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Energy Sources: Sources

Library of Congress Classification for Science

Like most academic libraries, ISU uses the Library of Congress Classification System to organize its books. A call number is assigned to each book or item and the book is shelved alphabetically and numerically according to the call number.

Q Science
   QA Mathematics
   QC Physics
   QD Chemistry
   QE Geology
   QL Zoology

R Medicine
   RC Internal medicine
   RD Surgery
   RT Nursing

S Agriculture

T Technology
   TD Environmental engineering
   TJ Mechanical engineering
   TP Chemical engineering

About Sources

The information provided within specific publication and distribution formats is affected by its manufacturing or creation process, by its time to distribution, by its accessibility to different author or user groups, by its ease of use, by its intended audience and by other factors. Knowing something about the different types of formats and sources can help you plan a research strategy and save time finding appropriate information for your particular topic or need.

Types of Sources

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

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 learning the basics of a topic. 

Books can be quite long and can cover a topic in detail. However, they take about a year to be published so 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?

Journals are intended for professionals, experts, and researchers. Their articles are usually authored by professionals, experts, and researchers. Journal articles are relatively short compared to books so they tend to cover narrow, specific topics. The latest research is published in journals, but 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.  The majority of Journals today are collected electronically however we continue to preserve our older journals in paper and microformats.  All Print Library Journals and Magazines except "Current Periodicals" are now located in the library basement.

Scientific journal articles can be difficult to understand if you don't already have a good background on a topic. Do you need to look at an encyclopedia article to get some background? Do you need to learn more depth about the topic to learn terminology and related theories?

Magazines are intended for popular consumption by the public. They contain the latest basic information.  It can be difficult to obtain researched information from magazines. However, you can find news reports of research that contain clues that allow you to track down the original research article.  Most ISU magazine subscriptions today are electronic, however, we do continue to preserve our older magazines in paper and microformats.All Print Library Journals and Magazines except "Current Periodicals" are now located in the library basement.

Databases are very useful and efficient tools for searching for sources. Depending on the database, they may include journals, magazines, books, or other sources, too. Every database follows different rules for searching and storage. Effective use depends on knowing those rules. Some commercial databases provide only summaries of articles and do not include full text. Databases can be very expensive and may not be accessible to the general public.

Primary Sources in Science

The following definitions refer to published, available information. The information is put in a (reasonably) permanent form.

Primary Sources are the original resources that first report research or ideas. In research, these are often research articles in scholarly journals. However, they may include newspapers, research reports, trade journals, conference proceedings, dissertations, Web sites, novels, poems, plays, speeches, interviews, letters, case studies, test data, findings from surveys, archaeological drawings, experiments, films, drawings, designs, paintings, music, sculptures, etc. IF it is the original source of information.

In science, primary literature refers to the original publication of scientific research. These are usually published in scientific journals but may be published in government reports or publications. The distinguishing feature is that the original researcher(s) is telling the hypothesis, the methodology, the discussion and results of the research.

Science Sources

Be aware of publication dates of sources. An old source may not include the latest information. However, the details of many scientific theories have been known for many years. I suggest you check with your instructor after you have found some information. He may be able to tell you if you've found what you need or whether there may be something recent that you need to seek. You can also do a search through a science news source to see if a highlight of your topic has been mentioned. The success of this technique may vary depending on your specific topic.

You may use the science databases to search for review articles to read an overview of your topic. Journal articles and patents include detailed information written for professional scientists. If you are not well versed in the discipline, they can be difficult to understand and digest. But they usually reflect the original sources of information in the books and databases. In my experience, it is easiest for undergraduates to use them after they have acquired some knowledge of their subject.

Science databases can be very, very different from the databases you used in your English classes. Some science databases may allow image or structure searching.

Specialized science databases can be difficult to learn and much time can be wasted trying to get productive results. If you have never used them before, they can be tricky to learn so give yourself time to experiment.

If your topic is very common or important, a book may have been written about your substance. You may search the Library Catalog or browse the library shelves.

As you find information, evaluate the tidbits given. If you are researching a substance and it is poisonous, look at toxicology sources. If your substance is a drug, look at medical or nutritional sources. If it is used in manufacturing, explore the engineering sources. If it has a natural source, explore the biology sources. Use your brain to consider alternative search strategies.

If you need help with any of the resources, please contact the science librarians. They specialize in using the science resources. If all else fails, ask for help. Tell where you have already searched for information and what you need to find.

Flow of Scientific Information

Substance Sources

What is a substance or how is it made.

Subject Guide

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