Literature searches

As a student, you have been tasked with writing a research paper on selenium.  Where do you start?

Most teachers will not accept a research paper based on information gained from Wikipedia.  You will have to find and research primary literature in order to write your paper.  Your first stop should be a visit to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed website.

PubMed is a collection of biomedical research.  Here you can gain access to free text, including reviews of primary literature.  Finding a good review should be your primary objective when beginning a research project.

So you select the PubMed database and type in selenium (see pickture to the right).  What do you get?  23,000 citations. That’s alot of papers to weed through in order to find your review paper.  To bring the number of citations down to a manageable level, its important to put limits on your search.  Under the search box, you will find a link to “Limits” (designated by the red circle).  Click on that.  Now you can search articles from a certain publishing date, the type of article, whether you are interested in literature pertaining to humans or animals, a whole host of subset categories and most important, text options.  Here you can check the box to give citations that have links to free full text only.

So lets redo our selenium search looking over the past 10 years.  For the type of article option, we are only interested in reviews at this time.  Let’s check the box that says human or animal as we are interested in reviews that deal with either species, and we would like only links to free full text.  Our last option will be articles that are in English.  With our new limits in place, we hit search and get 129 citations.  A much more manageable number!

And citation 17 on the list?  Regulation and function of selenoproteins in human disease.  Sounds like a great place to start.

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