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BIOLOGY 460/560: Population Biology

Selected library & information resources for this class.

Google Doc

We'll use this Google Doc during the library instruction session. Open the doc by clicking on the link below and find your name. You will complete 'your row' with your responses to the prompts at the top of the columns.


Begin your search

A good research strategy is to begin looking at secondary sources to gain an overview of the subject in question, locating references to other secondary and primary literature that are included in the bibliographies of the secondary sources.

Then you can proceed to the primary literature, using the bibliographies of these papers as well.

Goals for this session

By the end of the session you'll be able to

  • Begin your literature review on a topic pertaining to population biology
  • Select and search different library databases suitable to your topic
  • Find and locate peer-reviewed, scientific journal articles and background information on your topic

When to use Primary and Secondary Literature


  • Most science course assignments, which expect you to base your work on primary scientific literature. Read these original sources of information.
  • Do NOT refer to a study that you read ABOUT in a primary source, only those that you read yourself. You should make all efforts to read the additional study itself.


  • Gaining a broad perspective on a topic or a synthesis of ideas about a topic and to find a bibliography of relevant sources.
  • Secondary literature can be used in addition to primary literature, but not in place of it. For instance, if you are reading a review article which refers to information in a primary research article, you should find that primary article and read it yourself.

Defining 'literature review'

A literature review is a comprehensive summary of previous research on a topic. The literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, and other sources relevant to a particular area of research. The review should enumerate, describe, summarize, objectively evaluate and clarify this previous research. The literature review acknowledges the work of previous researchers, and in so doing, assures the reader that your work has been well conceived.  It is assumed that by mentioning a previous work in the field of study, that the author has read, evaluated, and assimiliated that work into the work at hand.

 "In writing the literature review, the purpose is to convey to the reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries.

Possible Formats of the Literature

Scientific literature may be available in a variety of physical formats:

  • books or journal articles
  • electronic documents
  • web sites
  • reports
  • meeting abstracts
  • government documents
  • personal communications, etc.

In your scientific research you should consult a variety of these formats.

Credits & Acknowledgments

This page is based on a guide created by Elizabeth Graboski, MLIS Intern. Content is based on a library guide "Biocite" by Sara Penhale, Science Librarian at the Wildman Library, Earlham University.

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