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How do I....choose a database?

Databases or indexes are resources for locating articles in scholarly journals, popular science magazines, newspapers, and reviews.  Databases can be searched by author, subject, or keyword to find citations to relevant articles.  Databases also can provide full-text access to the articles.  Indexes can also include citations to book chapters, conference reports, and more.

Below is a short guide to searching selected aspects in the life sciences. 


If you are searching for ..... choose this database (or index)....
Agricultural topics Agricola, Agricultural & Environmental Biotechnology Abstracts, Biological & Agricultural Index, CSA Illumina, Scopus , Census of Agriculture
Bioengineering/Biotechnology topics Applied Science Abstracts , Biosis Previews (Includes Biological Abstracts), Biotechnology & Bioengineering Abstracts, Scopus
Conference papers Conference Papers Index, ProceedingsFirst
Most current information

ScopusBiosis Previews

Educational aspects of biology (K-12, Higher Education) ERIC, Wilson Omnifile
General or popular articles Academic Search Premier, General OneFile, Wilson Omnifile
Governmental Information, Census of Agriculture , Library- Government Information Guide
Images CSA Illustrata ,, Interactive Functional Anatomy , American Society of Cell Biology: Image Library , Madison Digital Image Database (MDID)
Medical or health related topics PubMed, Medline 
Neurobiological topics Biosis Previews (Includes Biological Abstracts), PsycINFO, Scopus
Nutritional Information PubMed, Nutrition Databases , Cochrane Library
Opposing Viewpoints on a topic Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center , Issues & Controversies
Patents Scopus, US Patent and Trademark Office
Plant Sciences Agricola, Biosis Previews (Includes Biological Abstracts), Biological & Agricultural Index, CSA Illumina, Scopus
Popular "magazines" plus selected scholarly articles General OneFile, Wilson Omnifile, Academic Search Premier
Psychological topics PsycINFO, Scopus


JMU Libraries provides access to hundreds of databases on many subjects.  See the entire list at Research Databases.   If you need more help, contact Yasmeen Shorish, the biology librarian .

What is a Scholarly Journal?
Journal articles in scientific or scholarly publications report the results of original research and are considered "primary literature." Articles are peer reviewed or refereed by other scientists to verify the quality and accuracy of the research. Articles are lengthy and well-documented with extensive references to other scholarly articles. Examples include American Journal of Botany, Brain Research, and Journal of Immunology

What is a Popular Science Magazine?
Popular science magazines or journals are useful for reading current science news and summaries of research on various science topics. These journals are intended for general audiences and articles are written without scientific jargon. Examples include Discover, Science News, and Scientific American

What is a review article?
Review articles analyze past and current research on specific topics reported in journal articles, identify the major researchers in a field, and provide a comprehensive bibliography. Reviews are not considered "primary literature." Review articles usually are labeled as this specific document type in databases. Examples include Annual Review of Genetics, Advances in Ecological Research, and Current Topics in Developmental Biology.

What is a citation?

A citation is the address of the article. It allows anyone to find the article that you reference.
A citation includes the author and title of an article, the title of the journal in which it was published, page numbers, date of publication and other information. Some citations include abstracts or summaries of the cited article. The citation gives you all the information you need to find the actual article.

See how the following information translates into a citation:

Drs. Know It All and Smart E. Pants wrote a paper: Word length as an indication of Intelligence in the Important Journal in May, which happens to be volume 22 and issue 3, 2006 on pages 25-42.

Here's the citation:

All, K.I and Pants, S.E. Word length as an indication of intelligence. Important Journal. 22(3), 25-42 (2006).

Last Name, First initial, middle initial. Title of article. Title of Journal. Volume # (Issue #), pages (year).

Note: Citations vary by publishers, but these are typically how science citations appear. For specific assignment requirements, check with your professor.  For specific citation specifications, check the specification for the journal (This information is easy to find using RefWorks.)

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Last updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012

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