References for Biology ResearchDatabases, publications, and websites to help you find inspiring strategies.
This annotated list of databases, sources for primary and secondary literature, and websites will help you find biological strategies relevant to your design challenge. To use any of these resources effectively, you will need to select your search terms and keywords carefully.
If your academic library subscribes to these databases, you may be able to access them online through your library’s website. Public links are not available.
- Web of Science: Web of Science is our preferred database, after Ask Nature, because it’s easy to use, easy to filter to find what you need, and because it’s specifically about science. Compared to other databases, you will get fewer but more relevant results when looking for biological strategies. For non-biologists, sometimes a review of current findings is helpful, and Web of Science has a filter that allows you to focus on literature reviews. Another valuable part of Web of Science is the ability to do a citation search, which helps you find papers that have cited another paper. This can take you to more recent research articles or to papers about other organisms doing the same thing.
- BioOne: Another database that focuses on biological, ecological, and environmental science research is BioOne Complete. It provides access to more than 180 high quality, subscribed and open-access titles.
- Academic Search and Omnifile: These are good multidisciplinary databases, but the number of results can be overwhelming and the filtering system isn’t as helpful as on Web of Science.
- JSTOR: This database provides full-text access to the archives of scholarly journals. Generally, access to a journal is available from the first issue to within one to three years of the most current issue.
Open Access databases
- ScienceDirect: ScienceDirect is a leading full-text scientific database offering journal articles and book chapters from nearly 2,500 journals and 26,000 books. For biological strategies, focus on the Life Sciences collection first.
- Wiley: Wiley Online Library hosts a broad, multidisciplinary collection of online resources covering life, health, and physical sciences; social science; and the humanities. Because it’s multidisciplinary, it will have more irrelevant results than some other databases.
- Genamics JournalSeek: JournalSeek is a categorized database of journal information available on the Internet. The database presently contains more than 102,000 titles. However, it’s only a way to search for journal titles relevant to your search term, with links to the publishers. It doesn’t provide abstracts or links to articles.
- PubMed: PubMed comprises more than 24 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.
- The American Journal of Botany covers research in all areas of plant biology (structure, function, development, diversity, genetics, evolution, systematics), all levels of organization (molecular to ecosystem), and all plant groups and allied organisms (cyanobacteria, algae, fungi, and lichens). It requires a subscription, though authors can pay to make their articles open access.
- Annals of Botany is an international plant science journal that publishes novel and substantial research papers in all areas of plant science, along with reviews and shorter Botanical Briefings about topical issues. Each issue also features a roundup of plant-based items from the world’s media called “Plant Cuttings.” Several years worth of archived journals are available for free.
- Biology Letters provides short, highly innovative, cutting-edge research articles across the biological sciences. Content is free one year after the publication date.
- BIRDNET is an online repository of information about the science of ornithology and about issues of interest to ornithologists. The site is intended to provide information to professional ornithologists and to members of the general public interested in learning more about both the scientific study of birds and the application of information from that study to conservation and other issues affecting birds.
- Green Chemistry is the home of cutting-edge research on the development of alternative sustainable technologies. You can get free access to full articles with a free registration.
- The Journal of Comparative Physiology A presents original articles and short reviews that aid in understanding mechanisms of physiology at the organismic, cellular, or molecular levels of organization. Topics include neurobiology, neuroethology, sensory physiology, sensory ecology, physiological basis of behavior, hormonal control of behavior, communication, orientation, locomotion, functional neuroanatomy, and more. It requires a subscription, although authors can opt to make their articles open access.
- The Journal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology covers the comparative physiology of invertebrate and vertebrate animals. Special emphasis is placed on integrative studies that explain mechanisms at the whole-animal, organ, tissue, cellular, and/or molecular levels. Aspects of particular interest include: molecular and endocrine control of metabolism; membrane transport and nutrient absorption; respiration and gas exchange; circulation and body fluids; energy and temperature relations; muscle and exercise physiology; energetics and endocrinology of reproduction; evolutionary aspects of physiology, and more. It requires a subscription, although authors can opt to make their articles open access.
- The Journal of Experimental Biology covers comparative physiology and integrative biology. This is a good source for strategies. New articles are often free to access for a short time and then require a subscription. Archived articles are usually free.
- Letters in Applied Microbiology includes research across the breadth of microbiology, including in the following key subject areas: antimicrobials, biodegradation, biotechnology, plant pathology, virology, and more. It requires a subscription, although authors can pay to make their articles open access.
