of them in the first place. Google and Wikipedia are tools you use when you don't know where to find the information you need. Research is always a lot more efficient when you already know where to look. Before you search, think about which tool is best to use.

    Specialization is your ally. Looking for information on medieval history? Don't go searching randomly on Google, go straight to a site which specializes in information on medieval history. Looking for a work written by a particular ancient Christian author? You could look up the author in Wikipedia, read the article, see if it mentions the work or contains any links to further information on it, or perhaps even a link to an online copy of the work itself. Or you could go straight to a site specializing in the writings of the early Christians, and which conveniently lists them all in one place for you to browse online or even download to your own hard drive. Another such site may contain a list of early Christian works with information on each. And oh, look, here's one on early Jewish writings.

    For other works on a range of subjects 'in between', look to the 'Sacred Texts' site. Sure, it has a lot of nonsense on it, but it has some incredibly useful materials on historical interpretations of witchcraft, satan and demons, Biblical commentary, philosophy, history, you name it. All full text, searchable, copy/pastable, downloadable. Consider purchasing the entire lot on DVD (US$99.95). It has a lot of material which slips through the cracks and isn't found on other sites.

    Ideally, you would build up a list of reliable sites on a range of key research subjects, which you have bookmarked for future reference. Visit them first when investigating a subject.

    Google Books & Internet Archive

    My personal view is that you're always better off with information sitting on your own hard drive than having to look for it online, or having to revisit a Website. Wherever possible, download what you find onto your hard drive in some way. If you have Adobe Acrobat (or one of the many cheap or free alternatives), you can save Web pages as PDF files, bundling all of the content into one convenient file. You can use this to download entire directories, or even entire sites (though be aware of copyright and redistribution restrictions). If nothing else, you can save a Web page using your browser ('file - save as').

    The best sites are those which contain good quality, pre-indexed, copyright free, and conveniently downloadable content, for free. My two personal favourites are Google Books (contains copyrighted material also), and the Internet Archive. Both of them hold a staggering number of free books in PDF format on Google Books, and in a range of formats on the Intent Archive (including PDF and Djvu format).

    Google Books has the largest collection, but includes a lot of material which is under copyright. Your access to these materials is limited. You're able to view a certain percentage of the contents of each book, but not all of it, and you aren't able to download it. But there's a huge collection of books which are not under copyright, and you are free to view their entire contents online, or download them directly to your hard drive in PDF format. I strongly recommend the latter.

    While viewing books online at Google Books, you have the opportunity to make searches on the text of the book, and even view an OCR of the book to copy/paste text (though the quality is not always very good, and may contain many textual errors). However, once you have downloaded the work as a PDF file, you will find that the content is all in image format, and none of the text can be searched, copied, or pasted. You can run it through an OCR program which reads PDF files if you want to convert it to full text format.

    The collection at the Internet Archive is smaller, but it's the site I visit first out of these two because all of its texts are copyright free, all of them can be downloaded in full, and almost all of them are available in Djvu format, which means the files are smaller and the text can be searched, copied, or pasted. This is a tremendous advantage.

    Content from both sites typically dates no earlier than the 18th century, and even then you'll be lucky to find works that old. Due to the length of copyright, freely and fully available books are typically dated no later than 1950, with few exceptions. Both sites index all their files, and provide a robust search engine which you can use to locate files you want. However, the search engines don't always return reliable results, and you may have to make a couple of different searches to find that you want.

    Because I prefer files in Djvu format, I'll start by searching the Internet Archive. If I know the name of the book I'm looking for, I'll type the book title in the search bar, hit the drop down menu to restrict results to texts (as opposed to multimedia), and hit search. If I don't find what I'm looking for I'll repeat the search, putting the author's surname in front of the book title. If I still don't find what I'm looking for I'll repeat the search using the author's full name, and omitting the book title.

    The Internet Archive will display (along with search results), the names of the authors of works the search lists. The author names are hyperlinked, so if you see an author you're looking for you can hit that link and it will run a new search using that author, in the name format under which the name has been catalogued, and will display all works catalogued under that name in that format. I typically run this search when I have made an author search and still not found what I was looking for.

