Finding Primary Articles
Scientists who are writing up their research to share with other scientists submit their work in peer-reviewed journals. Sometimes older issues of these journals can be found for free online, but many of them can only be obtained for a fee - or through a library. The databases below provide a better way to find a good range of primary articles than general web search engines provide.
How can you tell if an article is primary? Check to see if it reports original research (and isn't just reviewing research others have done), that the methodology is described, and that references to related research are included. To see what a primary article looks like, see North Carolina State University's "Anatomy of Scholarly Article."
- Google Scholar
This search engine points toward scholarly research rather than all Web-based sources. It is stronger in the sciences than in the humanities, with social sciences somewhere in between. One interesting feature of Google Scholar is that in includes a link to sources that cite a particular item. If you are using Google Scholar on campus, you will find articles available through the library's subscription databases linked. To view these links when searching off campus, use our Google Scholar Off Campus Link. Not all of the articles in Google Scholar are free; the library can obtain many of them for you through interlibrary loan.
- Web of Science (Web of Knowledge)
Also called the Science Citation Index, this database covers all the sciences and lets you seek out recent articles that have cited a particular researcher's work. Coverage is from 1997 to the present. The contents of this database are pretty awesome, though the interface is a little daunting.
Search our catalog from the library's main page, or search catalogs elsewhere by using Worldcat. Most libraries do not collect textbooks, but may have specialized books by scientists that help explore important concepts. Though new research is generally reported in articles, a scholarly book may provide context and an overview that is helpful in your research.
A place to search for books that are at the University of Minnesota or elsewhere. Use the "find it" button to request through interlibrary loan.
1000 CE-present; updated daily
While CSA Biological Sciences will locate more primary research articles than what you can find freely available on the Web, these sites may be of interest.
A search engine for science web sites and journal articles (which may not be available for free).
Using RefWorks or other citation managers
- Tree of Life
A multi-authored Internet project containing information about phylogeny and biodiversity.
You might notice that in the Biological Sciences database there's an option to export your references to RefWorks. This is a citation management program you can use to store and reformat references. For example, you can select references in Biological Sciences, send them to your RefWorks account, and then later have them printed out in the format used by a science journal of your choice. These references will be stored in your account as long as you like, even after you graduate.
Other options include EndNote Web, a stripped down version of EndNote, a powerful but pricey citation management program, and Zotero, which is free but has fewer science formats. Many scientists are using Mendeley, which is a citation manager combined with a social network.
Though being able to print out formatted citations is nifty, the real benefit of these programs is that you can save and retrieve citations that you have found useful over time. You get to build and organize your own personal database of sources. For scientists, keeping track of publications relevant to their research program is incredibly helpful. If you're planning on a career in science, it may be worth investing some time learning how to use one of these programs.
- When you export references for the first time, you need to set up a personal account from a computer on the campus network.
- Later, use your username and password to log in and use the system to sort out your references, import or add references, add notes if you want, and then export in whatever citation format you prefer.
- To send references to your RefWorks account from a CSA database, mark the references you want to save, then click on "save to RefWorks."
- To send references from Web of Science, mark those you want to save, then click on "marked list" then "export to reference software." Save that file, then open Refworks, click on "import," browse to find the file you saved and click "import" at the bottom of the screen.
- You can then move them from the "last imported" file into a folder of your choosing. Or you can choose items you want to format for a bibliography and put them in "my list" temporarily.
- To print out references, click on "bibliography" and choose a citation style. Choose a folder or "my list;" choose whether to create a text, html, or Word document.
- NOTE: You'll need to do some editing. For example, genus and species may not be italicized. Proof your final works cited list to make sure the entries are all complete and consistent.
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