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3 Pages
English

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Reliable Resources Tutorial Guide: Medical Marijuana In this tutorial you will be considering a biology-related question and the various sources of information that you might consult to find out more about the topic. The goal is to find RELIABLE ation, and that may be more difficult than you might think. This tutorial was constructed by seven professional biologists to help you get started. For the tutorial, use the text below as a guide. Before continuing with this tutorial, be sure you have read the Guide to Reliable Resouces at: http://csm.jmu.edu/biology/hurneyca/reliableresources/index.htm. After doing that, come back here to continue. Instructions As you read this tutorial guide, you’ll be asked to open PDF files (found on Blackboard in the Assignments section), read those files, and then return to the guide. The PDF files are simply copies of real webpages, so the links in the pages will not work. While reading the PDF files, look for bright green comment boxes (small green arrows should appear at the top and/or bottom of the page, indicating there are more boxes above or below your current position in the file). When you see a box, run your mouse over the box to display comments about the page you are reading and instructions (in some cases the text is longer than the box - double click on the box to open it completely). Keep an eye out for yellow highlighted text (run the mouse over it or click on it for definitions) and yellow link ...

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Reliable Resources Tutorial Guide: Medical Marijuana
In this tutorial you will be considering a biology-related question and the various sources of
information that you might consult to find out more about the topic. The goal is to find RELIABLE
information, and that may be more difficult than you might think. This tutorial was constructed by
seven professional biologists to help you get started. For the tutorial, use the text below as a guide.
Before continuing with this tutorial, be sure you have read the Guide to Reliable Resouces at:
http://csm.jmu.edu/biology/hurneyca/reliableresources/index.htm
. After doing that, come back here to
continue.
Instructions
As you read this tutorial guide, you’ll be asked to open PDF files (found on Blackboard in the
Assignments section), read those files, and then return to the guide. The PDF files are simply copies
of real webpages, so the links in the pages will not work. While reading the PDF files, look for bright
green comment boxes (small green arrows should appear at the top and/or bottom of the page,
indicating there are more boxes above or below your current position in the file). When you see a box,
run your mouse over the box to display comments about the page you are reading and instructions (in
some cases the text is longer than the box - double click on the box to open it completely). Keep an
eye out for yellow highlighted text (run the mouse over it or click on it for definitions) and yellow link
boxes (you’ll need to click on them to jump to another page). After reading each file, come back to
this guide to continue.
Where to start? We can start anywhere you might come across a topic that requires some biological
information. We recently read an article on the CNN website that seemed pretty interesting...
Step 1: Open the PDF file named “cnn.pdf”. Read the article and then come back here.
So, the Supreme Court is considering medical marijuana laws. This is just one example of how
science, and biology in particular, can play an important role in our daily lives (especially if you or a
loved one has a disease that could be helped by marijuana). But should marijuana be legalized for
medicinal use? This issue is very contentious and involves a number of ethical, legal, and political
issues. However, at the heart of the matter are some very basic biological questions that must be
answered. First and foremost is “Does marijuana cure or alleviate the symptoms of any illness or
disease?”. The entire debate becomes meaningless if marijuana has been proven not to provide any
medicinal value. If marijuana has been shown to be effective, scientific information is need to answer
a number of other questions such as: “For what illnesses and in what form does marijuana help?”,
“Are there side-effects that need to be considered?”, “Is marijuana addictive?”. We need to answer
those questions, but where in the world do we start??? If you’re like most people, you start with the
internet...
Step 2: Open the PDF file named “google.pdf”. This file shows you what you might turn up on
your first search effort. Read through the PDF file and when you have finished, come back here.
The Google search sure turned up a lot of sites, but it’s going to take some work to sort through it all
to find reliable information. We did just that and, after much more searching and reading of websites,
we came up with two sites from opposite ends of the spectrum on the issue of medical marijuana that
are quite interesting. Let’s check them out...
