BIOL 326: Searching for Astrobiology-Focused Journal Articles

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While all of our search engines have incredible content, looking in the search engine Science Direct is a fantastic way to find scientific journal articles that are considered ''primary articles''.

So let's get started searching!

First things first - are you off-campus as you read this? If the answer is YES, then click the off-campus access link below to jump onto our system so that you can get access to everything that we've got! Doing so will open a totally new window, and you will be asked to log in. Once you have done this, close the login window and come back to this exact spot in the tutorial to get started!

Off Campus Access Click Here


.......are you back after jumping onto our system, or were you on-campus in the first place? Great! Click on the Science Direct link below to see the Science Direct window open up in the right hand window. -->

Science Direct

Using Keywords

Once you are on the Science Direct website, look towards the top of the screen where you will see a search box. In that search box, type in the information that you are looking for.

In this Astrobiology-specific example, I entered the following information keywords into the Keyword search box:

"Viking Lander" and Mars and (instruments or instrumentation)

Why are my keywords entered in like this?

  • "Viking Lander": these two keywords are in quotation marks because I want to keep the two words next to each other in my search results because they will only get me what I need for this assignment if they are next to each other.  


  • (instruments or instrumentation): these two possible keywords are in parentheses with an OR between them because I am looking for information on the instruments that were present on the Viking Lander, but maybe they weren't called 'instruments' - - maybe they were referred to instead as 'instrumentation', because that is another term that scientists use for the same things!  By putting both of these possible keywords in parentheses with the OR between them, that is telling the computer that I'm willing to look at journal articles that have either keyword present in them.

Sorting Your Search Results

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Once you enter your own topic-specific keywords into the Keywords box and hit Enter, you'll see all of the journal articles related to your own focus displayed. The Science Direct search engine gives you a very nice way to refine your search results so that you have only primary articles left in the results view.


On the left side of the screen, about halfway down, you'll see a spot where it lists Article Type.

(click the image below to enlarge it)

research article filtering option


If you check the box next to the Research articles option, you will be left with ONLY research articles (also known as primary literature) in your search results.  Research articles are good, because they are written by the actual scientists who did the actual research themselves.


If you check the box next to the Review articles option, you will be left with ONLY review articles (also known as secondary literature) in your search results.  Review articles are also good, because they are a collection of dozens and dozens of primary research articles on your topic, that have been read by the paper authors, who then summarize them all for you, saying what was found in each one, what was important, what 'trends' overall are seen or shown in the collective pool of data, etc.  By reading a review article you can get a strong sense of what is happening overall in your area of scientific interest, and you can be pointed towards some very interesting papers to read on your own that otherwise you might not have found! you can look through these remaining journal articles, and pick whichever one you feel would best meet the requirements for this specific assignment, knowing that you are only looking at the types of articles that Dr. Williams is asking for!


Sorting Your Search Results

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You can see that when I checked off the Research articles box to filter my own set of search results, I was able to find an article specifically related to the NetLander atmospheric instrumentation system that was on board the Viking Lander!


Click the image below to enlarge it - to see the journal article record, and to also see where the Research article notation is located on that record.

Research article record example

Once you click on the title, you can read the abstract, you can download the full text if it is available, or you can export the article to a citation management software program like RefWorks, Zotero, or EasyBib.  

We'll cover in class all the details in how to use RefWorks, and why it is such a great journal-article storage software program.

Sorting Your Search Results

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Congratulations!  By working your way through the tutorial, you have successfully learned how to access our search engines, search on your chosen topic, and select an article that best suits your needs for a specific assignment.  


If you have any questions for Susan about this tutorial and want to ask them by email, please feel free to do so! is her email address.  


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