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Gerstein Science Information Centre

BIO120: Adaptation and Biodiversity

This guide will assist BIO120 students, as well as other biology students, when starting to look for and gather research for papers and assignments.

Natural History Websites

Try these websites for some basic natural history information:


Search your species name on Wikipedia. There might be an overview of the species' natural history and some background information to get you thinking. Some of the links cited in Wikipedia might even be useful in your research!

Note: Use wikipedia to find resources, but don't cite wikipedia itself! (See "Evaluating Web Pages" on the left).

What is Natural History?

Abelharuco - Bee-eater - Merops apiasterhidden valley (better big)

Images: jcoelho and La Lince, on Flickr

  • An explanation of the elements of the life and life style of a given species, such as diet, reproduction, and social grouping.
  • The scientific study of plants or animals (more observational than experimental) usually published in popular magazines rather than in academic journals

Using Journal Articles to Find Natural History Information

It is not the most obvious place to look, but you can find very reliable - and easily cited - natural history information in articles published in scientific journals. Search your species name and look at any of the articles that come up. Even if you are not interested in the topic that the article discusses (maybe you can not even understand it!), you should check the Introduction and Methods sections for information on your species.

Searching for Articles

To find articles: from the U of T library homepage, you can search using either the advanced search option or through subject specific databases.

The advanced article search allows you to use keywords. By narrowing down your search results using the facets on the left hand side, you can find relevant articles. Also, if you know the specific details of the article you are looking for, such as volume, issue and/or title, this is where you can search for it.

Advanced search with facets

It is likely that you will receive an overwhelming amount of results, but by selecting the appropriate search filters, format and subject options, you can narrow down your results.

To find the most useful databases for your subject, click on "Databases" from the UTL library homepage, then select "Article databases by subjects A-Z", and then choose a subject from the list. For example, if we select "Biology" from this list, we see key biology and multidisciplinary databases such as BIOSIS, Scopus, and Web of Science. This can also lead you to other resources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Resource Guide.


Encyclopedias are another great resource for finding natural history information. Check out these encyclopedias from the University of Toronto that are written and edited by experts in the field.

Using Books to find Natural History Information

Books are another great resource for Natural History information. Information found in books is reliable and complete; however, it may not be the most recent.


Textbooks are another great resource, for both natural history information and summaries of previous research. Textbooks are especially good for finding information on concepts you are going to include in your proposal.