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NSM 202: The Scientific Enterprise: Getting Started

Science in Popular Press

Everyday magazines and newspapers like New Scientist, Time Magazine, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal feature latest stories in various scientific fields. You may be used to interacting with these or similar stories in other media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook.  We're bombarded with this information all the time. But what does it mean and how do we engage with them to learn more? We can use the popular press articles as jumping-off points for learning more about scientific issues. 

The following Newspapers and Magazines are available at Jenks:

Newspapers & Magazines

Boston Globe


New York Times


Wall Street Journal


New Scientist


Science News


Natural History


Reading Popular Press Articles

Articles printed in magazines and newspapers are meant for a general audience, so language used is often accessible and does not assume prior knowledge.  Your job as the researcher is to read these articles and ask yourself critical questions about what you are reading. 

  • Where did this information come from? Who wrote it?
  • Why was this article written? For what purpose?
  • What questions does it invite you to consider about the topic?

Asking yourself these critical questions about the article you are reading will help inform what is and potentially is not said and how you might investigate further in order to learn more about this topic. 

Most articles published in newspapers and magazines will mention scientific studies or include additional source information at the end of the article.  Take your understanding to the next step and explore these sources - click on links provided or search in a library database or Google Scholar for the actual scientific studies conducted. 

Developing Keywords

When reading magazine and news articles, read with a critical eye knowing you are going to investigate this topic in more detail. Look for places that are unclear or you would like to explore further. As you read, highlight keywords within the article that describe this particular issue or question being raised. 

The example article is from the Health section of The New York TimesThis article features information about the latest work being done in immunotherapy to fight cancer.  

Use articles like this one to help generate keywords that you can use to explore further. 

Article citation: Grady, D. & Pollack, A. (2016, July 30). What is immunotherapy? The basics on these cancer treatments. The New York Times. Retrieved: 

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

From the above article on Immunotherapy and its use to fight cancer, we might extract the following keywords:

  • immunotherapy
  • immune system 
  • cancer
  • checkpoint inhibitors
  • killer T-cells
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • cell therapy

These keywords form a great starting place for how we might investigate the topic in more detail. For getting started, use background information such as encyclopedias and dictionaries to help define terms (such as the ones above) and read high-level information about your topic. Background research materials such as encyclopedias and dictionaries can also be good sources for additional information. Use there Reference List (at the end of the article) for suggestions on other resources you might search.

The following are print and online background resources available at Jenks Library. We have many more encyclopedias and dictionary available online and in print in the Reference Room, but these are a few to get you started!

Background Research

Credo Reference


Oxford Reference Online


Oxford Dictionary of Biology


Magill's Medical Guide