Resources for Biology Research

Image of a stem under a microscope from the collections at the University of California Santa Barbara.

About this Guide

This guide provides students with recommended resources for conducting research on topics related to Biology. Use the tabs above to navigate through the pages of the guide.

Paper Writing Assistance

Consult these campus resources for help with writing and editing:
About SBCC’s Writing Center
The SBCC Learning Resource Center Writing Tools Online

Need More Help?

Have a question? Stop by the Reference Desk, or contact a librarian by phone, email, or chat for more help.Contact Us

Library Tutorials

Interested in learning more about the library on your own? Explore the library’s online tutorials.

Online Reference Sources

The library subscribes to some online reference sources, including the following general reference books and subject-specific books. When accessing these resources off campus, you’ll be prompted for your pipeline username and password.

  • Credo Reference: This database contains the full text of nearly 600 encyclopedias, dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, and other reference books covering all major subject areas. Thousands of Topics Pages provide articles from different reference sources, arranged by subject. Includes “gadgets” for finding images, definitions, people, pronunciations, quotations, and measurement conversations, as well as a concept map feature for help identifying keywords and broadening or narrowing a topic. Additional features include videos, maps, and animations.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library: Search this reference database by Keyword to find resources on your topic, or click on the “Science” tab to search through individual reference sources.
  • Encyclopedia of human body systems: This ebook is a reference work for human physiology and anatomy.
  • Science terms made easy: A lexicon of scientific words and their root language origins: This ebook is a useful guide for common scientific terms.
  • Encyclopedia of global warming and science technology: This ebook is a resource covering global warming concepts and issues.
  • A dictionary of ecology: This ebook contains over 5,000 entries. Subjects include plant and animal physiology, animal behavior, evolution, environmental pollution and conservation, climatology and meteorology, geomorphology, and oceanography.

Print Reference Sources

Reference books are a good place to begin your research. These resources are available in the Luria Library Reference section. Ask a librarian for additional help finding reference books on your topic.

  • A dictionary of useful and everyday plants and their common names — R 581.03 H859d
  • Botanical Latin: History, grammar, syntax, terminology, and vocabulary — R 581.03 S799b
  • The Jepson manual: Vascular plants of California — (At library reserve desk) 581.9794 B181j 2012
  • A dictionary of the flowering plants and ferns — R 582.1303 W734 1973
  • The cacti of the United States and Canada — R 583.47 B474c
  • The encyclopedia of animals: A complete visual guide — R 590.3 C772e
  • Walker’s mammals of the world — R 599 W178m 1999
  • Dirr’s hardy trees and shrubs: An illustrated encyclopedia — R 635.977 D599h


Search the library catalog (books+) for books on your topic. The library’s collection includes both print books and online ebooks. Your search results will include articles as well. Limit to books by choosing the appropriate box from the menu to the left of the results. Search for books on your topic by keyword. String multiple keywords together with the word “and,” as in some of the examples below:

  • climate change and oceans
  • ecology and agriculture
  • bacteria
  • chromosome
  • invertebrates
  • mutation

To find the best articles for your class, use the databases listed in the “Articles” section of this guide.


Articles from periodicals (journals, magazines, and newspapers) often provide current information on a topic.
To find articles on your topic, search through the library’s databases or some of the freely available resources listed below.

Library Databases

When accessing these resources off campus, you’ll be prompted for your pipeline username and password:

  • Academic Search Complete: A great starting point for research on any topic. Provides full text for more than 8,500 periodicals (magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals), including full text for nearly 7,300 peer-reviewed titles, in all subject areas. The database includes PDF content going back as far as 1887. Searchable cited references are provided for more than 1,400 journals.
  • JSTOR: Provides access to the full text of hundreds of scholarly journals from the first volume up until five years ago. Our library subscribes to the Arts and Sciences II and II and Life Sciences collections.
  • MEDLINE: This resource “offers journal citations and abstracts in medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and the health care system, and the pre-clinical sciences.”
  • CINAHL: “An authoritative resource for nursing and allied health professionals, students, educators and researchers.”

Freely Available Resources

Online scientific journals and articles can also be found through these non-subscription resources:

Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary Loan is a free service for students. Students can request copies of articles or borrow books from another library. Students are advised to request loans early in the research process as loans can take three to ten days.

Evaluating Websites

Figuring out whether the information you find online is credible enough for college research can be challenging. Use the P.R.O.V.E.N. Source Evaluation Questions to help you determine whether the sources you find are credible:

  • Purpose: How and why the source was created. Is it intended to educate, inform, persuade, sell, or entertain? Do the authors, publishers, or sponsors state this purpose, or try to disguise it? Why was this information published in this particular type of source (book, article, website, blog, etc.)? Is the source designed for the general public, students, or experts?
  • Relevance: The value of the source for your needs. Does the type of source meet your assignment’s requirements? Does the information answer your question, support your argument, or add something to your knowledge of the topic? Is it too general or too specific? Is it too basic or too advanced?
  • Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information. Do the authors present the information thoroughly and professionally? Is it fact or opinion? Is it biased? Do the authors use strong, emotional, manipulative, or offensive language? Do they leave out, or make fun of, important facts or alternative perspectives?
  • Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information. Do the authors support the information they present with strong factual evidence? Do they cite or provide links to other sources? What do experts say about the topic? Can you verify the information in other credible sources? Does the source contradict itself, include false statements, or misrepresent other sources?
  • Expertise: The authority of the creators of the source. What makes the authors, publishers, or sponsors of the source authorities on the topic? Do they have related education, experience, or other expertise? Do they provide an important alternative perspective? Has the source been reviewed in some way, such as by an editor or through peer review?
  • Newness: The age of the information. Is your topic in an area that requires current information (such as science, technology, or current events), or could information found in older sources still be useful? When was the information presented in the source first published or posted? Are newer sources available that would add important information to your understanding of the topic?

Sources of Academic Websites

Recommended Websites

  • This site offers access to “200 million pages of authoritative U.S. government science information including research and development results.”
  • World Wide Science: “A global science gateway comprised of national and international scientific databases and portals.”

How to Cite

Many biology professors ask that students use APA citation style for research assignments. Check with your professor to confirm which citation style he or she requires.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab provides great guidance for proper APA citation. Use the specific links below to read more about how to cite different types of resources in APA format: