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Biol 1A -- Introductory Biology

Biology of Disease Paper (Summer 2020, Dr. Van Laar)

Think About Your Search

Ways to Find Primary Research Articles

1. Use Library Databases

The Library subscribes to many databases that have or link to scholarly articles

♦  Multidisciplinary databases, such as Academic Search Ultimate and Web of Science Core Collection.
    These index articles in scholarly journals as well as other types of publications such as magazines, books and conference abstracts.
    You can limit your search results to only journal articles.

♦  Discipline-specific databases, such as Medline/PubMed, (medical and life sciences), CINAHL (health), and BIOSIS (biological sciences),
   take a broader view of scholarly/professional literature and may also index publications types such as
   dissertations, books and book chapters, conference proceedings, patents, and technical reports.
   Most of these databases will allow you to
limit your results to only journal articles.

2. Use Google Scholar

Indexes a variety of publication types including scholarly journal articles.

Does not have a way to limit results to only scholarly journals, so pay attention to what you have retrieved.

3. Use a Known Item 

♦  Look backwards in the literature by looking up references from the works cited section, or from review articles,
    which survey, summarize, and give context to primary research articles on specific topics in a specific time frame.
♦  ♦  Search for the references you find in Web of Science, OneSearch, Google Scholar, etc.

♦  Look forward in the literature by seeing who cited an item.
    Some databases like  Web of Science, BIOSIS and Medline (Clarivate Analytics databases), Google Scholar, and
    publisher websites give you Cited By references (the ones they see in their own universes).

What Are You Searching For?

Build Your Search

Main concept
    common name, scientific name: bladder cancer, bladder neoplasms; sleeping sickness,  African trypanosomiasis  

Modify that concept: What aspects?
    etiology, epidemiology, therap*, treatment, prevention, control, vectors, transmission, diagnosis, 
    complications, drug therapy, risk factors, biological control, prevalence

More aspects, synonyms, broader or more specific terms?

Does the database/search engine let you Refine Your Results?
        publication dates, publication types (e.g. scholarly journals), age groups, human/animal, language...

What type of publication do you need? Use the database's Limits to retrieve only selected publication types

Journal articles (primary, review articles, systematic reviews, etc.)

Books, book chapters

Proceedings (often abstracts only)

Theses and Dissertations

Research reports (from government, research or professional organizations)

Abstracts of conference presentations


To get more

Use * for alternate word endings
        e.g.,   sustainab* retrieves sustainable, sustainability etc.

Use the different search lines to enter key words (not sentences) describing the different components of your search topic

Redo your search using new keywords you find in article titles, abstracts, and subject terms given to the articles by the database

Use or between synonyms or alternate concepts
        e.g.,    greenhouse gases* or ghg* or carbon dioxide

Use fewer search terms. 
Each time you put in another search term (unless they are synonyms combined with or)  you will get fewer results.
Start with a small number of keywords and then add more terms or try different terms based on your results.


To get less

Use quotation marks around words you want searched as a phrase
e.g.,  "greenhouse gases"

Databases usually offer ways to Limit or Refine your search results, such as:
   To Scholarly/Peer-reviewed journals
   By publication date range
   To journal articles only (or books, dissertations, etc)

Some databases also have specific limits or search options such as:
   Age Groups

Add more search terms:
Each time you put in another search term, you will retrieve fewer results.
    Start with a small number of keywords and then add more terms or try different terms based on your results.
    Use the different search lines to enter more  key words (not sentences) describing different components of your topic
    In articles that look good, look for other terms in the title, abstract, and subjects.

What is it:  Is it a primary research article?  A review article, leading you to primary research articles? A dissertation....?

Is it relevant to your specific topic, does it give you useful background information, or use a methodology you could use or adapt to your project?

Does publication date matter? If so, is it in an appropriate date range?

Watch for other terms that might bring back other results


Several literature databases, such as Web of Science, BIOSIS, Medline, Google Scholar, and often publisher websites, give you Cited and Cited By links that may help you look backwards and forward in time.  

Use the references cited list in the literature you find to look backwards in time.