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EBIO 1940 Introduction to Scientific Writing: Home

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Putting together a persuasive scientific argument

When writing a persuasive scientific piece, it is important to explore the primary scientific literature thoroughly, as well as get background information to help you understand the primary scientific literature. Using these resources to understand the science, and then construct a well-grounded argument will help you convince your reader.

In order to do these things, you'll need to search widely (which you can do on the Articles tab), using both general and focused databases, and manage your research (which you can learn more about on the Citation and Zotero tab). As you get started, you'll want to identify keywords and develop a search strategy, and perhaps search for background information in OneSearch.

Find information in books, journals, and more with OneSearch

Keyword Strategies

Before you search, it's a good idea to come up with and record some possible keywords. Remember, though, that as  you learn more about your topic, and perhaps even develop new questions, your keywords will change and shift.

As you're thinking of keywords, here are some helpful things to keep in mind:

  • Databases work by searching for the exact words that you've entered in the text of the item.  If you're searching for "insecticides," you'll get items that use that word.  However, if there's an item that uses the term "pesticide" you won't get that item in your search results, even though it might be relevant to your topic.
  • Sometimes it's tricky to determine what words might be used to describe a topic.  You'll pick up new ideas for keywords as you continue searching, but you can also get ideas by examining background information like news articles and encyclopedias.  Wikipedia and Google News are great tools for brainstorming keywords before you begin a database search! 
  • Because research can be very specific, it's sometimes helpful to use keywords that focus on narrower aspects of your topic.  For example, using prallethrin or etofenprox (types of insecticides) as keywords, will also help.
  • Geographic terms can be especially tricky in searches.  Would you describe where you are right now as Boulder? The Rocky Mountains? Colorado?  The Front Range?  The western U.S.?  Try out different terms to see if there's one that might be especially helpful for your topic, and remember that librarians can help with this!
  • Avoid words like "as a cause of," "effect," or "impact". These connect ideas in natural language, but databases do better without them.
  • Librarians are always willing to help with finding useful keywords and developing your search. We can often even do this over email, if you don't have time to meet. Contact us!


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Abbey Lewis


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Elizabeth Novosel