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Biological Sciences: Research Tips

A Campus Guide for students of the biological sciences.

Effective Research Strategies

Selecting a Topic

·         Browse your text book, great place to start since it is the first source that you have available.

·         Browse articles relating to biology in the popular press, such as Science News, Discover, New York Times.

·         Listen to the news for reports regarding genetics, biotechnology, endangered species.

·         Browse biology related sites such as American Association for the Advancement of Science http://www.aaas.org/

·         Browse biology related books (e.g.., Encyclopedia. of Life Sciences), and journals like Science and Nature.

·         Go over your class notes, since your professor and classmates will mention topics during class discussions that you would like to be more educated about.

·         Most important, select a topic that is interesting and will keep you motivated to do the research.

 Defining a Topic

·         Initially, your topic will be TOO BROAD. An example is foraging     (ask yourself, what about a topic that you would like to focus on).

·         Once you have decided on a topic, do some background reading and this will help you to focus on a specific aspect of the topic.

·         As you read more and more about your topic, you will be able to focus on a specific area of interest, thus narrowing your topic.  

 ·         You may need to modify your topic several times to get it just right.

  Narrowing a Topic

·         Focus on an behavior such as scatter  hoarding or caching of food  

 ·         Focus on a specific population: squirrels

 Documentation and Citation of Sources

           It is very IMPORTANT to keep correct documentation of the sources used during the research for these reasons:

  • If the ideas and thoughts are not original yours, you must give credit to the owners of the works, otherwise this will result in plagiarism.
  • Using the works of others without giving credit to the owners is also a violation of the copyright law.
  • Proper citations enable your instructor and others to check the cited sources.