Today’s guest blog was written in collaboration with Melissa Martin, a former global marketing intern with Promega. She is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she is double majoring in zoology and life sciences communication, with a certificate in environmental studies. Reposted from the Promega Connections blog with permission.
Peer-reviewed papers are considered the most technical and in-depth way to learn about research and scientific advances. As a student or scientist, you will not only want to read scholarly articles to learn about what others are doing in your field but also to expand your knowledge and learn about scientific advances in completely new areas of study. With countless disciplines of science covering wide-ranging topics such as cell biology, physical chemistry or human behavior, it can be overwhelming to do a general search and find articles and journals that will have the topics relevant to your interests.
Databases can be a helpful tool to start exploring the large number of publications and learn from other scientists. They can also be useful for finding references for your own papers to explain and strengthen your findings in the introduction or discussion sections or find techniques that didn’t work for other scientists so that you can avoid similar mistakes while setting up your own experiments.
Here are some reliable databases to explore publications, along with lists of pros and cons for each. Make sure to check if your university or employer provides a subscription to any databases, so you don’t have to pass over an article you are dying to read because you must pay to see the full text. When possible, it is also helpful to filter your search to show only the abstract. Reading the abstract is the best way to find out what a paper is going to be about and whether it is an article you are interested in and want to look at the full text.
Pros: Largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature, covers numerous fields including science, technology, medicine, social sciences, arts and humanities, features citation tracking
Cons: Full access only granted if part of subscribing institution
Pros: All content available for free, covers areas of science, technology, medicine, social sciences and humanities, grades quality of journals
Cons: Full text not searchable, limited to open access journals
While it can be difficult to read and understand long, technical peer-reviewed papers, it is a skill that scientists will need to use throughout their career. Exploring these databases may be insightful or inspiring to your own work, which is why it is important that you feel prepared to search through the thousands of publications out there and find what you’re looking for.
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