Home: GN 301


Background Information

Internet Resources

Evaluating Web Resources

Searching Databases

Search Tips for Finding
Journal Articles on a Topic

Getting Copies of Articles

Citing Resources

Ask a Librarian

Off-Campus Access

Services for Distance Learners


GN 301 : Genetics in human affairs

Researching and Finding Information

Course Instructor: Betty Gardner
GN 301 Course Page
Librarian: Mohan Ramaswamy

This guide gives you tips and resources for researching your paper.
Items with an asterisk (*) are especially good places to start your research!

Table of Contents:

I. Background Information

II. Internet ResourcesEvaluating Web Resources

III. Searching DatabasesTips for Finding Journal Articles

IV. Getting Copies of Articles

V. Citing Resources—Articles & Web Pages

If you need assistance: Call 515-2935, come by the Reference Desk, or
use Ask a Librarian (chat, text, IM, and email reference)

You can also contact the genetics librarian, Eleanor Smith, 513-3969, email: eleanor_smith@ncsu.edu

Instructions for Off-Campus Access to Databases and Electronic Journals

Special Library Services for Distance Learners


I. Background/General Information—What resources? Why use them?

These books--some of them online---can give you topic ideas, background information so that you can understand your topic better and do more effective searching for articles, and include lists of useful articles on your topic.

*Gale Encyclopedia of Genetic Disorders, 2 v., 2005
Reference, Learning Commons RB155.5 .G35 2005
Provides easy to understand but fairly detailed descriptions of almost 400 genetic disorders. Includes references at the end of each article.

*Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics, and Bioinformatics
Focus is on studies based on the human and mouse genomes, but also covers other important model eukaryotes and pathogenic bacteria. Good explanations of the technologies involved in these areas.

A comprehensive collection of articles on all aspects of genetics, from Mendel to the decoding of the human genome. Explains the workings of genes and chromosomes, genetic diseases, and biotechnology. Also covers the ethical, legal, and social issues connected to genetic science. Includes full-color photos and line drawings, a glossary of scientific terms, and coverage of careers in the field.

Dictionary of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Short articles with links to further reading and related articles

Encyclopedia of Life Sciences
Contains introductory, secondary, and special essays on 14 main subject areas: biochemistry, cell biology, clinical medicine, developmental biology, ecology, evolution and diversity of life, functional and comparative morphology, genetics and molecular biology, immunology, microbiology and virology, neuroscience, plant science, structural biology, and science and society. Updated articles and new articles are added monthly.

Encyclopedia of Molecular Biology
Topics covered include cell growth and differentiation, gene expression, immune system, metabolism, signal transduction and viruses.

An Introduction to Human Molecular Genetics: Mechanisms of Inherited Diseases
eBook and print copy, QH431 .P316 2005, 7th floor bookstacks.
Focused on specific mechanisms of disease at the molecular level, e.g., modifications of DNA sequence, chromosomes, etc.

Genetic Disorders Sourcebook: Basic consumer health information about hereditary diseases and disorders, including facts about the human genome, genetic inheritance patterns, disorders associated with specific genes....
Reference, Learning Commons RB155.5 .G455 2004

Encyclopedia of Genetics, 4 vol., 2002
Reference, Learning Commons QH427 .E535 2002
Detailed genetics encyclopedia, includes genes, genetic diseases, famous geneticists, and genetic and molecular biology terms.

Dictionary of Syndromes and Inherited Disorders, 2000
Reference, Learning Commons RC69 .G55 2000
Brief 1-2 page overviews of inherited disorders. Might be worth scanning for topic ideas.

*Nature Encyclopedia of the Human Genome, 5 vol., 2003
Reference, Learning Commons QH427 .E53 2003
Wonderfully detailed articles on a wide array of genetics and genome-related topics—including the deCODE genealogical project in Iceland, gene therapies for many disorders, in-depth discussions of multi-gene disorders, genetic counseling, ethical and societal issues, DNA technologies, etc. Articles have significant lists of references at the end.

Encyclopedia of Bioethics, 3rd ed., 5 vol., 2004
Reference, Learning Commons QH332 .E52 2004
Vol. 3 has several chapters on genetics-related ethical issues (screening, testing, counseling, discrimination). Chapters include a bibliography of articles and web sites.


II. Selected Internet Resources

Expert reviews of over 240 genetic diseases—reviews include links to OMIM (see below), PubMed, and many other resources. Also information on genetic testing and testing laboratories. If your topic is in here it is a great place to start.

Web site includes many very useful resources for information on genetic diseases, genes, chromosome maps, and articles (Pubmed). Many of this are inter-linked, so if you go to one part, you can connect to other sections. Some useful sections:

    A catalog of human genes and genetic disorders, with links to literature references, sequence records, maps, and related databases. Very detailed, intended for use primarily by physicians and other professionals concerned with genetic disorders.

  • Genetics Home Reference http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov

Contains summaries of genetic diseases, gene information, names and symbols, and links to other good resources. Intended for the general public.

The official site for information about the Human Genome Project. Includes information on ethical and social issues, technology, current news releases, history and purpose of the project, etc.


Evaluating Web Resources

How do you know if a web resource is accurate and reliable?
Here are some things to consider:

    • Author/Authority: Who (person or organization) is in charge of the site? Are they qualified to present this type of information.
    • Purpose/Bias: What is the purpose of the web page? Be aware of hidden (and not so hidden!) agendas on web pages. Some aspects of genetic testing, the genome project, etc. raise strong feelings and these can be reflected in highly biased web sites.
    • Content/Accuracy: What is the level of information? Do you find errors and inaccuracies? Does the web page include links to references or other pages where you can check data? Are these other links to quality resources (like journal articles, genetic data, etc.)?
    • Currency: Most web pages should have a copyright date as well as date when the page was last updated.


