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BIOL 456 - Behavioral Ecology


In this class you will need to find recent (less than 5 years old) original scientific papers on your research topic(s). These articles need to be primary journal articles (also called research articles). This guide will help you find these articles using the search box on the library's home page, a publisher's website (ScienceDirect), Google Scholar, and interlibrary loan. Click on the menu items on the left to view video or slideshow demonstrations of how to do searches with each of these tools.

Primary articles vs. secondary articles

Primary (research) articles

Research articles are also called primary articles. These are the articles that you will need to find for this class. They are written by the researcher or researchers who did the experiment or observation. The standard format is that they have an abstract, an introduction that includes a literature review, a methods section, a results section, a conclusion, and references.

General characteristics:

  • Long, detailed, technical title
  • Several authors, including a corresponding author
  • Has an abstract, introduction (including literature review), methods, results, conclusion, references
  • Tables, charts, graphs, etc. are included to visualize the data that the authors collected
  • Written in first person narrative ("I performed...", "We discovered...", "Our lab found...")

Secondary (review) articles

Review articles are usually written by 1 to 3 authors and summarize the research in a field. Two of the most common types of review articles are those that discuss the change of focus of the research in a field over time and those that discuss the current state of research being done in different research labs at the moment.

General characteristics:

  • Short, easy-to-understand title
  • One to three authors
  • Few tables, charts, graphs, etc. to help the reader understand the research
  • Written in third person narrative ("the San Francisco team found...", "the lab in Boston discovered...", "Spanish Flu in 1918 was found to be...").

Other articles in scholarly publications

There are many other types of articles that can be found in scholarly journals. There may be book reviews, correspondence (e.g., letters to the editor), editorials, product reviews, and more. These other articles cannot be used for your assignments.

Some top journals for Behavioral Ecology

These are some of the top journals in behavioral ecology. You might want to browse some of the recent issues for ideas for a topic to research. Finding an article about a topic that interests you could also provide keywords that you can use to put in your database searches. (Keywords are often found between the abstract and the introduction.)

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