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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.

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.

The Research Process

Formation of Ideas or Hypothesis (Year 1)

Search of the literature to see what has been done before and testing of the hypothesis in the lab or field. Literature Review

Primary Literature (Year 1-3)

Detailed record of research formally published as an article in a journal or a paper in the published proceedings of a conference. Some may appear as brief reports of research in progress (sometimes called "communications" or "letters"), with whole journals or a section of a journal devoted to this format. Most will be published as longer research articles in scholarly journals and are peer-reviewed prior to publication lending them the most authority. Searched via article databases. Examples: Nature, Science, Ecology

Grey Literature (Years 1-3)

More formal record of research published as preprint or technical report, a personal website, or given as a conference paper for which proceedings are not published. (These publications are part of the primary literature, since it is an original record of research, but are called "grey" because they are harder to locate than the readily available primary literature below.)

Invisible Scholarship (Years 1-3)

Informal discussion of research with colleagues via email, discussion lists, at meetings, seminars, etc.

Secondary Literature (Years 3-5)

Publications summarizing and pointing to the primary literature soon after it appears. Their main purpose is to facilitate timely access to scientific information, most readily through article databases.

Review articles published in peer-reviewed journals or appearing in annual volumes devoted exclusively to reviews. A review is a digest of recent research in a particular subject area and, are an invaluable resource for background information.

Add “review” as a keyword when searching article databases.

Examples: Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, and Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Magazines & Newspapers published for a broader and more popular audience; not peer-reviewed; contain research of others rather than the original reports. Examples: New Scientist, Scientific American

Books that review current literature also fall into this category.

Example: The world of wolves: new perspectives on ecology, behaviour, and management / edited by Marco Musiani, Luigi Boitani, &Paul C. Paquet.Kelowna Circulating Collection QL 737 .C22 W67 2010

Tertiary Literature (Years 5-10)

Publications that also summarize and point to the primary literature, but generally only after it has become widely accepted and believed, such as handbooks, encyclopedias, textbooks, and popular literature-- all good sources for background information.

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