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Biology Resources Guide: Get Started

Recommended academic resources for Valpo's biology students

Off-Campus Access

You can gain off-campus access to the electronic resources (also called databases or journal collections) by clicking on the name of the database you’d like to access, and then logging in using your Valpo e-mail username and password.

If you have problems with this service, contact IT at 464-5678.

Evaluating Websites

Search engines like Google find web sites of all levels of quality.

These web sites were chosen by your librarian based on the following criteria. Keep these things in mind when deciding if a web page is reliable and appropriate for your research.

  • credible authorship
  • objectivity
  • accuracy
  • recent updates
  • educational purpose

Always check with your instructor to find out if you can use free (non-Library) web sites for your assignments. And if looking for journal articles, library databases are the most efficient tool for searching. See the green Find Articles tab above.

Doing Research and Literature Reviews

Help with Reading Scientific and Technology Research

Library Terminology A-Z

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


A brief summary of the essential points of a book, pamphlet, report, or article. An abstract is helpful in determining whether or not the document will be useful in your research.

Usually published yearly, almanacs contain useful data and statistics about specific countries or subjects.

University Archivespreserves the historical records of Valparaiso University. It is located on the third floor of the Christopher Center.


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A list of citations of books, articles, and other materials compiled on a specific topic. Bibliographies may be found at the end of books or articles, or may be separate publications. Each bibliographic citation contains identifying information (e.g., title, author, publisher, date and place of publication) so that the reader can locate the item. Special bibliographies on current research interests of students are occasionally compiled by Library Services staff.

Biographies provide information about notable people's lives and their accomplishments. Check their bibliographies or references lists to see other works that could contain additional information about the person.

Book Truck
A four-wheeled cart used to hold books that await re-shelving. These red and gray trucks are located on every floor near photocopiers and at the end of each stacks area. Leave items on these carts instead of re-shelving them.

Boolean Operators
Also called Search Operators, these are words that specify the relationship between two or more search terms when doing keyword searches.


AND narrows a search, specifying that both search terms must be found in the record, though not necessarily in the same section.
OR broadens a search. Either search term must be found somewhere in the record.
NOT narrows a search. A record is retrieved only when the first term is present and not the second.

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Call Number
A letter-number combination identifying the shelf location of a library item. It is usually attached to the spine of a book, and also appears on the GALILEO screen. Call numbers at VU libraries and most university libraries are derived from the Library of Congress Classification System. Many public and school libraries use the Dewey Decimal system.

Sometimes in paper, sometimes in electronic format, this resource is a listing of materials contained in a collection. GALILEO, VU's online catalog, contains records from both VU Libraries.

This refers to the checking out and return of library materials. This process is handled at the Circulation Desk. It can also refer to the circulation status of an item in the library (e.g., whether it can be checked out or has been designated for in-library use only).

Brief, concise information about a book or periodical title. GALILEO book citations also contain information such as the author, title, publisher, year of publication, as well as its call number, location, and whether or not it can circulate. A periodical citation contains information such as author, article title, journal title, its volume and issue number, date, and page numbers. At times, it can contain an abstract of an article. A periodical citation in GALILEO contains only information on the periodical title, and on the library's holdings (e.g., which issues are owned by VU libraries).

Controlled Vocabulary
The words and phrases used by a subject specialist when creating subject headings for an article, document, or book for a specific index or catalog. For example, the books in VU's library collection are given subject headings from the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Articles listed in the ERIC, PsycInfo, and other databases, are given subject headings by their subject specialists, or indexers. These subject headings are then listed in a thesaurusdesigned for that database. This provides consistency & order in the chosen words and phrases.


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A printed or electronic compilation of records that is searched in order to retrieve desired information. An electronic periodical index is often referred to as a database.

See Subject Headings

An alphabetical listing of words with short descriptions of their meanings and applications. Dictionaries can be general, such as Webster's, or subject specific, such as the Dictionary of Nursing Theory and Research.

One of a number of Referencetools, a directory provides systematic access to concise factual information on specific subjects, people, or organizations.


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Found in both print and electronic formats, encyclopedias contain lengthy informational articles, written by experts, on subjects in every field of knowledge, usually arranged in print in alphabetical order. They can be general, such as World Book, or subject specific, such as the Encyclopedia of American Education.



