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Search Guide for Sciences: Information Sources

Basic Search Guide

Search Guide for Sciences: Information Sources

This guide offers support using the best information sources for literature searching including books, journals and web resources

Reading lists

Start by using your course reading list to access essential and recommended reading for your modules including books, e-books, journals and web resources. Help using your reading list

Borrowing and renewing books

Using other libraries

e-Book searching

Summon - search for books and journal articles

This video demonstrates how to do a basic Summon search for books and journal articles. Topic used is: Smoking and pregnancy
Search Summon

Subject guides

Subject guides provide an overview of resources specific to your area of study including

  • Books and journals
  • Databases and websites
  • Videos and images

Find your subject guide

Web resources

Google and Google Scholar

Google is a useful tool for searching but it can provide you with millions of hits, most of them irrelevant to your topic.  Also, it indexes materials by popularity (not quality or relevance) so you are unlikely to find the best resources for your academic work.

Although Scholar will ensure that the results of your search will be academic materials, you may often be unable to access full-text. It is recommended therefor that you use Summon as your starting point to ensure seamless linking to full-text to articles in university collections. 

TIP!  Use Google with caution. Unless you are using a trusted academic, government or organization web site you will need to evaluate your information for accuracy, authenticity and currency. Tips on evaluating web resources

Summon advanced search

This video demonstrates how to do an advanced Summon search for books and journal articles.
Search topic: Nursing models

Search Summon

Scientific journal articles

Within the scientific community journals are important because they are the place where original research is reported. 

You will find that some journals report on a wide topic area, for example titles such as  Nature and Science.  Other journals will focus on a narrower topic area, for example Cellular Signalling,Sports BiomechanicsJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

The single most important thing about science journals is that the material they publish is accurate and reliable, this is where the Peer Review process comes in.  Material that is published will fall into one of two categories, Primary Literature and Secondary literature.

Primary Literature
Primary literature includes Research Papers, Scientific Papers or Research Articles, these articles describe the methods and results of a particular piece or research.

A research article or paper is normally the first time that findings for a piece of research have been published.  It describes what researchers did, what they found out during the research and what they think the results mean.

Most primary literature is peer reviewed.

Secondary literature
Secondary literature is material that is written as a  response to primary literature.  It reviews, follows up or offers opinions about primary literature. 

There are several types of  article that fall into the secondary literature category, reviews, literature reviews, book reviews, editorial and news.

It is much easier to make sense of scientific papers if you have an understanding of the structure that they follow, and the majority of peer-reviewed original research articles follow the same structure and layout. 

This structure is known as IMRAD and can be broken down into the following parts

I = Introduction

The Introduction provides the context and background of the research and the aims and objectives of the study.

M = Method

The method section will describe the methods and materials used in the study.  This section addressed how the research was undertaken

R = Results

The results area will describe the findings of the research.  The section may include tables or charts.

 D = Discussion

This part of the paper evaluates and discusses the results

In some instances you might find the structure is slightly different, but normally an article will contain all of the above elements. Additional fields may include keywords, abstract, acknowledgements, conclusion and list of references.

Understanding Journals

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a summary of the research written in a small number of words (typically half a page at most).

They are often found at the beginning of dissertations, theses, or journal articles.  The abstract should give you sufficient information about the research to recognise its significance and relevance.  

The abstract is important because it provides a quick overview of the article without having to read through it entirely.

What is peer review?

  • Peer review is an important process applied to research articles before publication. Peer review involves the article being read by professionals and experts in the field to assess the quality, significance and relevance of the research. 
  • This process can highlight errors in the research process, duplicated work and flaws in experimental design. If there are problems with the research then the article is returned to the original authors for further work.
  • Reviewers are selected based on their knowledge of a subject area, they will be specialists in their field, they will be expected to retain confidentiality about the paper that they are working on and be objective and fair.
    The time-scale for the review process is usually about two weeks.
  • Once a peer reviewed article is published it is 'recognised' as a piece of work of value and importance.
  • Post publication discussion about the work undertaken in the article usually continues through letters to the editor and further debate among the research or academic community.

What are Impact Factors?

The Journal Impact Factor is a method of ranking a particular title against others in the field. Ranking is undertaken annually and arrived at using a formula based on the number of times articles in a particular journal have been cited in the previous two years divided by the total number of articles published in the journal title in the last two years.

How do I find out the impact factor of a journal?

You can access Journal Citation Reports (JCR) through the Web of Science database


All images included in this guide are available from Upsplash through Creative Commons licensing CC-BY-2.0