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BIOS 251 Spring 2023

Class Exercise

The exercise below will:

  • give you practice in finding reliable background information sources that will help you understand your overall topic as well as technical terms you encounter when reading the papers;
  • give you practice in searching for scholarly journal articles. Later in the course, you can continue looking for additional articles. The more time you spend searching for references, the better and more focused your paper and presentation will be.
  • give you practice in using National Library of Medicine (NLM) style

To do the exercise, just follow the steps below, in order.

This exercise covers just some of the resources on this library guide. Familiarize yourself with the structure of the guide and the resources on it.

Contact the science librarian for help.


Spend two minutes setting up an ILLiad account, if you have not done so already. ILLiad enables you to order articles that Lehigh does not have electronically. Lehigh will order the item for you, or scan it if the print is available. In either case, you will receive an email with a link to the article. You may need to use ILLiad later in the semester or for other assignments or classes. Go here. Click on ILLiad. Fill out required one-time registration information. (If you want a tutorial, see here.)



Go to the background information page of this guide. Find some resources that help you understand technical terminology that appears in the papers you found. These can be encyclopedia articles, books or ebooks, dictionaries, handbooks, a public website (provided it is authoritative) or anything else that can help. They can also be popular literature, such as magazine or newspaper articles. See the page about the distinction between popular and scholarly articles. For this part of the exercise, only *popular* articles are relevant.


Now look for a scholarly article.

First, review the page of this guide "Scholarly versus Popular Articles".  You will be looking for scholarly, not popular, articles. (Popular articles, such as in magazines and newspapers, can as mentioned be a good way to find background information, plus they can point you to recent research published in scholarly journals. But their purpose differs from scholarly journal articles.)

Second, take a look at the page of this guide about how to read a scholarly article.

The focus below is on searching Medline for scholarly articles. Other databases are available; just focus on Medline for now. 

Open Medline (via Web of Science). Note: Medline has other versions as well, including one that is free via  "PubMed", though for that version you need to use Lehigh's version to see the Lehigh Links).

For documentation about searching Medline (via Web of Science), see here.

If you do not see the Medline database, click on the the drag down menu for "Select a Database" and select Medline. You should see:   

NOTE: Don't confuse Medline (via Web of Science) with Web of Science itself. These are separate databases. It just happens that you can get to Medline via the Web of Science interface.  


Design a search that draws on the search techniques that we discussed in class to find a journal article.

Techniques to use when you set up a search statement:

  • Truncation. Example: test* 
  • Logical operators (AND, OR). Example: test* or positiv*
  • Phrase searching. Example: "johns hopkins"   

You can put these together into one search. In the example below, parentheses help to "nest" mini-searches that are processed first, then added to the larger search. Make sure "Topic" is selected as the search type, as in this example:

Click "Search".

Then, go to the left of the search results, which is a list of "records". Here you see a column of filters or limiters you can use to narrow your search. Under the Publication Types limiter, select "Journal Article": 

Goal: find one really relevant article. 

If you don't find one, you may have to tweak your search to narrow or broaden your search by removing or adding terms. 


Look at the search results for ideas about new or better search terms. Searching is very iterative.

  •  look at the abstract of the article you found, or go into the full text of that article using Lehigh Links (assuming Lehigh provides access to it), and find new keywords to use in refining your "topic" search or creating a new one  

  • "MeSH" terms may appear (example below) in the Medline record for an article you like. For this exercise, just use them for ideas about how to refine your "topic" search, making sure "topic" is selected, as it was in the example we started with.   

  • FINE POINT ABOUT ADVANCED SEARCHING TO TRY OUT LATER: if you use the MeSH header option from the drag down menu (instead of the "topic" option) when you do a search, or if you restrict your search using the MeSH filter on the left of search results, you may miss out on some relevant results. This is because MeSH headers may not have not been assigned yet to the Medline record. Still, they are a powerful way to search. One thing you can do is search on MeSH headers, then if you find relevant results, look for articles that cite the article you find. See below about how to do this. That way you can use MeSH headers but possibly find articles that don't have  MeSH headers applied. *To learn more about MeSH terms, scroll down on this page to the video labeled "Search MEDLINE on Web of Science".

Example of MeSH Terms in a Medline record:


Now locate a second article by using one of these tricks:

  •  Click on the "times cited" link to find other articles closely related to the first one you found and that cite that first article. An article citing another article is related in subject to the first, or it wouldn't be citing it! To bring up citing articles, click on the "times cited" as in this example:


[SIDE POINT: in your search results, to find a high impact paper, defined as one that is heavily cited, click on the sort option "Times Cited"]

Other ways to start with one article and find other relevant articles:

  • You can also look on the right of the record to see what articles the first article itself has cited
  • You can also click on "view related records" to the right after you go into the record.  
  • use keywords or MeSH terms from that first article to tweak your search, as discussed above.
  • see if the author of the article has published a second, related article. To do so, click on the author's name.



Find a review article, again related to your topic. A review article discusses the literature about a sub-field and is a good place to find more bibliography but also to develop your background knowledge of a topic.

Run a search on your topic and then go to the left to see the filters. Under "Publication Types", select "journal article" but also select "review" and/or "systematic reviews". If you don't see one of these types of review article come up, you may have to broaden your search. Here you can see a definition of review articles and "systematic reviews".

After doing this exercise, familiarize yourself with the resources on the library guide and consider using them in your searching. Above focused on just one database, Medline. Try other databases as well.