Literature Research

One invaluable tool to researchers is the ability to find relevant information in the literature.  This is especially useful if you are an undergrad researcher just starting out in a lab, as it will supplement your background information on your topic.

However, finding scientific papers is slightly different from a traditional google search.  To begin with, as most of the scientific literature that you will be trying to access will cost money (~$35/article), it is important to conduct your research from an on-campus internet connection (UCSB wireless web, res-net, campus computer, etc).  The university has a subscription to many of these online journals, and you will be able to download the article for free if you access it from a campus connection (or through the library’s VPN, if you want to get fancy).

Now that you can access these articles, how can you find them?  The most convenient way is through google scholar.  If you have a google account, you can also save the articles that come up in your searches in your library in order to conveniently reference them later.  Another method is to use SciFinder, however you will need to contact the Library Research Office in order to set up an account.  SciFinder is a more advanced version of google scholar, and is useful if you are looking to investigate a specific topic or research group more in depth.  However, if you are just starting out google scholar is the most user-friendly way to jump right in.

Finally, now that you are able to find and access these papers, it is important to catalogue your findings in order to easily reference them later.  One tool to do this is EndNote, but you can also use the above mentioned features of google scholar, or a simple excel spreadsheet to list the paper titles, authors, dates, and a short summary of the relevant information in the paper (as it pertains to your topic).  This will allow you to create your own, more specific library to reference for your own work.

That’s it!  Literature searching might sound daunting at first, but just dive right in, save a PDF copy of all the papers you read, and in no time you’ll be a pro!