TITLE: The Whyfiles

ACCESS: http://whyfiles.news.wisc.edu/index.html

At first glance this site appears to be both limited in its coverage, and geared towards a young audience. The initial pages are sparse, containing only "teasers" of stories. The graphics are small and clean. After a few clicks, you'll realize there is actually quite a bit of information here after all, but it still appears to be geared towards the high-school crowd. The articles are on current topics, but the writing certainly isn't dry and academic. Soon however, you've gone through about 7 screens worth of information about El Nino, and you realize that a) you enjoyed reading this article more than any others you can recall on the subject, and b) you actually learned something. Quite a bit in fact!

The theme of this site is "science behind the news", and the (at review-time) 75 articles currently posted certainly run the gamut. Included are articles on forensic science, spinal cord repair, volcanoes, and sandcastle science. A particularly interesting article dealt with grief, with the lead-in in asking, "When Diana died, why

did millions mourn?"

The opening page contains only two articles, one current, and one two weeks old. There is a search option, and a link to the archives, where older stories are arranged according to the following categories: Biology, Environmental Science, Health, Physical Science, Social Science, Sports, and Technology.

The Whyfiles are published by the National Institute for Science Education and funded by the National Science Foundation. According to the information page, "the NISE is a collaborative effort to ensure that all students who leave the educational system can make informed decisions about science, mathematics, engineering and technology." While the implication is that this information is geared towards students at a pre-college level, the easy-to-read style of writing and selection of current topics should easily appeal to the undergraduate student as well.

The site does a good job of staying fresh - every article has a different background and graphics theme. Some articles are only a page in length, while others are quite lengthy. There is also a section for an online forum - basically web-based discussion groups.

After spending some time exploring this site my opinion of it changed considerably. I came to appreciate the non-technical writing style and the simple interface. I learned a lot. I'll bet your students will too.

Paul Pival
Document Delivery Librarian
Nova Southeastern University

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