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PHYS 342: Contemporary Experimental Physics

Spring 2021 -- For Professor Melissa Eblen-Zayas

Summaries of new research

Use these to find short summaries of new developments. 

Finding articles


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 key words or phrases that describe your topic, or specific parameters such as temperature or astronomical objects. 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 key words 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. Picky interface.  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.  NOTE:  You must use the journal abbreviation when searching on a journal name.  The list is linked from the search page.

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-campus? 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.


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.

Relevant classification codes for this class:

  • A: Physics:
    • A076 - optical instruments and techniques
    • A42 - optics (take a look at the classification in Inspec for the subcodes)
    • A78 - optical properties and condensed matter spectroscopy
  • B: Electrical Engineering a& Electronics:
    • B41 - optical materials and devices
    • B42 - optoelectronic materials and devices
    • B43 - lasers and masers
    • B7230C - photodetectors
    • B7230E - fibre optic sensors
  • C: Computers & Control:
    • C5320K - optical storage

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.

Often, the databases you are searching only give you the citation and abstract of the article.  So if you've found a perfect article, how do you get to the full text?

1. Check for direct links to full text

If there is a link to the full text from the database, click it!

2. Use the Find It! button

The "Find It" button searches Carleton and St. Olaf libraries to see if we have the article and if so, how to access it. 

If there is online access, click the title of the database to get to the full text.  

[visual description: screen shot of the Catalyst screen showing a link to online access of an article.  Click the link after "Full text available from..."]

If it's in print, click on the Physical Copies tab and write down the call number so you can find the journal.  Journals are shelved on the 3rd floor of the library.


If the journal is in print at St. Olaf, click the link for the St. Olaf Print Periodicals.  you'll need to log in to Catalyst first, and then request the journal.

[visual description: screen shot showing the "Sign in for request options" link]

If we don't have access to the journal, move on to the next steps:

3. Check Google Scholar

Google Scholar indexes scholarly content on the Internet, including content that may be available for free. Search for the title of the article in quotes. 

If there is free access, it will be linked on the right side next to the results.

NOTE: Google Scholar will also point you to the publisher's site, which will ask you for money to purchase the article if the library doesn't have a subscription to that journal. Order the article through ILL instead (see step 4).

Otherwise, click the "More" link under the result, and then click "Carleton Full Text":


[visual description: two screen shots of a record in Google Scholar.  The first is highlighting the "More" link.  The second image is highlighting the "Carleton Full Text" link that is available after you click "More".]

This will get you to a Catalyst page where you can click to order the article via InterLibrary Loan.

[visual description: a screen shot showing a "No full text available" message with the "Additional services: Interlibrary Loan Request" link highlighted.]

4. Request from InterLibrary Loan

Request articles we don't have through InterLibrary Loan. Articles will be scanned and sent to you as a pdf, and typically arrive in 2-3 days, but can take longer.  

Click "Request Document via ILLiad" from the Catalyst page (see above).  Log in with your Carleton username and password, and the form will be filled out for the article.  

You can also submit a request manually through ILLiad.

Starting your search

Find an article you're interested in from the news

  1. Browse the science and physics news journals or websites (see list on left) to find an article about recent research that interests you.
  2. If there's a link to the original article, follow that, otherwise, note the information from the news article: author or date or publishing journal or institution
  3. Use that information to search for the article in INSPEC

Expanding your search

Finding other articles on the same topic

  1. Look at the controlled and uncontrolled indexing of the article to find keywords for searching for other articles
    • controlled indexing uses a terms chosen from a set list, uncontrolled indexing uses terms that the author chooses
    • you can click on controlled indexing terms to find all articles that match that term.
  2. Look also at the chemical indexing, patent classification, numerical data indexing, or astronomical object if those are appropriate to your topic.
  3. Use those terms or indexes to construct a new search in INSPEC.

Citation Searching

Web of Science

  1. Search for the article on Web of Science (search by the title)
  2. Click on Cited References to see articles in the bibliography
  3. Click on Times Cited to see articles that cite this one
  4. You can search through the results or narrow by topic (use Categories or Research Topics)

Google Scholar

  1. Search for the article on Google Scholar (search by title)
  2. Click on Cited by to see articles that cite this one


Physical Review 
Peer-reviewed journals published by the American Physical Society.


Library Tips Presentation

The following presentation is for PHYS 342, spring 2020. If you are using the VPN or are on campus, it should appear. If you are off-campus without the VPN, login to email or another Google feature in another tab then reload this page. There is no sound for these slides. You can also view in another tab or download the slides