In part 1, we looked at how you acquire initial background information for your science paper(s). Let’s dig a little deeper and see where we can access actual scientific reports and publications.
While having a basic understanding to your topic is important, reading and implementing information from actual scientific reports will make or break your paper. These reports and publications provide in-depth details of what observations lead to the development of an experiment, exactly how the experiment was conducted, and what were the specific results and conclusion. Often these reports serve as the foundation of the very science you see in your textbooks.
So how do you find these papers? As I mentioned in the last post, Wikipedia is a good site for finding and accessing scientific publications: you just have to check the citations. Other methods include online article databases, which contain collections of pre-screened scientific articles and reports extending from the early 1900s to today.
The dilemma with most databases however is that they may require you to register for a monthly subscription or expect you to purchase the article (which can go as high as $ 50 per paper).
Those in college may be able to access these databases for free via their school’s affiliation. For everyone else, there are three absolutely free alternatives:
1) Science Direct
The Science Direct database gives you unlimited access to scientific journals in all of the major fields (physics, life sciences, health sciences, social sciences, etc.). When searching for a topic, you can narrow by year, content type, journal/book title, and author. While there are some articles that you have to pay for, you can still access full-length free papers by titling the access types tab to open archive articles.
Under the jurisdiction of the US National Library of Medicine, PubMed is another valuable research database for viewing free articles. As with Science Direct, you can narrow your interest by publication date, article type, and text type (abstract, full text, and free full text). The only major flaw with PubMed is that it being a member of the National Library of Medicine, it focuses on accumulating science articles related to medicine and genetic research. That does not me you can’t access articles in other fields of science; it’s just that you will not have as much of a diverse selection as in Science Direct.
3) Google Scholar
Finally, there is Google Scholar: a modified Google search engine that looks for scholarly based writings as well as patents and case laws. It is unique in that for each result, it provides the number of times it was cited and as well as a link to related articles. The main issue with Google Scholar is that it does not designate articles/reports into specific categories and only looks for articles that have any combination of words in your search engine. In other words, it may not give you the specific results you are hoping for.
I hope this blog article will be useful for you in your future endeavors, and if you have any questions, fill free to post them in the commentary.