This tutorial is geared to the Hot Topic assignment, but you can apply these research methods to any research project. We will use the psychoactive plant Tabernanthe iboga, and the drug derived from it, Ibogaine, as examples throughout.

Start with the Baruch College Library website:

To begin, you have to “Define Your Search” by choosing which types of resources you will search. One useful resource is called “OneSearch,” which searches Baruch’s physical library as well as web resources.

OneSearch is a powerful search tool, but it has limitations. As this helpful site points out, OneSearch is great if you are just starting out on your research. However, it does not cover everything that you have access to as a researcher. After you’ve done some initial research, it is essential to go directly to the databases to search them.

Start with browsing by subject. Under science and technology, choose some of the databases from the relevant fields: biology, chemistry, and health.

Some tips on searching and Boolean operators:

  • Always choose the “advanced” search option if there is one. You can specify a date range, article type, and many other filters and limiting factors.
  • AND looks for results with both terms, which narrows search terms (gives you the middle of the Venn diagram).
  • NOT excludes this factor (you can minus sign in Google)
  • OR gives you results with either term (everything in the Venn diagram)
  • Use “quotes” to get exact phrasing.
  • Add an asterisk for truncation:  Biolog* (biology, biological, biologist, etc)
  • Add new fields in the Search to narrow results: Title, author, publication date, # pages, publication, abstract, etc.

In addition to the science searches, you should also consider general search databases such as Academic Search Complete or MasterFILE. These are listed alphabetically under “Databases.”


Important Considerations

ALWAYS ask yourself the following questions when looking up research:

  1. Who is the author(s)? What is their job, who are they affiliated with?
  2. Is the journal a peer-reviewed journal? If you’re not sure, google it (many journals in the academic databases are peer-reviewed, but not all).
  3. When was the article published? Is the information obsolete? Is there more recent research that might invalidate it?


An abstract can help you determine if the article you’ve found is worth reading. A good abstract should provide:

  1. The problem or question to be addressed
  2. The motivation or purpose of the study
  3. The methodology used
  4. The results of the study
  5. The implications of those results

Try typing your organism species name into the search field in an academic search engine like MEDLINE or Academic Search Complete.


Read through some abstracts and determine if an article is worth keeping. Download the article and note its provenance. Use a note-taking program like Evernote, or keep a running Word document going, to keep track of bibliographic information. It can be very easy to take notes from an article and forget to attribute the source, which can lead to plagiarism.


Google Scholar

Google has a scholarly search engine called Google Scholar, which can be another powerful and useful research tool. Access Google Scholar through the Baruch databases list so that you will have access to full-text articles, then type your organism name into the search field. You can also select the triangle at the end of the search field for an advanced search.


Google scholar has some very helpful tools. One is “Cited by…” Google will tell you how many other articles it has found that have cited this article.


Click on this link, and then you can search within those results by checking the box marked “Search within citing articles.” This will narrow the results.

Clicking on the article title might take you to a paywall. You can avoid this by clicking the bracketed link on the right, which might provide you with a PDF or a website where the article has been copied. If you can access the article through Baruch, there will be a link for that too.


“Related articles” is another very useful tool in Google Scholar.

Popular Sources

When searching for popular articles, always remember the “Important considerations” from above:

  1. Who is the author(s)? What is their job, who are they affiliated with?
  2. What is the publication?
  3. When was the article published?

In addition, you should do the following for websites:

  1. Find the “About us” or “About” page for a publication. This might be at the footer or in a top menu.
  2. Look at the author of a post and see what else they have written. If their output is on a diverse set of topics, they are likely not a scientific expert.

In addition to google, OneSearch is a great way to find these kinds of articles. Once you have results, filter by “Newspaper Articles.” You can also search by “Journal Title” and see a list of all journal titles. screenshot-2016-09-21-01-44-58

One final place to look for good articles in popular journals is using the News databases through Baruch’s website. Go back to “Databases,” then browse by subject and select “News.”


From here, you have a range of useful databases. Two that you should absolutely use are “Popular Magazines” and “LexisNexis Academic,” which is for newspapers. When searching in popular journals, you might have better luck using the common name for the plant/drug.

Wikipedia and Google

Wikipedia and Google (regular) can be useful search engines too, but you need to be extra careful when vetting sources. You no longer have an academic filter for your search, it’s just you vs. the internet!

But, you cannot cite a wikipedia page! You can cite sources that you found through a wikipedia page, but the page itself is not a valid scholarly source.

On a wiki page, first scan the page and see if it looks like considerable work has been put into the page. View the history of edits in the upper right to see how many people have worked on it, and scan their comments for evidence of scholarly rigor.


Next, go back to the main page and look through the references at the bottom. This can give you decent information of where the authors may have gotten their information. Determine if these seem legitimate by clicking through.