- Plant Physiology is devoted to physiology, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, genetics, biophysics, and environmental biology of plants.
- PLoS One features a variety of subject areas. Within the PLoS series, PLoS Biology is the best option for strategies, but it’s worth exploring the other subjects. Access to full-text articles is free.
- Trends in Ecology and Evolution covers new developments and ideas across the full range of ecology and evolutionary biology—from the pure to the applied, and from molecular to global—bringing together research from a wide range of sub-disciplines.
- The Annual Review of Microbiology covers microbiology, encompassing bacteria, archaea, viruses, and unicellular eukaryotes.
- Applied Entomology and Zoology publishes articles concerned with applied entomology, applied zoology, agricultural chemicals, and pest control. Coverage spans a wide range of fields, including molecular biology, environmental science, physiology, ecology, ethology (the science of animal behavior), taxonomy, and toxicology.
- BioScience gives overviews of current research in biology.
- Copeia covers fish, reptiles, and amphibians.
- Flora covers morphology, distribution, and the functional ecology of plants.
- The Journal of Bionic Engineering covers aspects of bionic science and engineering, including fundamental understandings of animals and plants for bionic engineering. It addresses topics such as structures, composites, morphology, locomotion and behaviors of animals, and physical properties of plants and natural materials, and the applications of such understandings in engineering, technology, and design.
- The Journal of Chemical Ecology promotes an ecological understanding of the origin, function, and significance of natural chemicals that mediate interactions within and between organisms.
- Zoologischer Anzeiger – A Journal of Comparative Zoology is devoted to comparative zoology with a special emphasis on morphology, systematics, biogeography, and evolutionary ecology targeting animal species. The broader aim of the journal is to contribute to our understanding of the organismic world from an evolutionary perspective.
- Microbial Ecology covers scientific investigations of how microorganisms interact with their environment, with each other, and with their hosts.
- Nature includes many journals covering specific subjects, so you’ll need to peruse the list of journals to find ones relevant to what you’re looking for. It also has regional websites. It requires a subscription to access full-text articles.
- Oecologia publishes innovative ecological research of general interest to a broad international audience.
Science News Services
- Nature News & Comment provides access to some research summaries from Nature and other journals, with links to journals; however, access to the various Nature journals requires a subscription.
- ScienceNews has a good search engine that allows you to narrow your search by specific topics. Scroll down through the topics to Life & Evolution.
- LiveScience is a science newswire. Although you can select a topic like Animals or Planet Earth, the search engine doesn’t restrict your searches to this. You’ll need more research into any strategies found here.
- BBC News Science & Environment has a simple search engine that will work with organism names.
- The Journal of Experimental Biology, also mentioned under Journals, has approximately four articles in each issue written by a science journalist who is good at explaining the science. The section to look at is called Inside JEB.
- EurekaAlert! lets you focus on a subject, such as biology, to do your search. You can filter your search to get more relevant articles.
- Prentice Hall Biology
- Textbook from Estrella Mountain Community College
- Textbook from Annenberg Learner (has a search engine)
More specific textbooks for categories within biology, such as for insects, invertebrates, ecology, botany, and so on, are harder to find for free online. Many of the free downloads are for books that are quite old, so finding print textbooks at libraries might be the best strategy. Here are a few online ones we’ve found:
- Todar’s Online Textbook of Bacteriology
- Biochemistry Free and Easy
- Biochemistry 5th Edition (searchable but can’t be browsed)
Other secondary literature sources
- Whether searching for scientific articles, magazines, or books, a good source is Google Scholar, rather than just Google or some other search engine. Using Google Scholar is also a great way to find citations to other relevant research papers.
- Google Books is a great way to find books online. Often not all pages of a book are included, but there’s usually enough text for you to get valuable information. Some of the books are recent, and some are quite old. Choose the more recent ones, as researchers are always learning more.
- ZQ Journal is an online magazine that has interviews and in-depth looks at biomimetic designs that reveal the organism or system strategies behind them. It also includes inspiring images and artwork.
- McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology Volumes 1-20 is a print book that can help you understand scientific terms.
- Science & Technology Desk Reference 2 is another print book that can help you understand scientific terms.
- How Stuff Works has videos, articles, and photos revealing nature’s strategies. Click on Animals, Health, or Science.
- Natural History has an online magazine from the American Museum of Natural History.
- National Geographic has a website and online magazine.
- Scientific American has a website and online magazine.
Scoop.it! – Bioinspiration content curated by Janine Benyus.
iBiology offers open-access free video lectures and other content with leading scientists.