    All these multiple searches may seem redundant, but in fact they're extremely important. Whether you're using the Internet Archive or Google Books, you're using a database which relies heavily on volunteer work carried out by non-professionals. The guidelines, checks, and balances for Google Books are higher than those for the Internet Archive, but in both cases you are searching databases which are full of cataloguing entries of uneven quality. As an information professional and former library cataloger, I know better than to trust at first sight the search results returned from such a database.

    Sometimes an author's name may have been entered incorrectly, or formatted in a manner different to the way it was formatted in other records of works belonging to the same author (this is more often the case with the Internet Archive than with Google Books). Sometimes the title information may be incomplete, or contain a spelling error, or be inconsistently capitalized. For all of these reasons, multiple searches using different search parameters are a good idea.

    If I don't find what I'm looking for on the Internet Archive, I'll go to Google Books. I always use the advanced search options (bookmark this page). When I'm conducting my research into historic exposition of prophecy, I am typically looking for works written before 1900 and I want to download them in full to my hard drive. So if I'm searching Google Books I will restrict the date field to no later than 1900, and I will click on the setting which says 'full' for books which are available in full for complete download.

    If I have a specific work in mind, I will search for the title in the title field. If I just have an author in mind, I'll use the author search. Sometimes the number of works belonging to one author will be very long, and I don't want to look through them all so I'll go back and refine my search by using the author's name and a keyword in the 'keyword' field.

    If I don't find anything using a title search, I'll search again using the author's name instead. If I still don't find anything, I'll use a combination of an author and keyword search. If I still don't find anything I'll empty the author field and type in a phrase I know to be in the book.

    Is after all that I still don't find anything, I simply go to the main Google search engine (not Google Books), and enter the author's full name followed by the book title. It's surprising how many times this results in a link to Google Books, displaying the full copy of the work I wanted but couldn't find using the Google Book search. Alternatively, I sometimes end up with a link to a completely different site carrying a full copy of the work in some format or other. Of course sometimes I still end up with nothing, which is just bad luck.

    So that's Google Books and the Internet Archive. There are other free full text sites (such as Project Gutenburg), but they aren't as large or as convenient as these two. Bear in mind that the Internet Archive takes works from Project Gutenburg anyway, so if you're using the Internet Archive you have both sites covered. The Internet Archive also takes free works from Google Books, but it isn't updated as frequently or systematically as Google Books, so you'll sometimes find a work on Google Books which hasn't made it over to the Internet Archive yet, which is why it's a good idea to check them both. Between these two resources you'll be able to build quite a collection of research material on your hard drive.

    Subscription services

    Thus far I've dealt with what you can find freely available using your own desktop and Internet connection. There are other avenues. When you want to really get stuck into a subject, you want to use contemporary peer reviewed scholarly literature. That isn't easy, because it typically costs money.

    But you can access them for free through your local public library or your university library (if you are enrolled or have access to a university library). Such libraries typically pay thousands of dollars a year to subscription services providing huge collections of scholarly journals and literature. Some useful services which may be provided by your local public library or your university library:

    * JSTOR: The academic heavyweight. This is your one stop shop for the latest scholarly literature on a staggering array of subjects. Articles are available in full text, you can download them in full to your hard drive in PDF format, and it contains journals which date well back into the 19th century. An absolute powerhouse. I have spent hours there.

    * Questia: Large database of indexed scholarly material in full text

    * Elsevier: Massive collection of scholarly journals published by Elsevier

    * ProQuest: Huge electronic database of full text scholarly journals and other publications on a very wide range of subjects
     
  6. Autti

    Autti Member

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    Dammit Fortigurn beat me to it, i was just going to say JSTOR hahah.

