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A good place to start learning about a new subject area is what we call the “secondary” scientific literature. Secondary literature includes review articles that describe the general state of understanding about a specific topic. There are also news service web pages (and probably blogs) written for the educated public that are a good place to find out what is happening in the world of science. If you are looking for a research paper topic, Try some of the sites listed below.

Keep in mind that in developing a research topic, you need to develop a search strategy. The hardest part of a search is articulating the specific thing you are looking for, so take some time to just browse and make a list of keywords that seem to be specific to your area of interest. Also don’t forget to talk with faculty and the reference librarian—they are often in a better position to help you define valid search terms.

News Pages - A great place to discover new and interesting stuff; the best ones are sponsored by a publisher and will keep you abreast of new developments and breakthroughs in science.

Nature Science update service from the journal Nature
Biochem Society A news feature of the Biochemical Society
Science News Is a weekly update on latest science headlines sponsored by the Society for Science and the Public
New Scientist Is a magazine of current science topics for a general audience. They also have a series of special reports and content of current issues in biology, health, and medicine at this site—SpecialReports
BioScience Breakthroughs in Bioscience is a series of illustrated essays that explain recent breakthroughs in biomedical research and how they are important to society. Sponsored by FASEB
ChemWeb A chemistry portal that contains access to various databases (for journals as well as chemical reactions and properties) and professional development information
ACS The American Chemical Society home page has some general announcements but you might want to check out their weekly Chemical and Engineering News magazine. Some content does require you are a member
ASM The American Society for Microbiology deals with current issues related to microbes. Their monthly member magazine Microbe may be a better source for familiarizing yourself with related topics

 

Science Reviews—The purpose of a review article is to summarize a large number of studies that have defined our current knowledge in a particular area (stem cells or global warming for example). They tend to lay between a news article and a primary research paper in their technical content. They are an excellent source to come up to speed on a topic

Biochem Jrnl Review articles from the Biochemical Journal. Current articles require a subscription but reviews more than three years old are free
JBiolChem The review compendium for the Journal of Biological Chemistry
MMBR Microbiology Molecular Biology Reviews is published quarterly by The American Society for Microbiology. Back issues are free
Physiol. Rev. Reviews of physiology related topics
Pharma. Rev. Reviews of pharmacology related topics

 

Internet Search Engines—these are probably not the best way to find specific information since they might not be as comprehensive or current as you think. Some search engines index information (Yahoo) while others do not (Google). Nevertheless, these are simple search tools that are useful in a general sense. Pubmed is probably the most sophisticated of the three listed, but is also limited in content it searches

Google Scholar A Google tool that is specific for academic content and journals. Since it does not have controlled terms, spelling variations or alternative names prevent you from doing a comprehensive and exhaustive search
Scirus An indexed engine by the publisher Elsevier that has a little more flexibility and precision than Google. Also allows you to search by categories.(Note: Elsevier resources are not indexed by Google)
PubMed This is the National Library of Medicine database (you might also check out their textbooks on-line and other cool stuff). Include the words AND free full text[sb] and it will give you all the available free full text articles that match the rest of your query. You might also include the word review to avoid getting bogged down in primary literature.