Choosing suitable sources for any piece of scientific writing is important, because these sources will help add relevant detail to your writing. In any form of scientific writing, you would like your reader to know that you are credible and know what you are writing about; part of this credibility can be achieved by using reliable resources to find and cite scientific written work. Finding the most useful and relevant information on any scientific topic requires knowledge of which resources are available to you. Below is a list of many of these resources for finding scientific information, along with helpful guidelines on how to use them.
- Use a Research Guide. Research guides help you find specific sources for disciplines that you may not be familiar with.
- If you are a UBC student and/or have a Campus Wide Login (CWL), you can use the UBC Library Home page to find articles, eBooks, theses and much more! The UBC library has subscriptions to a huge number of specialist journals that will house useful sources. If you are a student at another institution, visit your library and/or contact a librarian to find out how to make the most of the amazing resources available to you (on the shelves, and online).
- Google Scholar is another great way to find the scientific information you need. UBC students and CWL holders can access Google Scholar through the UBC Library website: UBC library Home Page > Indexes and Databases > Google Scholar. If you are on campus or sign in from home you can access the full-text of many articles that is not available publicly.Students at other institutions can access this resource directly at: http://scholar.google.ca, but you should again chat to your librarian to find out how to gain access to the full records via your own library.
- Web of Science can be accessed by UBC students and CWL holders through the UBC Library website: UBC Library Home page > Indexes and Databases tab > Web of Science. This resource is basically a dedicated search engine, which you can use to find specific articles relevant to a topic you are writing about; there are many filters that can be added in your searches (such as ‘keywords’ and years of publication) to return very specific results. Students at other institutions should again talk to their librarians to find out how to access this resource.
How can you keep track of all your references?
- Use Refworks! UBC students and CWL holders can access Refworks through the UBC Library website: UBC Library Home page > Indexes and Databases tab > RefWorks and RefShare. Students at other institutions should talk to their librarians to find out how to access this resource.
RefWorks is an online personal reference database that allows you to quickly import and manage references from other online databases for easy access in the future. RefWorks is useful because it creates citations for you, and in the style you need. But be careful when using this option, as it should be the appropriate style required by your instructor.
To maximize the effectiveness of using the above resources, optimize your use of search tools. Writing about science requires you to find and use credible sources (e.g. citing a source from 50 years ago might not be a wise move if the theory around the topic has moved on since then). There are many resources out there to help you, but inefficient searches can sometimes be overly time-consuming and ineffective. To more efficiently search and find applicable sources, use the strategies below. Keep practicing, and soon searching the scientific literature will seem less daunting!
Maximizing effective use of resources
Check out the Help section(s) to understand exactly how each resource works and what/where it searches:
- e.g. 1) Google Scholar: go to 'About Google Scholar' at the bottom of the web page - this gives you an idea of what Google Scholar can do.