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How to Locate and Cite Scientific LiteratureV3

How to Locate and Cite Scientific Literature
What is scientific literature?
Scientific literature is the medium by which scientists share their work with each other. After a
scientific project is carried out, a paper is written and submitted to the most appropriate journal
in their field. Just as there are many magazines about gardening and celebrities, there are many
journals that contain similar topics. For example, if I did a study on how protist diversity is
impacted by pollutants, I could submit it to a journal that is protist-themed (The Journal of
Eukaryotic Microbiology), pollutant-themed (Environment and Pollution or Journal of
Environmental Toxicology), or more general biology-themed (Bioscience). The paper is then sent
to a group of scientists who are chosen to review the paper based on their expertise on the
subject. These reviewers must judge the validity of the science and provide suggestions for the
authors. When the reviewers agree the paper provides new scientific knowledge for the field,
they approve it for publication. Once the paper is published, it can be cited by other scientists
and becomes a building block for new scientific ideas.
How do you find scientific literature?
You may have noticed that you don’t often see the journals mentioned above at the bookstore or
while you are waiting in line at the grocery. Because they have a very specific audience (mostly
scientists), these journals are generally available only by subscription. Fortunately, part of being
a student at a college or university is having access to extensive libraries of journal subscriptions.
Most of these journals are fully accessible online; here is how to find them:
1. Navigate to the OSU library homepage: http://www.library.osu.edu/
2. Under the “Links” tab at the right, click on “Research Databases List” (highlighted below)
3. Now you will see a list of library databases and a search tool. Scientific journals are stored in
large databases so they can easily be searched and navigated. In our case, we want to find papers
on a specific subject, so it would be most useful to search multiple journals at the same time. To
do so, we need to navigate to a search platform that has access to many journals. You can either
search for a specific database if you already know the name, or you can select a subject to
narrow down your options. Click on the subject “Biology”.
4. Here we see a list of all the databases that include journals about Biology. You can click on
“About Resource” to examine the journals that a database contains. An excellent database to start
with if we are doing a general search is the “Science Citation Index”. Click on this database
(likely on second page if browsing).
5. Now you have arrived at the search page for the “Web of Science” (Isn’t that a cool name?).
You can use the search boxes to find keywords in which you have interest. You can click “+ Add
Another Field” to add more search criteria. For this example, I wanted to find any articles that
are about gopher frogs and had Denton as an author.
6. You should see that we found one matching article. Click on the title to see the details.
7. Here we can read the summary of the article, the journal where it appears in print (“Source”),
the authors and their affiliations, the number of times the article has been cited in other articles.
So, how do you actually get to read the full article? Click on the box titled “Find it!” above the
8. Below are two examples of what you may see when you click “Find it!”
In the first example, you can see that
Ohio State does not have this article
in their holdings. However, you can
click on “Attempt to find this article
at the publisher’s website” because
the journal may allow access to the
article for Ohio State University.
You are then taken to the publisher’s
website and can click on “Download
PDF” or “View HTML” to see the
article in full.
In the second example, you can see that the article is digitally available from OSU’s library.
Click on “Download PDF”.
You are then taken to either the EJC
(Electronic Journal Center), where you
can obtain the full text of the article.
(see left) or to a direct view of the
PDF download (bottom).
Are there other ways to find scientific literature?
There are many alternate ways to find scientific literature. The advantage of using OSU libraries’
system is that it offers many more subscriptions than what you could find elsewhere. If you were
not at OSU and were not allowed access to the databases, you could use another search engine
such as Google Scholar.
1. Do a general internet search for Google Scholar, and click the appropriate link to navigate to
the page below.
2. When you search for a keyword of interest (in this case, the same terms as in part 1), the
results page looks like this:
You can see that some links allow you to access a PDF of the full article, just like you did using
the Web of Science.
How do I use scientific literature?
The results of scientific studies should be used to support other scientific arguments, provide
hypotheses for other projects, and provide examples for broad scientific ideas. Let’s use an
example from one of the articles I found above. Here is a selected paragraph:
When a scientific article cites another
article, it is usually shown in the text with
the author(s) names and the year published
in parentheses. In the first sentence of this
paragraph, the authors are summarizing the
findings of another study by a scientist
named Gallant and his or her coauthors that
was published in 2007. It is important to
know that this sentence is paraphrasing the
publication by Gallant et al. (et al. is Latin
for “and others”). The exact wording or
very similar wording should not be present
in Gallant et al. (2007). If it is, then the
first sentence of the selection would be considered plagiarism. It would also be plagiarism if the
ideas were properly paraphrased, but the citation was not added to the end of the sentence. If this
was indeed a direct statement from the article, then it would need to be in quotations. However,
scientists mostly prefer to use their own words to explain other scientists’ work and quotations
should generally be avoided.
