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Links to resources for conducting Biology research at Okanagan College, and tips on how to use them. This guide also links to course-specific research strategy guides for some OC Biology courses.

How to Identify & Read a Research Article?

Scientific Information : Primary & Secondary Literature

Scientific information evolves through a continuous process of communication among scientists. It develops in cycles moving from ideas, through research that tests the ideas, to publications reporting the results, first in the primary literature and later in the secondary and, if significant enough, in the tertiary literature.


Identifying a Research (or Review) Article

Examine the Title of the Article

Sometimes the authors indicate the study type or design in the title of the article.


Krafte Holland, K., Larson, L. R., & Powell, R. B. (2018). Characterizing conflict between humans and big cats Panthera spp: A systematic review of research trends and management opportunities. PLoS One, 13(9), e0203877.

Kalies, E. L., Chambers, C. L., & Covington, W. W. (2010). Wildlife responses to thinning and burning treatments in southwestern conifer forests: A meta-analysis. Forest Ecology and Management, 259, 333-342.

Examine the Abstract and/or Full Text Article 

Abstract: Look for key phrases such as the following.

"This study examines..."
"The purpose of this study was to..."
"The study's findings support..."
"We investigated..."
"The results of this study confirm..."

Examine the article for a structured outline such as the IMRD format

  • Introduction (Background, Objective)
  • Methodology (Methods/Materials)
  • Results 
  • Discussion

Abstract (at front of paper) and References (at end of paper) should be present for all peer-reviewed articles.

Other possible key headings/paragraphs may be Conclusion, Limitations, Future Work/Directions.  

Reading a Research (or Review) Article:

Gain an overview first! (Hofmann, 2019, pp. 180-181)

  1. Read the Abstract, Introduction and Conclusion
  2. Skim through the entire paper
  3. Read the paper for fuller understanding

For more help on reading research articles, each campus library has books/ebooks to access on reading, writing, communicating and researching in the biological sciences:

  • Hofmann, A. H. (2019). Writing in the biological sciences: A comprehensive resource for scientific communication. 3rd ed. Oxford University Press.
    • Look at: Chapter 10 Reading, summarizing, and critiquing a scientific research article; Chapter 11 Term papers and review articles

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