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Industrial Technology Masters Program

Think About Your Search

What type of publication do you need?

Use different databases and search engines to retrieve different types.
Most library databases have limits you can use to retrieve only selected publication types.

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

   Books, book chapters

   Proceedings of conference presentations (often abstracts only)

   Theses and dissertations

   Research reports (from government, research or professional organizations)


   Trade Publications

   Magazine articles, news sources



Scholarly Articles

   ♦  Scholarly journal articles are written by and for people in the same and or related academic or professional fields.
   ♦  They use terminology specific to the field.
   ♦  They aim to contribute to the scholarly conversation by advancing knowledge.
   ♦  They are usually peer-reviewed (aka "refereed") or undergo an editorial review by specialists
       in the discipline or profession.
   ♦  They carefully document (cite) their sources, and these cited references may point to earlier sources
       relevant to your topic.
   ♦  Scholarly journal articles also may include links to files with useful supplementary information.

Primary Research Articles

Primary / First / "I" / eye for eyewitness=primary eyewitness 

Scholarly journals include articles that are reports and discussions of the results of original research, are written by those who carried out the studies, and are based on the results of their experiments or observations.

These articles are also called primary research articles.

In the social sciences, they are often referred to as empirical articles, and the studies use qualitative or quantitative research methods.

Typical Format of a Primary Research Article
  • Abstract: summary of what the study is about, how the research was conducted, what the findings are.
  • Introduction and Literature Review: background of problem, reasons for/objectives of the study, prior research & literature on the topic.
  • Methods & Results: how the study was conducted, what was found (samples, measurement, procedures)
  • Discussion & Conclusion: Interpretation of the results, summary of important findings & their meaning to the field; sometimes what the limitations of the study are and need for future research.
  • References
  • [May include] Appendices or Supplemental Information files

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article (interactive graphic). NCSU Libraries

How to Read a Scientific Paper (pdf slides) Purdue University Libraries

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: you can limit your search results to only journal articles.

♦  Discipline-specific databases, such as Engineering Village (Compendex), IEEE  Xplore (electrical engineering,
   computer science, electronics), and Agricola (agriculture) take a broader view of scholarly/professional literature and
   may also index publications types such as dissertations, books and book chapters, conference proceedings, patents,
   standards, and technical reports.
   Most of these databases will allow you to
limit your results to only journal articles or other specific publication types.

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.

♦  Look forward in the literature by seeing who cited an item.
    Some databases like  Web of Science as well as Google Scholar and publisher websites give you Cited By
references (the ones they see in their own universes) so you can identify more recent articles that cited the one you like.

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...

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.