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BIO111: Cross

Meet Your Librarian

Stella Beratlis's picture
Stella Beratlis
A234 Yosemite Hall
L & LC, West Campus

As of March 18, 2020:
Due to Coronavirus emergency, research help is via Ask a Librarian.

Website Skype Contact: beratliss

Welcome to Research

Biology: Welcome

Hi, I'm Stella Beratlis, one of the MJC librarians and the library liaison for the Science, Math, and Engineering division.  I love working with students at any stage of their research. I can help you in person at the reference desk, by phone (575-6245), or by email (
This is a general guide for students interested in locating information related to biology using library resources available at the MJC Library & Learning Center. 

More Helpful Guides

Finding Articles

Recommended Databases

Recommended Databases: 

Organizing Your Research

Research Management Tools

It is a best practice to use a personal content management tool to organize your own reference material which could be articles, data sets, books, websites, images and more. These tools will save you time and allow you to work more efficiently.
Reference management software programs, web tools, and browser extensions allow you to organize your research, collect and cite sources, create bibliographies in a variety of styles, add your own notes and keywords to your citations. Many reference managers work with word processing software to format in-text citations and bibliographies for papers and theses, allow you to share references, and enable you to attach or link PDFs to a citation record.

Primary vs. Secondary Research Articles

Primary vs. Secondary Articles

Definitions of what is primary or secondary differs across the disciplines. For the sciences, this is how we would define the different types of sources:

Primary source literature in the sciences:

  • 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 the sciences:

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

Tertiary sources in the sciences:

  • are collections of primary and/or secondary sources.

Characteristics of primary sources in the sciences 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, systematic reviews, or literature reviews - these are secondary sources

  • Are frequently found in peer-reviewed or scholarly journals

  • Should explain the research methodology used (randomized controlled trial, etc)

  • Frequently include methods, results, and discussion sections

  • Are factual, not interpretive

Flow of scientific information diagram

Journal Titles

Finding Full Journal Title

What's the Full Title of the Journal Abbreviation? 

Scientific publications often include citations that have abbreviated journal titles. For example:

Kenyon L, Harrison NA, Ashburner GR, Boa ER, Richardson PA.1998. Detection of a pigeon pea witches’-broom-related phytoplasma in trees of Gliricidia sepium affected by little-leaf disease in Central America.Plant Pathol. 47:671–80.

In this example, Plant Pathol. stands for the journal Plant Pathology. To identify the title of a journal that you are looking for, consult the following guide to Scientific Journal Abbreviations (created by Kevin Lindstrom, Univ. of British Columbia):

Science and Engineering Journal Abbreviations

Finding Web Resources

Search Smarter

You don't want to wade through millions of Web pages. By using a few tricks, you can focus your searches relatively easily to those authoritative, reliable sources you want to use.

  • Use key search terms - Use the same search terms you used successfully to find books and articles.
  • Know your search tool - Use advanced search features to control your search. For example you can limit your search in Google to just search government or educational Web sites by limiting to a specific domain. Learn more at Google for Researchers.
  • Use search tools you can trust - Google Scholar indexes scholarly literature on the Web.

You can search Google Scholar below:


Don't Reinvent the Wheel

Top Level Sites

One of the best ways to begin the Web portion of your research is by identifying top-level sites. It works like this:  Think of what kind of information you want, and then try to think of an agency, organization, or institution who tracks and publishes information on that topic.  For instance:

For Information on…

You might try visiting the…

Breast Cancer

National Cancer Institute

History of football

National Football League

West Nile Virus

Center for Disease Control

Air Pollution

Environmental Protection Agency

Disappearing California Farmland

California Dept. of Agriculture

Nuclear Waste

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission


Top level sites will not only be a likely source of high-quality information on your topic, but will also often provide links to other relevant sites that you can use to learn more about your topic.

Other ways you can identify appropriate top-level agencies include:

  • “Contact Information” sections included in the MJC Library article databases, CQ Researcher and Issues & Controversies
  • Agencies, organizations, and publications mentioned in books and articles you’ve already found
  • Discussions with your librarian and professor

Why Evaluate?

You need to ensure that you're using the highest quality sources of information for your academic work. As you gather information for your research project, you'll look at many different sources: books, articles from databases, Web documents, interviews, videos, and more.

You can feel pretty confident that books you get from the library and articles you find in the library's research databases are reliable and credible because you know those have gone through a traditional editorial process; someone or some group has checked all the facts and arguments the author made and then deemed them suitable for publishing.  You still have to think about whether or not the book or article is current and suitable for your project but you can feel confident that it is a credible, reliable source.

Use the CRAAP Test for Credibility

Finding information today is easy; it's all around you. Making sure the information you find is reliable can be a challenge.

When you use Google or any social media to get your information how do you know it can be trusted? How do you know it's not biased?

You can feel pretty confident that books you get from the library and articles you find in the library's databases are reliable because someone or some group has checked all the facts and arguments the author made before publishing them. You still have to think about whether or not the book or article is current and suitable for your project but you can feel confident that it is a trustworthy source.

Make sure each and every source you plan on using in your paper or research assignment passes the CRAAP test.


Evaluate your sources: The CRAAP Test

Watch the brief video below to see how this works.

Writing and Presentation Help

Writing Help

The MJC Library & Learning Center has a number of resources that can help and librarians can lead you to web resources that may also be useful. In addition to contacting the MJC Writing Center to get help with your papers, the following are some recommended books and web resources to help you write well: 

Presentation Help

The MJC Library & Learning Center has a number of resources to help you with your presentation; check the resources below or make an appointment with a librarian:  

Images Online

Finding Images Online

Images, songs, videos, other non-textual works are covered under intellectual property laws, even if they don't have a copyright symbol. If you're looking to use an image, make sure you either use public-domain work (no permission or attribution required) or look for material which is licensed for use (try searching for images licensed through Creative Commons). 

However, for instructors and students, in general, images used in a classroom presentation, for a scholarly lecture, or in an unpublished assigned paper, fall under the concept of Fair Use or the TEACH ACT.  Fair use is an exception to the exclusive rights granted by copyright. For further information, consult Circular 21 of the United States Copyright Office. So you don't necessarily need to ask for permission. However, you still need to provide an attribution for the image; technically, a entry for the image should go into your References list as well. 

Keep in mind that if you want to present your image in a PowerPoint, it should be at least 72dpi, and about 1024x768 pixels. 

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service images image search. All federal materials are public domain.

Google Search (images). use limiter "site:gov" 

Creative Commons Images search 

Copyright-Friendly Portal



Citing Images

Your image source should be attributed with both in-text citation as well as a corresponding entry in your References list. 

Use a Caption: A reader should not have to refer to the text to understand the image. Explanatory text should include title, owner/artist and where the image is stored. In APA you must provide a copyright attribution in addition to citing item when you reproduce it in the body of your work. See Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition, 2.12. p. 38.  For educational projects, look to instructor's instruction for further guidance. 

CITING images

In general, citing images can be complex. But don't fret; just do the best you can. Find photographer or artist's name; a date the photo was taken or when the image was created; where the original is stored; and where you found it (URL or publication information). Construct a citation as best as you can with that information. 

Here's a quick guide from Cornell University. 

Citing Sources

Citing Sources

The MJC Library & Learning Center has a number of resources that can help and librarians can lead you to web resources that may also be useful. You will be using APA (American Psychological Association) citation rules for your work in the sciences. The following are some recommended resources to help you cite sources:

What is Plagiarism?

Whether you mean to do it or not, plagiarism is stealing. This brief video from Eastern Gateway Community College explains plagiarism and shows you ways you can avoid it.

Consequences of Plagiarism at MJC

Plagiarism does not apply only to written works; it also applies to images, graphics, charts, music, videos, etc. that you use in your research.

This form of Academic dishonesty applies to individual as well as group work and may result in partial credit, no credit, or failure of the exam or assignment. In addition, your instructor may forward the situation to the Office of Student Success for further disciplinary action such as suspension or removal from the course or college in accordance with the YCCD Board Policy and Procedure 5500: Standards of Student Conduct.

