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Topical Guides: Life Sciences Research

Life Sciences Research > 4: Supporting Data, Documents & Artifacts

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4A: Types of Resources

Data (such as facts or statistics), documents, artifacts (objects) and biographical information related to your topic will provide support, evidence or credence to your research thesis or claims. The best source for your project will depend on what type of information you are researching. For example, biographical information provides context to a subject's life. Data and statistics illustrate trends or provide support for ideas. Artifacts provide visual evidence for your findings.

It is important to distinguish between the two basic types of information: primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources are from the time period you are researching (from the historical context). These sources can include artifacts, statistics, autobiographies or newspapers. Primary sources often form the foundation for a research project. Examples are: your own compilation of statistics, lab experiment results, dissections, correspondence between researchers, patent records, etc.

Secondary sources may also form a foundation for research, but more often these sources provide additional support for your ideas. They include Web pages, articles, or contemporary books. The key distinction between primary and secondary sources is that secondary sources interpret primary sources. Textbooks, biographies, and book reviews are good examples of secondary sources.

4B: Examples

USDA Plants Database

Search for information on plants (search by scientific or common name, symbol, or family) browse various topics, and view over 40,000 images.

Darwin Online

The largest web site for information about Charles Darwin, including his books, articles, letters, and more.

Netfrog: The Interactive Frog Dissection

An interactive site designed to teach high school students the anatomy of a frog as well as how to dissect it.

PAN Pesticides Database

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Pesticide Database Web site brings together a diverse array of information on pesticides from many different sources to make a one-stop location for current toxicity and regulatory information for pesticides.


Provides images, videos, a glossary, an FAQ and even a targeted search engine for finding information on plants, pests, plant diseases, history of horticuture and horticultural literature.

Birds of North America Online (OSU access)

Comprehensive information about over 700 bird species from the U.S. and Canada.

4C: How to Find More


The official U.S. Government portal to over 30 million pages of government information, services, and online transactions. It is a source for finding government documents, reports, and statistical data from a variety of federal sources. Search by key word or use the topical index to browse your way through the documents.

BioDiversity Heritage Library

Search for items from natural history and botanical libraries' digitzed collections.

Google Book Search

A beta search tool with scanned pages from thousands of all types of books contributed to Google by publishers and libraries. Your keywords can be searched within the full text of books. Only a limited number of pages can be viewed online for books under copyright restrictions. In these cases, see if OSU or an OhioLINK library own the book for borrowing. Books that are no longer under copyright restriction can be read and printed in their entirety online.

OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons (OSU access)

Audio, video, and image collections provided by OhioLINK.

Oxford Reference Online (OSU access)

A resource (available to the OSU community by means of subscription) of about 100 dictionary, language reference, and subject reference works published by Oxford University Press. It is a fully-indexed, cross-searchable database of these books.

OSU Library E-Book Collections (OSU access)

These collections are available through the OSU library subscriptions. All titles in these collections can be found through the library catalog, but by connecting directly to a collection, topics and names are searchable within the books.


Search the PAN Pesticide Database to find the active ingredient in White Fly Spray.

[Links open in new browser window.]

Pop Quiz

Which of the following is NOT a primary source?

Correct answer:[NOTE: Score is not recorded]

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