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PHYS 342: Contemporary Experimental Physics

For Prof. Melissa Eblen-Zayas

Finding Peer-Reviewed Articles

Inspec is an extremely powerful search tool for physics, engineering and computing literature. It has features that let you target your searches so you can zero in on relevant articles.  

To see all the search fields, click the drop-down next to the search box.  Once you choose a field from the list, you'll be given ways to see options for that field.

[visual description: a screen shot of the Inspec basic search with "Select from list" circled and a note to "click here to search the list of Classification Codes" and a dropdown circled with a note that "you can see all the treatment types here"]

Some of the fields are standard, such as Title, Author, and Year. Some of the less familiar fields include:

Controlled index: key words and phrases that indexers use to tag articles.  These come from the Inspec thesaurus, use them if you're not sure what phrase an author might have used.  For instance, for fiber optics, the thesaurus term is "fibre optic sensors"

Uncontrolled index: key words and phrases used by the author. Use these for new technologies and terms that may not be in the controlled index

Classification codes: a letter and number that specifies the subject areas.  This is hierarchical, and the more digits after the letter, the more specific the subject area. Use the classification codes to narrow results to a specific subject or field.  If you specify a broad subject, the database will search for all the narrower classifications.  If you search the controlled index, you'll be given related classification codes.

Chemical indexing - search for specific chemicals by their formula. Read more here.

IPC patent codes - Inspec has mapped patent codes to their classification. If you have a patent and want to search for related patents or non-patent literature, use the IPC patent code to do that.

Document type - you can choose journal papers, conference proceedings, patents, reports, and more

Treatment types - this lets you indicate the approach taken in the documents. Documents can have more than one treatment type.  This can be extremely powerful if you need a specific type of article.

  • Applications - document describes an actual technique, computer program, or physical effect where a specific application is described.
  • Bibliography - document has a significant number of references. Useful in finding literature reviews.
  • Economic - document deals with economic or commercial aspects of a topic.
  • General or review - document gives an overview of a subject. These are a great place to start on a topic.
  • New developments - document makes a claim of novelty.
  • Practical - the document is meant to be of practical use and is likely to be of use to engineering or design staff.
  • Product review - product comparisons, tables, and buyers' guides. These are always also listed as Practical.
  • Theoretical/mathematical - subject matter is generally theoretical or mathematical.
  • Experimental - document describes an experimental method, observation or result.


INSPEC Web of Science Google Scholar
What is it? A database of scholarly articles in physics, engineering, and computer science. A database of scholarly articles in all disciplines. It is designed to allow searching of citations. Google search of scholarly articles. It covers most academic publishers and articles posted on college and university websites.
It's awesome for... …doing a search on a topic in physics (or engineering or computer science). …starting with an article and seeing who has cited it (and who has cited that…).  Especially good for finding newer research. …finding the full text of an article that you can’t find elsewhere. Author sometimes put their article up on the web, giving you free access.
What you need List of keywords or phrases that describe your topic, or specific parameters such as temperature or astronomical objects. List of keywords/phrases that describe your topic OR a full citation (author, title, journal, year) of the article you are starting with. If you’re looking for a specific article, the title of that article. Or keywords and phrases that are specific to a discipline.
Drawbacks Does not search the full text or disciplines outside of physics, engineering, and computer science. Does not search the full text. No subject terms/subject headings or other controlled vocabulary. It can be hard to narrow results, no discipline-specific indexing. Some articles will ask for money to access them – please, DON’T pay for access to articles!
Search notes

INSPEC has a whole host of special fields for searching specific data types. Details on those searches are on the "Using Inspec" tab.

Use a different row for each different concept and use the drop down for choosing which field you're searching. 

Add the year published or journal name (cited work) to narrow your search if you have too many results.

Once you’ve got a list of results, you can narrow it by keyword, subject, or a number of other options along the left side.

If the article is available for free, you’ll see a link to the right of the result. If you see “Full Text” link, the library has access to the article.  Click it to get access.

Off- Cmpus? Go to Settings and then click Library Links and search for Carleton College. You'll see the "Full Text" links when we have the article.

If there is no free access, click "More" and then "Check Library Holdings." Request the article via ILL from there.


Credible, Science-focused News Sources

Use these to find short summaries of new research developments. 

Finding Full Text of Peer-Reviewed Articles Referenced in Science News