Skip to Main Content

BIOL: SITT Group Bibliography Assignment Guide

Assignment instructions

Assignment instructions

The Group Bibliography Assignment is the first part of the larger "Salmon in the Tree" (SITT) project. The assignment isn't overly difficult, but it will take some time, and it does incorporate definitions, skills, and specific tasks you will need to complete.

Library Lab Session: To help you prepare for the Group Bibliography Assignment, there will be a Lab Session with a Librarian in the House of Learning Library. During the Lab you and your group will work on the Library Lab Exercise (see tab in the left column of this guide) to give you some practice in identifying different types of sources. You will also have time to get started on (and maybe even finish) the Group Bibliography Assignment during the Lab.

Your best bet for successfully completing the Group Bibliography Assignment? Break it down into these STEPS:

  1. Read the entire SITT assignment as given by your instructor, it contains a lot of important information you need to know in order to complete the Team Bibliography portion.
  2. Consult the flowchart (see below) and keep it handy during the library lab session.
  3. Brainstorm a list of keywords you might use to research your group's topic.
  4. With your search terms try finding a non-academic source; this will help you better understand the topic, and might lead you to some additional keywords (see the section "Find a non-academic source" below).
  5. Find a non-peer reviewed academic source (see the section "Find a non-peer reviewed academic source" below).
  6. Find some peer reviewed academic sources, including:
    • at least one peer reviewed, academic, primary source, and
    • at least one peer reviewed, academic, secondary source

(see the sections "Find a peer-reviewed academic source" and "About primary and secondary sources" below). 

7. However your group decides to delegate the work, be sure to end up with a total of ten sources for your group bibliography. Remember that your information sources must include at least one of each of the following and no more than three non-academic sources:

  • a non-academic source
  • an academic but not peer reviewed source
  • an academic, peer reviewed, primary source
  • an academic, peer reviewed, secondary source

8. Remember to provide EVIDENCE for why you have determined each source as belonging to one of the four categories above. Evidence can be in the form of a screenshot or clear photo of elements such as citations, bibliographies, dates, etc. (see screenshot instructions for PC and Mac). You need to paste screenshots or other image files into your Group Bibliography document, which must be submitted in PDF format.

9. Create a bibliography of the 10 sources using CSE citation style. Make sure your group has addressed all the requirements for the Group Bibliography Assignment portion of the Salmon in the Tree project.



Use this flowchart to help you determine the type of a source (non-academic, academic non-peer reviewed, academic peer reviewed primary source, or academic peer reviewed secondary source).

Flowchart image

Finding a non-academic source

Finding a non-academic source

For the purposes of this assignment, your popular (non-academic) sources might include:

  • Newspaper or magazine articles
  • Webpage or blog entries
  • Books that do NOT have in-text citations

You can find popular articles and websites using Google. Even Wikipedia will work for this part of the assignment. You can find books using the Library's Discover Search. Remember that if you are not able to physically access the library (e.g. if you are studying online) you will need to use ebooks (electronic books). Most of the books in the TRU library are academic, but some of them are not, and you can tell that they are non-academic because they do not have in-text citations.

Remember the Flowchart (see above) and the three characteristics of academic sources; if you can show evidence that your source does NOT meet any one of these three criteria, then it is non-academic. In other words, you have a non-academic source if you can demonstrate just ONE of the following:

  • There are NO in-text citations
  • There is NO bibliography
  • The author is NOT an expert who is paid to do the research. If you cannot determine who the author is, then you have met this criterion!

Example of a non-academic source (a web page in this case):

Finding a non-peer reviewed academic source

Finding a non-peer reviewed academic source

For the purposes of this assignment, your non-peer reviewed academic source will probably be either a book or a government document (non-peer reviewed academic articles do exist, but they are often difficult to find in article databases).

Use Google Advanced Search to find a government document. Enter your keywords, then in the "site or domain" field enter "" (to find Canadian sources) or ".gov" (to find American sources), then select ".pdf" as the file type. Many (but not all!) government reports will meet the criteria for non-peer reviewed academic sources.

Example: Government document as a non-peer reviewed academic source















For books, try using the Library's Discover Search and limit your results to ebooks.

Books tend to be about the "big picture", so your search will need to be broader (less specific) than a search you would use to find articles. For example, if you were researching salmon and the nitrogen cycle, you would search for articles using the search terms "salmon" AND "nitrogen cycle." But to search for books, you would just use the word "salmon." This is because it is unlikely the library has a book specifically about the role of salmon in the nitrogen cycle, but a book about the biology and ecology of salmon is likely to include the information you are looking for. After you find a book on salmon, you might look in the table of contents (usually near the front of the book) and/or index (often near the end) for the words "nitrogen" or "nitrogen cycle". 

Example: Electronic book (eBook) as a non-peer reviewed academic source


Once you have found a book or government document, check to make sure that a) it IS academic and b) it is NOT peer-reviewed. 

Remember that, for the purposes of this assignment, a book is considered to be academic if it meets ALL of the following criteria:

A. The author is an expert in the field who is paid to do the research.
B. There is a bibliography.
C. There are in-text citations.


A. Is the author an expert?
Someone is an expert in a field if they are paid by a university, government or other institution to do the research. (Sometimes an independent scholar will publish a book, in which case, check to see if the scholar a) has a PhD in the subject or b) has published at least one peer reviewed article on the subject. Most books and reports will give information about the authors and their affiliations. If not, use Google to search names for more information.













B. Is there a bibliography?
A quick scan should answer this. Remember that "references" is another world for bibliography. Also, be aware that sometimes a book has a separate bibliography at the end of each chapter, so check there if you are in doubt. 



C. Are there are in-text citations?
Again, a quick scan should determine this.



If you have found EVIDENCE for A, B and C then you have an academic book. If you are missing evidence for ANY of these criteria, then you need to find another book and start over.


Has the source been peer reviewed?
Finally, to find out if a source has been peer reviewed or not, you need to check for evidence. A peer reviewed source will generally mention, either at the front or back portion of the document, that it has been peer reviewed (or "refereed", which means the same thing). If you find explicit mention that the title has been peer-reviewed, then you’ll need to find a different book for this part of the assignment (on the other hand, you will have found one of your peer-reviewed resources!). However, you can limit your search for evidence to the book itself; look for a page with publication information (usually one of the first few pages). If there is NO mention of a peer review process in the book itself, then this lack of evidence is your evidence. Take a screenshot of the page with publication information to show that it does not mention peer review.

Example: No mention of peer review appears on the publication information page of this book.

You’ve just established that you have a non-peer reviewed academic source!

Finding a peer reviewed academic source

Finding a peer reviewed academic source

Most (if not all) of your peer reviewed academic sources will be articles published in scholarly journals. Start your search with the library's Discover Search. If you don't find what you need, try some of the library's scientific databases.

Remember that you are looking for research articles. Scholarly journals mostly publish research articles, but they also publish things like editorials, letters, and book reviews, which are excellent sources but would not satisfy the requirements for this part of the assignment - because even in a peer reviewed publication, these other types of writing do not usually go through the peer review process.

For an article to be considered peer reviewed, it must meet all of the criteria for an academic source, plus one more:

A. the author is an expert in the field who is paid to do the research

B. there is a bibliography

C. there are in-text citations

D. the article has been reviewed by one or more of the author's; peers (i.e., experts in the same or a closely related field)


A. Is the Author an Expert?

Someone is considered an expert in a field if they:

  • were paid by a university, government or other reputable institution to do the research, and/or
  • have published peer-reviewed material based on research in the same subject area

Scholarly articles will almost always give the authors' affiliations -- i.e. who they they work for -- at either on the top or the bottom of the first or last page. You can also Google search authors' names to find out about their qualifications.

Example: Author names and affiliations (organizations they work for) found at the top of an article









B. Is there is a bibliography?

A quick scan near the end of an article should answer this. Remember that "references" is another world for bibliography.



C. Are there are in-text citations?

A quick scan of the body text should determine this.



If you have found EVIDENCE for A, B, & C, then you have an academic article. Now you just need to confirm whether it is a peer-reviewed source.


D. Is there evidence the article has been peer reviewed?

There are two kinds of evidence that an article has been peer reviewed. One form of evidence is dates on the article itself indicating when it was originally received by the journal, when it was revised, and when it was finally accepted for publication. If there is just an "accepted" date, then you don't have sufficient evidence that it actually went through peer review before publication. If the article includes a "revised" date, that is evidence that a peer review (and revision) took place. 

Example: A "revised" date on an article is evidence that it underwent a peer review process (which resulted in a revision by the author before the article was accepted and published).


If there is not sufficient evidence of peer review on the article itself, you can try searching online for the journal's editorial policy--most journals have a "home page" with descriptive information. If it is a peer reviewed journal, its information page will often give an explanation of the peer review process. Sometimes this information appears under the "About", "Aims & Scope", or "Instructions for Authors" (or similarly titled) sections. You can usually find a journal's home page with a Google search of the journal title together with the word "journal".


Example: In this case, the journal title is "Plos One":


Example: "Plos One" journal homepage "About" and "Journal Information" sections:


Example: Publisher's peer review statement for Plos One journal.


The statement of a peer review process is evidence that you have found a peer reviewed journal. Therefore, any scientific research articles published in such a journal will have been peer reviewed. 

Identifying primary vs. secondary sources

Identifying primary vs. secondary sources

Primary sources

You may heave heard about primary and secondary sources in courses you have taken in other disciplines. In the sciences, primary sources are documents in which the authors (researchers) describe and explain their own original research. For example, a primary source would be a journal article in which scientists report on their study of salmon-derived nitrogen found in tree rings.

Primary source scientific research articles share a similar basic structure, usually including the following sections (in addition to a reference list):

  • an introduction with a statement of the research objective,
  • methods section that details exactly how the research was performed, with enough information that another researcher could replicate it
  • results section that describes the data collected, including charts or graphs and statistical analysis
  • discussion section that interprets the results within the context of the research objective.

(Drexel University Libraries, 2021:


For more information on how to identify primary source scientific research articles, see this video tutorial from Steenbock Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison:


Secondary sources

Secondary sources are documents that analyze, interpret, or comment on primary sources: therefore, secondary sources do not present their own original research. For example, a secondary source would be an article commenting on the research article on salmon-derived nitrogen in tree rings mentioned in the paragraph above.

review article (or literature review) is a secondary source which analyzes, interprets, or comments on primary research sources to get an overview of published research in a field.


For more information on how to identify secondary source scientific articles (especially review articles), see this video tutorial from Scottsdale Community College Library:

About the peer review process

The peer review process image