APA Style

Formatting Your Paper

Watch How to Use Word to Format a Paper:

This video also has written instructions at the end.

Click the link below to read or print the step-by-step instructions that accompany this video.

APA Help Links:

The American Psychological Association also make help available to you on their Website.

Examples of Papers:

Citing Your Sources

The Rules:

  • Placement: The reference list  appears at the end of the paper, on its own page(s). If your research paper ends on page 8, your References begin on page 9. 
  • Arrangement: Alphabetize entries by author's last name. If source has no named author, alphabetize by the title, ignoring A, An, or The.
  • Spacing: Like the rest of the APA paper, the reference list is double-spaced throughout. Be sure NOT to add extra spaces between citations.
  • Indentation: To make citations easier to scan, add a hanging indent to any citation that runs more than one line.
  • Title: The name of your bibliography will be References.


Step-by-Step Instructions:

Click on the image below to view this 3:18 minute YouTube video for step-by-step instructions.

APA Formatting video


Citation Examples:

Use the links below to see examples of source citations.

Don't forget to -- when in doubt -- verify the accuracy of any citation example by using the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.


DOI (Digital Object Identifier):

The APA tells us that a digital object identifier (DOI) is a unique alphanumeric string assigned by a registration agency (the International DOI Foundation) to identify content and provide a persistent link to its location on the Internet. The publisher assigns a DOI when your article is published and made available electronically.

APA recommends that when DOIs are available, you include them for both print and electronic sources. The DOI is typically located on the first page of the electronic journal article, near the copyright notice. The DOI can also be found on the database landing page for the article. You may need to view the .pdf format of a document to find the DOI.

All DOI numbers begin with a 10 and contain a prefix and a suffix separated by a slash. The prefix is a unique number of four or more digits assigned to organizations; the suffix is assigned by the publisher and was designed to be flexible with publisher identification standards. Here are examples from the APA Style Blog:




Retrieved from

What To Do If There is No DOI:

Not all publications have DOI numbers assigned to them yet. Use this flowchart to determine what to do if your publication doesn't include a DOI. Click on the picture to see a larger image of the flowchart.

DOI Flowchart



Use CrossRef to Find a DOI:

In-Text Citations


Citing within the text of your paper at the point where you integrate outside information or new ideas, briefly identifies the source for your audience and enables them to locate that source easily in your alphabetically-arranged reference list at the end of your paper. Therefore, each in-text citation must appear in your reference list and each entry in your reference list must be cited within the text of your paper.


The Rules: (See APA 6.11-6.21)

Use the author-date citation system for citing references within your paper.

  • The basic entry is author's last name and year of publication, separated by a comma. Example: (Jones, 2008)
  • If there is no author, use the first few words of the reference list entry, usually the "Title" of the source. Example: ("Autism," 2008)
  • For direct quotations, always provide the author, year, and specific page citation or paragraph number for non-paginated materials in the text. Example: (Santa Barbara, 2010, p. 243). See APA 6.03
  • For most citations, the parenthetical reference is placed BEFORE the punctuation. Example: Magnesium can be effective in treating PMS (Haggerty, 2012).
  • If author name or title is used within the text, do NOT list it again within parenthesis. Example: Haggerty (2012) notes magnesium is effective at relieving some symptoms of PMS.


Examples of In-Text Citations:

Direct Quote Example:

The quote below appears exactly as it does in Joanna Santa Barbara's article on child-rearing in the Encyclopedia of Violence Peace and Conflict.

Adjusted data from seven U.S. surveys between 1968 and 1994 show a decline in approval of disciplinary spanking from 94% to 68%, or 26 percentage points in 26 years" (Santa Barbara, 2010, p. 243).

Paraphrase Example:

This sentence takes the information above and puts it into your own words.

Studies show that Americans are becoming more critical of the concept of spanking children. Between 1968 and 1994 the so-called “approval rating” of spanking children dropped from 94% to 68% (Santa Barbara, 2010).

Summarize Example:

The sentence below distills the main idea of the original information.

Studies have shown that Americans just don't approve of spanking like they used to (Santa Barbara, 2010). 



NoodleTools Help: