Physics and Math Guide

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Practicing the scientific method drives the hands-on research approach of physics, but to develop a hypothesis, you need to be familiar with relevant research and previous experiments.  This guide will help you develop a search strategy, evaluate sources, write the lit review section of lab reports, and document your sources in APA. 

Science Daily - Space and Time
Science Daily - Matter and Energy
Science Daily - Computers and Math
 NY Times - Space and Cosmos
 NY Times - Physics
 NY Times - Technology
 SciAm - Space
 SciAm - Physics
 SciAm- Technology
 Biology and Health
 Biopsych and Psych
 Data and Statistics
 Science Current Events

What Are Primary Sources in Science?
Science teachers at MLWGS frequently require students to consult scholarly, primary research about a topic in order to develop a hypothesis, design an experiment, or write a persuasive paper about a science controversy.  To be considered a primary source in the sciences, an article must convey original research findings made by the scientists who wrote the article.  

What is Original (Primary) Research?  -  here's a concise answer and glossary from UNF Libraries.

And here's a quick video tutorial from Hartness Library System in VT that provides a multidisciplinary introduction of how to distinguish between primary and secondary sources:

Traits of primary (original) research articles  
Some common traits (not all of which are mentioned in the video) include the following:
  • Discusses experiments or modeling the researchers conducted themselves
  • Has sections like materials, methods, results, and conclusion/discussion/analysis
  • Includes charts, diagrams, tables, and data sets of original data
  • Has a lengthy reference list 
  • Uses a formal, technical writing style
  • Has a title that describes experiment/findings (versus one that sounds like a catchy headline)
  • Authored by a team of scientists with expert credentials
Examples of primary and secondary sources
  1. Primary source (open web) - research study - UC Irvine
  2. Primary source (Gale) - research report - Coastal Education and Research Foundation
  3. Primary source (Gale) - original statistical modeling on existing data sets
  4. Secondary source (JSTOR) - news article found in scholarly database
  5. Secondary source (found with Highwire) - review article
Finding Primary Research Articles
Many sources in the Delving Deeper list below may contain primary research about your topic.  As you budget your time, remember that you can only access full-text articles in Science Direct while on campus.  When you search Science Direct, use the Journal Search (click Search on the top toolbar, then click the Journal tab of the search box) and limit your search to the last five years.  For the most features, view the HTML version of the article (by clicking on the article title in your search results list rather than the PDF icon).  Features available in the HTML version include related articles, related terms, hyperlinked reference lists, quick access to figures and tables, and more.

Here's a library blog post that reviews important search limiters in Science Direct. 

Reading Research Articles
How to Read a Scientific Article (PDF) - once located, reading scientific articles can be a challenge.  To improve your reading, use this method from Mary Purugganan, Ph.D., and Janice Hewitt, Ph.D..

Are you a visual learner? Here's a reading tips video (best viewed full screen) for scientific articles. There's no audio, but it covers useful information.

Understanding Context
  • topic overviews
  • reference book articles
  • secondary articles/essays
  • books - introduction
EBSCO ebooks - see list below
History of Science Sourcebook
MW Library Catalog - reference
Opposing Viewpoints
PowerSearch (Gale) - books
Salem Science - pamphlets
Science VRL bookshelf (incl. Science in Dispute)
Wikipedia (uneven coverage)
Delving Deeper
  • primary research articles
  • reports and statistics
  • books - detailed chapters
  • data sets
AP Source - mag & journal articles
Google Scholar
Highwire Press
MW Library Catalog - books
SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (Harvard) - data sets - reports
Science Accelerator - reports
Science Direct (full-text available on campus only - use Journal search, limit to last 5 years)
Zenodo - grey lit database
Specific Projects/Topics
  • project guides
  • search tutorials
  • virtual bookshelves
  • handouts

Boyle - Physics Classroom (Mr. Boyle frequently assigns modules on this web site)
Clark - Forensic Chemistry
Donahue - Biopsychology
Edgerton - Inheritance Patterns
Riles/Walter - VCU Stats

Subpages (1): Robotics Guide
Wendy DeGroat,
Sep 27, 2010, 5:42 AM