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Physics & Astronomy Research Guide

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Ellen Cline
Belk Library 117

Citation Resources

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Guide to Physics & Astronomy Research

This guide contains links to physics and astronomy resources, online and print, that are available through Belk Library.

Finding Sources

Also known as "Scholarly Articles," "Peer-Reviewed Articles," or "Academic Articles," these are:

  • written and reviewed by scholars and provide new research, analysis, or information about a specific topic
  • usually focused on a narrow subject or a single case study
  • intended for an academic audience

Know your types of articles:

  • "peer-reviewed" means the article is approved by other experts before publication or presentation
  • a "review" article summarizes the field's current understanding of a topic (great for background information!)
  • a "preprint" is an early version of an article, usually prior to peer review
Pros Cons
  • information is based on research and expertise
  • information is detailed and focused on a narrow topic
  • the peer-review process (mostly) insures that the information is accurate
  • each article adds to a growing understanding of a topic by contributing new ideas
  • information is detailed and focused on a narrow topic
  • often filled with field-specific jargon

Find Physics Articles:

Books written by experts are a good source of information for many topics. Books in the sciences and engineering often contain:

  • exercises and examples
  • problem sets
  • other practical tools

Use these tools to help learn as you read.

Remember: you may only need to read one chapter of a scholarly book!


Pros Cons
  • easier to read than journal articles, and (usually) written for a wider audience
  • often undergo a peer-review process
  • contain less recent information, due to the long publication process
  • can be lengthy

Find Physics or Astronomy Books:


You may find that a number of related physics books are located in:

Datasets are collections of data, numeric or textual, arranged in tables. Data and datasets are often used in physics/astronomy work, whether you need:

  • experimental/observational data for a report
  • detailed data on material properties
  • a dataset to test a computational process
  • something else entirely; data can be almost anything

Handbooks, like the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, often contain large amounts of data, as well as definitions, techniques, references, and much more.

Pros Cons
  • exact and specific
  • can contain incredible detail or level of granularity not found elsewhere
  • can be messy or contain bias
  • sometimes difficult to locate the exact type of data needed
  • might be restricted access

Find & Use Data:

Technical Reports are detailed explanations of the results of a project. They are usually prepared by government agencies (NASA, DOE, etc) or companies with an interest in the topic. Technical Reports:

  • are written by researchers, but often aren't peer-reviewed
  • can contain large amounts of data
  • may be restricted access
Pros Cons
  • data and/or designs often very detailed
  • provide a better understanding of a topic of interest
  • sometimes difficult to locate the full text
  • can be difficult to understand (lots of jargon)

Find Technical Reports: