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Scientific Communication Skills - BSc modules: Home

SUNLearn videos

Watch the following 3 videos from your SUNLearn module Science Communication Skills 116

1) SiC library guide and valuable tips
2) The treasure of peer review articles
3) Searching ScienceDirect


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Pieter du Plessis
Office 1053: Law section
Stellenbosch University Library
+27 21 808 4882


Examples of HARVARD referencing style

How do I do my assignment? To find, access and use information effectively, use the Step-by-Step Guide.

Need assistance?
Contact the Science Librarian, Pieter du Plessis

Google Scholar


ChatGPT citations

Reference sources

  • KNOVEL (online textbooks [chemistry and other science topics] as well as chemical property searches, equations, unit converter searches and many more tools!)
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library (Includes access to 10+ online encyclopedias in the Environmental & Science subjects) 
  • Encyclopedia of Biological Invasion (and in print R*578.6203 ENC)
  • Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology
  • Encyclopedia of Geology
  • Encyclopedia of Biodiversity R*577.03 ENC
  • Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry R*572.03 ENC
  • Encyclopedia of Biological Invasive Species R*578.62 WOO
  • Encyclopedia of Environmental Microbiology R*579.1703 BIT
  • Encyclopedia of Human Biology R*612.003 ENC
  • Encyclopedia of Life Sciences R*570.3 ENC
  • Encyclopedia of Science and Technology Communication R*501.4 ENC

Find peer review articles

Scopus (includes PubMed/MedLine)  
Scopus from Elsevier is a comprehensive abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature with links to full text. Features tools to track, analyse and visualize research and provides bibliometrics for researchers' output.
Training material


Search and find full text peer review articles on ScienceDirect
ScienceDirect is a multidisciplinary database that includes a large range of journals relevant to all BSc subjects. ScienceDirect also includes several electronic books. and encyclopedias

Refine by "subscribed journals" for full text access

Building blocks of a search:

  • AND:  both terms that you connect with AND must be somewhere in the bibliographic record for that record to be retrieved.  AND narrows a search and retrieves fewer articles:
             antibiotics AND probiotics will find both terms in the record

  • OR only one of the search terms combined with OR is required for the bibliographic record to be retrieved.  OR broadens a search and retrieves more articles. Applies also for related or synonym terms:
            polymerase chain reaction OR PCR
             corn OR maize

  • NOT:  excludes or ignore a particular subset, category, or term.  NOT requires the presence of one search term and the exclusion of another.
              moths NOT butterflies

  • Phrase Searching: Adding quotation marks around a phrase, such as "bushy top syndrome" will tell the database to search for these words together, rather than separately:
             "microbial ecology" versus microbial and ecology

  • Truncating (using the *) is a good strategy to use for some terms:
             microb*  will give the following results: microbe, microbial, microbiome, microbiology, microbolometer,etc. (Choose your * wisely)

Criteria for Evaluating Sources

When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. To ensure you are including only valid information in your research, evaluate your sources using the criteria below.

Consult the Google and Google Scholar Libguide for guidelines on evaluating websites. 

Criteria Questions to Ask

Authority / Credibility
The credibility of an author is important in deciding whether information is reliable. The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful.

  • Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?
  • Does the source provide any information that leads you to believe the author is an expert on the topic?
  • Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)?
  • Does the author provide citations? Do you think they are reputable?

The source should contain accurate and up-to-date information that can be verified by other sources.

  • Can facts or statistics be verified by another source?
  • Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?
  • Has the information been reviewed before publication?
  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors?

It is important that the source meets the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.

  • Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
  • To what extent does the source answer your research question?
  • Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
  • Is the content and the language used at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
Currency / Date
Some written works are ageless (e.g. classic literature) while others (e.g. technological news) become outdated quickly. It is important to determine if currency is pertinent to your research.
  • When was the source written and published?
  • Has the information been updated recently?
  • Is currency pertinent to your research or will older sources also work?
Objectivity / Bias / Reliability
Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased. 
  • What is the purpose or motive for the source (educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional, etc.)?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the author pretending to be objective, but really trying to persuade, promote or sell something?

Style / Functionality
Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.

  • Is the source well-written and organized?
  • To what extent is it professional looking?
  • If it is a website, can you navigate around easily?
  • If it is a website, are links working?

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