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Research articles available at an easier linguistic level?

  1. May 7, 2012 #1
    I'm a freshman who is going to declare biology as my major oin a few days (the first year was the common year). I'm interested in reading scholarly research articles focusing on important breakthroughs and current trends in biology. I wouold like to ask if someone knows a (or more than one) good links to sites which display such articles for free. The thing is the language they use should be understandable as while I've been able to open many sites to read about ongoing research in biology the language and terms used in them are quite togh especially for a student who's only taken introductory biology 101 and the introductory biology lab 100. So please before suggesting a link make sure that the language used is easily understood.

    Any suggestion would be deeply appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2012 #2
    Reading literature takes practice. It's an ongoing process that you never really master.

    Pubmed is the place to go for biomedical articles and has a wide variety of subject material- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

    When you search for something on Pubmed, you can go to the upper right corner and filter the results for only free articles.

    Google Scholar is also pretty good- http://scholar.google.com/

    I don't really have a lot of advice for finding simple articles except to search for things that you have a decent grasp of. Go through slowly and read it over bit by bit, rereading something if you don't get it at first. Take a look at the abstract before you dive into the article to get a little preview of it.
  4. May 7, 2012 #3


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    As long as you have taken genetics, there's nothing else in biology that requires "specialist" knowledge. There are uncommon words, but they are just names of molecules, just as water as the name of a molecule. If an article's reasoning is obscure, it may be wrong.
    Last edited: May 7, 2012
  5. May 8, 2012 #4
    While searching around PubMed, there is an option to select only Review articles. It may be worthwhile to read recent reviews about issues that interest you, instead of research papers which may be addressing a very specific question that requires you to be "in the know" to really understand. A review is just what it sounds like, its written by someone who is in a particular field/specialty who has read lots and lots of research and written a "summary" of sorts of the research that has been done in the past X amount of years. Good reviews will address the controversies, the issues still important etc. Its a good place to start if you are new to the field.

    As far as understanding the language and such, I have to echo everyone else in this thread. It takes time and practice. Even then its not so easy, especially if you have to read papers about systems/issues which aren't so familiar to you. There is always new terminology to look up, different methods which you may not be well versed in etc.

    It's also important to not get very caught up in the details, especially since you are just trying to get a feel for a specific field. Sometimes you can get away with not understanding every single word/sentence in a paper if you are only after the "big picture."
  6. May 8, 2012 #5


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    Scientific American often has good articles that discuss new developments in science at a level that non-experts can understand.
  7. May 8, 2012 #6
    Here's another vote for Scientific American. Another good source is American Scientist, which might contain a bit more mathematics (usually not too difficult for a freshman/sophomore bio major). You'll find one or two bio articles in each issue of either of these magazines.

    Try the Annual Reviews series. These are books that contain reviews of topics within a specific field, for example, Annual Review of Genetics, Annual Review of Cell Biology, etc. They are available in most university libraries.
  8. May 8, 2012 #7
    For looking up academic research in the biomedical field, Pubmed is a great place to start. You could simply enter your search keywords and then apply the Free Full Text filter on the right.

    Academic publications generally follow high standards and therefore mainly use technical terms (as opposed to laymen terms). The degree of relative complexity also depends on the subject of study. I don't suppose there are any sites which have simplified versions of these publications but I may be wrong.

    If you are only interested in a general overview and not the details as to how the experiment or study was carried out and the experimental and computational methods used, you could simply read the abstract and the results/conclusion in the end. Or you could also visit sites such as Science Daily which are supposed to inform you about the latest breakthroughs in the field (although I personally haven't used the site a lot).
  9. May 21, 2012 #8
    I used PubMed a lot the first few years of undergraduate study. I'd also suggest reading related research material on learned subjects such as evolution, ecology, and cellular biology. I do know this though, from the biology texts we read when starting the first tier of science courses, had experiments presented within the text and links to articles about the experiment. The professor also linked to us various other experiments for the particular subject of study.

    If you don't have a textbook that has experiments and links to articles about the experiments, your best bet is to read journalist articles about an experiment for an overview and then read the experiment yourself. But I rarely see any research, even undergraduate research, presented in layman terms, you only get that from journalist articles.
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