Physics and Astronomy

Library Esearch

Try ESearch for a quick search of a little of everything. You can then limit your results using the filters. Find tips on searching for articles in ESearch here

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An Overview of Scientific Literature

Scientific information exists in different formats including: articles, books, and data. Sources can be primary, secondary, or tertiary. Authors of primary sources analyze data. Secondary and tertiary sources interpret and summarize other sources. Primary sources are often the most up-to-date, but can be difficult to read and understand. Secondary and tertiary sources are often easier to understand, but have undergone additional interpretation. 

Primary Sources

Original research, evidence, and analysis

Examples: Research articlesPatents, Research dataLab notes, Conference papers, Clinical trials

Search tip: Did the authors themselves collect or analyze data? If the answer is yes, it is probably primary research.





Secondary Sources

Summaries, evaluations, or interpretations of others' original research

Examples: Review articles, Book reviews, Annotated bibliographies

Search tip: Scholarly review articles are usually easier to understand than the primary literature. Try adding the term "review" to your search strategy to find them. 





Tertiary Sources

Collections and summaries of primary and secondary sources

Examples: Reference books, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias

Search tip: Try using the content type filters in ESearch to limit to "Reference."


Searching Tips

  1. Think about what you want to know
    The first step to successfully searching is having a mindset of inquiry. Design research questions when you develop your hypothesis, design your experiment, and explain your results. 
    Example: How does the wavelength of light affect the degree to which it is refracted? 
  2. Gather a little background info and adjust the question as needed
    Go ahead, Google it. Or look in the library Reference section. 
  3. Narrow the question down to the main concepts and variables
    Example: wavelength light refraction
  4. Plan a search with boolean search strategies
    Symbol Example Description 
    " " "breast cancer" Searches the exact phrase found in the quotes. This search will yield articles with "breast cancer," but NOT articles that only contain the word "breast," or the word "cancer," or contain the words separately.
    * atmos*

    Signifies a wild card. Will yield articles with the prefix submitted and any ending, such as: 
    atmosphere, atmospheric, atmospheres, etc.

    AND (cats) AND (dogs) Adds search terms to the search, will limit the results to only articles that contain both terms. AND is usually implied, but can be used with parentheses and OR to make the search more precise.
    OR (Arabidopsis OR "A. thaliana") Expands the search, a good way to add synonyms or binomial names to search terms. This example will return any article with either the word "Arabidopsis" or A. thaliana.
    NOT Ash NOT tree Excludes articles that have the term. This will return results with the word "ash" but not if the results also contain the word "tree."
    Example: (wavelength) AND (light) AND (refraction OR deflection) 
  5. Enter your search in a library database
    Try: Web of Science, Applied Science and Technology Source, or one of the databases listed here!
  6. Filter and sort your results
    Try the limiters (usually on the left side of database page) or sort the results by most cited, or newest. 
  7. Open, read, re-search

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Kelly Getz