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Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Construction Management

This research guide was designed to introduce you to the field of civil engineering and construction management. You'll find books, article databases, and other resources you need to start your research.

What is a popular source?

Imagine the types of magazines and newspapers that you would find at a bookstore or in the grocery store.We refer to these types of sources as "popular sources;" they are geared to reach a more general audience and written in non-technical language.

Any source that's likely to be of interest to a lot of people, not just other experts or scholars is a popular source. A popular source could be a book, website, newspaper article, or magazine article. 

There is some overlap between popular sources and credible sources. However, there are no popular sources that we would consider to be scholarly. The audiences for those sources are completely different, which is why they don't overlap.

A few examples of popular sources:

  • The New York Times
  • Time
  • Popular Science
  • National Geographic
  • Scientific America

 

Finding Popular Sources

Search and browse the following popular science resources to locate an article. You might also try Google News

Browsing vs. Searching

You can either browse by topic or search by keyword on each of the above sites. You may find it helpful to browse within a specific area (i.e. indoor air quality). If you have a general idea for a topic, you can perform a site search using the embedded search box on the websites themselves.

Alternatively, you can use Google to search within a particular site by using the "site limiter" function. For example, if I wanted to search for articles on air quality control in Discover magazine, I could type the following into Google:

"indoor air quality" site:discovermagazine.com

Remember that you can use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase.

Possible Keywords to Search

Looking for some keywords to use in your search? Think about topics that you have discussed in class. For example, if you have been discussing environmental changes and air quality, try to think about different aspects of this topic. Have you discussed a particular technology? A particular problem, such as pollution? Use what you are learning in class as a guide for coming up with keywords and topics to use in your search.

  • "indoor air quality " AND technology 
  • Bag Filters, Electrostatic Precipitators, Cyclones
  • "air pollutant" AND removal AND Indoors
  • "indoor air quality" OR "indoor air pollution"  
  • "air quality" AND home
  • "air quality" AND office
  • "indoor air quality" AND workplace 

Evaluating News Articles

Since newspapers are not scholarly or peer-reviewed, you need to be more wary about the quality of this source and check the article for signs of credibility. Not all news sources are reliable or trustworthy. Many companies claim to be news sources but are really entertainment or gossip blogs, websites, or tabloids.

As a researcher and personal consumer of news, it is your responsibility to evaluate the news sources you use and share.


When reading a news article, consider the following.

  1. What kind of article are you looking at? Is it a news story, an editorial, an opinion piece, or an advertisement?
    • A news story is a factual story about a person, place or event answering these five questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. A news story is written in a style which contains the most important information first and additional details later. These are the articles you want to use.
    • An editorial is a brief article written by an editor that expresses a newspaper's or publishing house's own views and policies on a current issue. If written by an outsider it normally carries a disclaimer saying the article does not necessarily reflects the publisher's official views.
    • An opinion piece is an article in which the writer expresses their personal opinion, typically one which is controversial or provocative, about a particular issue or item of news.
    • An advertisement is a paid, public communication about causes, goods, services, ideas, organizations, people, or places designed to inform or motivate. Look for the word "sponsored" somewhere around the article - these can be very sneaky!
  2. Why was the article written? To sell something, to inform, or to manipulate your emotions?
    • Many unreliable news sources sensationalize an article's headline or lead to gain clicks.
    • Find out information about the author: are they a reputable journalist?
    • As you read, check your emotions and see if the article is trying to sway you one way or another.
  3. Has the story answered the questions of Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?
    • What is unknown, unanswered, or unclear?  Many breaking stories are incomplete or inaccurate due to deadlines and the 24hr news cycle. Check to see if the article has been updated with new information (this is usually found at the end of the article).
  4. What kind of sources are cited in the article? Are they reliable? How do you know?
    • A source is the person, report, or data being quoted in an article. Sources can be named or unnamed. Multiple or single. Credentialed or not. Close to the event/issue or not.
    • Does the author of the article say, "Experts claim XYZ" without telling you who those experts are and when/where they made those claims? That might be a flag that the article isn't completely credible.
    • Named, multiple, credentialed, close sources are preferred. When looking at reports or data as a source, be sure to look at the producer of the information. Do they have a stake in the event or issue that could make the report or data biased? Are they experts? Do a Google search to find out more information.
  5. What evidence supports the main point of the story? How was it verified? 
    • Evidence is not the same as a source. Evidence is the proof a source offers. Evidence that is verified has been checked and corroborated via a stated method of verification. 
    • Do a background check and try to find where the evidence came from. Get as much information as you can from the news article. Do you have enough information to find the original research article (if there is one)? 
  6. Does the news source make their work transparent? Does the paper have a code of ethics?
    • Finding out what influence different departments have or don't have on each other should be easy if it is a reputable source. A code of ethics, standards, or guidebook should be associated with the news source and easy to find. Potential conflicts of interest or known associations should be stated up front in an article. Funding and ownership of the media production should be publicly available.