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Biology 201A: Biology: Welcome and Primary Literature Search

Using primary scientific literature; finding scholarly articles in journal databases; citing, using CSE style

Welcome and Best Bets

Welcome to the subject guide for Instructor Veres' Biology 201A: Biology class! Use the tabs above to navigate to different sections of this guide. If you're short on time, these resources are your best bets:


How to read a scholarly article

This brief video by Western University Library explains how to efficiently skim a research article. 

What is Primary Literature?

Primary literature contains the original research results reported by scientists. It includes:

  • conference proceedings
  • dissertations
  • journal articles
  • patents

Before research results are published in a scientific journal, they must pass a rigorous review process by other scientists, called peer review.


Basic Search

Using the Cuesta Library Search system in the box below:

  1. Search keyword phrase Human genome
  2. By default, the system searches all formats (books, articles, videos, etc.). Narrow your results by individually checking each limiter on the left, under Format.
  3. Another way to narrow results is to use phrase searching. When you put quotation marks around a phrase, you only see results for that specific phrase. Try searching "human genome."
  4. Limit your search further by using Boolean operators. Try searching "human genome" AND disease. This strategy in addition to using the limiters on the left will get the number of results down even more.

Cuesta Library OneSearch

Search for reserves, articles, books, films and more...

Primo Search
Advanced Search   |   Search Help   |   Ask a Librarian

Advanced Search

Click on the Advanced Search button below the Cuesta Library Search above. You have many of the same options that you have after entering a basic search. You will also see a list of all the database choices on the right. If you choose to only use specific databases, be sure to hit the blue Save Changes button near the top of the page.

Here are some tips for recognizing primary research documents:

  • Most of them will be PDF (due to containing graphs, tables, etc.)
  • Most will have more than one or two authors
  • If you open the document, it will have a Summary of the research (Abstract), an introduction, methodology, results, discussion, and a good bibliography. Look for articles that are more than a few pages long.


Ask a Librarian!


Library Information


See SLO library hours for Fall 2022 below. 

Monday: 8 am - 8 pm
Tuesday: 8 am - 8 pm
Wednesday: 8 am - 8 pm
Thursday: 8 am - 8 pm
Friday:  8 am - 4 pm

For tech support requests, email

For help getting textbooks, Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots, email

Circulation Desk: (805) 546-3155
Reference Desk: (805) 546-3157



See North County Library hours for Fall 2022 below. 

Monday: 9 am - 8 pm
Tuesday: 9 am - 8 pm
Wednesday: 9 am - 8 pm
Thursday: 9 am - 8 pm
Friday:  9 am - 2 pm

For tech support requests, email

For help getting textbooks, Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots, email

Circulation Desk: (805) 591-6211
Reference Desk: (805) 592-9410