Biology 100 Paper Research Guide


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Primary resources --peer reviewed articles written by authors who actually performed an original experiment or are reporting their field observations, i.e., of organisms or medical patients; comprises main body of scientific information and knowledge; found by searching journal article databases for references

Secondary resources --peer reviewed articles written by authors who summarize or discuss trends in the primary literature; found by searching journal article databases for references

Tertiary resources --non-peer reviewed articles, books, newspaper articles, encyclopedia entries, etc.; found by searching the Internet, the library catalog, and some databases

NOTE: The resource CQ Researcher is a tertiary resource. CQ Researcher is equivalent to an encyclopedia--you can find reliable background information in the entries, which are written by experienced journalists. However, the articles are not peer-reviewed and they do not report on research, so they are tertiary resources.

Peer review --process by which articles are submitted to experts in the scientific discipline for comments and criticism before publication in a scholarly journal; peer reviewed journals are also called "refereed" How to tell if a journal is peer reviewed

Scholarly journal --journal that publishes mostly scientific, primary articles; exists to disseminate knowledge (examples: Science, Nature, Cell, Ecology)

Trade journal --journal or magazine that publishes mostly non-peer reviewed articles and frequently contains advertisements; exists to make money (examples: Science News, National Geographic, Time)

Library catalog --a searchable database that includes records representing every item in the library, including books, journals, CDs, DVDs, maps, manuscripts, and microforms

Journal article databases (also called periodical indexes) --electronically searchable sources that provide reference information to articles published in hundreds and thousands of mostly scholarly journals; most databases include an abstract (summary of the article) and some provide links to the full text of the articles; science databases index mostly primary and secondary resources

Periodicals Room --area on the north side of the second floor of the Harold B. Lee Library in which the print copies of most journals and other serial publications are shelved

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How to Find Articles

1. Focus your research topic

The topic of autoimmunity is quite broad, and you may want to focus on a mechanism or therapy for a specific disease. Your TA will be able to advise you.

You may want to browse the following sources for ideas. The books are on reserve at the Science Reference desk (on level 2, by the big globe) for 2-hr checkout:

2. Search databases to find article citations and abstracts

MEDLINE (EBSCO) -- a database of medical literature, which includes the pre-clinical sciences (NOTE: Medline is particularly useful because you can limit to secondary sources only. Enter your search terms, then check the box for "Review Articles" down under the "Refine Search" tab and click search.)

Search techniques

3. Determine if the journal is peer reviewed

4. Find the full article

Once you have found article citations and/or abstracts in the databases, you need to find the full article, either online or in print journals in the library.

If the database does not include the full text, look for the orange "Locate Item" button in the database, usually near the article citation. Show me how!

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How to Tell the Difference between Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Primary Literature

Secondary Literature

Tertiary Literature

Title states results or conclusions; often uses technical terminology

Title often includes words like "trends," "history," and "insights"; often easier to understand

Titles vary widely; often use non-technical language

Abstract includes experimental or observational conditions and a summary of the results

Often in review publications, like the Annual Review of Cell Biology

In a variety of publications and formats including: newspapers, magazines, websites, and most books

Often has the following sections: Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion, and a substantial bibliography or reference list

Extensive reference lists

No bibliography or only a few references

Peer reviewed

Peer reviewed

NOT peer reviewed

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How to Get Help

Science/Maps Reference Desk--HBLL Level 2;; 422-2987. Come get help from librarians and student assistants (Hours: Mon-Thurs 8 am-9 pm; Fri 8 am-6 pm; Sat 10 am-6 pm)

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Assignment Information

Term Research Paper assignment from the Biology 100 site

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