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Physics and Astronomy  

Research guide to help undergraduate students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy
Last Updated: Feb 7, 2014 URL: http://guides.lib.byu.edu/physics Print Guide RSS Updates

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Writing a Paper?

1.  Select a topic

You should have a specific topic selected before you begin searching for information in the library.  If you need help in selecting a topic you can:

  • Look in your course syllabus or your teacher may have given you a list of suggested topics.
  • Your textbook for the course is a good place to find topics that may be of interest to you.
  • Read articles in an encyclopedia (there is a good list of reference books including encyclopedias of Math under the "books" tab) about possible topics you are interested in.
  • Do a keyword or subject search in the Library Catalog, in Wikipedia, or Google using various terms you have thought of.

As you develop some background while searching for a topic, narrow it to something specific enough to write a paper about.  You need to begin finding and reading some sources about your topic.  From your reading, formulate a specific question that you intend to research and write about.

2.  Search the Periodical (Journal) Literature

In the Sciences, the primary source of information is articles published in journals (periodicals).  These articles are indexed in periodical indexes. If you have difficulty with this step, go to the Science/Maps Help Desk for assistance.

  • Choose a likely index from the "Finding articles" tab and search it with some of the terms you have been encountering in your background research. 
  • When you find useful articles, copy them or download them and be sure to copy down their full bibliographic citation including title, author, volume, pages, year of publication, and journal title.
  • Determine if the Library has the periodical.  Some indexes have direct links to the full text of the articles but if the index you are using does not you will have to check the Library Catalog to see if the Library has a subscription to the journal and get the electronic version through the Library catalog or the print version (if we do not have an electronic version) in the Periodical Room.  There are some journals we do not have; these may be requested through Interlibrary Loan, a quick, free (to students and employees of BYU) service for getting items from other libraries.
  • For even more relevant articles and books be sure to check the bibliographies at the ends of the sources you have found.


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