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SCI 1020A

This guide supports the SCI 1020A class with Prof. Alex Small


STEM Careers and Career Paths that Physics Majors Follow after College

Welcome SCI 102 students! In your readings, various authors make statements or assertions, present and interpret statistics, plus cite sources from which they (the writers/authors) draw support, evidence, and examples. You will want to (1) check up on specific claims and the cited sources that are presented, and (2) check if there are other credible sources that broadly agree with those claims.

As you work through your assignments, this guide will help answer some of your research-related questions, such as:

  • Where should I start looking?

  • I want to find a study or report or statistic mentioned in an article or book.

  • Did I find the right study/report/statistic that I was looking for?

  • I am checking if other credible sources broadly agree with certain claims. How can I tell if a source is credible or not?

  • Which citation style or reference format should I use?

  • I have a hard time when it comes to research and writing. Where can I get help?

Where should I start looking?

Always try to start with a known source

Were any sources provided or recommended to you?

For example, Professor Small and the librarian have prepared some links and sources in this guide to help you get started. Check them out by clicking the tabs above, in this box titled "Where should I start looking?"

Where to find claims about the future of STEM and STEM careers?

Here are some places to get you started. Also check your course Readings!

Where to find occupational information, such as descriptions, figures, projections, and profiles?

Here are some places to find occupation-relevant information from the government. Combined, the US government and State governments are among the largest collectors, aggregators, and distributors of statistical information in the world.


Note from Prof. Small: It would be worth your while to browse their site. Some of the gems that I found include:

  • Department of Labor’s O*net OnLine web site of occupational summary reports

Here are more recommended places to find occupational information!

(These are from page 1 of your Syllabus.)

  • “Profiles in Versatility” (basically the same as “Hidden Physicists”):
  • The Society of Photonic Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) maintains salary data for people working in optics:
  • The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) also compiles a lot of salary data. A lot of it is members-only, but here’s one report that they’ve made publicly available:
  • (You can and should use Google to learn more from AAPM, and compare with BLS reports.)

Search Strategies

Database Search Strategies to try in OneSearch, Library Databases, and on the open Web!

AND = Fewer results. All words must be included. / scientists AND employment AND options

OR = More results. Any one or combination of the words must be included. / salary OR wages

NOT = Fewer results. Word(s) must be excluded.

Phrase search = “words in this exact order” / "job satisfaction"

Truncation/stem search = Word variations starting with letters before the *. / success* will find success, successes, successful, successfully

Nested search = (scien* AND "job market")(Bachelor's OR PhD)

Index/field search (for Library Databases) = Topic, Abstract, Subject, and more

Domain search (for searching with Google) = site:gov, site:edu, site:org

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I want to find a study or report or statistic mentioned in an article or book

A responsible writer will communicate certain identifying elements of (1) the study/report/statistic that s/he used and (2) the source of the study/report/statistic.

A responsible academic writer will further communicate about the source of the study/report/statistic by providing descriptive detail, notes, or a full reference/citation. This practice helps the reader to follow up and potentially find the same source that the writer used.

Use your knowledge of these communication practices when searching!

If the writer provided a direct link to the source, you're in luck, and your search may be done.

If the writer provided a full reference/citation, your search will be fairly easy. Use CPP’s OneSearch, Google, and Google Scholar to track down the study/report/statistic and other related sources that could be helpful.

If a full reference/citation is absent from the writing, look for the descriptive detail or notes that help identify the study/report/statistic or its source. Look for the following kinds of details (and then use the words in your search):

  • What organization, journal, researchers or authors are mentioned by name? Usually an organization, the name of a journal, or one or two researchers/authors are named with their credentials or affiliation.

  • What identifying elements about the study/report are provided? For example:

    • What person, place, or thing is the focus? What specific characteristic about the organism, element, object, population group, behavior, event, or development is provided?

    • What outcome, conclusion, or discovery is mentioned? Often this is communicated with a number or percentage.

The study/report/statistic you seek might be in the form of a journal article, or it could be an article or paper at an organization’s web site.

The study/report/statistic could be accessible (e.g., you could get it via the open Web, from the library’s databases, or the library’s Document Delivery service); or it might be inaccessible (e.g., a study conducted by a private company).

If the study/report/statistic seems inaccessible, check with a librarian for assistance.

You may need to choose a different study/report/statistic to pursue. Be sure to leave yourself enough time to find out.

Did I find the right study, report, or statistic that I was looking for?

Check for matching information:

  • Are there matching descriptive details about the study or statistic (e.g., people or things that were the focus, specific behaviors, quantities, or percentages mentioned)?
  • Is there a match with the named author(s) who conducted the study/created the report, or with the named organization?
  • Does the date or timeframe make sense in relation to the referring article or book you started with?

I am checking if other credible sources broadly agree with certain claims. How can I tell if a source is credible or not?

Generally, you can accept reputable non-fiction book authors and publishers, scholarly journals, government agencies, University web sites, and reputable news organizations as reliable starting points for finding credible information. The basis for this rationale is that:

  • reputable book publishers have editorial and fact-checking practices in place;
  • scholarly journals generally have peer-review systems in place;
  • government agencies have public good/public service underpinnings and objectives;
  • Universities will be concerned with upholding a good reputation by providing high quality information and news;
  • reputable news organizations follow professional journalism ethics.

However, none of the above are absolutely fault-proof. Plus, beyond them, additional sources of information may be appropriate and useful to your research such as reputable non-government and non-academic organizations or individuals.

You need to consider each piece of information and its source to evaluate their appropriateness and usefulness to your research or task.

Here's an easy way to start -- Try the ABCDs of Evaluating Information (here are a worksheet and further guidance) to help you determine whether a source is credible and useful to you. The ABCDs to consider are:





Which citation style or reference format should I use?

Ask your professor if s/he would like the class to follow a particular citation style or format.

If your professor allows you to choose which standard style to follow, aim for consistency when following it.

Below are links to help with creating MLA and APA style citations. Please keep in mind that these are just two examples of standard reference formats and neither may be the format assigned by your professor. So please do check with your instructor.

* Refer to Electronic Sources examples/guidelines when citing articles/information found using library databases or at a web site.

* Refer to Electronic Sources examples/guidelines when citing articles/information found using library databases or at a web site.


I have a hard time when it comes to research and writing. Where can I get help?

The library can provide you with research help in person, by phone, and even 24/7 through the Library Chat service! See all your options here:

The University Writing Center (UWC) provides tutoring on an appointment, online, and drop-in basis. See a description of those tutoring services here: