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BIOL 426: Developmental Neurobiology

Welcome to the Penn State Berks BIOL 426: Developmental Neurobiology research guide!

Boolean Searching

Search Strategies 

Search Term What it does Example
AND

All terms must appear

Narrows your search

Fewer results

Use to include multiple concepts

vaccines

AND

autism

OR

Either term may appear

Broadens your search

More results

Use for related concepts

gender identity

OR

gender expression

NOT

Removes a term from your search

Narrows your search

Fewer results

Use for concepts you do not want to research

mental illness

NOT

depression

Phrases

Search for exact phrases

Narrows your search

Fewer results

"gender identity"
Truncation

Searches for all forms of a word

Broadens your search

More results

Use to search for the root word of a concept

medic*

searches for:

medical

medicine

medicinal

medically

How to Read & Use Scholarly Scientific Articles

Intimidated and frustrated by scholarly, peer reviewed articles?  Use the links below to learn how to navigate scientific journal articles.


Take a dictionary with you! 

When you are just getting started in a discipline, one of the most difficult things about reading the literature is understanding the language.  Using scientific dictionaries and encyclopedias to look up unfamiliar terms can be hugely helpful. 

Use the resources below to assist you as you read:


Suggested Reading Strategy

  1. Abstract
    • Gives you a brief overview of what the paper is about. 
    • Use the abstract to help you decide if the article is relevant to your topic and to brainstorm search terms.
  2. Discussion
    • Summarizes important results.  This is where the author(s) connect the dots - what does this research actually mean to the larger picture?
    • Ask if the results are relevant to your research.  If not, you might want to scrap the article.
  3. Introduction
    • Explains the motivation & importance of the research, along with the prior research done on this topic.
    • Do you understand the background information?  If not, this is the tie to go back & look up pertinent info.
  4. Results
    • This is where you'll find the raw data, along with figures & tables.  You must be able to understand the charts to interpret the data.
  5. Methods
    • Explains how the researchers conducted their study.  Could give you ideas on how to create your study for your thesis.
    • Always critically evaluate the methods researchers used.

Remember that reading scientific literature is not easy, even for experts.  Having a strategy, along with making sure to look up concepts and terms you don't understand, can be hugely helpful.  The above strategy is recommended but developing your own based on your knowledge about what each section contains and what you need to know is key!


Primary research versus review articles - how to tell the difference?

Differentiating between original primary research articles and review articles can be a bit tricky.  Both types of articles are considered "scholarly" and appear in peer reviewed journals.  However, it is an essential skill in the sciences to be able to differentiate between the two types of articles.  Below is information to assist you in determining what type of article you are viewing.  

 

Characteristics

Examples

Research Article                                                                                                                   

Author(s) present new set of findings from original research after conducting an original experiment.

Typically contains the following distinct sections:

  • Methods (possibly the variation Methods & Materials)
  • Results (including charts, graphs, and statistical tables)
  • Discussion
Kilpatrick, L. A., Holmberg, M., Manzouri, A., Savic, I.  (2019).  Cross sex hormone treatment is linked with a reversal of cerebral patterns associated with gender dysphoria to the baseline cisgender controls.  European Journal of Neuroscience, 50(8), 3269-3281.  https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.14420

Review Article

Author(s) analyze and summarize existing research.

Often focus on a general topic and brings together all relevant, useful articles on that topic in one article.

Do not contain sections such as Methods or Results because they did not conduct original research.

References within a review article can help you locate primary research articles on a topic!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Roselli, C. E.  (2018).  Neurobiology of gender identity and sexual orientation.  Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 30(7), 1-8.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jne.12562