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Biology: BIOL 110

A general subject guide covering library resources for Biology.

General Library Searching Tips

Concept Mapping

This video describes how to create a concept map from a research topic or question to create a search string. This video also shows how to apply a search string in a database, in this case Academic Search Complete, to find peer-reviewed articles. As this video notes, concept mapping and creating a search string can require preliminary literature searches for search terms. Your search string will change and evolve throughout your search process so it is a good idea to make note of your search strings, especially when searching multiple databases.

Basic Searching

This video shows you how to use your search string in the General Search to find books and articles. Skip ahead to 3:57 to learn how to find peer-reviewed articles.

Assignment 1: Search Tips

Narrowing Your Topic

A useful way to develop and narrow down a topic is to answer (in no particular order) who, what, where, and when. This is not a one-size-fits-all tool but can help you get started deciding on a topic. Try to answer 2-3 of these questions to narrow your focus, if your topic is too narrow you may not be able to find any resources on it.

Who: Which community or population (human or otherwise) do you want to focus on?

What: What issue or problem affecting this community or population will you focus on?

Where: Choose or narrow down the geographical region or type of resource

When: Only needed if you are focusing on a specific time frame or era, otherwise it can be understood to be "currently"

Example for Assignment 1:

Who: bees; What: conservation; Where: popular pressWhen: (last 4 months);

Example Topic/Research Question: What bee conservation methods have been presented in popular press in the last four months?

Developing a Search Strategy and Choosing Keywords

The library's General Search and article databases need key words and phrases to find relevant titles. These key words and phrases may or may not include or be limited to your who, what, where, and when answers. From the example research question we can identify key words, phrases, and concepts to inform our search strategy, these have been underlined in the example below:

Example Research Topic: What bee conservation methods have been presented in popular press in the last four months?

To combine keywords, use AND.

bees AND conservation

Note: In this example we are not including "popular press" and "last four months" in our key words as these concepts are best searched through filters. Watch the video below for details.

To broaden search results, think of synonyms and add these to the search strategy using OR. Include " " around phrases to tell the database to look for the exact phrase rather than the individual words that make up the phrase.




"population recovery"

To apply this search strategy, put parentheses around the synonyms (see the example below) when searching a database or the library's General Search. 

(bees OR apiaries) AND (conservation OR "population recovery")

This search strategy and keywords will likely change as you conduct your search and find more synonyms or key concepts to include in your search. As your search continues to evolve, repeat this process with any necessary changes and keep track of your searches.

Skip ahead to 1:04 to see how to narrow your results to only show peer-reviewed articles.

Assignment 2: Search Tips

Starting your Research

Refine Your Search - Book/eBookStart your research by looking for books on your chosen biome or sub-biome. Books tend to have more general information and will provide an overview of your biome or sub-biome.

Use the Library's General Search to find books on your biome or sub-biome (such as coniferous forest) by using the "Refine Your Search" filters on the left side of your search results to select "Book / eBook" under the "Content Type" filter.

You can also use the "Full Text Online" filter to narrow your results to ebooks. Note: Do NOT use this filter for journal articles.

Narrowing you Topic

After finding general information on your biome or sub-biome from books, look for peer-reviewed journal articles that cover specific aspects of your biome or sub-biome (such as coniferous forest soils).

Review this section in the Assignment 1: Search Tips box above for tips on creating a search strategy with keywords.

Use the Library's General Search to find peer-reviewed journal articles by using the "Refine Your Search" filters on the left side of your search results to select the "Peer-Review" filter.


Having trouble?

  • Try a database to find peer-reviewed journal articles.
    • BioOne Complete - provides access to critical, peer-reviewed research in the biological, ecological, and environmental sciences.
    • Geobase - unique multidisciplinary database supplying bibliographic information and abstracts for human and physical geography, ecology, geology, oceanography, geomechanics, and development studies.
    • Web of Science - provides access to the Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index. It offers current and retrospective bibliographic information, author abstracts, and cited references and allows users to conduct broad-based, comprehensive searches.
    • Canadian Science Publishing - publishes scholarly journals as part of the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information
  • Ask for help
  • Can't find a specific article/book/book chapter
    • If we don't have the item in our collection, you can request it through interlibrary loan at no cost for students.
    • Start your research early so you have time to get an interlibrary loan item if needed

CSE Citations

This style, developed by the Council of Science Editors, is used for scientific writing. Like Chicago, it has several formats to choose from: citation-name, citation-sequence, and name-year.

Print CSE Style Manuals:

Location Call Number Status
Reference T11 .S386 2014 Library Use Only
Stacks T11 .S386 2014 c.2

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