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Biology Research Guide

A research guide to introduce you to the field of Biology. You'll find the materials, search tools, and other resources you need to start your research. If you need any assistance, please contact your librarian.

Subject-Specific Databases

Pick a subject-specific database from the list below to search only literature in a particular field of study. This is a great way to get more focused results.

Interdisciplinary Databases

Pick an interdisciplinary database from the list below to search across multiple subjects and disciplines. This is a great way to get the broadest possible pool of results.

Alternative Academic Databases & Journals

Modern scholarship in the sciences takes many forms, with journals that can include dynamic data representations, streaming media and open access to full text. Below are some important sources of alternative academic literature in the Biological sciences.

Advanced Search Tools for PubMed: MeSH

Boolean Logic and Other Search Tools for Better Searching

Boolean Operators infographic

Imace (c) CC BY Nicole Gustavsen, 

You can use Boolean logic as part of your search strategy to easily scope your searching to bring back more relevant results. The AND operator is used to narrow results, while the OR operator is used to expand them. You can also use the NOT operator to exclude particular search terms from a pool of results. Other tools include quote search (search for a phrase "in quotes" to find that exact phrase), and wildcard (search for all possible endings of a word at once using the asterisk: wild* brings back wilds, wildcard, wilderness, wildland, etc).

How to Read Scholarly Materials

"The hourglass information structure" (general to specific, then back to general) from "How to Read a Book" by Paul N. Edwards

Image from "How to Read a Book" by Paul N. Edwards.

Getting Started with RefWorks

1. Go to (or click the RefWorks link on the Foley homepage and choose the new, blue version of RefWorks if you are asked).

2. Click Create Account. (Note: even if you already have an account with the old version of RefWorks, you will still need to create a new account in the new version. Once you have done so you can import all your citations from the old version to the new. Click here for instructions.)

Picture of Create Account Button

3. Enter your Gonzaga email address. RefWorks will see that you are part of the Gonzaga community and grant you access.

Picture of entering a Gonzaga email address

4. Choose a password to use along with your email for logging in, and click Sign Up.

Picture of RefWorks asking for a password to be created

5. Congratulations, you have a new RefWorks account!

Now that you have a RefWorks account, you need to add some citations to it! 

1. Make sure you are logged in to your RefWorks account.

2. Find an article in one of Foley's databases. I'm using Academic Search Complete, an EBSCO database. (Other databases will look a little different but operate much the same way.)

3. When you have found an article in the database that you would like to keep track of in RefWorks, click on the Export link on the right side of the Detailed Record. (In other databases it might be called Save or something else). That link takes you to the Export Manager where RefWorks is the default for Foley Center Library databases.

Picture of the Export button in an EBSCO database

4. Click Save to send the citation to RefWorks, where it appears in Last Imported and in All Documents.

Picture of a document in the Last Imported folder in RefWorks

Now RefWorks has all the information you need to cite that article!

(Note: the majority of our databases can directly export citation information to your RefWorks account. For some of the trickier databases to use with RefWorks, see the separate sections for them below.)

Not working? Try these steps:

1. Make sure your browser isn't blocking popups from the database. Check the upper right corner of the browser screen for an icon or text indicating that popups are being blocked. Below is how it looks in Chrome (as of this writing, anyway); it might look a little different in your browser. Tell the browser to allow popups for the database.

2. Use the "Save to RefWorks" bookmarklet. Instead of the database sending the info to RefWorks, using this bookmarklet means that RefWorks reaches into the database and tries to grab the info instead. It works really well! Instructions for using it are in the first tab in the "Advanced Refworks Tecniques" section below.

3. If all else fails, look for an option in the database to export in RIS format. This will download a tiny little file to your computer. Upload that file to RefWorks (see the screenshot below) and your citation will magically appear!

If you want to cite something you did not find in a database (like a book, or a PDF found elsewhere), you can manually enter the citation information into RefWorks. 

1. Click the + botton and choose Create New Reference. 

Picture of the Create New Reference option

A panel will appear on the right side of the screen. 

2. Select the source type (book, journal article, etc) from the drop down menu. 

3. Enter the title into the Title field.

4a. As a shortcut, once you have entered the title, click the lightning-looking button on the right (see the screenshot below). This will look through Summon, Proquest's metadata database (try saying that three times fast) to try to find a match. If it finds one, just click it in the list that appears at bottom, and it will fill in all the rest of the citation information.

Picture explaining the steps: 1. Select type of source, 2. type the title, 3. Click the lightning bolt button to search for the info, and 4. Select the matching title from the list

4b. Or just finish filling the fields out manually.

5. Click Save at the top to save the citation.

Once you have several citations in your RefWorks account, it can be useful to organize them into folders.

