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UMass Amherst Libraries

BIOLOGY 312 Writing In Biology - Rosa Moscarella

resources for students in Sarah Emel's course

Where to find sources for your assignment

For your assignment, you will need to find peer reviewed original research articles. The best database to use to find research articles will depend on your topic, but here are some good places to start:

Background Research

You might not be very familiar with your topic to start.  Coming up with good keywords to use in a database can be challenging.  Use reference sources like encyclopedia to investigate your topic.  You can gather more keywords and form a more complete picture of your topic before diving into the journal literature.

Search Tips

Search Term Connectors:

Use AND to find articles that contain both words you enter. AND narrows your search.

Use OR to find articles that contain either word you enter. OR broadens your search.

Use NOT to find articles that exclude words or terms you don't want. NOT narrows your search.

You can also narrow your search by putting a search phrase in quotation marks. For example, searching for "heart attack" will usually give you fewer results than just searching heart attack because it restricts results to those with the words next to each other, in that order.  This is phrase searching.

Many databases allow truncation where you enter the stem of your keyword but put an * instead of the end of the word: cranberr* will return both cranberry and cranberries.

I prefer using multiple lines to organize my search and group keywords. For example:

Get Full Text

When you find an article you want, you can click on the UMLinks logo to get the full text.

UMLinks will find the full text online if it is available in any of the databases UMass has access to.

It will also search the library catalog to see if the library has it in print.

If an article or book is unavailable at UMass Amherst, current and retired UMass Amherst faculty and staff, and current students can get it using our Interlibrary Loan service. There will be a link to Interlibrary Loan when you use the UMLinks button.

More about Interlibrary Loan

To log into Interlibrary Loan use your UMass NetID and password (same as what you use for SPIRE and Moodle or Blackboard).

The first time you use Interlibrary Loan, you will be prompted to fill out a profile form, so we know who you are and how to contact you when your item arrives.

A couple of tips: the Interlibrary Loan profile form will ask for your library barcode. You can leave this field blank, even though it looks like it is a required field. The profile form also asks you to choose a campus pickup location. This does not mean you have to come to campus to retrieve your articles! All article requests are filled electronically.

After completing the profile, you should then see a pre-populated article request form. Make sure all the required fields are completed (sometimes they don't all transfer to the form), then submit it and usually in 1-2 business days you'll get an email that your article has arrived! The email will include a link into the Interlibrary Loan system, where your article PDF will be available to print or download.

Is the journal Peer Reviewed?

Many of your assignments will require you to locate articles from Peer Reviewed journals. Some databases include an option to limit your search results to only articles from peer reviewed journal.

Other databases, like PubMed, do not. There are several ways you can find out if a journal is peer reviewed.

  • One of the easiest ways is to look the journal title up using the e-journals link on the UMass Amherst Libraries home page. The journal title will have an icon of a book with an eye over it next to it if it is peer reviewed.

  • Or, you can look it up in the Ulrich's database (linked below). Peer reviewed (also called refereed) journals will have this symbol next to the title: