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Biology 171 Research Project

Dave Bailey/Charissa Urbano/Audra Swarthout


Organizing Your Research Project

Your research project will be graded on format, quality and style. Neatness and organization count. Be sure to follow the instructions for each entry and keep accurate notes on sources.

  • Title Page. The title page should include the topic, your name, the instructor's name, course number and semester. 

  • Headings. Label each entry. For example: Entry 1 Pre-Assessment, Entry 3 Newspaper: (name of newspaper used as source), Entry 7 Science Review Journal: (name of journal used as source). Following each entry include a copy of the article, if you have one. Put all entries and articles in order. 

  • Binder. Once you have organized your entries and articles place them in a binder, not a three ring notebook. Your instructor can provide examples. 

8 Steps To Completing Your Research Project

Getting Started: Questionnaire
Complete the questionnaire designed to help you identify a research topic and turn it into your instructor to be sure you are on the right track. 

Entry #1: Pre-Assessment

Format: Write a one to two page report of your current level of knowledge and the reason for your interest in the chosen topic. Devote at least one paragraph to what you already know about your topic. Include another paragraph that explains why you are interested in this topic. Your last paragraph should discuss the kinds of questions you would like to have answered as you conduct your research. Title this entry: ENTRY #1: Pre-Assessment.

Entry #2: Textbook/General Reference

Search the index of your textbook or locate a science reference book. If your topic is very specialized you may need to think in broader terms and look up information that can provide background on your topic of interest. In some cases (e.g. specific rare diseases) it may be more helpful to use a science reference book rather than your textbook. Science reference books can be found in the Q section of the Delta Library according to the Library of Congress Classification System.

    1. Get the most of your textbook by identifying the chapter or chapters in your book most closely related to your topic. Check under the Further Reading section (found at the end of each chapter) in your textbook for any articles related to your topic.
    2. Go to the COURSE DOCUMENTS section of the class Educator site and check the publishers folders labeled "WebLinks", "NewsLinks" and "Articles" in the chapter most closely related to your topic.

Format. Title this entry: ENTRY #2: TEXTBOOK or General Reference. The second line should include source citations in APA format. Write a one to two-page summary of the information obtained from your search.


Entry #3: Using General Sources

Search one of the available full-text databases to locate a newspaper, or general magazine article from publications such as: Time, Newsweek, Smithsonian, Readers Digest, and U.S. News and World Report. Some of these publications are full-text within the databases and some are not. You can use the databases as an index to find an article in a publication in print form, located on the periodical shelves.

For general magazine articles, use InfoTrac  to find full-text articles out of magazines such as Time, Newsweek, SmithsonianReaders Digest, and U.S. News and World Report

EBSCO's Omnifile Full Text and Readers' Guide Full Text are additional sources for finding full-text general magazine articles. 

InfoTrac's Newsstand  provides full-text newspaper articles.

Format: Title this entry: Entry #3 General Source. Properly cite your source using the APA style.
Write a one to two-page summary of the article. Devote one paragraph to your personal reaction in regard to the content, thoughts you had while reading the article, the reading level, and the accuracy of the information. Include a copy of the article. 

Librarian's Tip for finding general magazine articles for Entry # 3.


Entry #4: Using Internet Sources

Use a search engine to locate the two best websites related to your topic.

Format: Title this entry: Entry #4 Internet websites. Properly cite these electronic sources (be sure to include the URLs). Write a one to two page summary comparing and contrasting the two sites. Discuss the kind of information available at each site, the publisher, the target audience and the credibility of both websites. Include a copy of the homepage (entry page) for each site.

Librarian's Tip for finding credible websites for Entry #4.


Entry #5: Using Popular Science Magazines

Go to my website and click the "Integrated Biology I" link to find "Research Project Hints" including links to science related magazines. Use the Search box at the Discover, Science News, or Scientific American sites to find an article related to your topic. You may also use other search engines or the publishers folders labeled "WebLinks"," NewsLinks" and "Articles" included in the COURSE DOCUMENTS section in Educator.

Another alternative would be to use EBSCO's  General Science Full Text (index/database) to locate articles from popular science magazines such as Discover, Science News, or Scientific American.

Any popular science magazine written for the general public and sold at newsstands or by subscription can serve as your source (see those previously listed). Before plunging into the more specialized primary literature on your topic it would be helpful to find a solid article written for the general public. Popular science magazines provide accessible introductions to difficult biological material. Current articles give up-to-date overviews of particular subjects and may mention names of important researchers. The illustrations and graphics are outstanding and enhance the clarity of each article. Their less technical language and approach will prepare you for the more specialized vocabulary of scientific journals.

Format: Title your entry as usual and cite your source. Write a one to two page summary of the article and devote the last paragraph to your personal reaction to the article, the reading level and the accuracy of the article. How informative was the writing or illustrations? Include a copy of the article.

Librarian's Tip for finding popular science magazine articles.


Entry #6: Using Reputable Science Periodical Articles

Search: FirstSearch's Medline, PubMed, OR EBSCO's General Science Full Text . These databases provide many electronic full-text articles in addition to citations which lead you to paper format located on the periodical shelves in the Delta College Library. For this entry, you are looking for a standard article or editorial, not a scientific paper describing original research. The following periodical titles are good examples of reputable science periodicals.

    New England Journal of Medicine (not including original research articles)
    JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association (not research or case studies)

These kinds of science periodicals are written for the science-minded reader. They keep the scientific community on top of the latest breakthroughs, controversies, and issues. The articles are often written or edited by leading scientists in the field who are asked to bring readers up-to-speed on "hot topics" in biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, etc. Many science professionals keep abreast of the latest developments by subscribing to these periodicals.

Format: Title your entry as usual and cite your source. Write a one or two page summary of the article and devote the last paragraph to your personal reaction to the article, reading level and the accuracy of the article. How informative was the writing or illustrations? Include a copy of the article.
Librarian's Tip for finding standard articles in reputable science journals.

Explanation on the difference between a standard article and a research study.

How to use PubMed to find editorial journal articles. 


Entry #7: Using Science Review Articles

Search: FirstSearch's Medline OR PubMed available from the Delta Library website. FirstSearch's Medline and the National Library of Medicine's PubMed allows you to limit your search by selecting "review" articles. This information may be challenging to locate, so if you having trouble, ask at the Delta Library Reference Desk for help. The following periodicals titles are good examples of periodicals containing science review articles:

    Annual Review of Microbiology
    Annual Review of Physiology
    Annual Review of Genetics
    New England Journal of Medicine

Review papers provide important background reading if you are seriously pursuing research in a given area. Although written for scientific audiences, reviews typically do not require as much background in the subject area as do the more specialized research papers they discuss. They give some historical perspective, summarize the contributions of influential researchers, and provide a sense of the important scientific questions being addressed. The reference section, at the end of each chapter of your textbook, will be a rich source of primary literature to consult for your final entry. Review articles are lengthy and usually written by one outstanding scientist actively involved in researching the topic addressed.

Format: Title your entry as usual and cite your source. Write a one or two page summary of the article and devote the last paragraph to your personal reaction to the article, the reading level and the thoroughness of the article. How many references were listed at the end of the article, how old and recent were these sources? Scan the References Cited section and search for possible research articles (primary source, true journal article) for your next entry. Include a copy of the article without the references (these often go on for 5-10 pages).

Librarian's Tip for finding science review articles.

How to use PubMed to find review journal articles. 

"Diabetes Insipidus " example of a review article. Article "reviews" diabetes insipidus diagnosis and treatment.

"Risk Models and Scores for Type 2 Diabetes: systemic review" example. This article reviews many original research studies as the authors state  "One hundred and fifteen papers were analyzed in detail to produce a final sample of 43."


Entry # 8 : Using Scientific Journal
(Primary Source) Articles

Search: FirstSearch's Medline, and PubMed. If the article is not available full-text electronically, FirstSearch allows you to Interlibrary Loan articles electronically. ILL takes some time, so start your search early. To ILL from FirstSearch, click on the ILL icon located on the citation screen.  Ask or call the Reference Desk for help.  Also, try locating a primary source article from the reference section of the Entry #7 Review Article.

A medical or scientific dictionary is almost necessary if you hope to understand the scientific language and get the most out of the article. They can be found in the medical and science reference sections of the library around the call numbers that begin with R and Q. Remember, a journal article is a report of original research written in the style of science papers with a specific title, abstract, introduction, etc. 

Format: Title your entry and cite your source. Page one of this entry should include a list of key words and acronyms and their definitions. Write a two page summary of the research and findings. In your summary, you should identify the hypothesis, the control group and experimental group(s), and any significant trends in the data. Discuss the author's major findings and conclusions and why they are important to the scientific community. Devote the last paragraph to a discussion of the follow questions. How valuable was this research to a science major compared to a traditional research paper? Did it enhance your library skills or were you already familiar with all forms of the scientific literature? How did the Review article differ from the Journal article? How much of the journal article did you understand?

This project is worth 100 points and is due the week we return from spring break.

Print out the Research Project Evaluation page and include it as the second page of your report - following your title page. This is where I will record your points earned and final score on this project.

Librarian's Tip for finding scientific journal (primary source) articles.

How to use PubMed to find scientific journal articles.  


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Last updated: February 2014


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