III. Finding Journal Articles

The best way to find journal articles on a specific topic is to use a database.

Find these databases using the Databases link on the NCSU Libraries home page:


A. Select a Database to Search

Which databases should you use? This depends on your topic and your approach.

Topic area: Human/Medical Genetics (diseases, testing, genes)

*Pubmed—best place to start

BIOSIS (Biological Abstracts)

Health Source Consumer Edition

Health Source Nursing/Academic Edition

Topic area: Ethics, Psychology, History, Social Aspects, etc.

The medical/biology databases listed above will have some information in these areas

Philosopher’s Index—Ethics

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine—History, people

PsycInfo—Psychological aspects

Sociological AbstractsSociological aspects

Other Databases: Multidisciplinary, News, Popular Journals

*Academic Search Premier and Lexis-Nexis Academic—these databases have newspaper and magazine articles as well as journal articles. Some scientific content, but probably better for information about ethical and societal issues.

*Web of Science—a multidisciplinary database that covers the social sciences and medical sciences. Good scientific content.

B. Tips for searching databases—
get the best results with the least frustration!

  • Step 1. Look at background information about your topic, such as disease names, genetic terms, code numbers for genes… It seems silly—but you can sometimes find better information about your topic if you already know a little about it.
    • For example, there are 9 different types of muscular dystrophy, with different names and different genetics.
    • Start out with the most common and/or most specific term for your topic—“duchenne’s muscular dystrophy” instead of just “muscular dystrophy.”
  • Step 2. Analyze your topic by dividing it into major concepts—usually 1-3 concepts. This will help you get better results in database searching. Use “AND” to combine more than one concept in a search:
    • Be careful: don’t search by phrases like “the ethics of genetic testing” because the database will take this literally and only search for the exact phrase. Instead, try: “ethics AND genetic testing”
    • Some topics are so specialized you may only need one concept, example: “sickle cell anemia”
    • For other topics you should think about adding additional terms—for example, searching on “breast cancer” will produce way too many results about chemotherapy, surgery, etc. But searching on “breast cancer AND genetics” or “breast cancer AND gene*” will give more specific results

TIP: GET A REVIEW! Another good way to get an overview and some references is to look for review articles in journals. When you search a database, add the term “review” or "literature review" as another concept. Example: “schizophrenia AND genetics AND review.” Both PubMed and Web of Science let you limit your search results to just review articles.

Also, some journals publish only reviews—these include:
Advances in Genetics QH431 .A3
Annual Review of Genetics QH431 .A1 A54 and online
Current Opinion in Genetics and Development QH426 .C89 and online
Trends in Genetics QH426 .T73 and online

  • Step 3. Check for terminology, spelling, and word variations
    • Consider synonyms for your search ideas—if you are using synonyms, connect them with “OR” and put them in parentheses. Example: (brca1 OR brca2). This is especially helpful for general terms like “impacts” or “ethics”
    • Be as specific as possible, especially in scientific databases—e.g., search for “acquired AND creutzfeld-jacob disease” rather than “mad cow disease”
    • Use shortcuts to account for differences in word endings and singular vs. plural forms of words. Most databases use a symbol for this shortcut, many times it is an asterisk (*) --Example: gene* will give you gene, genes, genetic, genetics, etc.
  • Troubleshooting: What to do if…..
    • If you get too few or no results:
      • Doublecheck your spelling
      • Are you using the right terms? Try different terms, or add synonyms. If your term is very specific, try using a slightly more general term.
      • How many concepts are you searching? If it’s more than 2 or 3, try eliminating one of the concepts.
      • Make sure you are searching concepts using AND, and not a literal phrase.
    • Too many, or too general, or irrelevant results
      • If you can, use a more specific term.
      • Add another concept to your search to make it more focused.
      • Narrow your topic more—for example, instead of cancer and genetics, look at a specific cancer and genetics; or, instead of breast cancer, look for specific genes, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 (this is where background information comes in handy).
      • If there’s too much information, try looking for a review article.
      • Scan your results and see if one of your terms also means something totally different than what you want… replace that term.


IV. Getting copies of articles

  • If you are in a database---look for this symbol:

find text logo

When you click on this link, it will open a new window—if we have the journal article online, there will be a link directly to the article. If the journal article is not online, you will need to search the catalog to see if we have it in print.

  • To search the catalog for a journal: start at the library home page, change the drop down menu at the top to “journal title” and type in the title of the journal (leave off the first word if it is an article, e.g., a, the, an).
  • Electronic journals—You can also look for electronic journals by using the Journal List link on the library home page. You can search, or look at journals by topic (try Genetics in the pull down subject menu).
  • If the library doesn’t have the journal in print or online—you can still get it! We will get a copy of the article for you from another library—it is free—but you need a little extra time (about a week). Use the Request Items/TRIPSaver link to request articles online, click on TRIPSaver-Interlibrary. This is a good reason to start your research early!
  • Distance learners—remember, if the article is not available online, the library will send it to you---use the Request Items/TRIPSaver link and click on Distance Education and Extension Delivery.


V. Citing Resources—Article and Web pages

Citation Builder
This is an online tool that will create a citation in the correct format after you type the relevant information into a web form. It works for web sites, articles, books.

Citation Styles—Online!
How to cite different types of online resources using the different styles (APA, MLA, and CBE—Council of Biology Editors).


Librarian Contact Information