Biology 202L: Genetics

Approaching a Research Project & Constructing a Database Search for Original Research Articles

1. Think about the individual concepts in your research topic: Let's say you heard that turtle embryos develop as male in cooler temperatures and female in warmers temperatures due to some kind of genetic factor, and you want to learn more about that. Your main keywords might be: Genetics, temperature-dependent, sex determination, turtles. You will build your literature search around these key concepts (keywords / key phrases).

2. Think of additional synonyms or related terms you should search. Remember that the library databases interpret your search literally. They will search only for the terms you type into the search boxes - even if the words you've chosen have more commonly used synonyms. So, for a concept like turtles, use the "OR" operator to also search related words: tortoisesreptiles, or the family name Testudinidae. Surround the full group of synonyms with parentheses to make sure that only these like-terms are being searched as a unit. Ex search string: (turtles OR tortoises OR reptiles OR testudinidae)

3. Truncation. Many words can be either singular or plural; they may also have variant word endings. In most library databases, the asterisk (*) will allow you to expand your search by truncating the end of your search term. If you search for reptil*, you will find results that include these words: reptilereptiles, reptilian, or reptilia. Why does this matter? Remember, unlike Google, most library databases only search for the word in the exact form that you provide - they don't know that you may also be interested in related words unless you tell them. The databases are designed like this deliberately to allow you to extremely precise in your search.

4. You need to use original research articles published in scholarly journals for this assignment. Original research articles are published in scholarly/academic journals, go through the peer-review process, and document the research methods, results, and analysis process conducted by the authors in the course of a new study or experiment. However, keep in mind that other types of articles are published in journals as well, which are not appropriate for your assignment; these include literature reviews, book reviews, opinion pieces, commentaries, letters to the editor, etc. Most non-scholarly articles in journals are relatively brief and do not document the full, detailed methods, results, and analysis of the authors' study. The most common point on confusion comes with review articles, or literature review articles; these pieces of writing often look a lot like original research, but instead of communicating new information about the results of a new study, they summarize and synthesize the results of many previously published studies to communicate the state of existing research on a given topic. If you aren't sure exactly what type of article you have, ask the biology librarian.

5. When searching for articles, choose a database appropriate for the subject matter you are looking for. Several databases recommended for different aspects of life science research are listed in the "Article Databases" tab in this guide. Using a library database is typically more effective for finding peer-reviewed articles than a general search like Google because content is targeted, curated, and you can more easily use complex searches and limiting options to find exactly the information you need.

6. Getting Full Text for an Article: To download a full article look for a link to down a PDF. If you don't see a direct link, look for a "Find @ UNM" link, which will direct you to where you can find the full text PDF.

7. After you locate the articles for your project, remember to save them and be sure to follow the citation format guidelines for your assignment.

Original Research Articles

Students are required to use Original Research Articles as sources for the BIOL 202L group poster project and current genetics presentation.

An original research article is a type of journal article where the authors are writing about a new study that they conducted, including background information and research question (introduction), study design (methods), study data and outcomes (results), and an interpretation of what the results mean (discussion). 

Example article