In the sciences, a primary source
Primary scholarly references are the gold standard for your background research as a scientist. Secondary scholarly literature—review articles, books, encyclopedias, handbooks, etc.—are useful entry points, but shouldn't be used alone. Follow up on the citations you find in secondary sources to get to the primary scholarly references.
Scientific primary literature is peer reviewed, or refereed, before being published. This enhances the quality and validity of the work. In the peer-review process, 2-3 specialists in the field read and critically evaluate the work before it can be published. Peer review is a quality-control measure to ensure that the primary literature includes only high quality, valid scientific information. Primary authors may revise and resubmit articles to improve them. Secondary literature is less stringently reviewed.
To learn more about peer-review, check out this short video: "Peer Review in 5 Minutes".
When reading a citation, break it down into parts. Check out the color-coded example below:
Eichenlaub-Ritter U. 2005. Mouse genetic models for aneuploidy induction in germ cells. Cytogenet Genome Res 111(3-4): 392-400.
Author. Year of Publication. Article Title. Journal Title Volume (Issue): page numbers.
Tip: The most common pitfall of reading citations is mixing up the article and journal titles. Remember that searching in Primo to check for access at Collins Library works most effiicently when you search by journal titles.
There are three methods for obtaining the actual articles you wish to read:
Method 1: In some databases, you will be able to link directly to the full-text article. Look around, as different databases have different interfaces. Look for a link or buttons that says "Check for Full Text" or Download PDF or similar. If given the choice between a PDF or HTML version of the article, always choose the PDF format. This will give you an exact image, including page numbers, of the article as it appears in the paper journal.
Method 2: If a direct link to full text is not available, then check Primo Search to see if the library subscribes to the journal. Search for the title of the journal that the article was published in.
You may find that there is online access available for this journal. Check the dates that are available...most of the time the link will say "Fulltext access available from 19xx." Check to see whether the article that you're looking for was published during the date range that is available. If so, then click the 'View fulltext' link and either browse through past issues, or look for a "search within this publication" link until you find the article that you need. You may find that Primo says the journal is available at Collins Memorial Library Print Journals, which means we have the journal physically in the library. If the article you are looking for is only available in print in the library rather than online, in which case you you will need to check either the current periodicals area on the first floor, or go downstairs to the basement to find the bound volumes of periodicals. If the periodical is available only in microform, you may submit a request for electronic delivery of the article via your Interlibrary Loan account.
Method 3: If your searching indicates that the article is not available in any format, then request the article through Tipasa, your Interlibrary Loan (ILL) account. ( Most databases include links to use ILL within each record.) It usually takes about a week or less to receive an electronic copy of the article.
And at any time if you have questions, send Pavel an email!
Another useful feature of Google Scholar is its ability to allow for easily finding articles which have cited an article that you have found.
Step 1: When looking at search results, check for the 'Cited by X' link underneath each result. That will tell you how many subsequent articles (that Google Scholar is aware of...it's not 100% comprehensive! This is a ballpark figure) have cited this particular article.