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NSM 202: The Scientific Enterprise: Databases & Journals

Library Databases


  • Start the initial search process with 2-3 keywords.  Review the results and pull out a handful articles that are most relevant to your topic.  Scan those articles for additional keywords or terminology that you might use to expand your search. Using the example on the "Getting Started" tab we might use the following keywords: immunotherapy AND cancer AND checkpoint inhibitors. 
  • Sort your search results by Date Newest so the most current information on a subject is at the top of your results.
  • Use the "Cited by" or "Cited References" features contained in many library databases to view a list of resources that have cited the particular article currently being viewed in their own work or are contained within the Reference list of the current article being viewed.
  • Do not limit your search to just one database.  Instead look at a variety of databases both subject specific and interdisciplinary to make sure you are viewing the full scope of literature published on your topic.

Start your search with these library databases!


Scientific Research

An important part of reading and understanding articles published in the popular press is knowing how to find advanced research on this particular topic. This involves search in Library Databases such as Academic Search Complete, MEDLINE, and BioOne for specific peer-reviewed articles related to the topic. Use scholarly articles to check the quality and validity of the information you are reading in popular press media and to explore further.

Scientific research published in scholarly journals are often referred to as Peer-Reviewed or Scholarly Articles. Our library databases can help you find this information!

What Does Peer-Reviewed Mean?

An article is considered "peer-reviewed" if it has been reviewed by scholars and professionals within the field of study for which the article was written. This process involves reviewing how the article was written and also the research involved in the study. The review process involves an extensive exchange between the review panel and the author(s) and the article can only be considered for publication in a scholarly journal once it has been approved. 

Ask yourself the following questions about the article you are viewing to determine if it is peer-reviewed: 

  • Does the article contain an abstract?
  • Does the article contain a full bibliography?
  • Are the author(s') credentials easily identified?
  • Does the journal contain little to no advertising?
  • Is the language of the article intended for an informed 
  • Is the article lengthy?
  • Does the journal description include the words "peer-reviewed" or "editorial process."

Many of our databases make the process of locating peer-reviewed information very easy for us by providing a "Peer-Reviewed" checkbox limiter on the search screen. Look for that checkbox when you're searching in library databases!

Reading Scholarly Journal Articles

Reading journal articles published on topics in the sciences is tough.  Often these articles are complex and require a great deal of time to read.  Most journal articles will contain the same core sections: Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, and Reference list.  A tip to speed up reading is to read the Abstract, or the summary of the article, to get a general idea of what it is about and then the Conclusion which will summarize the results and discussion succinctly.  You can then determine whether you want to spend your time reading the article in its entirety.   

For more tips on reading scholarly journal article check out this infographic describing the reading process: 

How to Read a Scholarly Article (Infographic)

How to Read a Scholarly Article (Accessible View)

1. Read the abstract
An abstract is a summary of the article, and will give you an idea of what the article is about and how it will be written. If there are lots of complicated subject-specific words in the abstract, the article will be just as hard to read.

2. Read the conclusion
This is where the author will repeat all of their ideas and their findings. Some authors even use this section to compare their study to others. By reading this, you will notice a few things you missed, and will get another overview of the content.

3. Read the first paragraph or the introduction
This is usually where the author will lay out their plan for the article and describe the steps they will take to talk about their topic. By reading this, you will know what parts of the article will be most relevant to your topic!

4. Read the first sentence of every paragraph
These are called topic sentences, and will usually introduce the idea for the paragraph that follows. By reading this, you can make sure that the paragraph has information relevant to your topic before you read the entire thing. 

5. The rest of the article
Now that you have gathered the idea of the article through the abstract, conclusion, introduction, and topic sentences, you can read the rest of the article!

To review: Abstract → Conclusion → Introduction → Topic Sentences → Entire Article

Used with permission from the Undergraduate Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for use or adaptation of materials.


Jenks Library has many journals available in print and online related to topics in vaccination, gene therapy, immunology, genomics, and more. Use BrowZine to browse for available Biological Science journals.