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This page provides a summary of the Library resources you will find useful for your Ecology research paper. I will keep it up for you for the remainder of the semester. Check back from time to time for updated content. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or book an appointment using the scheduler below my picture on the Get Started page. 

Celia Brinkerhoff, Biology Librarian (

Primary Research Articles in Ecology

For this assignment, you are being asked to locate an article reporting on primary research. Not sure what primary research looks like in the sciences?

In brief, you are looking for an article that:

  • reports on the investigation or experiment done by the author(s) themselves
  • includes the author(s) affiliations
  • includes the methods used and results, usually in graphs, tables, etc.
  • is published in peer-reviewed, scholarly journals

This short video from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library offers a good overview.

More specifically for this assignment, you are being asked to find a primary research article that describes some type of "field study" or controlled experiment. Although plenty of primary research is done in lab settings, you will need to find research that was carried out in an outdoor ecosystem. 

When selecting your primary article, you will need to:

  • First read the Abstract or summary very carefully to ensure that the research being reported is the result of a field study or controlled experiment done by the authors.
    • Look for action words like test, sample, observe, collect, measure
  • Secondly, review the Materials and Methods section for a detailed description of how the research was done.
    • Look for precise descriptions of geographic coordinates, instruments used in sampling, etc .
    • Words like transect, plot, site, corridor, etc.

Avoid articles that are "meta-analyses" or reviews of other experiments, discussion, opinions, or book reviews. 

Reading primary research requires first recognizing the standard structure of a scientific article. Read first for the main ideas and conclusions, then go back and read for the details of the experiment. 

Your reading may look something like this:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Discussion
  • Methods

This video from Utah State University Libraries provides a short overview of how to read a scientific article.

Test Yourself

Here are 4 different articles found by browsing recent issues of Journal of Animal Ecology and Ecology.

Which one reports on primary field research, and therefore would be suitable for your assignment?

Which of the above is an example of primary field research?
A: 2 votes (10%)
B: 0 votes (0%)
C: 17 votes (85%)
D: 1 votes (5%)
Total Votes: 20

Finding a Primary Research Article @KPU Library

KPU Library subscribes to several key, peer-reviewed journals in the field of ecology. For this assignment, you can use anyble through Library subscriptions, but the 4 listed below are good starting points.

You can either browse or search the contents of these journals directly by using the links below. The videos linked in the tabs to the right will explain the details of searching within a journal for an article.

Once you are within the contents of the journal, be sure you are looking at recent issues (no older than 2019), and that you can identify a primary research article. Most journals contain additional content such as letters, opinion pieces, and review articles.


Once you have found an article, be sure to save it by either emailing yourself the link or downloading the pdf. Your instructor might want you to provide the PDF of the original article, or at least provide the first page along with the abstract.

This video will introduce you to browsing for a recent article in the journal Ecology.

This video will show you how to search for a recent article, if you already have a topic in mind.

KPU Library subscribes to several science database, collections of thousands of peer-reviewed journals covering many areas of life sciences. If you would prefer to look for your initial article in a database, that is, not within a particular journal, try one of the databases linked below.

You will need to make sure you are picking a journal from the field of ecology, conservation, or biology, and that your article is no older than 2019.

Add Google Scholar to your suite of research tools. Google Scholar is a search engine that covers much of the scholarly, peer reviewed literature from academic publishers, plus conferences, theses and dissertations, abstracts and more. Some of the content is available full text, and some will be citation-only. 

You can configure your settings to include links to articles available from Kwantlen Polytechnic Library subscription journals to avoid hitting publishers' paywalls. See the screenshot below.



Zotero is a free browser tool that keeps track of your articles and webpages, and creates citations in several formats. Sign up for a free account, and your personal library will be accessible from any computer with an internet connection.

For help learning how to use Zotero, please visit for downloading and support.

The Library's APA citation style guide will give you examples of how to make in-text citations and reference lists for your paper.


Feedback please!