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Scientific Articles: Finding Them Using Library Databases and Google Scholar

This guide will help you find journal articles that report scientific findings.

What's a Scientific Article?

photos of scientists at work

You might be required to find scientific articles for a variety of classes. Often, your instructors will require that you find articles that are reporting original research. You will want the original scientific report, including the information you would need if you were going to replicate the experiment or study. But sometimes these articles can be difficult to find and identify.

Characteristics of Most Scientific Articles
First, let's look at how to identify an article reporting scientific findings. Take a brief look at the article. In general, scientific articles:

  • Are often 10 pages or longer
  • Include technical and specialized language
  • Are likely to be challenging to read and to require looking up terminology
  • Have lengthy bibliographies at the end

If an article is only 2 pages long, has no references (bibliography), and you understand it without concentrating and perhaps looking up some of the words, then it is not presenting scientific research. It's just talking about it.

If your article looks good so far, then take a closer look. Most scientific research is divided into distinct, easily recognizable sub-sections. Here are some of the subheadings to look for:

  • Summary or Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Materials and Methods (or Methodology)
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgements
  • References

If the article has three or more of these subheadings, then it almost certainly is an article presenting original scientific research.

Scholarly Articles: What to Expect

Scientific articles are a type of scholarly article.  They are different from the magazines you are more used to seeing.  This outline explains what sort of information is usually provided in scholarly articles, and tips on how to find them and weave them into a project:

Scholarly Articles: What to Expect

And this interactive page that highlights and describes common components of a scholarly article.  This works for a scientific article too.

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

anatomy of a scholarly article

Scientific Paper vs. Popular Press: Comparing the Two

For comparison, here's an example of an article presenting scientific findings about the possible connection between cell phones and brain tumors:

"Long-term use of cellular phones and brain tumours: increased risk associated with use for >=10 years"

And here's an example of an article from a magazine on the same topic that is not presenting scientific findings:

"Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer or Not?"

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