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Rock Your Research: Science Resources

October 4, 2018

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With fall approaching and the weather perfect for outdoor activities, one might consider participating in a Georgia resident bucket list activity; hiking to the top of Stone Mountain, the huge granite rock a few miles southeast of GGC, a place of rare flora and fauna.

To highlight library resources in the Sciences, let’s explore the following research topicIdentify plant life that thrives on Stone Mountain and similar granite mountains. Find academic and scholarly sources that discuss habitat, plant needs, survival rates, and adaptability.

This assignment will require the use of several sources and looking under every rock possible!

The Kaufman Library provides access to several science databases, including 27 biology databases. The library’s list of databases contains a scope note for each database. Scope notes describe the subject and resource contents of databases. Based on the scope notes below, we can see that Agricola, Biology Database and Environmental Science Collection are good choices for this assignment.

  • Agricola: Contains more than 4.8 million bibliographic citations of journal articles, monographs, theses, patents, software, audiovisual materials, and technical reports related to agriculture from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Library from 1970 to the present.
  • Biology Database: This database provides access to a wide range of biology topics including some of the most popular information resources for users in academic, government and public research environments.
  • Environmental Science Collection*: This database includes the renowned AGRICOLA, TOXLINE, ESPM (Environmental Sciences and Pollution Management) and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) databases and provides full-text titles from around the world, including scholarly journals, trade and industry journals, magazines, technical reports, conference proceedings, and government publications.

*Although we searched Agricola for purposes of this article, it is not necessary to search Agricola individually because it is included in the Environmental Science Collection.

Now that we have chosen our sources, let’s investigate the information requirements of the assignment: plant life, academic, scholarly, habitat, plant needs, survival, and adaptability, and Stone Mountain.

Beginning with Biology Database, one might be tempted to search all the above keywords; however, since the assignment is specifically about Stone Mountain, Georgia, we can begin with these search terms:

Stone Mountain and Georgia

Should the searcher add science, biology, or plants? No, because all the results in Biology Database will relate to biology.

The initial search yields 480 articles. However, upon close examination, many of these results do not relate to our topic.  Because we did not use quotation marks around our phrases the computer found the articles because they have the terms stone, mountain, and Georgia in the retrieved record. The terms might be in the title, abstract, text, or even the author affiliation in the record. Another problem is that Georgia could be a country or even someone’s name. Understanding how search retrieves records can help you formulate a more successful search strategy. Regardless of the many unrelated articles in the results, the search retrieved a useful article, and because of relevancy ranking, the database listed it as the very first article in the list of search results:

Mohlenbrock, R. H. (2000). Stone ground flowers. Natural History109(5), 14-16.

Abstract: Plantlife that flourishes around the region of Georgia’s Stone, Panola, and Arabia Mountains is featured. Rock masses known as monadnocks that stand out in an area otherwise worn down to a plain, give life to interesting and colorful plants that decorate the landscape.

This article is in Natural History, an academic science magazine. An academic magazine is written for the academic audience (students, professors, and those with more than a passing interest in a topic), but it does not usually include research articles (findings of a scientific study). While this article does not fit the original assignment requirement of “scholarly”, it does fit the criteria of “academic.”

Furthermore, this article details several flowers that grow on Stone Mountain (Confederate Daisy) and mentions several other granite mountains in the area (Panola, Arabia). It also mentions a special name for the oddity that is Stone Mountain – monadnock. Now the searcher has new search terms to type into the database:

“Confederate Daisy”

“Monadnock”

“Panola Mountain”

“Arabia Mountain”

“Granite”

The quotation marks around the phrases cause the database to look for the words in that exact order, next to each other. Imagine what we would find with the words Arabia Mountain without the quotation marks. We might find articles about mountains in Arabia!

After searching Biology Database with these terms, one does not discover any additional useful articles, so instead of giving up, switch to AGRICOLA.

Using one of the terms identified in the first article (with quotation marks so the database will search the phrase), “Confederate daisy”, the searcher finds this article:

Frings, D. M., & Davenport L. J. (2015). Current distribution and new county records for the confederate daisy, Helianthus porteri (Asteraceae), in Alabama. Southeastern Naturalist,        14(3), 484-490.

Search Tip: Using OR will find articles with any or all these terms. Using AND will only find articles that mention all the terms. Remember to use quotation marks around phrases.

This article leads us to the discovery of the scientific name for the Confederate Daisy: Helianthus porteri.

Now there are two sources for this project and a new search term. A quick search on “Helianthus porteri” results in another useful article:

Bowsher, A. W., Donovan L. A., & Gevaert, S. D. (2016). Field performance and common-garden differentiation in response to resource availability in Helianthus porteri (A. Gray) Pruski, a     granite-outcrop endemic. Southeastern Naturalist, 15(3), 467-487.

We now have three articles relating to our topic. After reading the third article, another term is discovered to add to the search term list. The common name for Helianthus porteri is Porter’s Sunflower.

Moving on to the next database, Environmental Science Collection, searching can be done on any one (or all) of these terms:

“Porter’s Sunflower” or “Helianthus porteri” or “Confederate daisy”

Search Tip: Using OR will find articles with any or all these terms. Using AND will only find articles that mention all the terms.

This database provides 181 results about this topic including scholarly journals, reports, magazines, trade journals, dissertations, and thesis.

This search can be further narrowed by adding various terms with AND.

Example: (“Porter’s Sunflower” or “Helianthus porteri” or “Confederate daisy”) AND  Stone Mountain

(“Porter’s Sunflower” or “Helianthus porteri” or “Confederate daisy”) AND granite

Use parentheses if including the connectors “or” and “ad” in your search. The computer reads the search like a math problem.

Due to our persistent and creative searching, we found these three promising articles:

Bowsher, A. W., Donovan L. A., & Gevaert S.D. (2016). Field performance and common-garden differentiation in response to resource availability in Helianthus porteri (A. Gray) Pruski, a     granite-outcrop endemic. Southeastern Naturalist, 15(3), 467-487.

Frings, D. M., & Davenport L. J. (2015). Current distribution and new county records for the confederate daisy, Helianthus porteri (Asteraceae), in Alabama. Southeastern Naturalist, 14(3), 484-490.

Mohlenbrock, R. H. (2000). Stone ground flowers. Natural History109(5), 14-16.

The next step is to thoroughly read each article and look for information relevant to the original assignment.  If additional sources are needed, try:

  • Searching Agricola and Biology Index again, using additional terms
  • Looking for useful articles in the bibliographies of the above titles. Locate those articles by using the electronic journal finder
  • Expanding the search by choosing additional databases

To find out what is under every rock, actively engage in the hunt: think, read, evaluate, and repeat. Go forth, rock your research, and go visit Stone Mountain!

DISCLAIMER: Because the databases are updated monthly, your result numbers may be slightly higher than the numbers quoted in this article.

*Images provided by ProQuest.com.