VU's online catalog of Christopher Center Library Services and the Law Library. Library users can search for books, periodical titles, government documents, and audio/visual materials held by either library. They can also check Reserve materials and view their circulation record.

Government Documents
Anything published by a government body. Christopher Center Library Services receives selected documents from both the U.S. and Indiana governments. Documents in the library are located on the first level in print and on the second level in microfiche format (room 251). Many documents are available through the World Wide Web.

Group Study Rooms
These rooms, located on the third and fourth levels of the Christopher Center, are for varied-sized groups who need study or collaboration space. Rooms 368 and 468 may be reserved through the Union Director's Office (x5007).

One of a number of Referencetools, a guide (or guidebook) presents quick, systematic access to concise factual information on how to use a resource or how to explore a place, city, or region.


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Provides easy access to other information sources in a given field of knowledge. A handbook's scope is purposely limited and should be used as a referral resource.

A homepage is the first (or organizational) web page of a web site. The Christopher Center Library Services homepage is the gateway to its web site at



A printed or electronic resource indicating where a source of information may be located. For example, an index located at the back of a book is an alphabetical list of topics covered in that book, along with references to the pages where the topics are discussed. Multi-volume encyclopedias, such as the Encyclopedia of Religions, often have a separate index volume that refers the reader to the specific volume(s) that have information on the desired topic.

A periodical index, such as The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, offers different access points to search by, such as author name, subject, or type of article. Electronic indexes provide easy access to information using search strategies that may have otherwise taken you through volume after volume.

Initial Articles
The words "The," "A," "An," and their equivalents in foreign languages that appear as the first words in a title. They are usually excluded when searching for titles in electronic databases. See stopwords also.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)
A process used by libraries to borrow books and other materials, and to order copies of periodical articles from another library. The ILL Office is located on the second level of the Christopher Center, to the west of the Reference Desk.

Instruction Services Program
This department provides classroom instruction and workshops for VU students, faculty, and staff on the effective use of information resources. The department's office and classroom are located on the Christopher Center's second level in the Reference area.


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see Periodical



Keyword Searching
A type of search that looks for words in titles, contents notes, and abstracts. This is a useful search when your information is incomplete or uncertain. Different electronic systems call keyword searching by various names, such as "word" or "text searching."



Library of Congress (LC) Classification System
A system of organizing books and other library materials that uses a combination of letters and numbers to designate their location in the library. VU libraries use the LC system; many public and school libraries use the Dewey Decimal System.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)
The four large red volumes that contain the subject headings used in the library catalog are located in the Reference area. These subject headings are also found in the "SUBJECT" section of every catalog record. Using the exact terms is a must for accurate subject searches conducted in the catalog. Other databases create and use their own subject headings.

Additional filters applied to the results of an electronic search. Publication year or dates, additional search terms, and the written text's language are some common limits.


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see Periodical

Along with other Reference sources, manuals provide expert background information on a given field of knowledge. For unfamiliar subjects, a good subject dictionary should accompany your use of a manual.

Map Collection
Christopher Center Library Services owns a large selection of maps and charts published by the U.S. government. The collection is available in the Reference area, second floor.

File-card size sheets of film on which periodical articles and other documents have been reproduced in miniature. The contents of microfiche can be viewed and/or printed by inserting the sheet into a microfiche reader/printer, located in room 251 of the Christopher Center, second level.

A spool of film on which periodical articles and other documents have been reproduced in miniature. The contents of microfilm can be viewed and/or printed by threading the spool onto a microfilm reader/printer, located in room 251 of the Christopher Center, second level.

Printed material reproduced on photographic film at a greatly reduced size. Examples include microfilm and microfiche.


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Occurs when a search strategy contains two or more operator tools, such as Boolean Operators. Much like elementary algebra problems, parentheses are used to tell the databasewhich search terms are grouped together. For example, in the search query "(drug or alcohol) and abuse," the database will search first for all records containing either term "drug" or "alcohol." From those records, it will then search for only those also containing the additional term "abuse."



