Conducting research at a University level involves being able to find reliable resources and be able to evaluate them.
This page takes you through some of the steps you should consider when finding sources in science based subjects and it is aimed at Postgraduates.
This content complements our interactive tutorials on the Learning Skills Hub finding resources page. We recommend you complete the Planning, Finding and Starting your Research tutorials if you need more help with using key words and developing search strategies. A link to the Finding Resources page available below.
The first step in finding credible resources is to make sure you are looking in the right places; places that would have more reputable sources of information rather than just using Google.
Aside from using UR Library Search to search for books and articles using keywords. You could also:
Use the publications you have in-hand to track down other relevant sources.
Watch the video below for a demonstration of how this works. By the end you should be able to:
--Chase citations BACKWARDS (find relevant publications based on the sources cited in the literature you are reading)
--Chase citations FORWARDS (find relevant publications based on the sources that have cited the literature you are reading)
Databases may hold a range of different types of materials. Take a look at the filters to help you refine results to the type of source you wish to use.
Look for journal articles, research articles, academic journals. Some databases may also have a 'peer reviewed' filter, or you may even be able to refine by type of research conducted, such as limiting to Randomised Control Trials in PubMed.
When researching at postgraduate level, you are expected to use databases to find relevant resources for modules that involve academic research. Some research modules may ask you to conduct systematic reviews, which is not covered in this guide.
Once you have conducted a search on a database like Web of Science, PubMed or Science Direct, you will be presented with list of search results. You can use the information presented to help you focus on relevant articles.
Scan the title and abstract of the articles to see if it is relevant to the area you want to research.
Some databases includes lists of Subject Headings or Key words for a journal article. Reviewing these can help you to pick out further keywords to use when searching.
You may have heard the terms 'citation metrics', 'journal impact factor', 'research impact factor', or 'bibliometrics' mentioned previously. These are terms related to metrics developed to evaluate and assess research articles.
In the history of the development of such metrics, the first metrics were based on how often a piece of research was cited by other researchers in peer-reviewed journals.
These metrics have been used in academia to support academic promotions and in applications for funding.
Over time, further metrics have been developed that look at other factors such as how often they are cited in social media; these are known as alternative metrics or altmetrics, and researchers have also started using these in their research.
A more detailed history and overview of such metrics is available through UR Library Search
Lasda, E.M (2019) A brief history and overview, in Lasda, E.M. (ed.) The New Metrics: Practical Assessment of Research Impact. Bingley: Emerald Publishing, pp. 1-13. doi:10.1108/978-1-78973-269-620191001
There are a variety of metrics available. Here are two that are used in the science field.
SCOPUS - gives you details of how often a journal article cited. Enter your subject area details to view list.
Some databases such as Science Direct include altmetrics such as PlumX alongside the research article.
Descriptions of the PlumX metrics headings are available.
Taking a look online, you will find much advice on reading a paper. Here are some general tips.
This quick, four minute video goes through the creator's own way of reading a paper (journal article) which you may find useful. As they note, this might not work for all articles and all people, but it may be a useful starting point.
The below blog post by Jennifer Raff (an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Kansas) goes through the steps of reading a scientific paper /journal article in more detail with guiding questions to help you make notes of each section.