1. RefWorks folders are listed in the left sidebar. Click + Add a Folder to add and name a new folder.

Picture of the Add a Folder button and the field for naming your folder

2. To add citations to your new folder, just go to All Documents, Last Imported, or Not in Folder, click on the citation you want to add, and drag it to the folder.

Picture of dragging a document from the Last Imported list to a folder in the sidebar

That's it!

Once you have organized your citations into a folder, you can use that folder to generate a formatted bibliography.

1. Click on the RefWorks folder you want to use to generate your bibliography

2. If you want to use every reference in this folder for your bibliography, go on to the next step. If you want to use specific references, click the checkbox next to each reference you want to use.

3. Click on and choose Create Bibliography.

Picture of selecting the Create Bibliography option

4. Choose your citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc) from the dropdown menu at the top, and watch as your bibliography is automatically changed to match. When you are happy, click Copy to Clipboard.

Picture of choosing a citation style and copying the citations to the clipboard

Then just go to Microsoft Word (or wherever you are writing your paper) and paste the bibliography in! This is what a bibliography looks like when it has been generated as a Word document in APA. That sure saved a lot of work! For more cool things you can do with RefWorks and Word, check out the Write-N-Cite page in this guide. 

Picture of the citations pasted into a Word document

(Sharp eyes might notice a mistake or two in this bibliography. See Always Proofread RefWorks for the reason for this.)

Common Errors in RefWorks’ Bibliographies

or. . . why proofreading is essential!

RefWorks can save you a ton of time because it's much faster than a human at creating bibliographies. Unfortunately, though, it's not nearly as smart as a human. So it's up to you to check its work!

Bibliography Example

Kim, D., Fisher, D, & McCalman, D. (2009). Modernism, christianity, and business ethics: A worldview perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 90(1), 115-121. doi:
Here’s a cool Bob Marley quote.  "Although the road has been long and bumpy, it sure feels good to me". 

What's Wrong?

RefWorks does not recognize proper nouns. This is such a common error that you will probably find at least one when you proofread your own bibliography. Luckily, it’s an easy fix.

Bibliography Example

Andersson, L. M., & Pearson, C. M. (1999). Tit for tat? The spiraling effect of incivility in the workplace. The Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 452-471. Retrieved from
In this article we introduce the concept of workplace incivility and explain how incivility can potentially spiral into increasingly intense aggressive behaviors. To gain an understanding of the mechanisms that underlie an "incivility spiral," we examine what happens at key points: the starting and tipping points. Furthermore, we describe several factors that can facilitate the occurrence and escalation of an incivility spiral and the secondary spirals that can result.

What's Wrong?

This is the abstract from the database. If you are required to annotate your bibliography, you will need to replace this with your own annotation.

Bibliography Example

CHRISTIAN, K., ENGEL, A. M., & SMITH, J. M. (2011). Predictors and outcomes of prolonged ventilation after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. American Surgeon, 77(7), 942-947. 
I like watching Gonzaga basketball, but I prefer reruns of nerdy TV shows

What's Wrong?

Author's names are in ALL CAPS. Some databases put authors or titles in all caps. You can fix this as you proofread your bibliography. To permanently correct it, edit the record in RefWorks.

Bibliography Example

Haldeman, J. (2011). The learning organization: From dysfunction to grace. Journal of Management & Marketing Research, 9, 1-9. Retrieved from
Dysfunctional school administration or bosses who are bullies are interesting topics; not pleasant to think about, but interesting.

What's Wrong?

This is an APA-style citation, and “retrieved from” and the accompanying URL aren’t required in APA citations. As stated on the Purdue OWL website: “ information in citations is not necessary because databases change over time.” It's important to know the rules for your particular citation style.

Bibliography Example

Johnson, C. E. (2007). Ethics in the workplace: Tools and tactics for organizational transformation. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Retrieved from; Materials specified: Table of contents; Materials specified: Table of contents; Materials specified: Table of contents; Materials specified: Contributor biographical information; Materials specified: Publisher description
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?  Sally sells sea shells by a pack of pickled peppers.  Eleven benevolent elephants were telling tales of tongue twisters

What's Wrong?

Do NOT include the table of contents!  This is a book citation exported from WorldCat. Something in the WorldCat export file often causes extra information to show up in your RefWorks bibliography. This is very useful information in WorldCat, but it does not belong in an APA bibliography! If something like this shows up in your bibliography, delete it!


These video tutorials will walk you through the main features and capabilities of RefWorks.

1. Creating a RefWorks Account


2. Adding References to RefWorks


3. Using RefWorks to Organize and Cite Your Research


4. Using RefWorks with Microsoft Word
5. Add content to folders


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