Writing Science Term Papers: finding literature

If you’re new to writing scientific term papers, you may not be familiar with the often stringent requirements placed upon researchers regarding the sources they use. Unlike other disciplines, which may include a wide variety of various sources, scientific term papers typically have strict requirements for the paper’s primary sources.

Acceptable Sources for Your Science Term Paper

All of your major sources should be considered credible in the scientific community. What does that mean? Typically, instructors will require that the main sources be from peer-reviewed scientific journals. Peer-reviewed scientific journals differ from typical publications because of the strict requirements which each published article must meet before it is included. For example, a researcher will submit an article to the journal editor. The journal editor doesn’t simply read the article to see if it is interesting, or seems true. If it is interesting, he will forward it to a committee of other research scientists who then review the article and determine whether or not it seems accurate. They carefully examine the methods used and conclusions reached in the article. At that point, if they decide the article is credible and suitable for the journal, they then return it to the author with suggestions for revisions.

Finding Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Most universities give their students access to the most important peer-reviewed articles in the respective disciplines taught there. These journals can be found in print at the library or in digital form, typically by using a special student log in. (At some schools, you must log in to this system from a library or lab computer, as well). There are various methods to search for articles relevant for your topic, including searching by title, keyword, abstract contents, and author.

Sorting through scientific journals in this way might be tedious and time consuming, however. If you can find a less rigorous article that includes its sources, in a relatively reputable magazine or on a website, you can use their bibliography to find article titles that are peer-reviewed.

Other Sources for Your Term Paper

There are some topics which may require the use of sources other than scientific journals. If your topic deals with historical events, for example, and the role that a scientific breakthrough played, you may wish to do some background research in a more general historical text. If you have any doubt about the source’s credibility, simply check with your instructor.

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