Agriculture Research Guide


    You need to have a specific topic selected before you begin searching for information in the library. If you need help in selecting a topic there are a few ideas listed below. If you need additional help ask at a reference desk in the library.

    • Look in you course syllabus, your teacher may have given you a list of suggested topics for your research paper.
    • Your textbook for the course is a good place to find topics that may be of interest to you. Look in the table of contents in the index.
    • Talk with you teacher she/he can give you some good suggestions for an interesting topic.
    • Come to the library and look in the "Library of Congress Subject Headings." This is the set of "big red books" by the computer terminals near the reference desk. This list of terms is also available on the Library Catalog by doing a subject search.
    • Do a title or keyword search in the Library Catalog using various terms you have thought of.

      Narrow your topic to something specific.
      At this point you need to select a topic that is specific enough for you to write a paper about.

      Now that you have a specific topic selected, you need to begin finding and reading some sources about your topic. From your reading, formulate a specific question statement of hypothesis that you intend to research and write about. Using the words in your question statement and other related words you are now ready to search the periodical (journal) databases to find references to articles on your question statement.


    In the Sciences, the primary source of information is articles published in journals (or periodicals). The articles published in Scientific journals are "peer reviewed." This means each article is evaluated by scientists who are well respected by their peers, before an article is accepted for publication. Each journal has its own editorial board composed of these well respected scientists. Articles published in magazines (or journals) which are not "peer reviewed" often may not have accurate information in them. Be careful with websites; many of them have very biased information. Web sites with ".edu" are usually reliable. Web sites with ".org" are usually biased towards the view point of the organization, except for scientific or scholarly societies. Web sites with ".com" are rarely scientific or scholarly. Web sites with ".gov" are usually reliable unless they are political in nature.

    The key to finding references to journal articles is periodical databases. Searching in the appropriate database should be your first choice for finding references to journal articles. The following procedures will help you in finding journal articles on your topic.

    Four steps to periodical literature research:

    1. Choose the appropriate computer database, periodical index, or abstract index. Look at the list of computer databases or periodical indexes listed in section IV or ask at the Science Reference Desk for suggestions. You can also go to the Harold B. Lee Library Home Page and click on "Article Indexes" or "Resources by Subject". Both provide a list of subjects, inder which you will find a list of suggested databases.
    2. Search for your terms in a computer database related to your topic and find some references to articles on your topic. Print, download, or write the following bibliographic information for each reference you want to find:
      1. Journal title
      2. Volume number
      3. Pages
      4. Date of publications
      5. Author of article
      6. Title of article
    3. Determine whether the library has the periodical
      If the library has the periodical, you will find it by entering the full title of the periodical in the BYU Library Catalog. From a computer on which you can access the Harold B. Lee Library home page click on the second tab "Article Indexes". On the right side of the screen is an option to "Search for Journals", type the title of the journal from your resources in the first box. Check your spelling if you have trouble locating the title. The BYU Library Catalog database record will including the call number where you can find the volumes of the periodical. Information concerning which volumes or issues the library owns (library holdings) will also be displayed. Scroll down to the "Library Has" heading and you will find a list of which volumes the library owns. If the library has access to the electronic full-text of the journal, there will be a URL link included in the journal descriptions, just above the "Library Has" heading. There is also a tab on the Library Homepage for "e-journals" (Electronic Journals); it is on the top of the screen. This will provide a list of our electronic journals either by title or by subjector by publisher.

      All of the print periodicals, both bound volumes and current unbound issues are in the Periodical Room (PER) on level 2 of the new addition to the library. Ask for help at the Periodical Room Reference desk if you cannot find the journal title or volume you are looking for.

      If the library does not have the periodical you need, you can obtain a copy of the article through Interlibrary Loan (ILL) which is at the "Access Services" Desk which is by the stairway in the North Wing of Level 3. You can submit ILL requests through a program called ILLiad. ILLiad can access from the Library Home Page by clicking on the Interlibrary Loan option on the the left side of the screen. There are two choices, one is for "New Users: Register Here", this is for those who have never used ILLiad before; the second choice is for "Registered Users". After completing the New User registration form the first time your personal information will be saved and you will not have to enter this information again. Once you are on the ILLIAD home page you can select the type of request you want them to make and enter the information for the article or book you want to obtain.The cost of an ILL request is $.10/page for copies and will take about ten days to two weeks to get to the BYU Library. These is no cost for borrowing books. Copies of pages will normally be recieved in about one week. You will be notified by e-mail when your article or book is available to pick up from the Interlibrary Loan Office. Oftentimes articles will be recieved in electronic form and will be available from the ILLIAD screen under "Review Requests", then choose "View/Download Electronically Recieved Articles".

