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ENVR 382: Climate Change Negotiations: Environmental Issue Analysis

Mapping Your Issue

On your concept map, write down your issue (it may be quite broad at this point!) in the center bubble.  Start mapping out what you already know AND what questions you have/what you think you will need to know in order to dig into this topic. As you map it out, pay particular attention to the three areas that you will need to address in your outline:

  • What is the issue? [description]
    • What is taking place, where, rate and scale/significance, cause and extent of the problem
    • Necessary background on relevant environmental, historical, cultural, social, and political context (complexity!)
  • What are the impacts of the problem? [analysis]
    • What policies are currently in place that impact the issue (both positively and negatively)?
    • Who are the stakeholders and what are the impacts on the landscape?
    • This must include a brief profile of at least one organization that is working on the issue and a description of what they are doing
  • What needs to be done better/differently moving forward? [problem-solving]
    • Discuss at least three approaches/policies that would improve this situation, as well as who should undertake them (or continue, if they are already underway)

After you've started thinking through some of the various aspects of your issue, including identifying the stakeholders, consider how you will find and access the conversations happening about the issue that you've chosen. Who do you think are the academic voices in this conversation? What type of researcher is likely to be writing about this issue? Who are the non-academic voices in this conversation? Where can you look to follow THOSE conversations?

Tertiary Sources

Tertiary sources are things like encyclopedias, handbooks, and textbooks, and they generally offer a big picture view of an issue, with lots of context and entry points for further investigation. These kind of sources are super useful but, like all "authoritative" literature, can replicate and work within systems of power and oppression; it's always worth engaging with these sources critically. 

Secondary & Primary Sources

What constitutes a primary source or a secondary source can be different depending on the disciplinary framework being used, but in general, primary sources are closest to the topic being studied, and can include data sets, original scientific research papers, and popular media like newspapers. Secondary sources bring in the author's analysis and interpretation, and can include review articles, scholarly articles in the humanities and some social sciences, and books. 

Grey Literature Etc.

Grey (or gray) literature consists of literature or documents that are not available through the usual bibliographic sources such as databases or indexes.  

Ask yourself: What do I need to know? Who else cares about that, and might be keeping track of that or talking about it? What region am I interested in? What governmental agencies are involved? What NON governmental organizations are involved?  In other words, who would be producing or keeping this information? 

There aren't any specific links here because the information that will be most relevant for you will vary widely depending on what your actual topic is! If you would like to talk through some ideas about how to find this kind of information, please make an appointment with me! 

Eli Gandour-Rood

Click here to make an appointment with your science librarian!

BEAM Framework

BEAM is an acronym intended to us think about the various ways we might use sources when writing a researched argument. Joseph Bizup, an English professor at Boston University, outlined the framework in a 2008 article. The idea has since been refined and adapted by many others.

Let's take a look at a scholarly article and try to analyze the citations that appear in the first two pages. Which ones might be considered background sources? Which ones might be exhibit or argument sources? Which are method sources? 

DeMotts, R., & Hoon, P. (2012). Whose elephants? Conserving, compensating, and competing in Northern Botswana. Society & Natural Resources25(9), 837-851.