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BSCI 1510L Literature and Stats Guide: 2 Referencing and accessing papers

Introduction to Biological Sciences lab, first semester

2 Referencing and accessing papers

One of the most difficult aspects of starting a new project or working in a new lab is getting up to speed on the literature related to the topic you will be studying.  If you are lucky, your PI (principle investigator) or mentor will tell you what papers you should read.  If you are not so lucky or if you are working more independently, you will have to find the papers yourself. And no, trying to find the information on-line or in Wikipedia (while helpful to gain some background) is NOT what is being referred to here.   Knowing how to find relevant papers on a topic is a critical research skill and one which can only be improved by practice.  The key feature that enables locating relevant papers is the reference section of a paper, so we will discuss that first.  Then we will discuss how to locate papers starting with the case where you know exactly what paper you need to look up.  Finally, we will discuss strategies for finding new papers through citations and keyword searches. 

You should be aware that prior to 2005 or so, your research life (research for information) would consist of days and days of going to multiple libraries (if able to) and looking through physical, hard-copy journals and sometimes using ILL (InterLibrary Loan) to gain articles your school did not have access to.  Your challenge in the present year is finding accurate information on-line and then downloading the papers you find...and actually finding the time to look at them!  If you have only used 5 minutes or so searching for something and simply are taking the first three hits on the search list, you are missing out on the actual paper(s) that you might need!