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BY 102: Topics in Contemporary Biology Lab: Find Sources

Find Information

Resources below may be used to find scientific information:

Scientific Information

Scientific information becomes more technical as you move up the pyramid from tertiary to primary sources. 

This reflects the change from science communication for the public to scientific communication for other experts.


Tertiary Sources   (example)

  • Condense information from primary and secondary sources.
  • Examples include encyclopedias, textbooks, and web pages.
  • Purpose is to give broad overview of a topic to general public.
  • Authors are experts (scientist) or non-experts (layperson).

Secondary Sources   (example)

  • Summarize and synthesize information from primary sources.
  • Examples include review articles in scholarly journals, magazine articles, news articles, and books.
  • Purpose is to add value to original research by generalizing, analyzing, interpreting, or evaluating the results.
  • Authors are experts (scientist) or non-experts (journalist).

Primary Sources   (example)

  • Present original research such as an experiment or a study.
  • Examples include research articles in scholarly journals.
  • Purpose is to report new discoveries and results to other experts in field.
  • Authors are the scientists who conducted the research.

Scholarly versus Popular Articles video by Wayne State University

Science News Cycle

Below is an overview of the science news cycle:

1.  Scientist publishes paper in an academic journal

2.  Organization summarizes research in a press release

3.  Journalist reports on research in a magazine

4.  Reporter communicates information via media/internet

5.  General public learns about and shares information


The findings of this study have not been peer reviewed.

Peer review is a process through which scientists
evaluate and provide feedback on one another’s work.

Academic journals generally do not publish papers
that have not been approved during this process.

Scientists can share studies that have not been
peer reviewed by posting preprints to online servers
and repositories which the media find and report.

Source: Cham, J. (2021, August 6). Science news cycle. ComSciCon.
https://twitter.com/comscicon/status/1423709106343497739

Find Information Using Library Databases

Use the library databases below to find information in newspapers, magazines, and journals:



Use the tips below when searching library databases:

  • Boolean Operators

AND – find all of the terms and get fewer results   [insect AND declin*]
OR – find any of the terms and get more results   [insect AND (apocalypse OR armageddon)]

  • Truncation Symbol

declin* – finds all terms starting with root word   [decline, declines, declined, and declining]

  • Exact Phrase

"insect apocalypse" – finds terms next to each other in order given

  • Sort Order

change sort order from newest to relevance  [above results in upper right corner]

  • Source Types

limit by academic journals, magazines, or newspapers  [under refine results in left column]

Find Information Using Google

Use the search engine below to find information available on the web:

 IMPORTANT:   Evaluate the source before using information from a web page.


Click Restraint video by Stanford History Education Group


Lateral Reading video by University of Louisville Libraries


Use the tips below when searching Google:

  • Click Restraint

scan results to make a more informed choice about where to start instead of immediately clicking on first search result  (see video tutorial)

  • Lateral Reading

verify what you are reading while you are reading it  (see video tutorial)

  • News Category

click on news on the results page to find news stories

click on settings in lower right corner of main search page for Google to access advanced search

find results that are more academic (scholarly) such as journal articles

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