Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

BIOS 42: Introduction to Cell and Mol. Biology Lab: Find background information

Spring 2017, M. Kenna

Finding background information

A good first step is to read general background information about your topic before looking for scholarly articles.  That way you will be comfortable with concepts and vocabulary you will encounter in the next step, plus get ideas for your papers. Examples are in the box on right.

You can cite background information sources when you list citations for your paper (i.e., works consulted). 

However: you will need to find *scholarly* literature as well! See next tab in the guide. Scholarly journal articles are the usual format for reporting scientific results. Good journal literature has very high editorial standards, plus review by a scientist's peers.

Background information resources

Reference resources can provide encyclopedia or other general background about concepts or methods, as well as definitions of concepts.  Some are listed below. 

Magazines and newspapers ("secondary sources") contain journalistic accounts of research that is of interest to the general public and was initially reported in scholarly articles ("primary sources"). Secondary sources can give clues (e.g., research name(s), or title of the scholarly journal) that leads you to scholarly articles.

See the link in to the CourseSite to "Primary and Secondary Resources" under "Scientific Communication" for more details about this distinction.

Below are databases where you can find secondary source accounts of science research. Also, Google can help you locate articles of this kind, though make sure they are reliable! See the resource mentioned above, off CourseSite, for a section about "Evaluating Web Pages".

Don't use these secondary sources as citations in your paper; again, use them for *background* information--or to *point to* research published in a scholarly journal.

You can use resources available on the open web as sources of background information and ideas for your project. Make sure, however, that you evaluate any resource!

In CourseSite, find the guide for "Primary and Secondary Resources" and scroll down in it to find the "Evaluating Web Pages" section.

Or, see p. 762 of the lab manual (Appendix A), "Using Information Sources from the Internet" .

The following is another guide about evaluating web resources.


Wikipedia can be a valuable source of background information and stepping stone to discovering academic resources. *Often wikipedia has useful links listed at the bottom of an article.*

You will of course have to confirm independently information you find in Wikipedia.

Here is a detailed guide about Wikipedia.

For information about the reliability of Wikipedia, see this Wikipedia article.