Safety of Nuclear Power Research
Present both sides of your controversy and then identify the scientific and pseudoscientific sides of both the supporting and opposing side of the controversy. The point of the paper is to get you to think skeptically about both sides. I want you to demonstrate that you have learned (hopefully) how to evaluate a scientific argument and determine whether the science is sound, or whether there is some pseudoscience creeping in.
Research. The next step is researching the topic and gathering information on both sides of the controversy. The internet is a great place to start, but the key will be finding reputable sources. Websites alone are NOT reputable sources (anyone can put up a website). They should cite a book, a newspaper article, a published scientific paper, etc. If they don’t, that’s generally a clue that it may not be a reputable source and you may want to look elsewhere. You will need to cite your arguments and you cannot use a website as the citation. Generally, the best citations are primary sources. This can include newspaper articles, books, photographs/drawings/posters, and perhaps, most importantly for this class, primary literature. Primary literature are scientific papers that have been through peer review. This means that the authors wrote the article, sent it to the journal, the editor of the journal sent the article to 2-3 other scientists who provide anonymous reviews and decide whether the study was conducted to the highest degree and should be published. The reviewer’s job is to make sure only reasonable results that are supported by the data get published. This is the way that we can be sure that the primary literature contains defensible and reliable science.
Some popular literature can serve as a reliable source to find primary literature. Popular literature is not peer-reviewed, but generally, the topic has been researched extensively and (hopefully) rigorously and there should be citations to the primary literature. But be careful, not all popular literature is reliable. If the source has a print version that is widely distributed this is an indication that it’s probably reputable. Examples of this would be: National Geographic, Scientific American, and Wired. If there is no print version or has a limited subscriber base you may want to look elsewhere.
As much as you can you should cite primary literature (especially for your scientific arguments). You can cite popular literature but there should be some reference to the primary source that the popular article used.
A great place to find scientific, peer-reviewed literature is PubMed. This is curated by the National Institutes of Health and contains citations and links to scientific papers. Please note that resources like bioRxiv and medRxiv are NOT acceptable as scientific-based literature. These are repositories for manuscripts that have not been through peer-review and therefore the validity of the experimental design, results, and interpretation cannot be confirmed. However, these papers may provide useful references to papers that have been peer-reviewed and published and therefore would be acceptable.