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BIOL 3104 Fall 2023 Library Session

Assignment & Session Objectives

  • What are you being asked to do?
  • What are your deliverables?
  • When are they due?
  • Are there any specific requirements you need to keep in mind?


Image by sibya from Pixabay

The key objectives for you in working through this Library Guide are for you to:

  1. Be able to easily differentiate primary research papers from other types of published work
  2. Become more familiar with some core Biology background resources and databases to help you find relevant scholarly articles
  3. Identify tools to refresh your proficiency in writing in the sciences including paraphrasing requirements and methods
  4. Remember that there are existing resources to assist you with citation and citation management
  5. Know where to get help!

Part I - Journal Rankings & Background Resources

More details on the use of impact factor for evaluating resources you might find helpful with your assignment:


How do you find the impact of a Journal?

  • SCI Journal is an open-access search tool that aggregates journal impact measures from a variety of resources 
  • SCImago Journal and Country Rank  database is a publicly available portal that includes the journals and country scientific indicators developed from the information contained in the Scopus database

--> Not sure what all the SCImago measures and results mean?  Try using the help page for descriptions of the measurement factors

The following are a few resources for you to consider when you find that you need to look up terminology, definitions, concepts, or more detailed explanations. Remember, they are not primary research! 


Part II - Finding Information

One of the core requirements for your assignment is that you are using a primary research papers.  But what does that actually mean and how can you tell when you are looking at your library search results?
Following are two resources to help you out, they identify key areas you should be considering when you are evaluating resources:

  • The University of Northern Colorado has a brief explanation on how to identify a primary research article. 

  • Suffolk University in Boston provides a more detailed explanation and process for determining Is it primary? How do I know? 

  • Types of Scientific Evidence provides a description of different types of scientific evidence ranked by strength.

Class activity to identify which article is a primary research paper:
Article 1: 0 votes (0%)
Article 2: 7 votes (77.78%)
Article 3: 1 votes (11.11%)
Article 4: 1 votes (11.11%)
Total Votes: 9


If you find an article for your assignment that MRU doesn't have access to - you can interlibrary loan it by clicking on this link 

Log in with your myMRU login and password and enter as much information about the article as you can into the request form.

Often ILL can have a document in your email inbox within 2-3 business days of your request!


General Scopus search tips

  • Start with your most broad search terms and narrow from the results list.

  • It is possible to add a date range on your original search entry page i.e. Published from [year] To [present] (you can also limit by date later in the search process).

  • Use Search within results box on the left side of the results page to limit by species, system, physiological process etc. Add one topic at a time and review results after each search.

  • The Refine Results options on the left side of the search results page can be used to limit to specific YearDocument type (e.g. Article), and Language. Note, all abstracts in Scopus are in English, but not all articles are necessarily in English.

  • Sort on Relevance to see the results most related to your search terms at the top of the list or Date (newest) to see the most recent articles on your topic at the top of the list.

  • Remember this is not a full-text database you will need to link out to the article and you may even need to use Interlibrary Loan to obtain a copy of it.


General PubMed search tips

  • Use search terms that are as specific as possible, but don't use quotation marks, operators, punctuation, or tags.

  • You may limit to the year on the left. After doing so, change "Sort by" to "Best Match" to see the most on-topic results first.

  • Try a MeSH (Medical Subject Heading) search.

  • Select "Abstract" view under "Display Settings" to see full text MRU links (the "Look for a copy" button)

  • You may wish to use the Article Types limit on the left to see only certain types of article: List of PubMed article types

  • Once you find a good article, you can use it to find others:  In PubMed you can look at the "Similar Articles" section of the article page.  You can review the citations at the end of the article you have found for the resources the author used.  You could also copy and paste the title into Google Scholar to find related and subsequent research.

What is citation chaining?

Citation chaining means searching backwards and forwards in time for materials that are cited by and also that cite an article or resource you already have. One resource links you to another, which links you to another, and so on to create a chain of relevant literature.

~ Walden University

Advantages of citation chaining

  • Efficient for finding additional sources
  • High likelihood of finding sources on a similar topic
  • Often find unexpected, but valuable, sources
  • Useful for research papers or assignments where you're comparing sources

Strategies for Citation Chaining:

Strategy 1: Carefully review the references of relevant articles you've found

Trajanovska, S., Ban, J., Huang, J., Gregorevic, P., Morsch, M., Allen, D. G., & Phillips, W. D. (2019). Muscle specific kinase protects dystrophic mdx mouse muscles from eccentric contraction‐induced loss of force‐producing capacity. The Journal of Physiology597(18), 4831-4850.


Strategy 2: Use Google Scholar or Scopus to find out who cited the articles you've found

Google Scholar result

Reading & Writing In The Sciences

The most basic explanation of what an evidence based paragraph can look like. 

An evidence based paragraph makes a point using evidence from the literature to strengthen that point. It usually has three parts:

  1. Point: The point establishes the main idea of the paragraph.
  2. Proof: The proof is what you use to prove your point. Usually consists of a paraphrase, summary, or statistic.
  3. Relevance: Relevance explains how the proof proves the point.

Point Proof + Relevance = Developed!

Here is an example of how one could look:

Some kinds of honey have potential for use as an alternative to traditional antibioticsResearchers found that after use for two days the area of skin colonised by bacteria was reduced by 100-fold on the skin that was treated with honey (Kwakman et al, 2008, p.1). The number of positive tests for bacteria were also significantly reduced (Kwakman et al, 2008, p.1)Honey is relatively cheap and available and may be able to play an important role in health care as a replacement for some of the antibiotics to which bacteria are developing resistance.

Kwakman, P. H. S., Van den Akker, J. P. C., Guclu, A., Aslami, H., Binnekade, J. M., de Boer, L., . . . Zaat, S. A. (2008). Medical-grade honey kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria in vitro and eradicates skin colonization. Clinical Infectious Disease 46(11), 1677-1682. htttp://

APA 6th Edition referencing used.

To avoid plagiarism when paraphrasing / summarising remember these five important points:

1) Your paraphrased text should be significantly different from the original (i.e. don't just change a few words here and there)

2) You must change the structure of the sentence or paragraph you are paraphrasing, not just the words.

3) If you use anyone else's words verbatim (word for word) you need to put quotation marks around it. Warning: Quotations are rarely used in the sciences

4) Use proper citation methods (in this case use APA) to give credit for the ideas, opinions or theories you are presenting.

5) Check that you have preserved the original meaning of the text in your paraphrased version

Paraphrasing and summarising exercises from Purdue University

Manage & Cite Your Research

What citation management tool are you currently using?
Mendeley: 1 votes (20%)
Zotero: 1 votes (20%)
Excel Spreadsheet: 1 votes (20%)
Something else: 2 votes (40%)
I am not using one...yet: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 5

Citation management software allows you to save and organize items found via searching the library's databases. It also can be used to create reference lists and citations for papers. There are a number of software systems available

Two of the most popular free software management systems are Mendeley and Zotero. Below are some features that may help you decide between the two:

Reasons to choose Mendeley

  • Your research consists mainly of pdfs. Often this is the choice for researchers in the Sciences
  • Mendeley works well with Chrome and Safari and has a desktop version
  • 2 GB cloud storage
  • Mendeley has very well developed social collaboration tools. For example, you can find citations from similar users and search within its crowd-sourced research database
  • Desktop version is installed on all publicly accessible computers at MRU

Reasons to choose Zotero

  • Zotero works better if your research is both html and pdf. Often this is the choice for researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Zotero works well with Firefox. It also has a standalone desktop application
  • 300 MB cloud storage
  • Allows easy citation additions from websites like Amazon and Flickr
  • Well liked interface for tagging and writing notes to accompany citations

The following APA resources will help you cite in-text, create a reference list, and format your reference list:

Where To Get Help!

If you have questions about assignment requirements, due dates and submission, or the science you encounter in the assignment contact your Instructor!

If you have difficulty finding information (either too much or too little), challenges with databases not working, or have questions about citation or citation management software, please contact me, your Librarian!  My contact details are available on the right-hand side of the page, under my photo.  The best way to reach me these days is by email or using the 'schedule appointment' button under my name. 

If you are looking for writing help contact Student Learning Services!

You can also get help by clicking on the MRU Library Ask Us chat popup on the lower right-hand side of each of the library webpages

Biology Librarian

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Kalen Keavey

Phone: 403.440.8516
Office: EL4423O