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BIO 111 (Southern Wells High School)

Information tips, tricks, resources, tools, and other for APA/Dual credit BIO 111 at Southern Wells High School.

Doing Research: No Easy Path

Good research involves lots of work.  You want accurate, authoritative, and comprehensive information for your research. In scholarly work, especially in the sciences, you will want "peer-reviewed" articles, too. Searching just one database or just a search engine will not allow you to find all the relevant information you need. 

There is no one database that indexes every published article even in its own field.

Think of search engines and databases as tools rather than guides or web pages. You use them to accomplish something; you use them to find needed information. But like any tool, they have their limitations. Learning to use the right tool for the right job will save you lots of time and grief. You can use your shoe to hammer in a nail but you will do the job more easily if you use a hammer.

Google Scholar is a search engine not a database and many times cannot provide you with full-text (complete text articles) articles you need or a comprehensive listing of published articles.  Biological Abstracts focuses in on about 4,000 biology journals- but the number of published journals that deal with life sciences and might have relevance to your research is many thousands more than that.  You cannot use one tool for all your needs.

Use this portion of this guide to help begin navigating the "data smog" that hovers over all information sources today.

This pamphlet titled Database Searching Basics (PDF) has information about how databases find things and tips on how to do more efficient searching. It is not light reading, but it is full of truly useful information.

Information literacy is a term that refers to having the knowledge and skills to navigate, evaluate, and use information sources. Having knowledge and skills of this sort can save you lots of time and frustration when doing research. Below is a list of just some of the tools you can use to your advantage as an information literate person:

DOI (Digital Object Identifier)

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) are special strings of numbers and letters that form a persistent link to individual publications. They are issued at the time of publication, much like an ISBN or a serial number. DOIs can be attached to a number of different publications, including journal articles, books and book chapters, conference papers, reports, and so on. The DOI system provides a technical and social infrastructure for the registration and use of persistent interoperable identifiers, called DOIs, for use on digital networks.

You may have already seen a DOI and not realised what it was – all DOIs start with “10.” and are ‘built’ according to the publisher and journal involved – for example, the DOI for the 2004 article “Post-fire survival and reproduction of rehabilitated and unburnt koalas” from the Elsevier-published journal Biological Conservation is 10.1016/j.biocon.2004.03.029.

You can think of DOIs as social security numbers for individual electronic files (ie journal articles or images) which means that the article can be tracked and found by this number as though you had typed in the full citation. DOIs act as permanent links to individual papers, documents, articles, abstracts, photographs, models, etc.

Most indexing services (ie databases/aggregators) use the DOI standard now and some citation styles like APA are beginning to require it if available. Some will allow you to search by the DOI (eg Web of Science, SciFindern) but you can also use OneSearch,, DataCite, and CrossRef to “resolve” the link (i.e. find/retrieve the object in fulltext or original format).

In the Ball State University Libraries system, you can use Citation Linker to find fulltext articles with nothing more than a DOI: just copy and paste the DOI into the DOI field on the Citation Linker page and click submit. Find It @ BALL STATE will then search our databases for a fulltext version of the article in question or connect you to our Interlibrary Loan service to obtain it from another institution.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

If you cannot find your article directly through the database you're using or your local library then you might try using Interlibrary Loan (ILL).  This is a service through which you can borrow materials from another library that does. Dual credit students can take advantage of Ball State Libraries Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service. Non-dual credit students may want to check with your school library or local public library to see if they offer this service.

You can use WorldCat to find out which libraries own copies of whatever you're looking for to help the library staff process your request.

ILL requests can take up to several weeks to process (ie for books and other print materials) but it’s usually a matter of 2-5 days, especially for articles delivered right to your email inbox as PDF files.

PRO TIP: It's better to request something you might need and end up not needing than to need it and not have it.