BIO 302 - Plant Biology

by TIMMS_GP — last modified 2017-07-10T13:29:41-04:00

Hi there! I'm Gail Morton, your Subject Librarian for Biology and Botany. This guide will help you find quality information sources for your Literature Research Review Paper in plant biology. You'll be using online databases and journals to find primary scholarly research in your chosen research area.

Getting Started - The difference between primary and review articles

Primary Research Article
Primary research is the cutting edge of the expansion of knowledge. It involves direct controlled experimentation and observation to prove or disprove hypotheses. In writing and publishing primary research articles, scientists describe in detail what they did (and why), present their observations, and discuss their findings. An example of a primary research article is Characterization of Viruses Infecting Potato Plants from a Single Location in Shetland, an Isolated Scottish Archipelago. Characteristics to look for are:

  • Declaration of intent or purpose is to measure/observe/study
  • Methods used to engage in research are described
  • Observations/Results are presented
  • Discussion/Conclusions drawn are offered
  • Note that a primary article may have a literature review at the beginning, but it doesn't compare in scope to that of a review article

Research Review Paper/Article
Review articles are published to update the scientific community on recent research undertaken in a particular area of interest by various researchers. A review paper synthesizes, analyzes, interprets, and discusses the numerous primary research findings of other scientists. An example of a review article is Control of blackleg and tuber soft rot of potato caused by Pectobacterium and Dickeya species: a review. Characteristics to look for are:

  • Often longer than primary research articles
  • Declaration of intent or purpose is to review/summarize
  • Lack of Methods or Results Obtained sections
  • Includes a significant number of citations throughout the text

Your research for your term paper will require the use of one or more online databases. These resources will help you to find authoritative and reliable sources of information.

Web of Science (Web of Knowledge/Thomson Reuters)
Web of Science is probably the best place for you to start your research, because it will help you discover articles in the most prestigious scientific journals. While there's no full text directly available here, there are links to help you find full text and/or request articles through Interlibrary Loan. Note that you can limit your search to specific article types (including review articles), date ranges, languages, etc. using the menu on the left once you have submitted your initial search.

Academic Search Complete (EBSCO)
This multi-disciplinary full-text database is quite strong in biology topics and includes many full-text articles. Not everything here is full text, but there is a lot. To ensure quality scholarly articles, limit your search by selecting the Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals check box on the search page. Beware limiting your search to a 'review' because you may wind up with book reviews.

ScienceDirect (Elsevier)
Citations and some full text to high quality science journals published by Elsevier.
Access Alert! The key to knowing if you have access to a particular article is to note the small 'piece of paper' indicator next to each citation. If it's green, you're in business; if it's white you'll need to request it by Interlibrary Loan.

SpringerLink is the platform for accessing online journals and books published by Springer.
Access Alert! The absence of a padlock symbol means that full text is available.

Wiley Online Library
Wiley Online Library is a multi-disciplinary database that includes full-text journal articles and some full-text reference sources published by Wiley.
Access Alert! An open padlock symbol by an article title means that full text is available.

Contains back issues of scholarly journals in many disciplines. Strong biology coverage, but very little current content. Particularly useful for locating older material and studying the development of scientific knowledge and classification of species.

Search Strategies
  1. Use wildcards to account for varied word endings, e.g.
    • Initiat* accounts for initiate, initiating, initiation, initiator, initiators.
    • Regulat* accounts for regulate, regulation, regulator, regulators, regulatory.
    • If you go too far up the word stem with a wildcard you will get more irrelevant hits, for example reg* will capture regulate and regulation and regulator etc. but would also capture regime and region and register, etc., so we must pay close attention.
  2. Use 'AND' to incorporate essential concepts, e.g. "Lateral root" AND develop* AND hormon* - You're requiring that all of the words must appear in your results. It will reduce the number of results but increase the relevance.
  3. Use synonyms or similar words/concepts with 'OR' between them, e.g. develop* OR initiat* OR regulat* OR mechanism* OR control*
    - You're essentially saying, "any of these words are acceptable in my results." This is particularly helpful when you are looking to increase the number of results.
  4. Sometimes a query combines all of these and can be quite substantial: "Lateral root" AND (mechanism* OR initiat* OR regulat* OR develop* OR control*) AND (hormon* OR auxin)
Getting the Full Text Article

Many articles are available in full text through our databases. Sometimes, however, a database will provide only citation information (article title, author, journal title, volume no., issue no., and page numbers) for the article that you'd like to read. If you are not sure about the components of a citation, check out the Anatomy of a Journal Citation guide.

Quick 'n Easy, 1-2-3:

If you're in a database and you've found a citation with no full text, look for the Find Full Text icon or link which will use our Link Resolver to speedily perform a search of all our electronic holdings for that article in full text.


1. If full text is available, you'll see a link to the place where it can be accessed:

FT Link

 2. Otherwise, you'll need to try the 'Search the Online Catalog' link to search our print inventory in the library catalog.

3. If we have no access to your article at Mercer, you can use the Interlibrary Loan link (which only shows when there is no online coverage available) to request that we order it. You must check both online and print coverage before requesting Interlibrary loan, because we won't order something we already have. The Interlibrary Loan form requires that you log in, but after that, most of it will be automatically completed for you.

Quickish and Almost Easy 1-2-3:

If you don't see a 'Find Full Text' link or if your citation is not in one of our databases, and you need to find the full text article:

1. Check for online access to the journal containing your article using the A-Z e-Journal Locator (e-Journals link on the Library Home Page)
The A-Z e-Journal Locator is a searchable, alphabetical listing of all the e-journals that are provided in full text. You will need the citation information (article title, author, journal title, volume no., issue no., page numbers). Search the A-Z e-Journal Locator by journal title (not the article title) and pay close attention to the coverage dates of the access points provided. Then navigate to the appropriate year/volume, issue, and page number if we have access.

2. Check the library catalog by the title of the journal (e.g. Annual review of microbiology, Perspectives in biology and medicine...).
If the library has the periodical, the catalog will give you information about the dates, volumes, and issues that are available. Do a Journal Title search for the journal title. Journals are shelved alphabetically by title and then chronologically on the first floor of the library.

3. Request a copy from another library
If the library does not have the article (or book) you need and it is not available in full text, we will borrow it from another library for you. Use the Interlibrary Loan service. Ensure that you have completed steps 1 and 2 before requesting ILL - We will not order articles to which we already have access.

Ask a librarian
If you need any help at all, ask for the duty librarian at the Circulation Desk or use the online Ask Us service. Reference Librarians will be happy to assist you in finding the best way to find and retrieve a periodical article. For more in-depth help, schedule a research consultation. I'm at your service.

Select Botany e-Journals

Annual Review of Plant Biology

The Plant Cell

Plant Physiology

Trends in Plant Science

For more titles, browse e-Journals covering Botany at EBSCO A-Z e-Journal Finder.


Citations and Style