There's a lot of published research out there! But don't worry. This guide will point you to some useful places to search and ways to filter your results. The librarians can also help in person or online.
illustration courtesy of Pierre Metivier
Books are shelved in general subject categories using the Library of Congress classification system. You may want to supplement your use of the catalog with browsing shelf areas for your topic. Below is a brief listing of some of the subject locations in the field of biology. These are all located on the main floor of the library.
Q -- Science - General
QD -- Chemistry
QH -- Natural History
QK -- Botany
QL -- Zoology
QM -- Human Anatomy
QP -- Physiology
QR -- Microbiology
R -- Medicine
S -- Agriculture
These print-format journals all publish primary research and review articles in the field of biology.
American Midland Naturalist
Genes and Development (most current year; earlier volumes in PMC)
Journal of Freshwater Ecology
Wilson Journal of Ornithology
We also subscribe in print to the following biology-related journals and magazines
Minnesota Conservation Volunteer
When looking for primary articles, look for ones that report on original research conducted by scientists (usually with a note explaining where they work) and written up with other scientists in mind. Generally, there will be an introductory section which reviews related research, a methodology section that explains how the research was carried out, results, and a conclusion.
This example is a primary article by scientists, for scientists.
This example is science journalism for general readers. You would not use this in a literature review.
For an example, see "anatomy of a scholarly article" from North Carolina State University.
Once you've found two or three good articles, use their references to find more. Click on the "citation network" tab above to see how that works.
If you think you'll be doing a lot of research in future, you might also want to check out the "citation management tools" tab. Zotero is a free program you can use to save and format references. There's a learning curve, but it can pay off in the long run.
Once you've identified an interesting article, look for a yellow "find it!" button to see if it is available either in full text or in print. Print journals are shelved on the lower level alphabetically by title, with the most recent issues in separate A-Z section from the older issues. With the exception of the most recent issue of the most popular magazines (shelved near the Browsing Collection), you may check magazines and jouranals out for a week.
If an article is not available in full text or in print, there is an option to request it through interlibrary loan, using your barcode number and last name to identify yourself. This generally means it will be scanned in for you at another library. An e-mail message will be sent to you with a URL and pin number to retrieve it. Though these scanned articles are sometimes are available within 24 hours, they can take longer. Plan ahead.
Sometimes you come across a footnote with an article that looks interesting. You don't need to turn to a database to find it. Check the title of the magazine or journal (not the article title) from the journals list tab of the library's main page (or on the left of this page). If it is not available to us at Gustavus, log in to your library account and fill out an interlibrary loan request.
The library subscribes to many science journals. Most of the journals we subscribe to are online-only, but some are in print only (a limited list which you can see to the left - these are shelved alphabetically by title and can be checked out for a week). If you find an article in a database, the yellow Find It button will show whether the article is online, in print, or if we'll have to get it from another library.
If you want to browse the contents of a particular journal, you can do it online by searching for the journal title in the Biological Sciences database or (for journals in print) by going to the lower level and flipping through issues of the journal. Sometimes simply browsing recent issues of a science journal can help you see what research looks interesting.
. . . to ask for help. Email Barbara Fister - email@example.com You can drop by the reference desk (a librarian is available generally between 10 am and 9 pm) or, if you're not in the library, you can use the chat box to the right.
Increasingly, scholars are frustrated that their research is available only to people who have access to big libraries, so they either publish their research in journals that are free to anyone to read or they reserve the right to put copies of their research online. Try Googling the author and title of an article you need and add filetype:pdf - you might get lucky and find a free copy online.
For research in biology and biomedical sciences, the National Institutes of Health provides two nifty options. PubMed is a huge database of medical research articles. After you do a search, you can choose to limit your results to free full text articles.
Or you can go to PubMed Central, an archive of over 1,000 life science journals and articles based on research funded by the NIH to find lots of articles in biology and medicine.
Librarians are here to help!