    4. Locate the periodical in the Lee Library.
      All periodicals are located in the Periodicals Room on Level 2 in the new addition of the Library. Both bound and unbound volumes are in the Periodical Room. Volumes from 1987 to the present, including new issues not yet bound, are on the left (west) side of the Periodical Room, and volumes from 1986 and older are on the right (east) side of the Periodical Room. If your volume is not on the shelf, look on the cherry wood book shelves by the concrete pillars in the Periodical Room. If you still cannot find the volume you want to ask for help at the Periodical Room Reference Desk.

    5. You should check to see if any articles you find, which are directly related to your topic, have references to additional articles. You should check these additional articles to see if they have any useful information or more good references.

  3. Suggestions for Searching Databases

    There are various ways to search the databases available through the Article Indexes on the Harold B. Lee Library Home page. Most databases can be searched by Author, Title, Subject, and Keyword. Many of the databases can also be searched in other ways.

    1. Author - enter the last name first followed by the first name. Be sure you spell the name correctly. Some databases require that you use the authors initials rather than the full name.
    2. Title - a title search requires that the terms you enter must be in the title; in some databases, the first word you put must also be the first word in the title of the article.
    3. Subject - a subject search will give you more references than a title search, but you must enter the subject exactly as it is used in the subject index, including dashes, commas, or word order. This includes the use of the thesaurus terms. Many databases have a thesaurus specifically for that database.
    4. Keyword - a keyword search is the most comprehensive way to search for a topic. The computer searches for your terms any place in the reference; whether it is in the title, the subject headings, the abstract, or some other field (part of the reference).
      Keywords can be combined in any of the following ways:
      • OR - this connector is used to put 2 or more related terms together in the same group; example: cow or cattle or beef or heifer or calves.
      • AND - is used to combine 2 or more ideas together so that both ideas are used to index the same article; example: (cow or cattle or beef or heifer or calves) and "embryo transfer"
      • NOT - is used to eliminate an idea or a term from a search you already have; example: not buffalo.
      • TRUNCATION (*) - allows you to search for a term with various endings without having to specify each ending. The * searches for any characters following the term you enter.
        Example: spectro* will retrieve spectrometer, spectroscope, spectroscopy, spectrometry.
        Be careful with truncation, you can get terms you do not want. If you want rat or rats and use rat* you will get rat or rats but you will also get rate, rated, rating, ratio, ratios, ration, rather, ratite, rattler, etc.

        Many databases use an "*"; Current Contents uses "$" for multiple characters, and a "#" for one character. A few databases use a "?" for truncation. Most databases have a "Help" option that will tell you what the truncation or wild card character is for that database.

    Most databases provide a way to review your search history which will allow you to see the combination of terms you have searched with and the number of references that were found. You can use these previous search sets to refine you search to be more specific or more general. You can combine search sets together, or you can combine a search set and other terms together using "and," "or," or "not," etc.

  4. Computer Resources
    1. Harold B. Lee Library Home Page - allows you to search the following resources:
      • Library Catalog - you can search BYU's online catalog, which lists all of our books and journals.
      • Other Library Catalogs - you can also search library catalogs of the University of Utah, Utah State University, RLIN, and other libraries. This option is listed under the "Other Libraries" tab option at the top of the Library Homepage.
      • There are other options on the Library Home page that will provide additional information about library services and locations, and also an option to search the Web.
      • Article Indexes - This option gives a list of periodical databases by subjects; these subjects mostly match academic department names. Click on the subject you are looking for and you will then see a list of specific databases that are relevant to the subject you choose. Those databases listed which are underlined and have a URL link can be directly accessed. Those databases which have "[SCI]" after them are CD-ROM databases which you must ask for at the Science/Maps Reference Desk.
      • Alphabetical List of Databases & Periodical Indexes - You can use this option if you already know the title of a database. When you see the title screen there is a line near the top which lists all the letters in the alphabet; click on the first letter of the title of the database you want, then click on the full database name to connect to the database.If the database has "[SCI]" after it then ask at the Science/Maps Reference Desk for the CD-ROM.
      • Resources By Subject - Under this tab, located at the top right of the Library home page, you will find a list of subjects, which give a list of databases, and also a list of other types of reference sources and selected Web sites, all of which, can provided additional information on your topic.
        Some of the databases and a brief description are listed below:
        • - contains citations from 222 major periodicals (journals) on biological and agricultural subjects. These journals are all in English and are all in the HBLL. This database covers the years 1985 to present.
        • Agricola (EBSCO) - Indexes over 2,000 publications and other material at the USDA National Agriculture Library covering 1970 to present. Many reference from years before 1970 are being added each month. Use it to locate publications on all agricultural topics. It indexes journal articles, books, conference proceedings, and technical reports from the USDA, the US Forest Service, and the State Agricultural Experiment Stations.
        • BIOSIS Previews (ISI) - 1994+ Indexes articles from over 8,000 biological, biomedical science, and related journals. Updated weekly. For earlier years, ask at the Science/Maps Reference Desk, Level 2, for a subject librarian to help you with a BIOSIS [CARS] search.
        • MEDLINE (EBSCO) - This database is produced by the National Library of Medicine. It Indexes articles from about 4600 biomedical journals for the years 1966 to present. The articles are mostly on technical medical topics, written by physicians and other medical practitioners; but there are also some less technical articles. The BYU Lee Library has about 40% of the English language journals indexed in this database. Almost all of the other English language journals we do not have can be obtained by going to the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center Medical Library in Provo or to the Eccles Medical Library at the U of U in Salt Lake City; or you can get copies of the articles through ILLiad, the online Interlibrary Loan service. Ask at the Science Reference Desk for a list of journals that are available at UVRMC, or the Eccles Library at the U of U. The same list is also available through the Internet, the URL is:

