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BIOL 2309: Home

Library research guide for BIOL2309, Techniques in Biology

Best bets - biology literature searching


More than just medical literature, PubMed Central was developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and publishers of life sciences literature.  PubMed allows access to nearly 2 million full-text journal articles.

Web of Science 

Web of Science indexes over 11,000 scholarly journals in the sciences (1975 -present).  Web of Science's strength is in its interdisciplinary focus and its ability to perform citation searching.  Also works seamlessly with EndNote & EndNote Online citation management software.

          Google Scholar

          Google Scholar provides an easy way to search broadly for scholarly literature across a range of disciplines and topics. As with a
          general Google search, Google Scholar attempts to bring the more relevant results to the top of the results list.

          Drawbacks to Google Scholar include:

  • not knowing when it's updated
  • many older articles
  • can't browse by title
  • no suggestions provided for limiting searches (such as alternative words for a topic)

Websites and Blogs

How to evaluate websites

Evaluating websites (The CRAAP test)

Trust It or Trash It?

When was a site last updated?

This site describes some browser-specific techniques to determine the currency of information on a site. 

Pasting the URL into Internet Archive is another way of checking the update history for a website.

Sample blog resource

ACI Scholarly Blog Index

The ACI Scholarly Blog indexes over 15,000 scholarly and authoritative blogs from experts in all fields.  All blogs are individually chosen by researchers with expertise in that blog's topic or field of study.  Author's credentials are reviewed by subject experts to ensure quality material is included.  Anonymous blogs are not currently included.

More science blogs:

Women in Science:  50 Must-Read Bloggers

Safety Data Sheets

Chemical safety sheets, from NU EHS

Government resources

If your research question touches upon genetically modified organisms or foods, you may find good sources in government documents.  

For those, try the federal government research guide, particularly these sections:

Need help? Ask me!

Alissa Link's picture
Alissa Link
270 Snell Library

Suggest a resource

Did you find a helpful resource that others could benefit from?  Let me know and I'll add it to this page!

Getting started

How do I start?  

Try searching websites (including blogs) for an overview of your topic.  See the Websites and Blogs box on this page for pointers on evaluating websites.  Depending on your topic, textbooks may also be helpful.

Reading a review article relevant to your topic can be a great way to get a sense for the 'big picture' of the work.  You can use PubMed or Web of Science to limit your search results to just review articles.  Or try Google Scholar.  Access Google Scholar through Snell Library's website to link to full text content available to current NU affiliates.

How can I search for more information on this topic?

For research projects in biology, it can be fruitful to use keywords such as:

  • Species name (e.g. pyogenes)
  • Protocol name (e.g. RNAi / RNA interference)
  • Protein/s or gene/s of interest (e.g. Cas9 or topoisomerase)

The scientific literature is so active that typically, more specific terms will yield better results than general ones.  

If you've found one key resource on your topic, searching for the keywords designated by the authors of that paper can also be a quick way to surface more sources.   Mining the references/bibliography is another good way to easily access more on-topic resources.

Help, I'm drowning in terminology! 

Try a reference work such as the Dictionary of Cell and Molecular Biology.

Dictionary of Cell and Molecular Biology

Other options include textbooks and websites - but you'll need to vet those websites, of course!