Strategies for Finding Reference Materials Bio14


As you develop your topic, you will begin to pose factual and research questions. Reference materials help you form and answer factual questions and gather background information on your research questions. To identify some relevant reference materials, refer to the list of sources. Alternatively, you can search the Tufts Catalog. Here is one example of simple keyword searches for science reference books:

(What does the "?" mean?)

Along with other general science titles on the list of sources, the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology may be a good general purpose starting point. This title and other reference sources can be used to clarify definitions, compile a list of keywords to add to your vocabulary, and to gather names of authors who are working in this field.

Reference materials exist in formats other than paper. You could consult the Encyclopedia Britannica Online that features several entries on infectious diseases.  Other more specialized sources are included on the list of reference sources. The first step in approaching a reference book entry is to read the article carefully. What questions about the topic have been answered by reading it? What new questions emerge? As you read the article, continue adding to your list of keywords/key concepts, and take other relevant notes.

Pay special attention to the bibliography of further readings. In some encyclopedias, bibliographies appear directly after articles; in others, like the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution, a separate section of readings appears at the end of the volume. The bibliography found there, including journal articles and books, includes more than 10 new titles that can be consulted for more information on the topic of how diseases evolve.

Flipping from the back to the front of the book, note that the book was published in 1992 and it appears to have been originally issued in England. This means that the most recent findings about evolution will NOT be covered and that the writing may have a British slant to it. Publications from other countries can be just as relevant as those from this country, but be aware of variations in terminology and other cultural distinctions.

Continue to Secondary Literature Overview.