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BIO 2102 General Biology - Animal Biology

Guide to help students find resources for the Scientific Literature Report.


Assignment Objectives:

  1. Clarify the differences between popular literature and primary scientific literature
  2. Gain experience with tools and search strategies that can be used to search the literature, particularly to find primary scientific sources.

Assignment steps:

  1. Locate an article in a newspaper, newsmagazine, popular science magazine, blog, or another form of popular literature that relates in some way to animal biology and presents some scientific information; you will need to then find the link back to a specific scientific journal article. (Be sure that you have selected a blog post or article, NOT a press release.)
  2. Locate the article in the primary scientific literature upon which the popular article is based.

Find a Popular Science Article

Here are a few starting places for finding your popular science article.

Remember: Science Daily, publisher/university press releases, and reviews published in science journals are NOT acceptable popular science articles.  The intended audience of the popular science article should be the general public.

These three sources below are best if you know the animal you want to research.  I recommend searching by the animal name and then one of these terms: researcher, scientist, or study; for example: axolotl AND scientist. 

When using this method, double check that your popular science article is recent enough (published within the last year), and that you didn't end up in Science Daily post. Science Daily is a press release aggregator and it shows up regularly with some search engines.

These sources are best if you are open to an article about any type of animal and just want to find something recent.  These sources regularly post popular science articles, often about animals.  You can go in and skim them and see if anything catches your interest.

Find the Scientific Article

While, hopefully, your popular science article will have a direct link back to the research, you may need to do a little investigation to find the scientific article.  These sources index scientific research and may provide links to the full text.

Checklist: Think you have a good match?

  • Was the popular article published within the last six months?
    • The scientific article can be a little older, but not more than 12 months.
  • Is there a named author or authors for the popular science article?
  • Does the popular science article describe the research in enough depth for you to make a comparison?
  • Are you sure your popular science article is NOT a press release? 
    • The audience for the article to be the general public (not journalists or scientists).
    • Science Daily and posts press releases, do not use a post from these sites.
  • Is your scientific article mainly about the animal (e.g. don't select an article that is about how animals help people)?
  • Did you download a copy of the scientific article?
    • Sometimes if things are picked up by the popular press, publishers will open up the scientific article for a while.  Its better to have a saved copy than to lose access when it comes time to write the paper.
    • If you can't access the full text you can try requesting it through interlibrary loan.