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UC Berkeley’s library buildings are open. Here’s what you need to know.

Bridges to Baccalaureate Summer Research Program: Starting Library Research

Welcome to the Library Session for UC Berkeley Bridges to Baccalaureate Summer Research Program

Dinosaur in VLSB; click for library home page

Presented by Michael Sholinbeck (

The Scientific Literature: Books, Handbooks and Protocols, Articles

The numerous science libraries on campus, we have many information sources in different formats to help you in your research. Let’s review these.

When a topic is new to you and you need an overview of the topic, encyclopediae and textbooks are great at giving an overview or introduction.

For more detailed exploration of a topic, books provide the focus you want.

For lab research, handbooks and lab protocols provide information on the materials and procedures for experimental work.

All of these materials can be found at Berkeley by searching our library catalog, OskiCat. You’ll find which library owns the item and whether it is available for borrowing, or available online.

The next format type is journals. They report on the findings of current research studies, offering the most up-to-date and detailed information on a topic.
A single journal issue will have many articles, and each article is devoted to a research study. There is a standard pattern in how journal articles are written, and knowing this pattern will help you find the information you need:

  • An article’s introduction explains the context of the work and the importance of the research
  • The materials and/or methods section describes the experimental procedures
  • The results report on the data and the outcomes of the work
  • The discussion section interprets the results, whereby the authors explain the meaning and the implications of the research
  • Lastly, there are references to the scholarly works (other articles, etc.) used by the authors

Finally, databases are what you use to find journal articles. Databases let you search across many (often millions) of journal articles to find the papers relevant to your research topic. See the "Finding Articles and More" tab at the top.

About Your Topic

What to consider when thinking about your research topic
Much current research in biology, chemistry, engineering, etc. is interdisciplinary.

Examples of interdisciplinary research with contributions from UCB scientists:
  » Rapid metabolic pathway assembly and modification using serine integrase site-specific recombination (Biology and Engineering)
  » Galvanotactic control of collective cell migration in epithelial monolayers (Biology and Engineering) 
  » Transcription factors IIS and IIF enhance transcription efficiency by differentially modifying RNA polymerase pausing dynamics (Biology and Physics)
  » DNA interrogation by the CRISPR RNA-guided endonuclease Cas9 (Chemistry and Biology)

Is your topic researchable?
  » Growth and development of viruses
  » Growth and development of DNA viruses
  » Growth and development of Adenoviridae
  » Growth and development of Adenoviridae in outer space

Let's talk about indexing!
  » Do you want articles on HIV (a virus) or articles on HIV diseases?
  » Do you want articles on nanofibers or articles on nanofibres?
  » Is lead a noun or a verb?
  » Does electrophysiology describe the effects of electricity on living organisms, or is it what electrophysiologists do?

  » Indexing means a controlled vocabulary (a finite list of terms) is used to assign subject terms to articles.
  » Controlled vocabulary schemes are often hierarchical; any given term will have broader and (possibly) narrower terms.
    eg, Viruses > DNA Viruses > Adenoviridae > Aviadenovirus
  » Subject terms tend to have a single, unambiguous definition.
    eg, Aviadenovirus = a genus of Adenoviridae that infects birds
  » Subject terms may also be called thesaurus terms, descriptors, or (in PubMed) Medical Subject Headings (MeSH).