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BIO 211 Cell Biology Lab: Home

Cell Biology Lab

Selecting Sources

When doing your research you want to make sure you are selecting appropriate sources for your research, in most cases this will be a scholarly journal article, but in some cases it may be a website.  This may be confusing because the vast majority of items you will be getting will be on the web. 

How do you tell if an item you find on the web is a Journal Article?

There are examples of different types of journal articles on this page, but the primary differences between journal articles and websites are:


Journal Title, and Publisher

Volume, Issue, Date and Pages.

A journal article will always have an author, and it will always be easy to find. It is very important to be able to determine the authority of information, and the author is a very important element of the authority.

A journal article is published by a journal that has the purpose of spreading authoritative scientific information in a field. The journal editors ensure that the material is suitable for the journal. While there are different levels of quality in journals, there is quality control, unlike websites which can be put up by anyone.

Journal articles are always dated, and generally indicate the volume, issue, and pages of the journal the article appears in.  With newer electronic-only journals some do not have pages indicated.

How do I cite a journal I found on the web?

You cite a journal article you found on the web as a journal article, not as a website.

The general pattern is:

 author, (date) title, journal title, volume, issue, pages.

This is an example

Walsby, A. E. (1994). Gas vesicles. Microbiological reviews58(1), 94-144.


Using Websites

Websites are not generally a good idea to use as sources, there can be exceptions, but you want to be very judicious when selecting appropriate sources. You want to be certain that you are getting your information from a solid scholarly source, and not from something less appropriate. You would be amazed at how many student papers are on the web. You don’t want to cite someone’s AP Biology paper in your lab report.  There is also a great deal of completely erroneous information on the web.

Information from the National Institutes of Health, other Government Agencies and prominent research facilities can be good choice for information.

A good guideline is:

If you do not know where the information comes from, don’t use it. 

Secondary Sources

You may choose to select a secondary source for one of your references for some projects and presentations. These sources are usually magazines or websites, and do not present the original scientific research. 


Secondary articles are great to get you started in your research, but do not have the content that you need to fully inform your research. Secondary articles are generally shorter and much less indepth than primary articles.  They often do not have an author, so it is hard for you to determine the authority of the article.  Many magazine articles do have authors, but the authors are journalists, rather than scientists. 

This article is found in the magazine New Scientist. Click on the image to get the article.

It would be citaed as

Microbes impossible to divide into species. (2007).New Scientist 195 (2618), 18.

You will note that this is a single page.  Primary journal articles are longer than a single page.

Subject Guide

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Reference Librarians

Review Articles

Review articles are another type of article appearing in a scientific journal. Rather than reporting on original research, like a primary research article, a review article reports on the current state of knowledge about a topic, by presenting recent research about the topic. 

The following is a review article.

Oren, A. (2013). The Function of Gas Vesicles in Halophilic Archaea and Bacteria: Theories and Experimental Evidence. Life 

You would cite this item:

Oren, A. (2013). The Function of Gas Vesicles in Halophilic Archaea and Bacteria: Theories and Experimental Evidence. Life (2075-1729), 3(1), 1-20. doi:10.3390/life3010001 (the second line should be indented 5 spaces (Hanging indent) Different browsers make this look differently)

To Cite this within your article you would do:

(Oren, 2013)

.  For more detail about citing, see the APA guide at the bottom of this page. 

Primary Literature

A primary research study is a study based on observation or experimentation. 

Some examples of studies could be:

A study of the efficacy of a drug compared to placebo

A comparison of two different treatments for a disease

A comparison of the success of two (or more) different diets

Primary research studies can be found in many different databases, but PubMed is an excellent place to find research for this course. PubMed is a database primarily of research studies, but it also contains review articles, letters and commentaries. 

To determine if you have a primary research study, begin with the abstract. It should describe the study, who it was performed on, how it was performed and briefly whsat the results were.

An example is below:


The effect of weight loss on obesity-associated endothelial dysfunction is not clear because of conflicting data, demonstrating both improvement and no change in endothelial function after weight loss in obese subjects. A 2-year prospective study (n = 121) was conducted to examine: (1) the effect of obesity and weight loss (either a low-carbohydrate or and low-fat diet) on flow mediated vasodilatation (FMD), a measure of endothelial function.


Participants reduced body weight by 7.1% ± 4.4%, 8.7% ± 6.8%, 7.1% ± 7.8%, and 4.1% ± 7.7% at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months, respectively with no significant differences between the low-fat and low-carbohydrate groups.


Endothelial function was inversely correlated with waist circumference, triglyceride level, and directly correlated with leptin in obese persons prior to weight loss. These weight losses did not confer any improvements in FMD. There were no differences between the low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets in FMD at any time point. At 6 months (r = 0.26, P = 0.04) and 1 year (r =0.28, P = 0.03), there were positive correlations between change in FMD and change in leptin but not at 2 years.


There was no significant improvement in endothelial function after 7.1% ± 7.8% weight loss at 1 year and 4.1% ± 7.7% at 2 years, achieved by either a low carbohydrate or a low fat diet.


The study will have several sections. Sometimes the sections will be named slightly different things, but they generally include: Introduction, Literature review. Participants, Methods, Results, and Conclusions.


If you have any questions, you can always ask a reference librarian.


Primary Research Articles

Primary Research articles are nearly always presented in academic journals. They report on the process and results of primary research. They contain sections on: literature review, methods and materials, results and conclusions.  Sometimes the sections have slightly different names.  Primary articles tend to be more complex than other types of literature, but the abstract can help give you a general understanding of what will follow in the article. 

Below is an example of a journal article. (click on image for full article)


You can tell it is a journal article because you can see the title of the journal, the volume, the pages and the date. This information is in the top left hand corner in the above example, but it can be on the opposite side, or at the bottom depending on the journal. 

If you were going to cite the above journal in your bibliography, it would be cited as:

Hofacker, A., Schmitz, K. M., Cichonczyk, A., Sartorius-Neef, S., & Pfeifer, F. (2004). GvpE-and GvpD-mediated transcription                 regulation of the p-gvp genes encoding gas vesicles in Halobacterium salinarum. Microbiology,150(6), 1829-1838.


To cite the article within the text you would cite it as:

(Hofacker, Schmitz, Cichonczyk, Sartorius & Pfeifer, 2004)


When using APA Parenthetical citation you list authors up to 5 when citing for the first time. If there are more than 5 authors, then you use et. al  For example (Jones et. al, 1999) For more information on APA Citation, refer to the APA Citation Guide linked at the bottom of this page.

Here ia another example from an online Journal


The Citations would Look like this:

Offner, S., Ziese, U., Wanner, G., Typke, D., & Pfeifer, F. (1998). Structural characteristics of halobacterial gas                                       vesicles. Microbiology144(5), 1331-1342.

When cited in your paper, it would look like this:

(Offner, Ziese, WannerTypke, & Pfeifer,1998)



Sample Bibliography

To cite your information you want to make sure it is cited properly.  Many databases, and tools like GoogleScholar have citation toolsd. Make sure you proofread their citations, because while they are good, they are not foolproof. 

The second and subsequent lines on a bibliography should be indented, because of the difference in monitor formats, it may not always appear that way in the text below. Look at the pdf if you need an example.


Your bibliography should reflect the sources you have used for your research. The main sources should be journal literature, rather than websites and magazine articles.

Your sources should be in alphabetical order by first author and properly formatted. See the full APA guide below for more detail.


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