    2. CD-ROM STAND ALONE DATABASES - These databases can be obtained from the Science Reference Desk on Level 2 of the library and searched on computers in front of the reference desk.
      • Current Contents Search (CC Search) - This CD-ROM databases provides up to date coverage in the following subject areas: 1) Clinical Medicine, 2) Life Sciences, 3) Agriculture, Biology, Food Science & Nutrition, and Environmental Sciences, and 4) Physical, Chemical, and Earth Sciences. Over 4,000 scientific Journals in these subject areas are indexes. An abstract, a short summary of the article, is included with most references. The database is updated weekly, so you can find references to articles that were published within the last one to six weeks. This databases begins with the year 1994. The current CD-ROM disk includes the most recent 52 weeks of references.
      • Science Citation Index - This database provides references to articles from about 3,400 scientific journals. These journals are the most frequently cited journals and cover all the topics in the sciences. It also gives references to articles that have cited important papers. Our library only has disks for the years 1990 to present; earlier years can be searched in the printed version available in the Science Reference Collection. This databases includes most of the references to articles from the older years of the Current Contents database.
      • Zoological Record - This databases indexes articles from about 2,000 publications dealing with animal taxonomy, systematics, ecology, and related topics. It is updated twice a year and covers the years back to 1978. There is a printed version of this databases which covers the literature back to the year 1864.

    3. Librarian Assisted Research Service
      Through the subject librarian you can have a search done which will provide references to articles in scholarly and technical journals, proceedings, and other publications. A subject librarian can search through a potential of hundreds of databases which are loaded on very large data banks that are not located at BYU. Information obtained through a search can be printed or downloaded to a disk (or both). From the results of your search you must then look on the BYU Library Catalog to see if the BYU Library has the publications you need; if not, you can use ILL. Anyone can have a librarian assisted search done by contacting Julie Williamsen in room 2322 HBLL or phone 422-6763; you can leave a message on my phone mail and I will return your call. There is a cost for doing these searches, but all of the searches for students are subsidized so you will not usually have to pay any money. The first $5.00 of each search you do is free; most searches will be less than $5.00; if the search is more than $5.00 the student must pay the additional amount. Some advantages to doing a librarian assisted search are that many databases can be searched simultaneously; the duplicates between the databases can be removed from your search results; and these searches only take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. You will receive a printed or disk copy, of each of the references; or they can be sent to your email address.
      • AGRIS International - Indexes worldwide agriculture literature that reflects research results, food production, and rural development.
      • BIOSIS (Biological Abstracts) - Indexes over 8,000 publications covering the years 1969 to present. Use it to find technical articles covering biology, botany, ecology, biotechnology, genetics, biomedicine, microbiology, and zoology.
      • CAB ABSTRACTS - Indexes agricultural, biological, veterinary medicine, human nutrition, developing countries, leisure, recreation, and tourism information from journals, books, reports, theses, conference proceedings, patents, and guides.
      • TOXLINE - This databases provides references to articles on all aspects of toxicology, including human, plant, and animal research.


  5. Printed Resources:

    If you need to find more information on your topic there are a number of printed resources in the Science Reference Collection that may be helpful. Ask at the Science Reference Desk for help in finding these additional sources and using them.

  6. Internet Resources:

    There are some good Internet sources where you can find information that may be useful. You need to use caution and good judgment with these Internet sources; not all of them are of academic quality. Some sources are very opinionated and some are not even accurate. One other thing to be careful of with Internet sources, is to be sure you give complete and accurate information in your references so that someone can get to the same source without any problems. Listed below are some selected Internet sources with links.

