BIOL 103: Introduction to Botany (Bodas)


Find Background Information in Reference & Science Databases

Holman Library Databases

Databases are specialized library search tools that find info not generally available on the internet!

  • Start with your broad topic area (example: ethnobotany, forest conservation, plants AND biodiversity, ..etc.

I suggest starting with the academic reference database Gale Virtual Reference Library/ Gale eBooks.

Gale Virtual Reference Library/ Gale eBooks
Sample Search 1:

A search in GVRL of the keyword ethnobotany returned 44 academic encyclopedia articles.

How do you know which articles to read? Check:

  1. The article title - is it relevant?
  2. The encyclopedia title - is it a perspective you can use? Ex: an environmental encyclopedia is useful; a biographical one probably is not.
  3. The date - is it current enough? Scientific knowledge changes, though keep in mind that encyclopedias tend to be older than current news sources. That gives them perspective, which means academic encyclopedias try to publish established knowledge on a subject.
  4. Click on the title to open the article. Skim through it. Is it on topic? Does it offer a useful definition and discussion of the issues?

In our sample search, the second article looks useful because:

  • it opens with a definition and overview of ethnobotany
  • it provides me with keywords I can use to find additional information. For example: ethnobotany AND indigenous cultures.

CQ Researcher Reports

Search the library database CQ Researcher for researched reports by writers on current topics in the news, including botany.

  • Note: Your topic may be part of a larger article. For example, CQ's article on biodiversity talks about both plant and animal biodiversity.
  • Also note: CQ Researcher goes all the way back to the 1920s! Make sure to use info that is current enough!
How to find relevant sources in CQ Researcher: 
  • Search by keyword in the search box OR
  • Explore topics by clicking on either Browse Topics or Browse Reports.
    • Browse Topics is organized by larger topics first (like technology). Drill down to reports that sound relevant.
    • Browse Reports is a long alphanetical list of reports.
What's in a CQ Researcher Report? 

CQ Reports provide:

  • An introduction and overview to a topic
  • History of the topic and a timeline of events
  • Info on key issues, stakeholders, and concepts
  • Different points of view on the topic, including a mini debate on a question related to the topic
  • Lots of leads to more resources, including organizations working on that topic and references to useful sourcse of information

Science Databases in Holman Library

Science Databases have a range of source types. 

  1. To get started on your project, choose reference sources. 
  2. DIg deeper with news media (magazines, newspapers, audio, and some video
  3. Read research reports and studies in academic journals (aka peer reviewed or scholarly journals) once you know something about your topic and your specific focus.

Why Start with Reference?

Use Background Info as a Starting Point

Academic encyclopedias or reference books provide an overview of your topic and help you understand...

  • definitions of your topic and key concepts in the field
  • what the key issues are
  • who is impacted by or involved in this topic
  • context and historical perspective on your topic
  • specialized vocabulary of the field - which you may use as search terms and in your essay or presentation