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Methods in Ecology & Evolution: Journal Articles

Second Half of Methods Course

Where To Begin Looking for Articles

To find journal articles about your topic, you need to use an online database which indexes the articles by subject.  Many of our databases also contain links to the full-text of the articles, and allow you to read and/or print the article immediately. Links to all of the Library's databases are listed on the Databases A-Z page. 
Academic Search Complete provides full text for over 8,500 academic, social sciences, humanities, general science, education and multicultural journals; and over 7,300 of the full text journals are peer reviewed. This database also includes indexing and abstracting for more than 12,590 journals.

Start your library research with Academic Search Complete, then move on to a more discipline-specific database like BioONE, Environment Index, or SciTechPremium. 

What is a Peer-Reviewed Journal?

Peer Review is a process that journals use to ensure the articles they publish represent the best scholarship currently available. When an article is submitted to a peer reviewed (or refereed) journal, the editors send it out to other scholars in the same field (the author's peers) to get their opinion on the quality of the scholarship, its relevance to the field, its appropriateness for the journal, etc.

Publications that don't use peer review (Time, Cosmo, Sports Illustrated) just rely on the judgement of the editors whether an article is interesting or not. That's why you can't count on them for solid, scientific scholarship.

How do I know if a journal is peer reviewed?

Usually, you can tell just by looking. A scholarly journal is visibly different from other magazines, but occasionally it can be hard to tell.  If you take a side-by-side look at Time Magazine and Biodiversity and Conservation, you’ll spot the differences pretty quickly.



Biodiversity and Conservation

Time Magazine

Look: Black-and-White Charts and Graphs Glossy Photographs
Ads: Little or no advertising Full-Page Ads
Typical Article Title: “Effects of Litter Removal on Arthopod Communities in Pine Plantations."
"Inside the Mind of George Bush"

Footnotes & Bibliography:

Yes No
Purpose: To Communicate Current Research

To Sell SUVs and Viagra

Other Databases

How to read a scientific Article

Primary Literature





1.  Found where the researcher published their findings first (i.e., the primary place the data is found).

2.  In science, it's usually a journal article outlining methodology, data, results, conclusions. Look for these sections in any article you find.

3.  It will always have a Literature Cited section.

4.  The article is written in the researcher's own words, not summarized by anyone else. 

5.  It is found in scholarly journals such as Animal Behaviour, Journal of Chemical Physics, etc. 

Boolean Operators

When searching any database, certain words can be used as "operators" to expand or focus your search--the AND operator helps to narrow your search statement by directing it to find only those documents that contain all of the words listed.   The OR command broadens your search to include results that contain any of the terms listed.  The NOT operator allows you to exclude results that are irrelevant to your topic.

Where is the Full-Text of my article?

Now that you have found an article on your topic in a database, how do you view the article itself?

    Check to see if it is available as full text in the database you are searching. Sometimes there is only a record or abstract.

     Check the Online Journals List link on the Library's homepage.

    Check the SU Worldcat to see if we have a print subscription to the journal.

      If you are still unable to see the article, request it through Get It! (InterLibrary Loan)

Open Access Journals

Directory of Open Access Journals

Scientists in all fields have been pushing the idea of open access to information,

and to accomplish this have begun creating free online journals. One source is located

at the link above.

Get It!: Interlibrary loan and acquisitions requests





For items we don't own, our library can either borrow the item from another library or purchase it for the collection.

The first time you use Get It!, you'll need to sign up for an account with your SUeID and password.