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Science: Biology

An overview of resources to get you started in studying or researching science topics.

Reference Sources


"Biology is not just the science of what we are and what we came to be -- it is also  the science of what we can become."

— Steve Olson, American science writer

Biology, meaning "the study of life," is just that -- it is the study of living things as well as how the organism (human, plant, animal, microbe, etc.) comes into being and thrives upon the earth with its diverse climates, terrains, etc. The more we know about biology and its different sub-discliplines, the better we will be at taking care of the living organisms around us, including those that nourish us, those that provide live-giving oxygen, and those that provide joy and beauty in our lives.

Search tips

1) Start with an overview for your topic.  For example, you can start with an encyclopedia such as Credo Reference or Gale Virtual Reference Library (see list of BPL resources below) to get a basic idea of what your topic is all about.

2) Once you have a general idea of what your topic is about, you can narrow your topic down by subcategory, such as "Botany" or "Zoology" under "Biology."

3) Search for more information on your topic, using journal article databases, government websites, organization websites, etc.  A good place to start is the Science in Context database which includes reference resources, experiments, statistics, magazine and academic journal articles, news articles, maps, multimedia,and external websites.

Different types of information that you can look for include:

  • Overview -- General description or outline of a topic
  • Statistics -- Collection of quantitative data
  • Evidence -- A visible sign of a phenomenon ; something which demonstrates that a phenomenon or theory exists or is true
  • Guides -- "How-to" instructions or an outline of how to do something
  • News Articles -- Article from a newspaper or other news source; good source of current and local information and can be considered a primary source
  • Blogs -- Website on which someone writes about personal opinions, activities, and experiences
  • Journal Articles -- Article from a magazine or academic journal
  • Multimedia -- Videos, photographs, or audio resources
  • Reports -- Official documents from the government or other institution that give information about a particular subject
  • Interviews -- Reporting of meetings at which information is obtained from a person

For more information on conducting research on a topic, see from Case Western Reserve University.


Online Biology Resources

These links provide access to government and other reports, statistics,  and current developments for high school and college students as well as anyone interested in biology and biology-related fields.


BioMap of Massachusetts
Includes maps that show core habitats and critical areas for conservation in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife
Includes information on living with wildlife, rare plant conservation, wildlife diseases, and facts about wildlife in Massachusetts.  Also includes maps and information about wildlife viewing.


Biodiversity Heritage Library  "The Biodiversity Heritage Library improves research methodology by collaboratively making biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community."

National Wetlands Inventory
Includes wetland maps and geospatial wetland data for the United States.

Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health
Information on invasive plants, insects, mammals and other forms of life.  Includes maps, videos, and information on how to control invasive species.
Includes research and development, technical reports, journal citations, databases, federal websites, and fact sheets.

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Provides information on farming and organic farming, and community gardening as well as food safety and nutrition.

U.S. Department of the Interior
"The U.S. Department of the Interior protects America’s natural resources and supplies the energy to power our future."

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS)
Includes information about endangered species, fisheries, wetlands, and waterfowl.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
The WHOI is an oceanographic research institution and a global leader in the study and exploration of the ocean.

National Science Foundation
Provides access to research, discoveries, and news in biology.

Massachusetts Invasive Plant Information
Information on invasive plants from the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions

Invasive Species in the United States
Information from the National Agricultural Library
Human evolution research site from the Smithsonian Institute



Resources at the Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library provides access to indexes and full-text articles through the Electronic Resources page (  Many of these resources are available off-site to residents of Massachusetts.  Suggested databases are listed below: 

The catalog for the Boston Public Library is available at

Suggested subject headings:


For assistance with searching and locating items held by the Boston Public Library and other libraries in the Metro Boston Library Network, see