Science Journal Research


In a series of lessons that HBW’s librarian collaborates upon with science teachers, students in AP science coursework can learn how to efficiently and adeptly search for and navigate complex original research articles. This work together provides essential preparation for college research and is designed to give HBW’s students confidence and ability beyond what most college freshmen enjoy.

Students locate the following sections in primary sources:  abstract, references, discussion of research methods, result of experiment, bibliography. They note…

  1. a primary research article always begins with an “abstract” (which is located at the beginning of the article.) It is a succinct 1-paragraph summary of the experiment that the scientific team conducted and includes the results of that experiment.
  2. the authors are the actual scientists who conducted the research.
  3. as “background,” the authors generally provide a section called the “Literature Review” in which they discuss the important work that has been conducted in the field, mentioning some of the big “breakthrough” studies (and what year those studies were published.)
  4. the authors often list (cite) the articles that they used to become knowledgeable about their subject. Those citations are in their bibliographies (also called “References” section) and include some of the most prominent “giants of science” for that particular field.  Accordingly, bibliographies are really helpful to use as a student traces the development of scientific understanding in a particular field.  (Some search engines even provide the number of times a scientist has been cited in a collection.  Google Scholar, does.)  Another way to put it is, the bibliography/references list in combination with the Literature Review has great value in referring the reader to seminal research in that field.
  5. a primary source title is often long and scientifically worded in order to succinctly convey the specific focus of research.
  6. original research articles incorporate scientific terminology, are very dense to read, often contain chemical formulas and mathematical equations, have a very detailed description of the way the experiment was conducted and detailed results of the experiment.  These articles are written with an expert audience in mind– other PhDs!
  7. the articles play the role of providing documentation that confirms previous studies… or they break new ground in scientific research.
  8. examples of science journals containing primary sources:  NATURE, SCIENCE, and thousands of additional professional journals for very narrow fields of scientific study.  THE JOURNAL OF BIOCHEMICAL ENGINEERING, THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, THE JOURNAL OF CLINICAL VIROLOGY….  They are expensive to produce, they are expensive to subscribe to, but our databases contain some of the best articles from these journals.  (See the database called, Academic One File;  See also J-Stor for older publications and seminal research. Use the “Science” section on menu at left to find additional resources of journal articles.)
  9. in the “Discussion” section of an original research article, the authors often conclude their paper to tell the scientific world where further study is needed.  These are hints to researchers about how they can get involved in furthering scientific understanding by replicating the experiment discussed in the article (thereby helping to confirm the findings), or by modifying and extending the research to learn something new.  Either of these approaches give H-B’s students (and students in universities, getting their PhDs) a long-term research project that can make them FAMOUS and REALLY advance scientific knowledge.
  10. a team of scientists that seeks to get its research article published will submit their paper to a journal for publication.  At that time, the article will be reviewed by other scientists who are also experts in that field whose job it is to check over whether the methods used for the experiment and results achieved look believable.  They are checking to see if the study was conducted professionally. This is pretty tough scrutiny, but an academic journal does not want to publish any studies that are bogus. An article that “passes” and gets other scientists’ “stamp of approval for publishing” is now called “peer reviewed” and when that study is published in a reputable journal (and not just offered for free on the internet) it is well respected and trusted by scientists around the world who, like H-B’s students, access such studies in subscription databases. Although there are many research articles offered for free on the internet, many of them have never been peer-reviewed.  When you use H-B’s databases, you conduct your search to select “peer reviewed” articles that you can trust. (Review the concept of peer review with this video.)
  11. The DOI is useful to identify an article very specifically and also learn its location, whether in a database or in print in a specific library. It has the appearance of a hyperlink, however it will only open an article if the researcher has rights to access its location.
  12. Always open the PDF if offered in order to get the desired layout and illustrations.
  13. As a self-assessment, students will be able to fill in the following graphic organizer to show understandings of the parts of a primary source article that reflects original research in a scientific field:


Students will demonstrate an ability to differentiate secondary source and tertiary articles from primary source articles.  They learn that tertiary sources are “reference” sources such as encyclopedias and textbooks.  They are often compiled from secondary sources and contain little more than what people might call “common knowledge” which is not generally cited in university level research.

Students will contrast secondary sources to primary sources for these understandings about secondary sources:

  1. Their purpose is to generate interest and enthusiasm in science and inform people who may not be experts in the field.  The writing is often attention-getting, entertaining and fast-paced, fun to read and snappy– loaded with the great writing that hooks people’s interest, defines tricky words, and includes easy-to-understand vocabulary.
  2. Secondary sources are written by a science writer or journalist but not usually the scientists who conducted the research (not first person voice).  Famous scientists, however, might be quoted or paraphrased in the piece.
  3. Secondary sources are written using terminology that is more generally understood by the common person (using common names for species, not their species classification.)  It might be “dumbed down science” for people who don’t know much about the subject.
  4. Secondary source articles might be supported with splashy images and headlines to grab the reader’s attention.
  5. These pieces might not have abstracts or bibliographies, and won’t be labeled by a database as “peer reviewed” (and might not even be labeled “scholarly”)… although to be included in a nice publication, the editor of the magazine in which it is printed will review the writing to make sure it makes sense, flows nicely, and is fact-based.
  6. Secondary sources vary in length… anything from a paragraph in a magazine to a whole book.
  7. You can locate these sources in a database; some database search engines enable you to filter them out of your results if you prefer to obtain only primary source articles.

Develop ease navigating articles by seeing some examples; some of them require that you are logged into MACKINVIA in order to access.

  1. Example 1
  2. Example 2
  3. Example 3
  4. Example 4
  5. Example 5
  6. Example 6
  7. Example Red.