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BIOL 30: Principles of Biology

Guide to help students find sources for their Biology 30 lab paper on optogenetics.

Step-By-Step Guide to Searching Library Databases for Articles

Step 1: Write down your research question or statement (this may be your thesis)

  • If you don't know how to do this or haven't already done so, see the Developing a Topic page
  • Example: Can we use light therapy to diagnose Parkinson's disease?

Step 2: Identify the 2-3 nouns that are the most important from that research question or statement

  • Keywords from previous example: Light therapy, Parkinson's Disease

Step 3: Search in a library database (suggestions below) using the 2-3 nouns you have identified. Combine keywords and phrases to search for the specific aspects of your question

  • What to type into search box from example above: light therapy Parkinson's
  • Got too many results? Add in another word or consider replacing one of those words with the scientific name and/or synonyms for the words you circled
  • Not enough results? Remove a word or try replacing one of those words with the scientific name and/or synonyms for the words you circled
  • Finding articles published between 2010-2016: Use the limiters on the left-hand side to limit the publication date to 2010-2016

Step 4: Read the title and abstracts of the articles that sound relevant

Step 5: Get the entire article

  • In Biological Abstracts and Web of Science: Click on the "GetText" icon 
  • In Google Scholar: Click on the PDF or HTML link (if available), or "SJSU GetText" link
    • To see the SJSU GetText link for full-text access when off-campus, set your preferences in Google Scholar. Watch the Google Scholar video tutorial for a step-by-step view of this process.

Step 6: Make an Interlibrary Loan Request if the article is not available by clicking on "Make A Request"

Biology Databases - Your Best Bets

Use a combination of keywords and phrases to search for the specific aspects of your question.

REMEMBER: A primary source of literature will generally have a "methods" section.

ALSO HELPFUL: Learn how to read a scientific paper (especially as a beginner) and use this worksheet to help you take notes to understand the article and to avoid plagiarism.