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Costa Rica Winter25: Research Strategies

For students in Mary Gunther's IDIS 399 and Eric Liebgold's BIOL 399. Resources on biodiversity, ecotourism, and research in Costa Rica.

Primary Articles

Primary sources vary by discipline! In the sciences, primary articles refer to original research about a given topic. Most of the articles in our science databases are primary articles. These primary articles are also the bulk of research and reading that working scientists and researchers use. 

Look for articles that contain the following sections:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Materials, Methods, or Methodology
  • Discussion and/or Conclusion

Primary STEM articles generally contain charts, graphs, or some other form of data. The authors did some kind of experiment, observation, clinical trial, or case study in the hopes of answering a question. They are writing about data or new information.

Keyword Development

KEYWORDS are the parts of a research question/topic/statement that carry the most meaning. They specify what it is exactly that you are interested in researching.

Craft your search using KEYWORDS that relate to your topic, rather than a full phrase or sentence.

  • Original search: articles on how managers can help with workplace stress
  • Keywords to pull from this:
    • managers
    • workplace
    • stress

Flesh out your search by brainstorming synonyms or other topical words that relate to your research. You may find that some words in your original statement are already very similar in meaning, and could be redundant. The more synonyms you have for each keyword, the more results you will get.

  • managers
    • management, employer, human resources, workplace, organization
  • workplace
    • add to above
  • stress
    • strain, emotional distress


Finally, connect these keywords together using BOOLEAN OPERATORS. See the following box for more information on this...

  • management AND stress
  • manage* AND (stress OR strain)
  • (manage* OR employer OR "human resources" OR workplace OR organization) AND (stress OR strain OR "emotional distress")
    • Using an asterisk* at the end of a truncated word, like manage*, will search all possible endings of that word (management, manager, manages)

Review Articles

Also called secondary sources, review articles summarize the known findings on an existing topic. This topic is usually broader than individual primary articles. You will also use our library databases to find reviews. 

Many, but not all, review articles contain one of these terms in their title or abstract:

  • Review
  • Systematic review
  • Literature review
  • Meta Analysis 
  • You may also see sentences like "Previous studies found..." or "The authors reviewed the literature"

Review articles in the sciences usually do not have sections like methodology or results. If they include any data, it will be drawn from other articles, not an original experiment. They are reviewing other sources. 

Search Tips

Booleans: AND, OR, NOT

  • AND combines two search words together. Both must appear in your article, narrowing your results. 
  • OR allows you to search for synonyms or like terms. Only one of the terms must appear in your article, broadening your results. 
  • NOT removes a specific term from your results.

Quotation marks

  • Phrases stick together as one keyphrase. "climate change"; "blue whale"; "Cretaceous period"


  • Add to the end of a root word to find all words that include all words that include that root term. volcan* - volcano, volcanic, volcanology, volcanism


  • Usually found on the left
  • Narrow by subject, date, or peer-reviewed
  • For this particular project, you want to cast as wide a net as possible (at least at first), so you likely won't use too many limiters.