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Earth & Environmental Systems: Research

Research information relevant to EES

Types of Sources

What you are looking for can make a difference in where you should look. Different types of sources offer different information.

Books take about a year to be published. They will not include the latest studies and research. Textbooks and encyclopedias are good for basic information. Further editions of books demonstrate that a source has been updated to reflect new information and may be a standard source in the field. Are there newer editions available?

Reference Books:
Reference books, such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, collect accepted facts from the established literature. In health and science, they can be huge and may take years to put together. Therefore, they do not contain the most current information, although they may mention studies that were recent at the the time of publication. But they are a good one-stop-shop to start by learning the basics of a topic.

The latest research is published in journals. It can be difficult to find basic information in journals. Nowadays, most journals have a web site that allows viewing of the table of contents and summaries of articles.

Databases are very useful and efficient for searching through journals. Sometimes they include books, and other sources. Every database follows different rules for searching and storage. Effective use depends on knowing those rules. Commercial medical and science databases commonly provide only summaries of articles and do not include full text. They can be very expensive.

Feynman: What is Science?

What is Science?

Richard Feynman, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965, aptly summarized the scientific method in simple language during his seven lectures of the Messenger Lectures given at Cornell University in 1964. (See video and transcript below.)

In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. (Don't laugh. That's the truth.) Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what--if this is right, if this law that we guessed is right--to see what it would imply. And then we compare those computation results to nature--or we say compare to experiment or experience--compare it directly with observation to see if it works. 

If it disagrees with experiment, it's wrong.

In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. That's all there is to it.”

Feynmen's Messenger Lectures.  This video excerpt is from Lecture 7: Seeking New Laws > Chapter 6: How to Look for New Laws. (16:47-18:33) 

Feynman, Cornell 1964, “The Character of Physical Law”, Messenger Lectures, grabadas BBC 

Richard P. Feynman, Nobel Prize in Physics 1965

We Can Never Be Right

We Can Never Be Right 

"Suppose that you invent a good guess, calculate the consequences, and discover every time that the consequences you have calculated agree with experiment. The theory is then right? No, it is simply not proved wrong. Because in the future there could be a wider range of experiments, you could compute a wider range of consequences, and you may discover that the thing is wrong.

That's why the laws like Newton's Laws about the motion of planets last such a long time. You get the law of gravitation and all the kinds of consequences for the solar system, and so on, compare them to experiment, and it took several hundred years before the slight error of the motion of Mercury was developed. During all that time, the theory had been failed to be proved wrong and could be taken to be temporarily right. But it can never be proved right because tomorrow's experiment may succeed in proving what you thought was right wrong. 

We never are right; we can only be sure we're wrong."


Feynman, Cornell 1964, “The Character of Physical Law”, Messenger Lectures, grabadas BBC

Project Tuva  presents science videos whose copyright is owned by Bill Gates, including the Messenger Lectures. This video is from Chapter Six: Seeking New Laws.

Richard P. Feynman, Nobel Prize in Physics 1965

Research Strategy

Planning your Research Strategy

You can use the Library Research Planner worksheet to help you plan your research.

Get an Overview

So how do you find out what is known about a topic?

Get an Overview of your Topic. Start with a specialized dictionary, encyclopedia, handbook, textbook, guide, or bibliography to get a brief overview of your topic. Use these to get competing theories, definitions of subject specific terms, an historical perspective, a chronology of events, or useful bibliographic references.

  1. Go to the ISU Library homepage at
  2. On the gray search bar near the top of the page, Click Searches > Classic Catalog


To search for specific print or electronic books owned by the ISU Library, we recommend the following:

  1. Go to the ISU Library homepage at
  2. On the ISU Library homepage,  click Books & More 
  3. Click Advanced Search
  4. In the first search box, select Title and enter the words   encyclopedia OR encyclopaedia
  5. In the second search box, enter search word(s) related to your topic.   sports technology
  6. Click  Submit 
  7. Examine all retrieved records for relevant encyclopedias. Read more detail about a book by clicking on the title of the record.
  8. If the book is electronic, click ISU patrons click here to access full text through Library Electronic Resources
    1. If the book is available online, click ISU patrons click here to access full text through Library Electronic Books. Keep clicking to go to go to the full-text.
    2. If the book is available in print, write down the Call Number and the Location (Reference, ISU Gov Docs, ISU Main Library Stacks, etc.). 
    3. In the ISU Library building, go to the shelving location and use the call number to find the correct book.
    4. If you need only a section of the book, photocopy or scan the section using the (free) scanners or (fee) copiers on the First Floor.
    5. All Print Library Books are located on the library's 2nd and 3rd Floors, except "Reference Books", "Browsing Books", TMC (Children's Books), and Special Collections.

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