Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Boatwright Memorial Library

BIOLOGY RESEARCH GUIDE: Resources for non-Majors

Choosing a Topic

  • Science encyclopedias are often useful for finding a topic.  You can find a list of encyclopedias in biology under the "home" tab; these encyclopedias are located in Boatwright Library's reference collection.

  • Newspapers may provide very current information on a biological issue or concern.  Newspaper Source Plus is an excellent source for newspaper articles and TV news transcripts.

  • Books from the library catalog may be an excellent source for topics.  Search the catalog to find a call number area that you may use to browse the shelves -- either electronically or by actually visiting the print collection.  Many catalog records have a "Reviews and More" link that gives you the table of contents which can help you narrow your topic.

  • Wikipedia ( is frequently an excellent source for information on very current topics.  However, as Wikipedia is an "open" source, you should be wary of the actual information it provides.   

Getting Started


Researching a topic in a discipline that you are unfamiliar with can often be a confusing and frustrating process.  Here are some tips to get started with your research:

  • Encyclopedias may help you with unfamiliar terms and concepts.  You can find a list of general reference resources in biology under the "home" tab above.

  • Access Science - the online version of The McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology - may help you with a basic understanding of your topic.

  • Science dictionaries may be helpful in understanding the scientific terminology.  Try using The Dictionary of Biology in Boatwright's reference collection (REF QH302.5 .D5 2008).  General science dictionaries are located in the REF Q120's.

  • Use the UR Catalog to identify any books the library owns on your topic.  Besides providing information on your topic, the books' bibliographies will also provide other information sources to consult.

  • If you are unable to identify a book on your specific topic, broaden your subject search and then use the catalog to gain electronic access to the Table of Contents.  Often a book will provide one or more chapters on a narrower topic.

Suggested databases

Since many biology topics cover a wide breadth of disciplines, you may need to use a variety of databases to identify journal articles.  Here are some general databases that will get you started on some basic research in biology:

Refining your search

  • To use more discipline-specific databases, you may want to choose from the ones listed under the "databases" tab in this guide.  For example, if you are researching the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone, you may want to use Biological Abstracts for ecological information. 

  • You may also want to check databases in disciplines such as psychology or political science that are not covered specifically by any of these databases.  Use the library's Subject Guides in those areas to identify useful databases.

  • Ask for help!  My contact information is listed on the right.  However, if I'm unavailable and you need immediate help, contact the Main Service Desk in Boatwright by either phone (x8669), email, IM from the library's website, or visit in person.
  • Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.