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BIOL 111: Ecology and the Environment

Search Databases

There are search engines and library databases that you can use to find scholarly sources.

Google Scholar is a free search engine that you can use to search for scientific (and other) articles.  When you use this particular link, you will be asked for your Queen's netID if you are off-campus.  Once you have logged on, the Google Scholar search screen will show "GetIt@Queen's" links to most articles.

Web of Science is a database paid for by Queen's Library.  There is a great deal of overlap between the results you will get in Google Scholar and in Web of Science.  The advantage with Web of Science is that it allows you to fillter or sort your results in ways that GS can't.

Primary and Secondary Literature

Primary sources (the primary literature) are reports of original findings and ideas. They may be print or digital and include:

  1. Peer-reviewed research papers published in scholarly journals/periodicals and directed toward a scientific audience. These articles usually have the following sections: Abstract - Introduction - Materials/Methods - Results - Discussion - References. Do not confuse primary articles with review articles. Review articles do not report original research (e.g. do not have Methods or Results sections).

    For example:
  2. Conference presentations
  3. Dissertations (e.g. Queen's Biology graduate and undergraduate theses)
  4. Technical reports

Secondary Sources are more general works that are based on primary sources.  They may be print or digital and include:

  1. Scholarly books (monographs).
          For example, see the More Background Reading titles
  2. Review papers that summarize and interpret the primary literature in a particular subject area.  For example, Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics is a journal that publishes mainly review articles
  3. Scientific dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference works.
  4. Science magazines.  (e.g. New Scientist)