BIO 190—Scientific Communication I

Finding resources in print (books and journals)

Bibliographies of articles and books

The best place to find references to books and journal articles is in the bibliography of a book or journal article on the subject you are interested in. Of course, you have to find the book or article first (that’s covered in the rest of this guide), but when you do, remember to go through it looking for bibliographies. Using these is like letting someone else do the work for you, but it is not only permitted, it is encouraged. You can use the tools described below to find the references once you know what they are.

Library “card catalogs”

Many years ago, the card catalog was a series of wooden drawers with cards that corresponded to every book in a library. Now, almost every library has that information in a computer database. The library at Cal Poly Pomona uses a database called OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog). OPAC is the program running on the terminals on each floor of the library. It is also available over the Internet, either in a telnet session (log in as “library”), or through a Web interface called WebPAC. The Library provides instructions for both.

The two commonest uses of the library catalog for biological literature are finding books about a general topic that might have bibliographies of other works, and finding books that you already know about. Unfortunately, searching by subject or keyword won’t often give you a wealth of information, primarily because the Cal Poly library only has a subset of all the books published about biology.

This problem can be addressed somewhat by searching catalogs of other libraries. The Cal Poly Library has links to many of these catalogs.

Indexes and other bibliographic tools

Journals themselves are listed in library catalogs, but what you are interested in is finding specific articles in journals. For this there are indexes, tools that enable you to find journal articles by subject, author, keyword, or title. Some of these also provide an abstract of the article. Many of these indexes are available on-line.

A list of the most useful has been prepared by James Koga, the life sciences librarian. Check the library's databases list to see which of these are available on-line.

For medicine and biomedical science, the best choice is Medline, available through FirstSearch from the library's databases list, or as “PubMed” from the National Institutes of Health. For anything relating to agriculture, including a lot of organismal and environmental biology, try AGRICOLA, again through the databases list, or at the National Agricultural Library (this and PubMed provide the data without having to go through Cal Poly, but they won't tell you if the Cal Poly library has the journal). Other indexes are available only in the Library. Some are on CD-ROM, and others, such as Biological Abstracts, require an appointment with a librarian. Also on CD-ROM is Science Citation Index, a tool which enables you to find out which articles in a recent year have a bibliographic citation of a specific older article. This is useful if you have a classic paper and want to know what has been done recently.

The librarians

If you had a medical problem, you’d go to a doctor, right? Well, when you have a bibliographic problem, the professional you should seek out is a librarian. You’ll get the answers you need, and it won’t cost you anything, either, if you use the Cal Poly Library. The Life Sciences Librarian is James S. Koga (; he wrote Library Strategies for Bio 190 and will gladly provide help in person or by email. The other reference librarians can help you as well.

When the library doesn’t have it

If you need a reference that isn’t in the Cal Poly Pomona Library (and, sadly, many are not), there are several ways to get it. First, there are an increasing number of on-line journals available through the Cal Poly library. Second, you can visit other university libraries in southern California. Check with the Circulation Desk at the Cal Poly library to find out what your borrowing privileges are at these libraries (and pick up any necessary library cards), and check to see whether the materials are there using their on-line catalogs. Finally, you can get both books and journals from Document Delivery. Be sure to leave plenty of time, because they won’t guarantee fast delivery, but sometimes you will have a free copy of a journal article within a day or two.

Citation: Clark, Curtis. 2001. BIO 190 - Finding resources in print (books and journals). California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, /~jcclark/classes/bio190/print.html.


These are official class materials of BIO 190 as taught at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, by Curtis Clark. They are subject to change without notice to anyone but students currently enrolled in the class.

Summer Quarter, 2001
© 2001 by Curtis Clark