Biology For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

Scientists publish their research information. They must circulate their scientific work, flaws and all, for other scientists to see. Other scientists may be working on similar projects and could benefit from seeing how someone else approached the problem.

Scientists need to see each other’s work, but they don’t all work in the same laboratory. Therefore, scientists need ways of communicating to other scientists around the world. Much of this scientific research is published or can be found on the Web, often available to anyone with Internet access.

Science journals present research

Hundreds of scientific journals cover every topic and niche imaginable in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and so on. Some professional organizations publish journals, some universities or medical centers publish newsletters or journals, scientific corporations may publish newsletters, and medical and scientific publishing companies publish journals.

Journals are considered the primary source of scientific information. Anyone researching a topic, whether it is for a term paper in college or to develop a new experiment in the field, consults the journals first. The journals contain the original research papers, so the latest information in a specific field is always found in a journal.

The research papers are written following the scientific style:

  • An abstract (summary) of the research

  • Statement of the hypothesis

  • Description of materials used

  • How the experiment was designed and performed

  • Results of the experiment, including raw data, graphs, tables

  • Conclusions

  • Errors

Some examples of major journals are Nature, Science, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the British Medical Journal, The Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine. The major journals are peer reviewed, which means that before a research paper is accepted for publication, other scientists in that field review the research to make sure the science behind it is thorough and that the research adds to the knowledge base.

If stringent criteria are not meant, a scientist is unable to publish his or her research, which means the research needs to be performed again (which costs money and time).

The text of textbooks

Textbooks are considered secondary sources of information. Although they do not contain research papers, textbooks often are written by experts in the field. Textbooks present the knowledge base of a specific topic or field at a certain point in time, so they are a good source to turn to for history of a topic, basic facts about a certain subject, and summaries of important research that has furthered the field.

The popular press

Scientists are ever-so-careful in planning their research and taking their time to do it right. Some scientists working in the same field may compete in a way to be the first to publish results of similar studies. But, generally, scientists do not rush research.

When a journalist doesn’t take the time to double-check facts and ensure that information is not misconstrued, scientists get frustrated. If their body of research was meant to contribute to the knowledge base of a certain field, but a journalist labels their research as “groundbreaking” or an “amazing breakthrough,” the scientist(s) get angry.

Amazing breakthroughs and groundbreaking research happens very, very rarely. Most often, research just adds knowledge that can be used as a basis for more research. Or, the research contributes to the development of a product. The results might be “amazing” to the journalist, but the scientist does not want to be scorned by his colleagues, whom he relies on for more information.

Popular press items, such as from a newsstand magazine, newspaper, television, or radio program, are considered tertiary (third-level) sources. These sources provide information, of course, but the validity of the information is not as certain as it is from the original research. There is always the chance that something may be misconstrued by the journalist trying to interpret the information presented in the research, which would mean that the presentation of the journalist may have errors.

About This Article

This article can be found in the category: