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BIOL 1201: Introductory Biology

Book Questions

How do I find a book in the library?

Heterick organizes our books according to the Dewey Decimal System. In this system, books get a number, called a “call number,” which is like the book’s address on the shelf. Call numbers are assigned by subject so that books on similar topics have similar numbers and will be together on the shelf. When you find a book you want in the library catalog (remember that’s the “Find Books and More” tab on the library website), make a note of the call number and the floor the book is on (most of our books are on the third floor). Then follow the numbers to find your book on the shelf. If you are having trouble finding a book, come to the Information Desk on the first floor. Someone will come with you and help you find the book.

How do I checkout a book?

To check out a book, bring it to the Information Desk on the first floor of the library along with your student ID, which functions as your library card.

How do I use a book for research?

When using a book for research, you do not need to read the book cover to cover like you do when reading a novel. Instead, you can go directly to whatever portions of the book relate to your topic. Use the table of contents in the front of the book and the index in the back to figure out which chapters or sections you want to read. Sometimes it is also helpful to read the book’s introduction to get an idea of how the author is approaching the topic.

Source Questions

How do I tell if a source is primary or secondary?

Remember that primary sources in the sciences always consist of the author’s (a researcher/expert in the subject) description of original research they conducted themselves. Secondary sources in the sciences consist of the author’s (again, a researcher/expert in the subject) analysis of one or more primary sources. When you are trying to determine whether a source is primary or secondary, ask yourself:

  1. What is the article about? If it is describing an original research project, it is probably a primary source.
  2. Who is the author of the article? If the author or authors of the article is the same person or people who did the research that the article is talking about, it is probably a primary source.

What would be considered a tertiary source?

Tertiary sources are sources that summarize and/or provide very condensed information on a topic. Some of the most common forms in which you’ll find tertiary sources are encyclopedias, dictionaries, textbooks, and handbooks. They usually reference secondary sources, and are good for getting a very general, very basic overview of a topic.

How do I know if an article is good to use?

When you are trying to determine if a source is credible and good to use for your assignment, ask yourself questions like those in the list below. If your answers are “yes”, the article is probably reliable. Also make sure that your article meets any requirements laid out in your assignment--for example, requirements about the date or source of the article.

  • Is the author qualified to write about this subject?
  • Was the article published recently enough to still be relevant?
  • Does the article cite its sources?
  • Is the article free of strong bias, and is the purpose of the article to share information rather than to advertise or entertain?
  • Does the article come from a reputable publication (like Scientific American) or website (like the website of the Centers for Disease Control) rather than a personal website or blog?

How do I make sure that my article is scholarly?

Remember the characteristics of a scholarly article:

  • Written by an expert in the field who is writing about research they themselves did. In the case of a primary scholarly article, this research would be an original experiment of some kind; in the case of a secondary scholarly article, this research would be an analysis of a number of primary sources.
  • Published in a peer-reviewed journal in the field.
  • Has a list of references.

All of these characteristics need to be present in order for the article to be scholarly. A blog post on a researcher’s personal website is not a scholarly article, even if the researcher has academic credentials and years of experience, because the post is not a formal article published in a peer-reviewed journal with cited references. 

How do I tell if a popular source is good for my topic for the assignment?

If you have made sure that a source meets all the requirements in the assignment, the only other requirement is that it be on something you are interested in! Since you spend so much time thinking about and working with a topic when doing research, it’s important to pick a topic that interests you.

Searching Questions

How can I find the exact articles I want without having to look through a bunch of others?

There are several things you can do to narrow down the number of results you get.

  • Try more specific keywords, or add another keyword to make your search more specific. Try completely different keywords if it seems like the ones you’re trying aren’t working.
  • Limit your results to only those results from a specific year or years.

At a certain point, you may not be able to narrow or limit your search any further, and you may just have to start looking through the list of results. This is not a bad thing. Unlike with Google searches, where there usually isn’t anything good past the first few results, in databases you can still find good results further down in the results list. You may also run across something you weren’t expecting, but will work for your project. Serendipity can be an important part of research!

How do I use good keywords to narrow down my search?

Sometimes coming up with good search terms can be the hardest part of research. If you are not sure what words to use to describe your topic, try reading about it in a source like a textbook or Wikipedia. This can help you see what words are commonly used in relation to your topic. Since these are the words that will likely be used in sources about your topic, using them as your search terms should turn up relevant sources. 

How do I search for the specific topic from the original magazine article?

Once you have found your popular magazine article, there are several strategies you can use to find sources on a similar topic.

  • Search by author’s name. Remember that most popular science news articles are based on original research in scholarly articles. Finding the original scholarly articles is a good way to find more information on the same topic. You can search for scholarly articles by the name of the author/researcher, which will usually be mentioned in the popular science news article.
  • Search by keywords. Keywords are a few words, usually concrete nouns, that briefly describe your topic. They capture the whole meaning of your topic and “get to the heart” of what it’s about. You may have to use keywords that are a little broader than your topic in order to find sources, especially if you are looking for books, which tend to be more general than articles. For example, if your topic is the extinction of a specific species of butterfly, instead of searching with the keywords “extinction [name of butterfly species],” you might have to search “extinction butterflies” in general.  

How do I use another database, like one from EBSCO?

For this assignment, MasterFILE and Web of Science are really the best databases to use. However, for other assignments in other classes, you may need to use other databases. Fortunately, most databases have the same features. All databases will have a main search box, options for narrowing your search (usually in the left sidebar) and options for sorting your results (usually in a drop-down menu near the top of the results list). This means that, if you know how to use one database, it should be fairly easy for you to use another database. EBSCO is a company that makes many different databases. Most of our databases, including MasterFILE, come from EBSCO.

I noticed sometimes I wasn’t getting the exact same results as you. What was happening?

We should have gotten the same results, since databases don’t usually take search history into account like web search engines do. However, if something was even slightly different about how you typed in the search terms, that may have changed the results. Additionally, if a certain number of results were equal in terms of relevance, the database may have decided to show them to you in a different order than to me.

What other good scientific databases does the library have?

Web of Science is pretty much the best database for biology research, primarily because it is so large; it has over a billion records. The library also subscribes to many other good scientific databases--in fact, too many to list here. Try browsing the subjects under the Databases tab on the library home page to find more.

Other Questions

How to cite secondary articles.

You can cite secondary articles in the same way you cite primary articles--with citations, the important thing is the format of the source (i.e., whether it is a book, article, webpage, music recording, etc.), not whether it is primary or secondary.

I’m a little confused on what article I am supposed to focus on solely, and which articles should be supporting.

For this assignment, you should focus most on the popular secondary article--the news article from the science news publication. The scholarly primary and secondary articles and/or books should provide background information, context, and support for the news article.

I am still confused on how to access some things.

See the diagram below for information on how to access articles in ONU’s databases.

How to find more updated info on human-human chimera cases.

If this was your question, please email me so we can discuss it more!