ESCI 3005: Earth Resources

How to Deal with Paywalls

You found an article but it says you have to pay for it. Do this instead:

Copy the title of the paper into the UMN Libraries search. If you get zero results it might not be available through the library. Proceed to the next step: request the paper using Interlibrary Loan.

UMN Library Databases

Databases gather certain types of scholarly information on a topic. I arranged these from the most broad (Google Scholar searches any "academic content" on the internet) to the most specific (GeoRef searches scientific articles and conference papers on geoscience topics only).

Professional sources

Look up your topic in these professional resources...

Scientific Journals

You can also look up your topic in these major journals.

  • Nature Very Important interdisciplinary journal.
  • Science Another Very Important interdisciplinary journal.
  • Geophysical Research Letters Important journal that covers most geoscience disciplines. From the American Geophysical Union.
  • Annual Reviews are journals that publish review articles (overviews of a topic).
  • You can also search Web of Science or Scopus for a topic and filter results for review articles.

Information about energy lifecycle analysis is published in many places. Do broad searches in Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Scopus to find primary sources.

Ready to make your video?

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are the best type of source to use for a research assignment.

Why? They are sources created by people who are closest to your topic. Scientists, researchers, the people who study energy systems, or people who manage them. You want sources from people who are as close to your topic as possible.

What counts as a primary source?

  • New research in a reputable journal
  • Government documents
  • Periodicals
  • Statistical data
  • Research reports
  • Correspondence
  • Interviews

If you can't find an original source, look for a secondary source -- an authoritative analysis of a primary source.

  • Scholarly analysis
  • Textbooks
  • Dissertations
  • Review articles
  • Biographies
  • Dictionaries

Secondary or tertiary sources can link you to primary sources.

A secondary source is a couple degrees of separation away from a primary source. You might start at a news article or a Wikipedia page. If the thing you found is describing someone else's original research, you're not at a primary source yet. Keep digging. Go to the original study if it's linked. If a scientist is interviewed, look up what papers they've written.

Don't stop until you get to a source by an EXPERT IN THE FIELD. 

  • Look up words, phrases, or concepts you don't know.
  • Find more information about the authors of the sources. Is it written by someone who does research in that field? What is their field/department? Is it written by a science writer, aka a journalist who reports on research?

Charlotte Moore, a science communicator, summed up this process nicely:

How do I learn things? Pt. 1 by @cavatica on TikTok, 2020-11-30

How do I learn things? Pt. 2 by @cavatica on TikTok, 2020-12-01

How to read and understand scientific articles

Last Updated: Feb 10, 2022 4:14 PM