Encouraging Critical Thinking Online Unit 1 Checking Facts and Gathering Opinions
How many countries are there in the world today? • Find three websites that provide an answer • Fill in the boxes on the worksheet for each of them • Comment on any notable features of the sites or answers you discover
How many countries are there in the world today? • The United Nations has 192 members, plus one permanent observer state, making 193 • However, other possible answers vary from around 189 to over 260 • For example, 204 of the 205 National Olympic Committees were represented at the 2008 Games in Beijing
How many countries are there in the world today? • ‘Country’ has multiple definitions • Infoplease.com suggests countries are “self-governing political entities” • But constituent countries and dependent territories complicate the issue
How many countries are there in the world today? • For example, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are frequently described as countries • The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names supports this • But DirectGov views the UK as one country made up of these four
Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names entry for England http://www.getty.edu/vow/TGNFullDisplay?find=England&place=&nation=&prev_page=1&english=Y&subjectid=7002445 Retrieved 11 August 2008
Extract from DirectGov website http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/LivingintheUK/DG_10012517 Retrieved 11 August 2008
How many countries are there in the world today? • Even with an agreed definition of country, the situation isn’t clear cut • Some regions have declared independence, but this has not been universally recognised – for example Kosovo, Taiwan, and Tibet
How many countries are there in the world today? • Various websites give an overview of the situation • WorldAtlas.com • The Geography Site • About.com: Geography
Extract from WorldAtlas.com http://www.worldatlas.com/nations.htmRetrieved 6 June 2008
Extract from The Geography Site http://www.geography-site.co.uk/pages/countries/howmany.html Retrieved 11 August 2008
How many countries are there in the world today? • The answer changes as the political situation does – but old sources may not be updated • This Ask Yahoo answer is from 2001, but is still on the first page of results for the Google search “How many countries?”
Ask Yahoo’s answer – from 2001, but still on the first page of Google results http://ask.yahoo.com/20010105.html Retrieved 6 June 2008
Summary - key things to note • Definitions of central terms may affect the answer • Even assuming a common definition, opinions may vary • Answers may change over time – but sources may not be updated
Why might we find conflicting answers to a question? • There may be real uncertainty about the answer • Authorities may disagree • There may be multiple ways of interpreting a question
Why might we find conflicting answers to a question? • Some sources may be more up to date than others • Answers may vary in precision • Some sources may simply be wrong
Questions to ask when assessing sources • Who is the author? • An individual or an institution? • What are the author’s credentials? • Is this a scholarly resource, or a more informal one? • How up to date is this source?
Questions to ask when assessing sources • Are there reasons to doubt the reliability of this source? • Does it include information I know to be false? • Does it contradict itself or use poor reasoning? • Is it biased towards a particular view?
Questions to ask when assessing sources • Is the information provided confirmed by other sources? • Are references provided? • Do other websites agree? (A major advantage of the Web is that many sources can be compared quickly and easily.)
Remember the three Ws • WHO wrote this site? • Is the author a trustworthy source? • WHEN was it written? • Is it up to date? • WHY was it written? • Does the author have an axe to grind?
This slideshow is part of Encouraging Critical Thinking Online, a set of free teaching resources designed to develop students’ analytic abilities, using the Web as source material. For the full set, please visit Intute Training:http://www.intute.ac.uk/training/