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BIOL 211 Introduction to Organismal and Population Biology Mustard

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BIOL 211 Mustard Background Research

When you first start your research, you'll start out finding background information.  Jot down any helpful terms that you can later use in the library databases to find scholarly articles.

Your first step will be to identify the plant species you will want to research. Try doing a Google search for things like "plant adaptations", "plant biomes", "plant evolution".


Books are also a great source of background information. Search the Library Catalog to find background information on your topic. Use the "Discovery Search" to look for electronic items, or limit to "Books & More" to see what we have here at CSUSM.


The following e-books might be useful for your background research:


Search Tip: Limit to "Title" to find a particular magazine/book, such as "Scientific American" or "National Geographic".


Presentation from 9/23/14 class:


Finding Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

BIOL 211 Mustard Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Understanding journal articles

Research literature terminology



Terminology review

(or 'scholarly journal' or 'academic journal' or  'professional journal')

The main mode of communication by professionals in a field; this regular publication provides the venue where researches share research, perspectives, and other scholarly communication.

Published every week, month, or every few months like a normal magazine.

Electronic journal
A journal that happens to be 'published' online. There is no difference between a journal that is published in print (like a normal magazine) and a journal that is published online.

The process by which original research submitted for publication in a journal is reviewed by other experts (peers) in a particular field. Research is checked by these other experts for data quality, methodology, and if the research is a unique contribution to knowledge in a particular field.

Peer-reviewed journal article 
A journal article that has undergone peer-review.

Primary literature 
(or 'professional literature' or 'research literature' or 'empirical study')

Another way to describe journal articles that provide the actual data collected, how it was collected, and data analysis.

Literature review
(or  'reviews' or 'introduction' or 'background')

A scientific article or "literature review" summarizing research or data, such as in Annual Review of Genetics,or Bioglogical Review

When it is part of a research article, the literature review will also discuss how the research that is to be discussed helps to provide further knowledge on the subject.

Articles that are entirely literature reviews are especially useful when you don't know much about an topic, because they summarize what is known and not known.

Finding Articles

Search Strategies

Information is messy and often hard to find because there are many tools and formats to deal with.  When searching databases, the library catalog and the open web (Google), it helps to know some tricks to improve your results. You want relevant results and less of them! Start with Advanced Search so you get more options.

  1. Breaking your terms into concepts/keywords
  2. Use truncation (word variants) - put a star after you terms (sex* gives you sex, sexes, sexual, etc.)
  3. Use boolean operators (and, or, not)
  4. Do a title search
  5. Use phrase searching (with quotations)

Research Databases

For your research paper, you'll be expected to find information sources, or evidence, that supports your claims. This evidence will be published in periodicals - news, magazine, and academic or scholarly journals. These articles are found in databases.  Databases can have BOTH scholarly and non-scholarly articles. 

List of Biology Databases at CSUSM - Particularly helpful may be Biological Abstracts, Web of Science, Google Scholar, and Science Direct.

Search Tip: Look for the "Get it! At CSUSM" links to access the full text article or to request an interlibrary loan.


CSE Citation Style (General)

What is CSE Style?

Each discipline uses a different citation style. In Biology, the most commonly used style is CSE. For this class, you will use the citation-sequence format of CSE. In this format, citations are listed at the end of the paper, in the order in which they appear in the text.

Need help? Watch this tutorial on how to cite in CSE. 

CSE Manual at CSUSM Library

The most current version (eighth edition) of Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers was published in 2014.

Library copy (T11 .S386 2014)
The CSUSM Library owns a copy of the official CSE manual that you can consult in person.

CSUSM Quick Guide to CSE Style
A concise CSE style guide with examples, based directly on the manual.

CSE Tips

CSE uses journal title abbreviations:

A couple of examples:

Journal Article

Author AA, Author BB. Article title. Journal Abbrev. Year;volume(issues):pages. URL (if any). doi (if any).

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Author AA. Article title. Newspaper Title. Year Mo Date. URL.


Author AA, Author BB. Title of homepage/website. Place of publication: Publisher; Date of publication [dated updated; date accessed]. URL.

Not sure how to write your citations?

Get started with this flow chart created by CSUSM librarians. 

How to Write a Citation: a flowchart

Outside Resources

These non-CSUSM resources may provide you with additional help and examples.

Need Help?

Denise Kane

Instruction and Reference Librarian
Office Location: 
KEL 5010
Office Hours: 
By Appointment

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