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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?

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)

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

Keywords to describe the main article content and possibly study type often are directly below the abstract. (These may be translated in library databases to subject headings attached to article results)

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

Examine the Indexing of an Article in a Library Database or the OCtopus search engine   

Library databases usually identify the publication type of a given article. Type of publication or subject headings in the database or where it has been searched over via the OCtopus search engine can often include the type of research methodology used in the article. NOTE: there is a delay before an article is indexed in a databases, so this may not work with very recent articles.


Bayne, E. M., Boutin, S., & Moses, R. A. (2008). Ecological factors influencing the spatial pattern of Canada lynx relative to its southern range edge in Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 86(10), 1189-1997. [Database: Gale in Context:Science]. 

Subjects: Canada; Company distribution practices; Lynx -- Distribution; Lynx -- Behavior; Lynx -- Observations; Animal ecology -- Research

Bastille-Rousseau, G., Schaefer, J. A.,Peers, M. J. L.,Ellington, E. H., Mumma, M. A., Rayl, N. D.,  Mahoney, S. P., & Murray, D. L.. (2018).Climate change can alter predator-prey dynamics and population viability of prey. Oecologia , 186(1), 141-150. [Database: Biological & Agricultural Index Plus (H.W. Wilson).]

Subjects: Climate change; Predation (Biology); Caribou; Black bear; Coyote; Biotic communities; Population dynamics; Population viability analysis


Important note:

Research articles are the primary means of developing new scientific knowledge, but ... vary in the level of detail given about the study. You may need to do your own evaluation.


Reading a Research (or Review) Article:

Tip! The best reading of an article is not sequential, not from first to last page. 

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

1) Read the Abstract, Introduction and Conclusion

2) Then read through the entire paper

3) Re-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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