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GEOS 4301 Senior Seminar

Land Use, Geology, and the Environment

Media Scan Assignment 2013

Basic Strategy

Completing a media scan on a topic is like going shopping: the good stuff is where you find it, and never all in one place. You may not find the things you set out looking for, and you may come across great items you hadn't expected. 

Following these steps will help you cover all bases:

1) Google it. An open web search is a great place to start. For each relevant result, first note the source and the date. Then read the first two or three promising results, looking for potential alternate keywords and search terms. Simultaneaously keep your eye out for mentions of bigger fish: titles or (sometimes quoted) references to reports, studies, articles, media, etc. 

2) Newspaper Databases. Since news older than six months is often absent of for-fee on the web, use a library news database (see left) to scour local, regional, and national papers. Try all the keywords and search terms you turned up in step 1. Look for words like "upcoming" or mentions of future actions and events ('upcoming zoning meeting'), and try and put your news articles in chronological order, matching articles with meetings, actions, and events mentioned in other articles. 

3) OneSearch. Since much trade literature and popular magazine coverage is unavailable for free on the web, use Library OneSearch to find articles, interviews, and announcements from environment magazines, land use/development trade publications and newsletters, and regional magazines. 

4) Environmental Studies Databases. Once you're comfortable with topic-specific background knowledge, jargon, and stakeholders it becomes much easier to evaluate search results in the scholarly literature and place articles and studies in the context of your topic and the people, organizations, and phenomena involved. 

General advice: Once a specific place and other key terms, constituents, etc., are identified (e.g., Hunter’s Point Shipyard in San Francisco, CA), use proper names as key words (e.g., “Hunter’s Point Shipyard,” “Lennar Developers”) to find all available articles on this topic. Also, make note of any references to previous articles (“as reported in SAEN on Jan. 23, 2010”), documents ( e.g., “former Mayor Phil Hardberger's sustainability plan”) , and publications which will help inform your understanding of the topic.

 

Vocabulary

It's a good idea to keep a list of key nouns, place names, variations on project titles (if they have changed over time), individuals' and companies' names associated with the project, city, county, state and federal agencies, HOA's, non-profits, trade associations, documents (strategic plans, reports and studies commissioned from outside consultants, etc.) and use these as key words in your searches as well, in order to build a fairly comprehensive contextual picture of the project. Many related documents will be online for you to find, and many will not, but a simple phone call to a local office can often get you a lead on where to obtain a copy. If a fee or purchase cost is involved, contact Jeremy, and we can use library funds to obtain a copy for the library collection and for your immediate use.