Selecting the Sources
A major phase of the research project for the Case of Plastics is over. All of the sources that will be provided to students have been selected and assigned to the characters in the game. Finding the right sources required several shifts in direction as the project itself changed over time.
In the early phases of the research process, I compiled primary sources that illuminated aspects of the history of plastics. I also located research reports that reflected current trends in the investigation of plastics. As our game took shape, it became clear that we needed different sources than those I had first found. We needed pithier sources that conveyed a broad range of information in a short space. These materials also needed to be accessible to a general audience.
The sources that best met these criteria proved to be journalists’ reports on original scientific studies. Using these sources worried me a bit as the quality of journalistic reporting on scientific studies can be somewhat uneven. However, I worked to choose sources that clearly convey the findings of researchers while maintaining appreciation for the scientific rigor of the original research.
The process of selection was hardly straightforward. In an earlier blog post on the research process, I used John Tierney’s memorable anti-recycling New York Times op-ed called “Recycling is Garbage” as an example of a source that I had flagged for inclusion in the project. I was certain that I would find the right way to include it in the game, but other sources proved more useful because of their point of view and their more explicit attention to plastics. Tierney’s article is not a part of The Case of Plastics.
Finally, information about plastics is flowing at an amazing rate. I was surprised to find that several of the sources I selected were generated after the Conflicts in Chemistry project began less than a year ago. It’s nice to be working on a topic of such immediate and widespread concern!