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CHEM 390: Research Methods for Undergraduate Students

Research tips and resources for Chemistry Juniors & Seniors

Welcome to Library Research!

In this Guide you will find

  • Tips for using database(s) in your subject area
  • Tricks for managing and citing your research
  • Advice on writing annotated bibliographies & literature reviews
  • Guidance on scientific presentations & poster sessions, and
  • Other tips to make your research and scholarly writing a bit easier


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CHEM 390 Student Research Tips

Former CHEM 390 students suggest the following when doing your research:

  • Become familiar with searching different Library scientific databases early on, it will become useful in all of your classes

  • Searching SciFinder can be intimidating at first so play around to get comfortable

    • When you're just starting, search a general term, then add keywords to refine the results

    • Once you're more comfortable with SciFinder make sure your more specific to narrow down results

    • If you find an author showing up again and again in your searches, use the Citation Mapping feature ("the tree") to see the articles in that Author's references/bibliography or to find out who cited that author's original article. You can keep finding new articles through the tree

    • Don't pay much attention to the "patent" section of SciFinder, you probably won't need that

  • When searching Web of Science, use the "Sort By" feature to sort search results by newest date first, highest number of citations first, or most used articles to find out the current state of research, and the most influential papers in a subject

  • Notice how the database is sorting your search results! Often times its set on relevance but that might note be best

  • Speed read entries: read the abstract first and if it doesn't sound like it relates to your interests then don't keep reading

  • If you know of particular authors who research in your topic, search by author to find all the articles they've written

  • Learn about Citation Managers! They help you export groups of citations from a database so you can keep track of them then easily cite and create bibliographies in your papers

  • Create an account for library loan, so you can easily borrow stuff you can't find full text

Pro Tips: Preparing to do Research

Get Organized

Before you start your research, spend some time preparing and getting organized:

Identify the parameters of the topic such as scope, depth, purpose:

  • What is the purpose of the research?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the perspective (e.g. experimental, applied, exploratory)?
  • What is the expected end product?
  • How much time and money can be allocated to this project?

Clearly Define your Topic: Make a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables of interest. Make sure to list synonyms and related terms. As you search and discover new terminology, added it to your list.

Take Good Notes as you Research. This will help you develop your literature review later, and will help you keep track of which sources relate to your research and how. You may want to make note of:

  • The main ideas of the source
  • Questions or comments about the argument’s or author’s credibility
  • Key points or quotes that you might include in your paper with page numbers to locate them
  • Whether or not the source will be useful in your research paper and how

It can be helpful to Keep a search log. Think of this like a research notebook, but one that tracks your search strategy and results. Report the date, database, search string and filters, relevance of results and any other notes that might be useful if you get ideas later or can't remember what you found where.

Track your sources. Using citation manger software like EndNote Web, Zotero and Mendeley can help, and your notes can go right into the software with the citation attached.

  • Books: author, title, publisher, place of publication, date of publication, call number and other location information, content notes
  • Print Journal Articles:  author, title of article, journal title, volume and issue number, inclusive page numbers of article, date of issue, location information
  • Electronic Full-Text Articles: same information as for periodicals plus URL or DOI if available, date you accessed the article, producer (publisher or aggregator), library where or through which the database was accessed
  • Web sites: URL, date, producer, title or name, and the date you accessed the web page

Are you Off Campus? Log into first

Many Library resources are paid for by the Library on your behalf, and come with strict licensing agreements. To use them, you will need to go through the Library's proxy server to authenticate you as a BSU affiliate. If you're using Google Scholar and have it set up to help you Find full text in the BSU Library's collection, you won't have access to the full text without authentication.

Log into before you start your research and single sign-on will take care of the authentication for you. By doing this you'll avoid the interruptions that come with authentication requests to put in your BSU user name and password to get to materials.

Set up Google Scholar, InterLibrary Loan and a Citation Manager

Before you start your research, take time to do the following if you haven't already done so:

  1. Set up Google Scholar to show Albertsons Library's collections. This makes it easier to find full text articles and reduces searching to find the books, documents, etc. available at BSU
  2. Set up your Interlibrary Loan account, so you can easily request articles and books that BSU's Library doesn't own 
  3. Set up a citation manager account for EndNote Online, Zotero, or Mendeley, so you can manage your citations and references

All of these options are free, and will reduce the interruptions you face you do your research. You'll find resources in the pages of this guide to help you accomplish these things.

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