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Genetic Engineering and Synthetic Biology: Tips for Conducting Research

This guide will introduce students to resources on genetic engineering and synthetic biology. It will help students prepare for the iGEM competition.

Medical Research Tips

Medical research can be especially daunting when you are unfamiliar with the specific terms and acronyms that you will be using. However, there are a few ways to navigate the literature.

Keep a glossary close by, at first

A tool like the Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms can help you become familiar with terms you'll be using in your research.

 

Find a review article

Three magical terms in medical literature are literature review, meta-analysis and systematic review. These types of articles evaluate studies on a large scale, identifying trends and areas for future work. A review article can be very helpful in getting up to speed on your topic and the research in that area.

literature review - analyzes the current state of the literature

meta-analysis - analyzes several studies on a specific topic or treatment

systematic review - the most comprehensive analysis, looks at EVERY study available on a particular topic

 

Consider naming conventions

For example, genes can have several different names.  So, when you are searching use OR to combine terms, such as SCGB2A2 OR MGB1 OR mammaglobin.

Check out NCBI's Gene database for synonyms to build a more comprehensive PubMed search. For additional information see NCBI's tips on finding published information on a gene or sequence. NCBI How to: Find published information on a gene or sequence

 

Don't be afraid to seek out database help tools

You'll be using highly specialized databases and research collections. Many of them have tutorials and help pages that can give you specific guidance for searching more effectively. The National Library of Medicine has an extensive collection of help, tutorials and handouts that will be of interest to new researchers.

General Research Tips

Are you new to college-level research? Are you exploring a new discipline? Use these tips to get started in research and gain confidence in your skills.

Start with what you know

You probably know more than you think you do about your topic and research needs. Starting a general search in a tool like the Library's catalog, can bring up books and other general research sources to help you learn more about your topic area. New to research on synthetic biology? Check out this book in our catalog to learn more.

 

Seek out disciplinary databases and collections

Once you are more comfortable with your topic, move on to the disciplinary databases. You'll get more targeted results and you won't have to weed through as many unrelated sources as you would in the catalog or Google. The Find Articles tab on this guide has suggested databases to use for research in this area.

 

Let authors and databases help you find other great stuff

Let's face it - research is hard and time consuming. So don't replicate the hard work others have already done. There are 4 steps you can take after finding an article that will help you get to other great research.

1) Check out an article's bibliography for other sources that will be helpful for you.

2) In Google Scholar, check out the articles under "Cited By" these will be newer pieces that found the research helpful

3) In the databases, use the article's record to find subjects, keywords and related articles.

4) Seeing the same author again and again? Look them up, find their other work in this area. Don't be afraid to reach out and chat with them about their research.

 

When in doubt, find an expert

Frustrated? Not finding what you need? Reach out to an expert. Your professor, an advisor or another Mines faculty member working in this area will have more experience with the research landscape and can help you identify other terms and sources to use.

Don't forget to ask Brianna or another librarian for help! We are great at brainstorming and helping you to get your research back on track.

 

Check out a tutorial

The Library's Tutorial collection contains video and click through tutorials that can help you use different types of sources, evaluate information or take your research skills to the next level.