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Biology

A guide to research resources for biology

Background Information

Background information on a topic can help you decide if it is a good research area for your project or assignment. Even experienced researchers will choose to start with background information when working in an area that is new to them.

Typical sources of background information are encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks. Review articles (see section below) can also prove very useful.

The main encyclopedia in the field of biology is the Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. Other online encyclopedias on biology topics are listed in a box on the right side of this page.

Other online encyclopedias available to Georgetown University students include:

Finding Other Background Sources

To search for your topic in multiple dictionaries and encyclopedias at once, use the CREDO Reference box on the left side of this page.

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To find other dictionaries and encyclopedias, use keyword searches in HoyaSearch, the Georgetown University Libraries catalog.  Search for the name of the general or broad field and for dictionaries or encyclopedias.  See linked examples below:

Review Articles

Review articles are a great way to get an overview of a topic. They generally provide a summary of the state of the art in a research area, and their references provide excellent lists of relevant articles. All of the databases listed under the Articles & Databases tab provide options to limit search results to review articles.

  • In Web of Science, enter a search, and then from the results page, use the Refine Results options on the left. Look for Document Types and select Review.
  • In Biological Abstracts, look for the Limits options under the Search box, and select Review Articles.
  • In Medline, look for the Limits options under the Search box, and select Review Articles.
  • In PubMed, enter a search, and then from the results page, under the filters on the left side of the page, find ARTICLE TYPE and check Review.

There are also journals in which many or all of the articles are review articles.  In Journal Finder use the Journal Title and Begins With options in Quick Search and look for Annual Review of, Current Opinion in, Nature Reviews, and Trends in.

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