    Agriculture Related Sites

    • USDA-U.S. Department of Agriculture This link will connect you to the USDA home page. It will provide links to the various branches and agencies of the USDA and the sources they have made available to the public. This includes access to the National Agricultural Library (NAL); you can also access NAL from their home page.
    • FDA-Food and Drug Administration This site will provides information about food safety, food additives, cosmetics, and biotechnology.
    • FAO-Food and Agriculture Organizations of the UN This site provides information about FAO, its publications and meetings.
    • AgDB: Agricultural-related Information Systems This site will provide access to over 400 agriculture-related databases, datasets, and information systems. Bibliographic databases, like AGRICOLA, are not yet included.
    • U.S. State Agricultural Sites This site will provide access to information resources available from the State Agricultural Universities.
    • BIOSIS: Biological Sciences Information Services This is the company that produces the BIOSIS databases from which Biological Abstracts and Zoological Record are produced. They also have a lot of additional information on biological, biomedical, and molecular biology subjects.

    Environment Related Sites

    • Envirolink This site claims to be the largest online environmental resource on the planet. It provides access to projects that include a "library" of links by subject; green marketplace services; a list of online publications; an art gallery; connections to a forum; a free net site; and an environmental newswire services. Be careful with the academic level of what you get at this site.
    • UNEP-Unite Nations Environmental Programme This site provides information about the UNEP programs, publications, and data.
    • BIOSPHERE 2: This site provides information about the BIOSPHERE project and includes a "cybertour" of the project, and includes data and images from the various biomes.
    • U.S. EPA-Environmental Protection Agency This link will take you to the EPA home page and will provide the information they have to offer to the public.
    • U.S. Department of the Interior This link will connect you to the Dept. of the Interior home page and information which they have made available to the public.

    Medical Related Sites:

    • PUBMED: This is the home page of the National Library of Medicine. It will provide a variety of information on various medical topics. It will also allow you to search MEDLINE and other medical databases which will give you references to articles from medical journals. Under the search box is a button that has the word "Limits" on it. This will help you to narrow your search to more specific aspects of your topic. On the left of the home screen are many hotlinks to lead you to many other Internet sites where you can obtain thousands of pages of additional information.
    • AHCPR: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research This website provides practical, science based health care information. There is news, announcements, health research funding opportunities, research findings, assessment of quality healthcare, clinical medicine information, consumer health information, health data and surveys, and information about health products and sources.
    • American Heart Association This web is maintained, and updated by the American Heart Association. There are many sources of information, statistics, explanations, and heart issues.
    • HIVInsite: Gateway to AIDS Knowledge This site is updated, created, and maintained by the University of San Francisco General Hospital. There are options for finding information on the following aspects of HIV/AIDS: medical, prevention, social/policy, statistics, other topics, links to other HIV related sites, maps showing the distribution of HIV/AIDS in the USA and other countries, and a search program to find specific information in their web site.
    • HGI: HUMAN genome index This is an index to information from the Human Genome Project. This index provides full length gene sequences, more than 600,000 EST's and 63,000 tentative human consensus sequences. The ultimate goal is to represent a nonredundant view of all human genes with data on their expression patterns, cellular roles, and functions, and evolutionary relationships. Over 30,000 genes and their loci have been identified, and more are being added every day. There will be over 60,000 genes when the Human Gnome Project is completed.
    • HGMIS-Human Genome Management Information System This site provides information about the Human Genome Project; and also provides links and URL's to many other related Internet sites.
    • MEDICINENET This web site is produced and updated by a group of physicians. It provides short summaries of information about a variety of medical and health related topics of current interest.
    • The Virtual-Library Medicine This provides a comprehensive listing of WWW resources for biology and medicine. Health resources categorized by disease.
    • AMA-American Medical Association This site provides a lot of information produced and provided by AMA. It also provides links to other sites which provide medical related information.
    • WHO-World Health Organization This site provides information on international programs that aim to improve world wide access to health care. It includes access to newsletters, catalogs of WHO publications, and a link to the WHO Statistical Information System.
    • OMH (Office of Minority Health Resource Center) Health Links. This site includes information focused on health topics of concern to minority communities.
    • OMH database. This site provides links to minority information at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The database also includes organizations, programs, and a document database listing more than 1400 publications.
    • CDC (Centers for Disease Control) Spanish Language Website: This site provides resources focused on minority health.
    • Healthfinder, has a link directly to minority health resources. On that page are links to hot topics and diseases that specifically affect minority populations.


    There are many other Internet sources available; they can be found by searching with the various web search engines, or you can ask for help at the Science Reference Desk. We have additional lists of Internet sites in the science disciplines.