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Biology 182 (Jackson)

Biology/Microbiology/Anatomy and Physiology

All About Peer Review

Scholarly articles typically communicate original research or analysis for other researchers, and go through a peer review process before they are published by an academic journal. This brief video takes a closer look at that process and addresses some of its limitations.

Tips and Tricks: Phrase Searching

Learn how to improve the relevance of your search results with phrase searching.

One Perfect Source?

 Your topic seemed so great! So why can't you find any information on it? If you're looking for an all-in-one source that addresses your topic perfectly, you might need a different approach.

Attribution: One Perfect Source? by NCSU Libraries is licensed under a CC 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license

Picking Your Topic IS Research!

When you pick your topic, it's not set in stone. Picking and adjusting your topic is an integral part of the research process!

The Scientific Method

Biologists study the living world by posing questions about it and seeking science -based responses. This approach is common to other sciences as well and is often referred to as the scientific method. The scientific method was used even in ancient times, but it was first documented by England’s Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) who set up inductive methods for scientific inquiry. The scientific method can be applied to almost all fields of study as a logical, rational, problem-solving method.


Figure 1.1C.11.1C.1: Sir Francis Bacon: Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) is credited with being the first to define the scientific method.

The scientific process typically starts with an observation (often a problem to be solved) that leads to a question. Let’s think about a simple problem that starts with an observation and apply the scientific method to solve the problem. A teenager notices that his friend is really tall and wonders why. So his question might be, “Why is my friend so tall? ”

Figure 1.1C.11.1C.1: The Scientific Method: The scientific method consists of a series of well-defined steps. If a hypothesis is not supported by experimental data, a new hypothesis can be proposed.

Proposing a Hypothesis

Recall that a hypothesis is an educated guess that can be tested. Hypotheses often also include an explanation for the educated guess. To solve one problem, several hypotheses may be proposed. For example, the student might believe that his friend is tall because he drinks a lot of milk. So his hypothesis might be “If a person drinks a lot of milk, then they will grow to be very tall because milk is good for your bones.” Generally, hypotheses have the format “If…then…” Keep in mind that there could be other responses to the question; therefore, other hypotheses may be proposed. A second hypothesis might be, “If a person has tall parents, then they will also be tall, because they have the genes to be tall. ”

Once a hypothesis has been selected, the student can make a prediction. A prediction is similar to a hypothesis but it is truly a guess. For instance, they might predict that their friend is tall because he drinks a lot of milk.

Testing a Hypothesis

A valid hypothesis must be testable. It should also be falsifiable, meaning that it can be disproven by experimental results. Importantly, science does not claim to “prove” anything because scientific understandings are always subject to modification with further information. This step—openness to disproving ideas—is what distinguishes sciences from non-sciences. The presence of the supernatural, for instance, is neither testable nor falsifiable. To test a hypothesis, a researcher will conduct one or more experiments designed to eliminate one or more of the hypotheses. Each experiment will have one or more variables and one or more controls. A variable is any part of the experiment that can vary or change during the experiment. The control group contains every feature of the experimental group except it is not given the manipulation that is hypothesized. For example, a control group could be a group of varied teenagers that did not drink milk and they could be compared to the experimental group, a group of varied teenagers that did drink milk. Thus, if the results of the experimental group differ from the control group, the difference must be due to the hypothesized manipulation rather than some outside factor. To test the first hypothesis, the student would find out if drinking milk affects height. If drinking milk has no affect on height, then there must be another reason for the height of the friend. To test the second hypothesis, the student could check whether or not his friend has tall parents. Each hypothesis should be tested by carrying out appropriate experiments. Be aware that rejecting one hypothesis does not determine whether or not the other hypotheses can be accepted. It simply eliminates one hypothesis that is not valid. Using the scientific method, the hypotheses that are inconsistent with experimental data are rejected.