In libraries, pathfinders are documents that provide you with a variety of resource listings, call number subject areas, subject headings, and keywords. Used for research, they are usually prepared by librarians and are subject-specific. The Library Instruction Services program creates a specialized pathfinder for every class that receives library research instruction.

For a variety of reasons, periodicals are also referred to as journals, magazines, or serials. The Christopher Center Library Services provides access to over 23,000 periodical titles in paper, microform, or electronic format. Most university-level research demands the use of what are called refereed, professional, or scholarly journals.

Periodical Index
A database containing citations to periodical articles and/or books, often focusing on a particular subject area (e.g., American history or engineering). Periodical indexes are available in either print or electronic format, and most can be searched by using subject heading and author terms. Electronic formats also allow keyword searching.

Positional Operators
Positional operators are used to specify the proximity of search terms to one another. The most commonly used are "ADJ" (adjacent), "NEAR" and "SAME."

Primary Journal
A scholarly journal that includes original, primary research results in a specific field or discipline.

Primary Source
An original, fundamental document. Letters, photographs, interviews, government documents, historical records, and personal papers are some examples.

Professional Journal
see Scholarly Journal


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Allows a search strategy to designate where the search terms are to be found in a record. The most common are by author (au), subject (su), title (ti) and publication date (varies). Each system will have a preferred format for these commands.



Rare Books Collection
The Rare Books Collection is located within University Archives, on the third level of the Christopher Center. The titles of the books located here are not usually available through GALILEO. Materials in the Rare Books Room do not circulate. For access to this collection, please contact the Assistant University Librarian for Collections.

Refereed Journal
see Scholarly Journal

Reference Materials
Located in the Reference Area, second floor, these materials are to be used for background and factual information. They are not available for check-out.

Reserve Materials
These are books, periodical articles, or other library materials set aside by a professor who has assigned the item(s) to his/her class. These items are available at the CirculationDesk.


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Scholarly Journal
A periodical typically published in the academic arena, a scholarly journal consists of articles that have passed through a rigorous review process by the author's peers. These articles record original research and thought. Most articles also contain bibliographies of cited and related works. Sometimes called a primary journal.

Search Operators
see Boolean Operators

This is library jargon for rows of bookshelves. Most library items that circulate are located in either the Christopher Center (CLR) Stacks or in the Law Library Stacks.

Words so commonly used in records that they hinder accurate record retrieval. Many databases show "Failed Search" results when stopwords are used in a search strategy; some databases simply ignore them. Common stopwords to avoid are: a, an, for, in, of, the, this, to. See initial articles also.

Subject Headings
Used when searching by a controlled vocabulary, subject headings are those words or phrases, assigned to a document or book, that contain the intellectual subject of that resource. Found in thesauri and specific subject heading books (like the Library of Congress volumes), search terms must be entered exactly as noted for an accurate search. In some databases, subject headings are called descriptors.

SuDocs (Superintendent of Documents) Classification System
A system of arranging federal government publicationsin an alpha/numerical order according to issuing government department (such as Agriculture Department, Commerce Department, etc.).


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Many specialized periodical indexes use a controlled vocabulary (a standardized word or phrase list). A thesaurus is an alphabetical listing of the terms currently in use for that index. A thesaurus will also show relationships between synonyms or related terms, as well as hierarchical arrangements (broader terms, narrower terms).

The ability to retrieve records of search terms that share a common root. In each database, some sort of symbol (a colon, an asterisk, a dollar sign) is placed at the end of the group of letters forming the root search term. Use the longest root possible to increase the accuracy of your search.



An acronym for "Uniform Resource Locator," this is the address of a resource on the Internet. World Wide Web URLs begin with  http://



Video Viewing Rooms
These rooms are located on the first floor of the Christopher Center. Users should inquire about use at the Media and Electronic Services Desk, just across from the elevator.



Web site
A web site is an entire collection of web pages. Christopher Center Library Services' web site provides extensive research resources directly over the Internet and details information about library services. The homepage serves as the gateway to the site at


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ODLIS: Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science provides additional library and publishing terminology definitions at


Subject Guide

Get Help!

General face-to-face help is always available at the 2nd Floor Circulation Desk. 

Call us on the phone at 219.464.5500.

E-mail us via this link.

Alternatives to Google or Wikipedia