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Biology

This guide is designed to help students learn how to use K-State Libraries' many resources for studying and learning biology.

Library Research Guide

Finding Information Online

A good first place for starting research is the internet. Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube all have information that could be relevant to your research topic. The videos and links on this page will give your existing internet skills an academic edge.

Evaluate Websites

What you find online may not be exactly what you need. Assessing the information on a web-based source can be challenging. The following guidelines can help you decide if a website is a good choice for a source for your research. 

  • Currency: A useful site is updated regularly and lets visitors know when content was published on the site. Can you tell when the site was last updated? Can you see when the content you need was added? Does the site show signs of not being maintained (broken links, out-of-date information, etc.)?  
  • Relevance: Think about the target audience for the site. Is it appropriate for you or your paper's audience?
  • Authority: Look for an About Us link or something similar to learn about the site's creator. The more you know about the credentials and mission of a site's creators, as well as their sources of information, the better idea you will have about the site's quality.
  • Accuracy: Does the site present references or links to the sources of information it presents? Can you locate these sources so that you can read and interpret the information yourself?
  • Purpose: Consider the reason why the site was created. Can you detect any bias? Does the site use emotional language? Is the site trying to persuade you about something?

Google, Wikipedia, Google Scholar, and Library Databases

Source: GSU | Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETL)

Transcript

Start your background search using Google and Google Scholar. For example you might start to learn about how proteins are made by searching protein formation in Google.

Google Web Search

From the results, you notice protein synthesis is a better search term and learn that tRNA is involved. To find research articles on this process, try searching those terms in Google Scholar. To get more control over your search open the databases page of this guide and learn about searching with a database like Web of Science or Scopus.

Google Scholar Search

Wikipedia

Biofuel Wikipedia article screenshotWikipedia might have the most common knowledge on your topic. For many assignments or projects, you'll need to find sources more specific than Wikipedia but it is a great place to start.

How to Use Wikipedia

  • Read the article.
  • What other words/topics are relevant to your topic? 
    • Write them down.
  • What basic facts do you know about your topic?
    • Write them down.
  • What references are cited?
    • How old are they?
    • Can you open/read them? 
  • Look at the Talk and View History tabs.
    • Check the article's grade on the article's talk page.
    • Is there discussion about validity of arguments or sources? 

YouTube

YouTube is an excellent place to get to know a research topic (i.e. find background information). You might find interviews with scientists, researchers, and stakeholders or videos explaining processes and approaches to solutions related to your question.

Tips for Searching YouTube:

  1. Search with the same keywords as as you would in Google or a database.
    • Find the experts (organization, research institute, or people) on Google or Wikipedia.
    • Search their names on YouTube - they may be publishing videos about their work.
  2. If you find one relevant video on YouTube, click the publisher's link under the video to see if they have more. On each publisher's YouTube home page you will find a menu above the video listing:
    • Videos - videos by this publisher;
    • Playlists - videos by this publisher grouped by themes selected by the publisher;
    • Channels - video collections curated by this publisher;
    • Discussion - some publishers allow general comments or host discussions on their pages;
    • About - information sometimes provided by the publisher (you might find a link to their website or social media feeds). This is a good place to look when evaluating a resource.

      screenshot of YouTube publisher page highlighting channel navigation menu and related titles list

  3. From the publisher's page YouTube also recommends Related channels (to the right of the video, pictured above).
  4. As with a Wikipedia article, you will need the source behind the video so check out the credits, information below the video, and comments for references.
    • If you can't find a reference for information in the video:
      • see if you can find it by searching Google;
      • post a comment (other viewers might know more);
      • contact the publisher.

Depending on the product and audience of your research, a YouTube video might be a legitimate resource. Don't forget to cite it!