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Biology: Subject Guide: Journals & Articles

This guide will help you find library resources for all things "Biology."

Primary Sources in Biology

What a primary source is differs across disciplines. For example, primary sources in History, Anthropology, and Chemistry all have different qualifications. 

Primary source literature in biology:

  • documents the results of original research
  • is written by those who have conducted the research
  • includes firsthand information about their methodologies, data, results, or conclusions.

Secondary source literature in biology:

  • summarizes, compares, critiques, or interprets the primary literature.

Characteristics of  Biology primary sources include:

  • Report original research, ideas, or scientific discoveries for the first time
  • Report results/findings/data from experiments or research studies
  • May also be referred to as primary research, primary articles, or research studies
  • DO NOT include meta analyses or any kind of review
  • Should explain the research methodology used (randomized controlled trial, etc)
  • Frequently include methods, results, and discussion sections
  • Are factual, not interpretive

Library Databases relevant to Biology Topics


You can search for academic (peer reviewed) articles using these databases that the library subscribes to. If you need assistance using the databases or finding the resources you need, please contact your librarian.

Open Access Databases

PubMed is a free ("open access") database by the National Library of Medicine, and it is the first place to look for the latest scholarly articles on medical research.

Google Scholar - Pros & Cons

Google Scholar is an easy way to search for scholarly literature available online. Librarians encourage you to wear your 'Critical Thinking Hat' when using Google and Google Scholar. 

Why? Because Google and Bing only index around 4% of the information on the web! Information isn't free, and 96% of the Internet is behind some sort of pay wall. 

If you hit a pay wall in your online research, asking you to buy access to articles, don't do this. The Library can get you the articles at no cost, either through our database subscriptions or via Get It! (interlibrary loan).

Gaps in content exist. The library may have access to certain volumes or articles that Google Scholar does not.

It is best to go directly to the library databases when you want to find something scholarly. Or ask a librarian for help.