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Agriculture 221: Animal Nutrition

A guide to assist students in the course Animal Nutrition, including a writing guide for the midterm research assignment on animal diseases.


Sources are from where you get your information and are listed on your Works Cited page(s).  Sources can be books, magazines, trade publications, peer-reviewed articles, web pages—even DVDs or streaming documentaries.  A source is considered “credible” when it comes from a person or institution that would be knowledgeable about a topic; credible sources try to limit bias (personal opinions based on emotion) and back up their arguments with facts and evidence instead.  In some cases, a credible source also must be up-to-date; would you rather have a doctor who knows all the new medical information on treating your condition, or a doctor whose information all goes back ten years or more?  While date may not be as large a consideration with some topics (historical, literary, artistic, etc.), the sciences view out-of-date information as unreliable.  There are always new developments in medicine (both human and animal), so keeping up with how an illness is treated now is very important.

When it comes to types of sources, you should always make sure you understand what your instructor’s requirements are and work from there.  Some instructors want a set number of total sources (minimum and, possibly, maximum), some will say there is a minimum number of required types (peer-review is a common one, so are primary sources—more on these in a moment).  Many will say certain web sources are not allowed or should be limited—keep in mind that when instructors talk about web sources, they generally mean websites, web pages, and social media—not the sources found in library databases or catalogs. 


Types of Sources: Books, Scholarly Articles, and More

There are different types of sources for different writing and research needs.  For this assignment, you will be looking for book and article research mostly.  All source types have pros and cons; the following is an overview of each.

Most people are familiar with books, but they may not have given them much thought as to the pros and cons of using a book source.  Here are the advantages of books used for research at the college level:

  • They provide very in-depth coverage of a topic.
  • They are easy to take with you anywhere (especially eBooks on a device like a Kindle or Nook).
  • They usually have either a table of contents or an index or both so you can reference where specific information is located within.
  • They often have references, bibliographies, or recommended reading for further research, which could lead to more sources. 

The disadvantages of books include:

  • The long length of time to produce means it may not have the most up-to-date information by the time it's published.
  • Indexing of contents may vary in quality from one book to another.
  • Print books may be heavy.
  • eBook access is dependent on reliable Internet access and technology.
  • Not all publishers are reliable and it may be difficult to determine if a book is accurate or not.

This last point has become more and more of an issue, as some small press publishers and self publishers may or may not have an agenda they are pushing, and may or may not fact check before publishing.  Many faculty and student researchers look for academic presses such as Oxford, Notre Dame, Indiana University, or Cambridge.  While those are only a small sample--almost any large university with researching faculty has their own press--they are a common sampling.  Other highly trusted academic publishers include Springer and Elsevier, who also publish academic, peer-reviewed journals.

One last thing about books:  If Marian (either campus) doesn't have a copy, you can request to borrow entire print books (or a chapter from an eBook) from another library through a process known as inter-library loan (ILL).  This takes time, especially if you're borrowing an entire book, because the library that owns the book (the lending library) has to ship it to us.  Due dates and whether you can renew or not is also set by the lending library, so if you have to use ILL to get a print book, it's best to plan ahead.


Peer-reviewed articles are probably the source most unfamiliar to college freshmen, because high school courses seldom require them.  These are articles that are written by professionals in a field of study and are then reviewed by other professionals in the same field before they get cleared for publication.  This is the "peer-review" part, and it's supposed to catch mistakes before publication.  The advantages of peer-reviewed articles are:

  • They are current at time of publication compared to books.
  • Peer-review process theoretically weeds out bad research.
  • Many of these articles are available free through library databases.
  • Even more portable than books, since they are much shorter.

However, there are disadvantages, too:

  • They tend to have more technical jargon and complex language.
  • They may or may not include an overview of the topic, and may assume readers know more than they actually do.
  • Not all articles are free to access, even through library databases.
  • Relies mainly on technology and Internet connections, as print indexes are no longer common.
  • Sometimes the peer-review process fails and bad research does get published.

Most instructors at the undergraduate levels will have a minimum number of required peer-reviewed articles for any given research assignment, so it's important to become comfortable looking for these.  It becomes even more important in graduate school.

Trade magazines are specialized for a field of study, and in that way, they are very much like the peer-reviewed journals.  However, that's often where many of the similarities end.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, as trade magazines are often very important and respected in their particular areas.

  • The advantages of trade magazine articles include:
  • Articles are shorter and usually less complex than peer-reviewed articles.
  • Articles are often up-to-date at time of publication, often on the latest news, research, or developments in the field.

The cons:

  • The articles are less in-depth and also less specific than peer-review.
  • Articles may still contain jargon and terms unfamiliar to those not in the field of study or new to it.
  • Less quality control than peer-review, so there may be inaccuracies or incomplete information.

One other advantage of trade publications that isn't pertinent to this project but that may be of interest is that usually they have ads, job opportunities, and potential networking connections.


Web sources are so varied that it's impossible to break down the pros and cons for each type, but there are some overarching pros and cons.  When choosing a web source of any sort, including social media, ask yourself these questions:

1.  Is it reliable?  Do I know who's responsible for the content (or can I find out using the About page)?

2.  Is there an agenda?  Are they trying to sell me something, even if that something is a belief?  Or are they presenting unbiased facts?

3.  How long ago was this posted?  Do they have a date tied to the information?  (Remember, the copyright date at the very bottom is usually a  for the site design, not the contents.  If a date isn't included with the actual article, either at the beginning or end, they didn't post it.)

The pros of web sources.

  • They can have very up-to-date information since they are easily updated.
  • They are easy to find and access if you have a good Internet connection.

The cons:

  • Reliability and authority is questionable and variable with many sources.
  • Credibility may be difficult to discern.
  • Often lack dates so it may be difficult to determine currency.

Generally, it's best to stick with familiar and trusted sources such as government and educational institutions, organizations, and established news outlets in the field.

Finding Sources

Library Catalog/Discovery System

The library's online catalog and discovery system serves as a one-stop shop for access to all the collections, both physical and electronic, that the Marian campuses have to offer (and beyond).  When you search the system for keyword or subject terms, authors, or titles, the system searches not only Marian campuses but other Indiana, United States, and even worldwide libraries for matches.  While the default is to search libraries worldwide, you can select the Marian system or even just the Ancilla one, but if you choose to stick with a worldwide search, remember that you can request an item for inter-library loan.  You can also narrow your results by type of source like books or journal articles.  It takes a lot of clicking and adjusting, but you can limit by date, too.  Not as efficient in some ways as the databases if you're looking specifically for peer-reviewed articles, but if your project requires multiple types of library sources, it's not a bad place to start.  You can find an embedded search box, with the default search tab set to the Catalog/Discovery system (Books & More), on the library home page.

Default search box on the MUAC Gerald J. Ball Library home page.

Andy searches for aa amyloidosis and cheetahs and gets 48 results.  The first one is a dissertation that is not available through Marian.

First result under discovery search for aa amyloidosis and cheetahs

The third result, however, is available at Marian.

An item found in the library Discovery system with a button to access the full text.

Andy can click on the View Full Text button to get to the article.  If he chooses to use the article, there is a Cite button at the top right that will let him get an MLA citation that he can copy/paste into his Works Cited.

Inter-Library Loan (ILL) allows you to request items from other libraries.  Physical items like books are shipped from the library that owns the item to your local library.  The item is then checked out to you for a set period of time (usually set by the lending library and not the local one).  When the book is due, you return it to the local library to be shipped back.  Articles can be requested, too, as can eBook chapters, but those are sent electronically and don't need to be returned.  

Andy finds this book in the MUAC library Discovery system and decides it looks perfect for what he needs--but Marian University doesn't own it at either campus.  He really thinks it will help, so he decides to try Inter-Library Loan.

A book not owned by the Marian Libraries can be requested through Inter-Library Loan.

Clicking on the Request It link opens up a form that is automatically filled in with some of the information from the citation:  author, title, publisher, etc., so that any libraries that own the item know what they're looking for on their shelves (or in their databases if the item is electronic).  Andy will need to sign in; this is so that when the book arrives, librarians know who it's for.  Like other resources, ILL has its pros and cons:


  • Can borrow from other libraries worldwide, but there may be a cost for shipping.
  • Greatly increases how much information you have access to.
  • Books from other libraries shipped to yours--no need to do any extra traveling.
  • Both academic and public libraries participate so even after graduation, the system is still available to you.


  • May be costs if you are expected to pay for shipping (usually only out-of-state applies but this varies from library to library).
  • Wait time--courier system for Indiana or USPS for out-of-state, but either way the book will likely take a few days to a couple of weeks to arrive.
  • Check-out times and renewal options vary because the library that lends the book decides and each have different policies.
  • Any request may be refused by all lenders--especially likely with new and extremely popular titles.

Google Scholar

Because students are so familiar with searching through Google, many use Google Scholar—and there’s nothing wrong with that!  Most student complaints with Google Scholar is that you can’t find a lot of full text, but there’s a fix for that.  You can set up Google Scholar to let you know when Marian University has free access to an article.  Then, when you click the link, you just log into your Marian University account as usual, and you have access!  Want to know how to do it?  Here are the instructions on setting this up.

Andy decides to start with Google Scholar after tying it to his Marian access.  After typing cheetahs and AA amyloidosis, he tweaks the results to try to get more recent articles:

results searching cheetahs and AA amyloidosis on Google Scholar



Andy's results show that the first result isn't available in full text anywhere.  A couple have open access PDFs.  But notice that the third has a Find it @ Marian link--any article that Google Scholar finds that Marian campuses may have access to should show that link.  When Andy clicks that link, it takes him to a page that gives him options for full text access.  

Library Databases

Database searching takes practice, so don't be discouraged if you aren't coming up with results.  Librarians are good at finding things in databases partly because we've had lots of practice, so don't be afraid to ask for help.  Using the databases is actually the most efficient way to find peer-reviewed, trade, and other articles, and sometimes, depending on which database(s) you're searching, eBooks, images, and other academic sources.  Databases allow you to sort and filter your results in a variety of ways so you can limit to a date range, peer-reviewed articles only, full text only, relevance, ascending or descending date, etc.  One other extremely useful advantage that databases have over other search engines, like Google Scholar, is that they provide your citations for you, just like the Discovery system.

Andy decides to use the search box on the library home page and changes the active tab from the Books & More to Academic Search Complete to look for peer-reviewed articles.  He types in amyloidosis and cheetahs and gets some discouraging results.

Results for Academic Search Complete search for amyloidosis and cheetahs.

There are only 12 results and most of them may not have full text with them.  But then he sees the yellow Ask a Librarian tab, and clicks on it.  It opens a live chat with a librarian, and he asks what he should do next.  The librarian tells him that by clicking on the Choose Databases link at the top, he can select other EBSCO databases to search simultaneously.  The librarian also tells him that wherever he sees the Find It button, it will search across all the databases, even non-EBSCO ones, to see if the library has access.  Feeling better, Andy says his thanks and ends the chat to continue searching.  He decides to search all the databases, and the results are almost triple what he found before!

Expanded results when choosing all databases for an EBSCO search.

Andy clicks on the Find It link under the first article and it opens up a window that gives him full text access.  This is great!  Even though the article wasn't available in full text in the EBSCO databases, it turns out that the Marian University libraries have access through another database or collection!

LibKey full text access

He also notices that EBSCO has choices off to the left that might make it easier to find what he wants if his results list is too large.  He can limit his results to peer-reviewed articles only--perfect for those assignments that require them.  He can also tell the database he's only looking for articles published within a certain time frame, and he can limit to full text only.  However, when he does that, it takes away all the Find It results and only leaves him with the articles that EBSCO provides full text access to, so he decides he'll have to use that option carefully.  He might miss the perfect article if it's not available in EBSCO but is available elsewhere!