Biological Sciences Research Guide

A guide to locating books, full text articles and other resources in all of the subdisciplines of Biology.

What is a Science Article?

A scientific article presents research findings written by researchers and scientists.  They are generally considered primary sources and are written for other researchers. The most recent articles will contain the most recent work in the field, with references to previously published works in the field of study.

(Seaweed by Enitsa Koeva/Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Parts of a Scientific Article

Abstract:  A summary of the paper.

Introduction:  The background information with citations from previously published articles.  This section will also state the problem or question addressed in the article.  The summary of previous research is sometimes referred to as the Literature Review

Methods:  The technical details on how the experiment was carried out or designed. 

Results:  The presentation of the data generated by the experiment. 

Discussion:  The author’s conclusions drawn on the data generated through the experiment.  This is the interpretation and evaluation of the results.

Conclusions:  This is an expansion of the Discussion section that will place the results into the field’s context. 

References:  The documents referenced by the author.  This section can be a good place to look for more sources on a topic. 

Types of Scientific Articles

A photograph of a purple flower possibly a thistle(Flower by Cahroi/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Original Articles contain original data and present the results of empirical studies.  This type of paper is a primary source. 

Review Articles summarize and critique original articles within a single field.  They will produce a continuous view of a subject using a number of original articles.  This is a secondary source and may be a good place to start if you are looking for an overview on a particular topic. 

Theoretical Articles present new theories developed from existing research.  These papers will be built on data taken from other sources and results from original articles. 

White Papers are an authoritative report or guide presenting the issuing body's philosophy on the matter.  While they may be based on original research, they are meant to promote a group’s stance or viewpoint.  In science, White Papers are sometimes referred to as Grey Literature as they are published scientific literature outside of commercial publishing and the peer review process. 

How to Read a Scientific Article

Make sure you know enough about the topic before you start.  Begin by researching background information on the topic.  Review articles might be a good place to start. 

Read the article in parts.  Skim through to find the section that will help you with your research question and focus there first. 

Print the article out and read with a pencil or pen so you can take notes as you go along.   This is especially helpful for complex articles and topics. 

Books about scientific literacy


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