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Biology: Find Sources: Biology

Search Tools for Biology

Academic or research articles, sometimes also called journal articles or scholarly articles, are published by academic researchers to communicate new findings and ideas to other scholars (including you). Articles appear in scholarly journals, which are essentially academic magazines. Many journal articles are peer-reviewed, meaning they've gone through a formal review process before being published. 

When & Why to Use Articles:

  • You need information based on research and expertise.
  • You need detailed information that focuses on a narrow topic.
  • You need to find peer-reviewed material or ensure that the information you find is accurate.

Search for Articles on Biology:

Scholarly books are nonfiction books usually based on academic research done by the author or authors. They can contain multiple chapters on different aspects of a particular topic, or they can focus entirely on one concept or idea.

When & Why to Use Scholarly Books:

  • You need to understand a complex topic. Books are generally easier to read than journal articles.
  • You need very in-depth analysis of a topic.
  • You need a broad understanding of one or more topics.
  • You need a summary of existing research on a topic.

Search for Books and E-Books on Biology:

Research Skills & Tips:

MC Library has access to streaming videos and audio, as well as DVDs and CDs. Different types of video and audio include documentaries, educational videos, mainstream movies, radio interviews, and podcasts. Additionally, users have access to a variety of images that can be used in their research.

When & Why to Use Videos or Media:

  • You need to include an expert's point of view, and a documentary or podcast on your topic includes an interview.
  • You're doing a presentation and need to include a visual or audio element.
  • You need to learn a concept that is best understood visually.

Search for Videos and Media on Biology:

A database is essentially a compilation of resources on a particular topic or field of study. Some databases cover multiple topics, and these are called multidisciplinary databases.

When & Why to Use Multidisciplinary Databases:

  • You're unsure of which database to choose for your research.
  • Your research encompasses several different topics.
  • You're just getting started with learning how to use databases for research -- multidisciplinary databases are often easier for beginners to navigate.

Search Multidisciplinary Databases:

Search for Sources

The MC Library has access to different kinds of search tools: 

  • RaptorSearch searches across most of the information that you can access through the MC Library. Find books, e-books, streaming audio and video, and DVDs and CDs, as well as articles and other electronic resources from databases available through the library.
  • Databases are collections of articles, videos, images, or other types of sources. Some databases cover only one research area, like psychology or English. Other databases cover multiple research areas and are called multidisciplinary databases. Some databases are based on source type, like photographs or videos, instead of research area.

Use the tabs in the Search Tools box on this page to find suggested search tools to use for a variety of types of sources. 

MC students, faculty, and staff can access all of our search tools and online resources from on- or off-campus.

Research Skills & Tips:

Unlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. You'll need to break your topic down into the most important ideas: the keywords. Keywords are individual words or short phrases that represent the main ideas in your topic, thesis, or research question. 

Example Question: What is a respiratory virus, for example, coronavirus?

Keywords: virus, respiratory, coronavirus, viral infection

After you've identified your main ideas and some keywords to start with, think of additional search terms for each concept. These can be synonyms, related ideas, broader terms, or narrower terms. Since a database will match only what you type, using different terms for similar ideas can help you find more articles. 

Example Search Terms: 

  • flu or Influenza
  • pneumonia
  •  viral and respiratory tract infections
  • virology and viruses
  • coronavirus or Covid-19

Click on the research issue you're having below to see tips for addressing it:

I'm Not Finding Enough Sources

I'm Finding Too Many Sources

I'm Finding Irrelevant Sources

None of These Tips Solved My Research Issue


Not Finding Enough Sources

  • Type the word OR between related search terms to get results containing either term. Put the related search terms in parentheses.
    • Example: "Covid-19" or coronavirus
    Diagram shows social media & internet highlighted
  • Use a truncation character (often the asterisk, *, but it can vary by search tool), which is a symbol added to the root of a word to tell the search tool that you want all forms of that word. 
    • Example: elect* will search for elect, election, elector, electoral, electorate, electing, etc.
  • Use a wildcard character (often the hash sign, #, but it can vary by search tool), which is a symbol that replaces any character in a word.
    • Example: wom#n will search for woman or women.

Finding Too Many Sources

  • Type the word AND between the main ideas in your search to get results containing all ideas.
    • Example: virus and "respiratory tract infection"
    Diagram shows overlap between gov't & free speech

Finding Irrelevant Sources

  • Type the word NOT before a search term that you do not want your search results to contain.
    • Example: government not "free speech"
    Diagram shows social media & internet highlighted
  • Type quotation marks around a specific phrase to get search results that contain only that exact phrase.
    • Example: "social media"
  • Use the search tool's filters to target search results that will meet your needs. You'll find filters on the search results screen. The exact location and filtering options varies by search tool.
    • Example: use a publication date filter to find sources published in the last five years.
    • Example: use a source type filter to find only articles or only videos.

If the options above did not help you find useful results, you may want to:

  • change your search terms,
  • select a different search tool,
  • make your topic broader or narrower, or
  • get research help from a librarian.

Research Skills & Tips:

After you've selected your search tool, identified keywords, and fixed research issues, it's time to choose your sources. It is common to get more search results than you will use, so you must evaluate the sources you find to choose the best ones for your research.

Start by scanning the search results to locate sources that fit your research question or need. The search results page will include information about each source, such as the title, year, and abstract, to help you determine its relevance.

Once you've found a source you'd like to use, evaluate its credibility by considering the evidence, source, context, audience, purpose, and execution of the source. Learn more on the Evaluate Information and Fake News guide linked below.


Research Skills & Tips:

Find Sources

"Find Sources." Magnifying Glass.

This page will help you choose where and how to search for your sources. As you search, use the tips on this page to help you evaluate each source you find.

Science Learning Centers

Journals by Title

If you want a particular journal, magazine, or newspaper, instead of an individual article, use the Journals by Title feature in RaptorSearch. Search by publication title, such as Newsweek or Psychological Bulletin, or get a list of all journals on your topic by browsing through the journal categories.