While this “tallness” example is based on observational results, other hypotheses and experiments might have clearer controls. For instance, a student might attend class on Monday and realize she had difficulty concentrating on the lecture. One hypothesis to explain this occurrence might be, “If I eat breakfast before class, then I am better able to pay attention.” The student could then design an experiment with a control to test this hypothesis.

The scientific method may seem too rigid and structured. It is important to keep in mind that although scientists often follow this sequence, there is flexibility. Many times, science does not operate in a linear fashion. Instead, scientists continually draw inferences and make generalizations, finding patterns as their research proceeds. Scientific reasoning is more complex than the scientific method alone suggests.

"The Scientific Method" by Biology LibreTexts  is licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 


Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Lakeland Community College. (2014). Anatomy of a Scholarly Article [Video]. YouTube.

The Peer Review Process

So you need to use scholarly, peer-reviewed articles for an assignment...what does that mean? 

Peer review is a process for evaluating academic studies before they are published by an academic journal. These studies typically communicate original research or analysis for other researchers. 

The Peer Review Process at a Glance:


Looking for peer-reviewed articles? Trying searching in a library database and look for options to limit your results to scholarly/peer-reviewed or academic journals.

All About Peer Review

Scholarly articles (peer review) typically communicate original research or analysis for other researchers, and go through a peer review process before they are published by an academic journal. This brief video takes a closer look at the process.

What's a primary research article and how can I find one?

Are you looking for a primary research journal article? If so, that is an article that reports on the details and results of a research study conducted by the authors themselves. These articles are often, but not always, structured in a standard format called IMRAD, which stands for the sections of the article:   

Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion 

While these articles usually start with a brief literature review of previous and similar research, the rest of the article focuses on the authors' original research. For example, the "methods" or "methodology" section describes the participants in the study, the sample size, and the research procedure used.

Articles that are NOT primary research articles may discuss research studies, but they are not reporting on the authors' original research, they are summarizing and commenting on research conducted and published by someone else. Called review articles, the authors do not design an experiment and carry it out in a lab. Rather, they search for, find, and read numerous primary research articles on a particular topic.  Then, they organize them into a cohesive narrative that provides an overall summary and analysis of a topic.

("File:Wineglass model for IMRaD structure..png" by Tom Toyosaki is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

You can search for primary research articles in a similar way that you search for other peer reviewed articles. From your results list, you can read the abstracts (summaries) of the articles to determine if the articles are primary research articles. But if you get hundreds or thousands of results, there are a few different techniques to focus your search on primary research articles only:

  1. Add the keywords "this study"  or "a study" to your search along with your other keywords.
  2. Add results AND method* (this yields both methods and methodology) to your search along with your other keywords. With both of these techniques, you will still need to examine each article closely to see if it is reporting on the authors' original research and not a synthesis of others' research.
  3. Filter by Publication Type on the Search Option or Advanced Search pages of most databases and choose Case Study (a case study is one type of primary research article). In EBSCO databases it looks like this: 


All of these results are generally primary research articles, but keep in mind that while all case studies are primary research, not all primary research is in the form of a case study, so you may be missing some primary research articles on your topic by searching this way.

If you still can't find primary research articles, contact us by email, text, chat, or phone, and we can help.

Example of a primary research article:

Skin Cancer Prevention Behaviors Among Parents of Young Children

Fourth generation e-cigarette vaping induces transient lung inflammation and gas exchange disturbances: results from two randomized clinical trials

Example of a review article:

Dissecting Kawasaki disease: a state-of-the-art review

What are the respiratory effects of e-cigarettes?

Basics of COVID-19

The John Hopkins video discusses the virus that causes the disease, its signs and symptoms, and how it is transmitted. Courtesy John Hopkins University and Emily S. Gurley, infectious disease epidemiologist at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. CC BY-NC-SA

Natural History of SARS-CoV-2‚Äč

History of SARS-CoV-2. Discusses infection's signs and symptoms, its incubation period, the infection period, and how people spread the virus. Courtesy John Hopkins University and Emily S. Gurley, infectious disease epidemiologist at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. CC BY-NC-SA