BIO 508:

Seminar in Biological


Spring Semester 2008


  Recommended Guide:

Schmidt, Diane, Elizabeth B. Davis and Pamela E. Jacobs. Using the Biological Literature: A Practical Guide, 3rd ed. New York: Marcel Dekker, 2002. REF QH303.6 D38 2002;


  1. An understanding of the general organization of the scientific literature and the relationships of the various types. The relationship between print sources and their electronic counterparts.
  2. Facility in the use of databases, print and electronic, in biology and agriculture.
  3. Self-developed knowledge of the literature in each student's field.
  4. An understanding of literature search strategy and searching methods.
  5. Familiarity with online and web searching.
  6. Knowledge of biological and agricultural resources on the web.


  1. Weekly library assignments - reading, written or oral reports.
  2. Individual interest profile - due February 1.
  3. Choice of semester project - due April 18:
    1. Survey of Major literature resources in your field (bibliography).
    2. Term paper on a topic relevant to course content and student's interest.
    3. List of web sites in your field, annotated and evaluated.
    4. Other, as approved by instructor.


Grades are computed as follows: 50% of the grade for this course is based on assignments and class participation. 50% of the grade is based on the term project or paper. There is no final exam in this course.



Course Outline:

Jan. 25    1. Introduction to the course. Organization of the scientific
                literature. Information flow in the scientific literature.

               Assignment: Read Bonn, George S. and Smith, Linda C.
               Literature of sciences and technology in: McGraw-Hill
               Encyclopedia of Science and Technology,
9th ed.
               New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002. Vol. 10, pp. 101-107.

                Also: Fill out individual interest profiles.

Feb. 1      2. Reference sources in the life sciences. Guides to the
                literature, dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks,
                bibliographies, texts, treatises.

Feb. 8      3.  Primary research journals: the types. Serials lists,
                current awareness services, etc. Assignment:
Serials analysis sheets. Due Feb. 15

Feb. 15    4. Trends in electronic journals. Trends in alternative

Feb. 22     5. Secondary sources: major indexes, abstract journals
                 and databases. The components of a database. Basic
                 principles of searching and search logic. Assignment:
Database analysis sheets due Feb. 29

Feb 29      6. Basic principles of searching and search logic.

Mar. 7      7. Secondary sources: reports on databases.

Mar. 14     8. Personal information files: Demonstration of ENDNOTE.  

Mar. 21     SPRING BREAK

Mar. 28     9. Citation indexes and citation searching. Assignment:
Web of Science Exercise, due April 4.

April 4      10. The citation concept and its role in research. Discussion of
                 Web of Science exercise.

April 11    11. Web resources: evaluation and search principles.

April 18    12. Biological resources on the Web. Genome databases.
                  New relationships among the literature types.
                  Assignment: Collect web sites.

April 25    13. U. S. Government publications.