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All About Scientific Literature

Learn everything you need to know about scientific literature, including how to find, understand, use, and ultimately create your own.

What's In This Guide

The purpose of this guide is to help teach students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields about how information in these fields works.

  • How is scientific information shared, and with whom?
  • What formats do different types of scientific information take?
  • How can we strategically use library databases and open-web resources to find the information we're looking for?
  • What review processes do different types of information undergo in order to be considered trustworthy?
  • What does "trustworthy" even mean in this context?

All of these questions and more are addressed in the guide.

The Research Cycle for Literature Discovery

literature discovery cycle: ask a question, establish background knowledge, survey relevant literature, evaluate potentially useful info, and cite your sources so the cycle can continue.

This section of the guide is structured to help you with the stages of a typical research cycle:

  1. Prepare. Establish a question and requirements of your assignment. Conduct background research on the themes of your question to establish baseline knowledge and context.
  2. Search. Guided by your question and using the key concepts and terms you learned during background research, employ a range of advanced searching techniques to identify relevant scholarly resources that can help you answer your question.
  3. Evaluate. Thoroughly assess the sources you found during your literature search for quality, accuracy, and relevance to your own work.
  4. Cite. Participate in the conventions of scholarship by accurately citing all of the sources you decide to use in your final paper in an appropriate style for your field. By citing your sources, you help the cycle of research continue. Citation should be happening while you're writing your paper.

Avoid the Most Common Research Pitfall

Scholarly research is not about finding sources you can use to prove a point you already decided on. It's also not about looking for a single source that somehow covers all the areas of your topic. As you explore your topic, you should be constantly learning, getting new ideas, and expanding your vocabulary. Your job as a scholar is to analyze a variety of sources and use what you have learned to come up with your own conclusions.

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