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Biology library guide to information searches

Find search terms

Find suitable search terms

The words/terms you choose are very important! Start with exploring freely, use for example Google Scholar to find a few papers that appears to be of interest and collect keywords from these. Try to think of as many different words as possible to describe the subject you are interested in.

If you are searching for scientific literature, use English words (or Latin for taxa). However, just because something is the correct English translation of a concept, it is not necessarily the words that the researchers in this discipline are using! You need to figure out what the established subject specific terminology is. Sometimes there is one dominating expression that is used, other times there are many synonyms and alternative expressions that are being more or less equally used and then you need to include them all in your search.

Examples of synonyms, alternative expressions and alternative spellings (in other words, if you are interested in one, you are likely interested in the others):

  • Bird: avian, aves
  • Gene expression: transcriptome, transcription, RNA
  • Evolution: selection, adapt*, evolv*
  • Global warming: "global change", "greenhouse effect", "climate change", "global heating"
  • Breeding: breed*, reproduc*, propagat*, mating, procreat*
  • Tumour: tumour*, tumor*, neoplasm, "malignant growth", "cancerous growth"