In this example, we see that the authors of the selected paper read the paper by Gallant and
others and interpreted their project as demonstrating that “Amphibians are particularly
susceptible to habitat alteration, loss, and fragmentation.” This is an example of citing a
scientific article to provide foundation for your project. This is the same logic as writing a
persuasive essay: in order to build an argument or ask a particular question, you must first
provide the foundational knowledge it is based on.
Here are some other examples, using the first sentence from the selection above, of how you can
use scientific citations for different purposes:
 You could use the Gallant et al. study as the basis to confirm their results. For example, you
could design an experiment that tests whether amphibians actually are “susceptible to habitat
alteration, loss, and fragmentation.”
 You could use the Gallant et al. study as an example for a broader scientific idea. For
example, if you wanted to do an analysis of how many groups of animals are “susceptible to
habitat alteration, loss, and fragmentation,” you could cite the Gallant et al. study to state one
of the following:
-One group of animals that can be impacted by changes to their habitat are amphibians
(Gallant et al. 2007)
-Gallant et al. (2007) identified amphibians as one of the major groups that suffer negative
impacts of habitat loss.
Note: To cite the Gallant et al. (2007) paper, you should have actually read it, and not just
read what the selected paper above said about it. A great way to discover relevant papers is by
reading the text and Literature Cited sections of other papers, but then you must find those
other papers to understand their meaning and paraphrase them properly in a way that is
meaningful to the goals of your study.
Some citing dos and don’ts
Do make sure that you understand the article you are citing fully before you attempt to cite it.
Do include a list of the articles you cite at the end of your document that includes at least the
names, title, date of publication, journal title, journal volume, and page numbers.
Do check for any formatting guidelines for citations from your instructor before you write.
Don’t plagiarize: always include the citation when you are writing about someone else’s idea
Don’t rely on quoting the article: use your own words to describe their findings.
Don’t be redundant, instead of writing this:
Gallant et al. found that fragmentation affects amphibians (Gallant et al. 2007).
write this:
Gallant et al. (2007) found that fragmentation affects amphibians.
Organizing scientific literature: the annotated bibliography
A good way to organize the literature that you have read and want to cite in the future is through
the creation of an annotated bibliography. Since a bibliography is a list of sources that you
have cited, an annotated bibliography is a list of sources that you have cited with an added
description and/or evaluation. Here is an example:
Ross, BD, Cola RC, and McDonald RL. 1986. An evaluation of current methods in food
delivery to supermarkets. Journal of Food Management 15:56-61.
This paper by Ross and others compares the cost effectiveness and duration of several
methods of transporting food from producers to supermarkets. The methods they evaluate
include by train, plane, and truck. The authors accessed several years of logged data from
multiple grocery trains to compare the three methods of food delivery. Overall, trains prove to
be the cheapest, but slowest, method and trucks provide the highest cost effectiveness. One
potential problem with this study is that the authors don’t consider the origin (imported vs.
local) of the delivered food in their cost analysis.
This annotated bibliography included everything you would want to remember about the article:
the author and publication detail, the question it addressed, the methods the authors used, and the
important results and conclusions. In addition, annotated bibliographies often contain a brief
evaluation of any limitations or particular strengths of the article. In this case, a potential
limitation of the study is mentioned at the end. Here is a breakdown of what goes into the two
sections of the annotated bibliography: the citation and the annotation.
1st Author’s Last Name [space] First Initials, 2nd Author’s Last Name
[space] First Initials, and 3rd Author’s Last Name [space]First Initials.
Year of Publication. Article Title. Journal that article was published in
followed by the volume number:page numbers of the article.
1-2 sentences describing the central question of the article
1-2 sentences describing the methods used to address the central question
2-3 sentences describing the most relevant results
1-2 sentences describing the overall conclusions of the article
1-3 sentences of personal evaluation, which can include:
Any potential limitations of the study
Why was this study important?
Why is it this study necessary to cite for your work?
When citing scientific articles or other sources, you should always include a citation in the text
(as detailed above) as well as a list of citations at the end of your document. The annotated
bibliography is usually created for your own personal use to make it easier to recall articles you
have read and find appropriate citations for your work.