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Biology: Getting Started

A guide to library resources and research in biology and the life sciences.

Getting started: Biology literature searching

Tackling a new topic?

Try looking for a review article first.  Review articles attempt to summarize the state of research on a scientific topic.  While lengthy, & not generally including the very latest research, review articles are a great way to start to get a handle on a topic.  

Don't overlook the literature cited at the end of the review - the bibliography contains a wealth of information about the key discoveries & main researchers in the field.  

Most databases (including BIOSIS Previews, PubMed & Web of Science below) will allow you to limit your search to include only review articles or literature reviews.  

For articles describing primary research using scientific methods, written by experts in the field or scientists, try these biomedical, biology and life sciences databases:


The most comprehensive resource for research in biology, life sciences, preclinical & experimental research, methods & instrumentation, and animal studies. Includes contents of 5,500 life sciences journals


More than just medical literature, PubMed was developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and publishers of life sciences literature. PubMed consists of 26 million citations for biomedical literature from Medline, life science journals and online books.

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 Web citation management software.

Really not sure where to start? How about newspaper and magazine articles?

If you're beginning your research and are looking for articles in mainstream sources such as magazines and newspapers, aimed at a general audience, try

  • Academic Search Complete:  to locate newspaper articles, select "newspaper" from the "Publication Type" options.
  • Nexis Uni: to locate newspaper articles in the New York Times: In the 'Find Publication' search box, enter: New York Times

Featured resource: JoVE

JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) is a science video resource that includes a variety of resources for use in the classroom and in the lab. It has two components:

  1. Science Education Video CollectionTeaching-focused videos including concept animations, ‘scientist in action’ videos to see concepts applied, and lab manual videos that cover preparation procedures for common labs
  2. Video JournalA peer-reviewed video methods journal, consisting of video demonstrations and detailed text protocols of new and standard methods in physical and life sciences. Students and researchers can see the details of experiments and concepts, in addition to text-based descriptions.

Below are a few links to components of JoVE relevant for Biology:

Recent Biology Acquisitions

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