There are two valuable but different ways of finding scientific literature. One is to search a database for relevant keywords or authors who you know.
Another is to tap into the way the scientific literature indexes itself - through references. When you have a valuable paper in your hand, the author has given you a list of related publications that she or he cited. So handy! The reason scientists include a literature review in their work is to show how their work connects with what has come before.
There is also a way of going forward in time through citations. Two resources are designed to show who has cited a paper since it was published: both Web of Science and Google Scholar will help you connect to the network of scientists working in the same area. You can also get a sense of how influential a paper has been, taking into account how recently it was published.
Photo courtesy of Robert Hruzek, 2014
Increasingly, scholars are frustrated that their research is available only to people who have access to big libraries, so they either publish their research in journals that are free to anyone to read or they reserve the right to put copies of their research online. Try Googling the author and title of an article you need and add filetype:pdf - you might get lucky and find a free copy online.
For research in biology and biomedical sciences, the National Institutes of Health provides two nifty options. PubMed is a huge database of medical research articles. After you do a search, you can choose to limit your results to free full text articles.
Or you can go to PubMed Central, an archive of over 1,000 life science journals and articles based on research funded by the NIH to find lots of articles in biology and medicine.
When you have an article with references, you can see if a particular reference is available by looking the journal's name up at the link below. Then you can use the volume and date information to navigate to the article. If we don't have access to that journal, we usually can get it from another library.
We can get articles from other libraries, usually within 48 hours. You can request them two ways:
Once you click "my ILL requests" there will be a list of things you've requested as well as a "create request" button.
When the article has been scanned, you get an email with an explanation about how to download it - or log into our catalog and download it directly.
These print-format journals all publish primary research and review articles in the field of biology.
American Midland Naturalist
Genes and Development (most current year; earlier volumes in PMC)
Wilson Journal of Ornithology
We also subscribe in print to the following biology-related journals and magazines
Horticulture (current issue on main floor)
Minnesota Conservation Volunteer
New Scientist (current issue on main floor)