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SA 3124 - Animal Behavior (Fortier)

Library Lab #1 - Identifying Peer-Reviewed Literature

Research Articles

Research articles are also often known as scientific or peer-reviewed articles. If the article is NOT written by the person or group who did the research, it is NOT a peer-reviewed or scientific article. Research articles are important for knowing what new discoveries have been made. This is why it is important to use recent articles, since they will be the first things published on a new scientific development. 

Here's a quick overview of how to identify these journal articles:

  • written by the scientist(s) who actually did the research
  • follows a specific format 
    • abstract
    • introduction
    • materials & methods
    • results
    • conclusions
    • references 
  • assumes reader already knows background information about the topic has been evaluated by experts
  • Tip:  Look for a statement about when the article was accepted for publication. Most peer-reviewed articles will include one.
Example of a Research Article


Reading a Research Article

When looking at the abstract, look to see if the authors conducted original research. The abstract will also tell you the conclusions of the study, which is very helpful in choosing which articles to read.


The abstract is great for learning the basics about an article. However, you will need to read the article to really understand it.

Reading through the Methods and Results will give you a much stronger understanding. The Methods section should explain how the research was conducted. The Results section should explain what the authors found from their research. 

If you still find the article useful, move on the Conclusion. The Conclusion section will connect the study to the bigger picture. It can be helpful to identify weaknesses to the study and future areas for research.

Review Articles

Review articles are written when authors read and summarize research on a topic. Review articles are useful for learning about what kind of research has been done previously on a topic.
Here's a quick overview of how to identify these articles:
  • current state of knowledge in the field
  • recent developments 
  • limitations of previous research
  • suggestions for future research
Example of a review article


Helpful Databases

Library Lab #2 - Finding Behavioral Research

Presentation Proposal

During lab, the Library will discuss appropriate methods for searching the online databases at DelVal. You must identify two distinct hypotheses and find a minimum of 3 scholarly references. Your instructor will explain the difference between scholarly and non-scholarly works.

After completing your search, submit this form listing all information below. You may NOT use websites!  Scholarly journals only.


During the last weeks of laboratory you will give a 20 minute oral presentation to your colleagues. Your presentation is a chance to explore a behavioral topic in more detail. We want to turn to scholarly scientific articles to learn what is known about the subject. Scientific journals will provide the most reliable, up-to-date information on a subject. These journals rely on a process known as peer review. Before publication, the work of every author will be reviewed by at least two other scientists to determine whether it should be printed. Few other fields offer the level of self-policing that is commonplace in science.

How can you tell whether a journal really consists of original, scholarly research? If the author is reporting on someone else’s work, it is not original research. Journals such as Animal Behavior, Behavioral Ecology, Ecology, and Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology contain original research. Discover, Science News, Life, National Geographic, and Boy’s Life do not. When in doubt, consult your instructor; stick with Google Scholar to simplify your life. You should use 3 or more references (all must be appropriate literature) and they may not all be from the same author. You must look at the writings of more than one individual to get a balanced view of the subject.

Your presentation must be in Powerpoint and should consist of the following sections:


This section should explain why a topic is interesting or relevant to the audience (your colleagues). Too often, talks begin with the words "For our presentation, we chose to study x behavior . . . .". Try to make the material relevant to your audience from the outset – create a hook. Why is this subject of interest? Define any terms that may be unfamiliar and CLEARLY EXPLAIN THE ALTERNATE HYPOTHESES.

Discussion (Body):

Never use the words "trust me" during a presentation. Instead, back up your statements with the appropriate data - show the class the graphs, figures, etc. from the papers that you’ve read through. Don’t overwhelm the audience with countless graphs. Instead, carefully review a limited number of findings in more detail (each figure should have the reference included as a footnote). Explain how various ideas/hypotheses are affected by these findings. Here’s a quick checklist for each paper presented:

What hypothesis did they test?

What were the predictions?

How did they test them?

What were the results?

Did they support the hypothesis?

Sample Presentation Topics

Note: You may not use these topics from the past.

  • Why do male beetles guard their mates after copulating?
  • Why do female tree swallows mate with multiple males?
  • Why do some cichlids breed cooperatively?
  • Why do bumblebees sometimes leave nectar behind in flowers?
  • Is territory size driven by food availability in marine reef fish?
  • Is school size in small fish driven by the “group vigilance hypothesis”?

Sources for Scientific Articles

Choose scientific original research articles containing data collection.*  Avoid "Review" articles.
You must choose 4 scientific original research articles containing data collection.

Start with Google Scholar. It searches most of the scientific literature and will direct you to journals that the library has access to. Look for the FullText@DelVal links to the right of the citations. PDFs to the right will usually open as well. Scholar will link you over to the scientific literature in the following library databases:

Science Direct includes full text of the journal Animal Behaviour (Delval has online access back to 1993 --microfiche back to 1979.)

Setting up RefWorks


RefWorks is a new way to collect, manage, and organize research.  You can read, annotate, organize, and cite your research as well as collaborate by sharing collections.

From simple bibliographies to papers formatted with in-text citations or footnotes, RefWorks handles it all. ​To learn more about RefWorks, use our RefWorks research guide.

To create a RefWorks account:

  1. Go to the link below and click Create account
  2. Fill in your information, making sure to use your DelVal email address.  
  3. Go to your inbox and click the email link to complete the activation process. 

Already have an account? Just go to the link below and click "Log In"

Online Tutorials

RefWorks screencasts are available 24/7 on ProQuest's YouTube Channel. 

Click here to begin watching.

Getting Help

Interlibrary Loan

If a book or article you want is not available, use Interlibrary Loan (ILL). The Library can order books and articles from other libraries. This process takes few days but is completely free for DelVal students, faculty, and staff.

Before you submit an ILL, check Google Scholar or Summon to see if we have immediate access or if it is freely available online.