The Researching Environmental Issues Academic Bibliography 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 REI Bibliography Assignment, there will be a Lab Session with a Librarian in the House of Learning Library. During the Lab you 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 the assignment during lab time, and should be able to find all of your sources and get a good start on your citations.
Your best bet for successfully completing the assignment? Break it down into these STEPS:
(see the sections "Find a peer-reviewed academic source" and "About primary and secondary sources" below).
7. Be sure to end up with a total of six sources for your bibliography. Remember that your information sources must include:
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 bibliography document, which must be submitted in PDF format.
9. Create a bibliography of the 6 sources using . Make sure you have addressed all of the requirements for the REI Academic Bibliography Assignment before handing it in - the small details count!
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).
For the purposes of this assignment, your popular (non-academic) sources might include:
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:
Example of a non-academic source (a web page in this case):
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 ".gc.ca" (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!
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:
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.
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):
(Drexel University Libraries, 2021: https://libguides.library.drexel.edu/biomed-literature-types)
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 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.
A 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: