Debbie Knight

A Day in the Life: April 13, 2011

In research log on April 13, 2011 at 3:26 pm

From time to time, I will give a glimpse into the “glamorous” life of a research associate and talk about what I’m doing in the lab on a particular day. These entries I will call “A Day in the Life…”

Today, I’m delving into the scientific literature, searching for ways to isolate and culture cells from the intestines. There are quite a few journal articles out there – which is good, this suggests it is possible to culture these cells on a long term basis. It also suggests that despite the fact that the intestines are teeming with bacteria, an “enemy” in the tissue culture world, that intestinal epithelial cells can be cultured without the bacterial contamination.

One journal article had an isolation protocol that sounded promising – only the details of that protocol were in another article the authors referenced. (Okay, this happens quite a bit, I can follow the paper trail.) So the reference in turn referenced another article for the protocol. I had to dig through a total of six references to find the original article that actually described the protocol – a record in my experience!

My question is: Why didn’t the first article I found simply reference the original article – the one that actually described the protocol? Why put the reader through all that?

I’m thankful that my mentors showed me a better way to write a journal article. They taught me to reference the original article. And they also taught me to give a brief description of the protocol in the methods section. I think that’s a good thing – I know I appreciate it when I’m on a literature search.

Okay, back to the journals…

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  1. “Why didn’t the first article I found simply reference the original article?” Great question, the inefficiency concerns me.

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