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Science Portal

Guide to resources within the sciences

Doing science research with library resources

Scientific research emerges through analyzing data collected in experiments and observation. Researchers develop a research plan, which is rooted in identifying a question and possible answers and designing a program to test those answers. Almost certainly, this is not the first experiment or observation to answer the question; other researchers have worked on it, too. Instead, this set of experiments and observations provides a new design and offers a new interpretation of the data as part of a large conversation with researchers in the past and researchers on other continents, also offering new questions to future researchers.

Though new scientific research happens in the stages of experimentation and observation, it requires a knowledge of the conversation that has been happening all around it. Scientific fields are open to new interpretations, but they require new research to acknowledge existing research. In order to find these materials, you'll need to find both original research articles as well as scholarly reviews. Your research design may be identical to something another research did, but your interpretation of the data and the results may be significantly different. Alternately, you may create a completely different design to respond to the same question, as a way to find different results. But only by finding research that already exists can you expand the field.

Original research is new scholarship written to expand a field of knowledge. In the sciences, original research usually involves collecting data through experiments and observation to answer an important research question. Sometimes referred to as primary resources, original research is the first place the study has been discussed.

Review articles are discussions of the state of the field at the time the review was written. For example, climatologists in 2018 want to know about studies of glacial ice in the past twenty years, so they can avoid duplicating studies, and so they can position their own work to make a meaningful contribution to climate science. Review articles discuss many different studies, explaining how the field has changed, what areas the field has addressed thoroughly, and what areas of study are still missing.

A librarian can help you refine your search results to one of these.

Evaluating journal quality

When reviewing an open access publisher or journal for quality and legitimacy -- the following should be considered:

  1. Peer review process: All of a journal’s content, apart from any editorial material that is clearly marked as such, shall be subjected to peer review. Peer review is defined as obtaining advice on individual manuscripts from reviewers expert in the field who are not part of the journal’s editorial staff. This process, as well as any policies related to the journal’s peer review procedures, shall be clearly described on the journal’s Web site.
  2. Governing Body: Journals shall have editorial boards or other governing bodies whose members are recognized experts in the subject areas included within the journal’s scope. The full names and affiliations of the journal’s editors shall be provided on the journal’s Web site.
  3. Editorial team/contact information: Journals shall provide the full names and affiliations of the journal’s editors on the journal’s Web site as well as contact information for the editorial office.
  4. Author fees: Any fees or charges that are required for manuscript processing and/or publishing materials in the journal shall be clearly stated in a place that is easy for potential authors to find prior to submitting their manuscripts for review or explained to authors before they begin preparing their manuscript for submission.
  5. Copyright: Copyright and licensing information shall be clearly described on the journal’s Web site, and licensing terms shall be indicated on all published articles, both HTML and PDFs.
  6. Identification of and dealing with allegations of research misconduct: Publishers and editors shall take reasonable steps to identify and prevent the publication of papers where research misconduct has occurred, including plagiarism, citation manipulation, and data falsification/fabrication, among others. In no case shall a journal or its editors encourage such misconduct, or knowingly allow such misconduct to take place. In the event that a journal’s publisher or editors are made aware of any allegation of research misconduct relating to a published article in their journal – the publisher or editor shall follow COPE’s guidelines (or equivalent) in dealing with allegations.
  7. Ownership and management: Information about the ownership and/or management of a journal shall be clearly indicated on the journal’s Web site. Publishers shall not use organizational names that would mislead potential authors and editors about the nature of the journal’s owner.
  8. Web site: A journal’s Web site, including the text that it contains, shall demonstrate that care has been taken to ensure high ethical and professional standards.
  9. Name of journal: The Journal name shall be unique and not be one that is easily confused with another journal or that might mislead potential authors and readers about the Journal’s origin or association with other journals.
  10. Conflicts of interest: A journal shall have clear policies on handling potential conflicts of interest of editors, authors, and reviewers and the policies should be clearly stated.
  11. Access: The way(s) in which the journal and individual articles are available to readers and whether there are associated subscription or pay per view fees shall be stated.
  12. Revenue sources: Business models or revenue sources (eg, author fees, subscriptions, advertising, reprints, institutional support, and organizational support) shall be clearly stated or otherwise evident on the journal’s Web site.
  13. Advertising: Journals shall state their advertising policy if relevant, including what types of ads will be considered, who makes decisions regarding accepting ads and whether they are linked to content or reader behavior (online only) or are displayed at random.
  14. Publishing schedule: The periodicity at which a journal publishes shall be clearly indicated.
  15. Archiving: A journal’s plan for electronic backup and preservation of access to the journal content (for example, access to main articles via CLOCKSS or PubMedCentral) in the event a journal is no longer published shall be clearly indicated.
  16. Direct marketing: Any direct marketing activities, including solicitation of manuscripts that are conducted on behalf of the journal, shall be appropriate, well targeted, and unobtrusive.

From Principles of Transparency and Best Practices in Scholarly Publishing.

Finding academic articles

Some resources for searching broadly within the sciences:

Finding books

Science news sources