BIOL 220W (Vardo-Zalik, Spring 2013)

Your assignmentImage of a penguin flying with a suitcase

One of the keys to being successful with this assignment is to make sure your chosen articles are from peer-reviewed journals. Most databases will provide a link to a section, such as “About Journal,” where you can determine if the publication is peer reviewed.

In science, a primary research article is usually found in a peer-reviewed journal and contains the methods, results, and conclusions of a researcher’s study. It will always contain references (literature cited), which can help you find other articles on the same topic.

Take a look at the description of The American Naturalist.

The January 2013 issue of The American Naturalist contains  a “Letter from the Editor” and the “2012 American Society of Naturalists Awards.” Even though these appear in a peer-reviewed journal, they are not the type of articles acceptable for this assignment.

This issue also contains research articles published in an online-only format (appearing as E-Articles in the Table of Contents) and those published online and in the print journal (appearing as Articles in the Table of Contents).

These primary research articles contain an abstract (brief summary), an introduction (which includes a review of the literature), methods, results, a discussion, and references (literature cited).

Any one of these could be used for this assignment, but, keep in mind, you should choose a topic you are interested in and find an article that you can understand. Don’t expect to understand everything the researchers report on, but make sure you understand the purpose and conclusions of their research.


  • Look through your textbook
  • If you have an idea for a topic, try using LionSearch
  • Check out the Ecology News on the ScienceDaily website
  • Browse through electronic journals by clicking on one of the Biology categories and selecting one of the journals 


I looked through the list of Biology electronic journals from the list above (Biology – General) and found Behavioral Ecology.

I read through the About the Journal and the Instructions to authors sections in order to determine if this journal meets the requirements for this assignment.

After determining that this is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, I browsed through the Table of contents of the November-December, 2011 issue and found an original research article I thought would be interesting, “Birds Flee En Mass From New Year’s Eve Fireworks.”

I prefer to read the PDF version of an article so I can determine the page numbers if I need to cite something and I also think it makes it easier to see the structure of the article.

The authors of this article conducted research for three consecutive years to study the reaction of birds to New Year’s Eve fireworks. Using weather radar, they were able to determine that thousands of birds were disturbed and took flight shortly after midnight each year.

You’ll notice that research articles deal have a very narrow and specific focus. I thought this article was interesting, but wondered how I would find others on the subject. Checking the references at the end of the article, I discovered numerous articles dealing with the effects of human activity on animal behavior.

Reference list entry

Entry from reference list

The next challenge. . .

Now, I needed to actually find this second article and determine if it’s published in a peer-reviewed journal.

This is where LionSearch comes in handy. Copy and paste the article title “Energetic Response to Human Disturbance in an Endangered Songbird” into the search box below.

You should see the article we’re looking for in the list of results. You can see it is published in a journal titled Animal Conservation. Clicking on the title in LionSearch will take you to the full text of the article, which is found in the online subscription database Wiley Online Library.

Image of results from LionSearch

LionSearch results

Image of cover of American Conservation journalYou can find details about the journal Animal Conservation by checking the “Overview” in the “About This Journal” section on the left side of the page.
The Table of Contents will show you the types of articles published in the journal, such as Commentaries, Review articles, and Original Articles. The Original Articles will be primary research articles.

Not all peer-reviewed journals contain primary research articles. For example, the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution is peer-reviewed, but instead of primary research articles, it contains reviews, commentaries, discussions and letters in all areas of ecology and evolutionary science. You can find out about journals by checking their websites or by using Ulrichsweb, a library database containing information about journals

Research Guides

You can also search our subscription databases directly for articles. In order to determine the best databases for a particular subject, it’s helpful to begin with a Research Guide.

Take a look at the Research Guide for Biology and you’ll find links to several biology databases.