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Cornell University

MSE 4030: Senior Materials Lab (Fall 2019)

Research guide to finding the literature of engineering articles, patents, books, and standards. guides.library.cornell.edu/mse4030

Introduction

This research guide lists top tools and databases to help you find scholarly information on a variety of subjects. Address any questions to Jill Powell, Engineering Librarian, jhp1@cornell.edu

Peer reviewed articles

Oceanography journal cover National Geographic journal cover

What's the difference between these 2 journals? Oceanography is peer-reviewed, whereas National Geographic is a popular-press title. 

Peer review is scientists' and other scholars' best effort to publish accurate information. Each article has been submitted by a researcher, and then reviewed by other scholars in the same field to ensure that it is sound science. What they are looking for is that:

  • The methodology has been fully described (and the study can thus be replicated by another researcher)
  • There are no obvious errors of calculation or statistical analysis
  • The findings support the conclusions. That is, do the results of the research support what the researcher has said about them?
  • It isn't a perfect system: Scientists make errors (or commit fraud) as often as any other human being and sometimes bad articles slip through. But in general, peer-review ensures that several trained eyes have seen an article before it appears in print.

Peer-reviewed journals are generally considered "primary source" material: When a new scientific discovery is made, a peer-reviewed journal is often--but not always--the first place it appears.

Popular and trade publications are not peer-reviewed, they are simply edited. That does not mean they are any less potentially truthful or informative--most popular and trade publications take pride in careful fact-checking.* But when the topic is scientific research, the information is generally "secondary": It has already appeared elsewhere (usually in a peer-reviewed journal) and has now been "digested" for a broader audience.

If you want to verify that a journal is peer-reviewed, check Ulrich's Periodical Directory.

Some sources of peer-reviewed articles:

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