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The Importance of Books

Using books for biology research

  • Generally, for research in the sciences, it is important to find the most current material available.
  • Reference books can provide excellent short overviews of topics. Many reference books are available in online versions. 
  • Books are good sources for biographical or historical explorations of a person or topic. 
  • Books may also be good introductions or overviews to current topics in biology as well, but keep in mind that publishing a book takes a while so books may not cover the absolutely most recent developments on a topic. 

Do I have to read the whole book? No, not necessarily.

  • Use the table of contents and the index to find where in a book information about your topic is located.
  • The introduction to a book may be a good place to find background information on the topic the book is about.
  • You should read enough of a book or chapter to understand what an author is saying and quote her correctly.
  • Sometimes chapters in books are complete works written by different authors, making them ideal for research.

Keyword Searching

You can begin a keyword search by simply entering terms which are related to your topic connected with the word "AND." 

  • For example, to find books about diseases caused by e. coli, simply enter the search string "escherichia coli AND disease."
  • To broaden your search you might truncate a search term: "bacteri* AND infect*." 
  • The asterisk (*) truncates a term and will retrieve words that start with the indicated letters and have any ending up to 5 more letters. For example, bacteri* will retrieve results which may include bacteria, bacterium, bacterial, etc. and infect* may include infect, infected, infection, infectious, etc.

Keyword searching is a strategy which may require repeated attempts before arriving at useful results. If you are finding that you aren't having much success at selecting keywords, you might Ask-a-Librarian for help.

Search the STLCC Library Catalog


Subject searching

Library of Congress Subject Headings are terms which librarians use to describe the subject contents of books. Since librarians agree to use the same terms, once you learn an official subject heading you can use it in many different library catalogs. Sometimes subject headings can be difficult to guess because they are technical or formal terms for a topic. You may need to Ask-a-Librarian to find appropriate subject headings for your topic.

Below are some useful general subject headings in the field of biology. Each of these has extensive sub-headings

Please note that these are only a very small selection of subject headings. It is very useful to learn how to use subject headings. For a complete list, see the Library of Congress Subject Headings book. Ask a librarian to show you how to use it.

Hot tip: Results from your keyword searches may also help you identify appropriate Library of Congress Subject Headings. Look at the complete record of a book which is useful for your topic to find its subject headings. You can then use these headings to search your topic in the STLCC Catalog more efficiently.  Again, Ask-a-Librarian for help with subject searching if you are having difficulty.

Keyword vs. Subject Searching

Keyword searching and Subject searching each have their strengths. Keyword searching allows one to begin a search without knowledge of official Library of Congress subject headings. Also, when keywords are combined with the word "AND," different concepts can be linked to narrow ones search.

Subject heading searching, though, can be more targeted and precise once one comes to learn what the subject headings are in a field. This is especially useful in large catalogs such as MOBIUS, where keyword searches can often produce lengthy results lists with a quite a few false hits.

NOTE: Since generally the more current information you can find the better,remember to apply "date" limits on Keyword searches or "Limit/Sort" and then "Sort results by year" options for Subject searches. These features are located at the top of your results screens.

St. Louis Community College Libraries

Florissant Valley Campus Library
3400 Pershall Rd.
Ferguson, MO 63135-1408
Phone: 314-513-4514

Forest Park Campus Library
5600 Oakland
St. Louis, MO 63110-1316
Phone: 314-644-9210

Meramec Campus Library
11333 Big Bend Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-5720
Phone: 314-984-7797

Wildwood Campus Library
2645 Generations Drive
Wildwood, MO 63040-1168
Phone: 636-422-2000