    In terms of conflicting 'evidence' though for things like climate change, most of it is due to human error. I've looked at a lot of economic data from authors supporting a position and i have debunked many from simple miscalculations with their statistical evidence. Also data is only so good and requires statistical interpretation, which can vary greatly. Of course their is only one truth to the climate change and global warming theory, but deciding which is right is very hard as both sides have compelling evidence.

    Credibility is easily assessed though, the author should reference, evidence should be falsifiable, he shouldn't assert data or statistics as truth but as an interpretation and that the data reflects such valid assertions. Once you start trolling through thousands of pages of analysis and statistics and interpretation you just generally get the hand of it.
     
  7. Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    Sorry mate. :p The rest of what you said is spot on. That's what the peer review process is for, and that's why people need to understand what the word 'consensus' actually means. hlokk, I hope you start reading this thread, then perhaps you'll stop making ad hoc unsubstantiated criticisms of scholarly peer reviewed literature.

    neutralizer, how about the Internet Medieval Sourcebook? It's a very large collection of primary and secondary source material for the medieval era. It's authoritative because it is the source material is selected by two professional historians, and the primary source material has been verified. More information here. Specially useful for people arguing over the crusades, 'Dark Ages', or medieval legislation.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2009
  8. puterz_r_4geekz

    puterz_r_4geekz Member

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    For reliable information look to good journals and don't bother with media or government sourced information.

    In regards to climate change, most of the 'for' articles that the media and governments use are written by economists and contain a lot of assumptions with very little real science in them.

    No one debates that climate changes, it's been changing for millions of years...
     
  9. Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    neutralizer, you really should include the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Exhaustive, free, and peer reviewed. World famous, internationally recognized within the scholarly community, and contains information on a broad range of topics well beyond simply philosophy.
     
  10. meeetch

    meeetch Member

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    http://www.khanacademy.org/

    Also, though i'm sure you could debate whether it's completely accurate or not, http://www.ted.com/.
    I'm sure most of you know what TED is, but if you don't its a site that allows you to watch talks on various topics. Topics range from science to religion, business and culture.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2009
  11. Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    * Bad Astronomy for reliable astronomical information
    * Quackwatch for peer reviewed commentary on 'alternative' medical treatments
     
  12. Goth

    Goth Grumpy Member

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    It should be noted that not everything you find through Google Scholar is peer-reviewed and published in a respectable journal.

    I realised a lot about Google Scholar when several articles and essays that I wrote - that haven't been peer-reviewed in any professional sense, other than being published on the Web (but they're still pretty good :) - started appearing in Google Scholar results.
     
  13. Foliage

    Foliage Member

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    Still I'd imagine its well above the normal google standard. I'm sure an article a dyslexic 12 year old with autism wrote would appear in normal google.
     
  14. Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    That's correct, that's why I linked to the Wiki article which explains this. I also provided an earlier link which helps people understand what a peer reviewed journal is, and how to identify them using Ulrich's.
     
  15. OP
    OP
    neutralizer

    neutralizer Member

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    Hi guys,

    I'll update the links in my first post when I get a chance as I've been working like mad on my thesis to get it done. I also discovered when doing that first batch of links that it takes a surprisingly long time to hyper link so many things :Paranoid:

    Again, thanks to people for taking the time to find them in the first place!
    I'll hopefully get around to collating them next week sometime.
     
  16. Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    Thanks for starting this. It should be a sticky here and in CE/SD.
     
  17. kendo

    kendo Member

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    Back in uni I used the Cochrane Collaboration/reviews. As well as NCBI pubmed, and an assortment of the ones already mentioned. What I used to do was actually just search for peer reviewed journals. In the end you have to read the actual articles anyway, you should know if theres something wrong with the methods stats etc etc.
     
  18. OP
    OP
    neutralizer

    neutralizer Member

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    Righto, handed in my thesis and done with uni for the moment (Yes!).

    I'll start sorting this thread out tomorrow.

    For now heres one more source I just stumbled across, leaning more towards 'the facts' on many current social/political issues. I'll give it more of a vetting tomorrow but in theory it should be good.

    Just Facts
    Just Facts: About & Standards
     

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