Step 3: Open the PDF file named “norml.pdf”. NORML is a group advocating for reform of
marijuana laws. Read the NORML file and come back here when you’re done.
Well, the NORML site was interesting, but clearly not a completely reliable source of information.
Let’s check out the other end of the spectrum.
Step 4: Open the PDF file named “DEA.pdf”. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is
responsible for enforcing the laws NORML is trying to change. As a government organization
specializing in drugs, including marijuana, you might expect it to be a reliable source of
information on this topic. One thing to note is that it was the 206
th
site listed on the Google
search we did! (NORML was #35) Let’s find out if the DEA is a reliable source of
information...read the DEA file and come back here.
The DEA site was informative, but clearly not unbiased or completely reliable. Where else can we
look for information?
After quite a bit more searching, including more searches on Google with different search terms, we
stumbled across the Mayo Clinic website. You may have heard of the Mayo Clinic; it’s a medical
research center that generates new information through research and compiles peer-reviewed research
information that it makes available to its own research staff and to the general public.
Step 5: Open the PDF file named “mayo.pdf”. Work your way through the file and come back
here when you’re finished.
The Mayo Clinic website was really helpful and appeared quite reliable. One thing to keep in mind is
that we didn’t find this until quite a bit of searching (a week after we started!). Finding reliable
information is not an easy task and it is going to take quite a bit of work on your part to ensure you are
finding the most reliable information you can get.
There is another option that we haven’t discussed yet...using more specific search engines to find
different types of information. So far we only used a search engine (Google) that searches the internet
in general to find information. We can also go straight to the source of scientific information -
scientific journals. This information will be more technical but, for reasons you will soon see, quite
reliable.
Step 6: Open the PDF file named “journal abstracts.pdf”. One great way to look for detailed
information related to health issues is the PubMed search engine. This search engine specifically
searches in scientific journals. When you are finished with this file, come back here.
So far we have worked our way through a number of sources of information of varying reliability.
However, our search has been pretty limited and it would take quite a bit more work to do a thorough
job on the topic. Now it’s time for you to do a little work.
Refer to the next page for your assignment
.
Assignment
:
Please answer the following questions. Type your answers and indicate your name and ID number at
the top. The assignment is due in class on 17 February.
1. Briefly, what determines the order in which sites are shown after a Google search?
2. The information in the Mayo Clinic website about marijuana and pain relief was pretty reliable, but
it was lacking some information that would have made it even better. What was missing that would
have made it more reliable?
3. Remember that NORML and the DEA both cited the report from the Institute of Medicine (IoM) of
the National Academy of Sciences but they came to conflicting conclusions about what the report said.
That report seems really useful, but we clearly need to check it out for ourselves. Your job is to find
that report and do/answer the following:
a) Is the IoM report a reliable source of information? Explain why or why not. Summarize the
major conclusions from the NORML site, the DEA site and the IoM report. Use the following
format:
NORML
DEA
IoM report
major point 1
major point 2
etc...
major point 1
major point 2
etc...
major point 1
major point 2
etc...
b) So who was right in their interpretation of the IoM report - NORML or DEA (or both)? Why?
4. We haven’t done an exhaustive search for information yet. Your task now is to find 2 more sites
that you consider unreliable and 2 others that you consider reliable. List each site, briefly explain the
major conclusions about medical marijuana, then explain in detail why you considered each site either
unreliable or reliable. For each site, you must indicate the web address (or other relevant information
if it isn’t an internet resource - e.g. for a book include the title, authors, date, publisher). Use the
following format:
Source Name. (http://websiteaddress)
Major conclusions:
conclusion 1
conclusion 2
etc.
Reliability:
This site is [reliable or unreliable] because...
5. Finally, let’s pretend you are a justice on the Supreme Court considering the case of medical
marijuana. What’s your decision? Should medical use of marijuana be legal? This would certainly
require consideration of many issues (ethics, law, politics) in addition to biology, but be sure to
support your decision with the
reliable
biological information you found. Use no more than 300
words.