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Subject Guides

Genetics: Researching a Topic

Finding Journal Articles

If you know the author and title of a paper, Google Scholar should find it as an online resource; and if your computer is set up to link Google Scholar to Cambridge resources, you should be able to get straight to the full-text paper if we have online access.

The new library interface, iDiscover, should also find papers if the author and title is supplied, and should also link to that paper online if available.

A very common problem with e-journals is not being able to get access to the full text of a paper from a reference. There is a barrier because we usually have to pay subscriptions for access, but the place where you found the reference may not 'know' we pay.

If you have located the paper, but cannot seem to get the full-text online, try this :

Search for the journal in which the paper was published in the e-journals box in the e-resources LibGuide. This is a useful route in because it shows :

  1. If we do actually have online access
  2. Which years are covered by which database - in many cases recent years are represented in one database, with older volumes held in another resource. If the relevant year is covered, click on the link to the journal and navigate to the article
  3. If you are away from Cambridge, accessing the journal via this interface will eliminate all complicated password requests - you will be recognised as coming from Cambridge, and asked for your Raven password only

You need to know that, despite what some people say, all journal papers are not online! Furthermore, we have to pay for much of the access we have, so if we do not have a subscription, you will not have instant online access. But even if we don't have e-access, a library in Cambridge probably has a paper copy: enter the journal title in iDiscover to find out. And if Cambridge does not have a paper copy - ask your subject librarian if a copy can be obtained from elsewhere - e-mail



Use indexing databases to carry out a subject search. The most popular databases for geneticists are listed in the 'Online Resources' box on the 'Home' page of this guide.

The key things to remember when conducting a subject search are:

  1. Think carefully about how to express what exactly it is you are looking for
  2. Unless you are very adept at searching, never accept the first batch of references retrieved as 'it'. You can almost certainly hone your search to get better retrieval - which will save you checking through lots of hits, or conversely missing something important
  3. A specialist database covering your subject area is likely to provide you with more relevant hits than Google, but one database is unlikely to fit all - try several for important research questions

'The essential guide to using the web for research' which is available to us online as part of Sage Research Methods, provide some extremely useful tips on how to search, where to search, writing your report etc.

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Online databases for finding information on a topic

Using subject-specific and subject-indexed resources will give you far fewer results than a general search like Google, but that is not a bad thing! If your search question was worded well, the references retrieved will be more appropriate.

The recommendations above are major resources favoured by many in the Department of Genetics, but there are plenty of others to choose from : see the other 2 tabs in this box.

Which database is 'best' really depends on what subject you are looking for. Most people tend to use the same resource all the time - but it is a good idea to try others as well for important searches, as you will generally find some different items will be retrieved in different databases, even using the same search terms.

One way of finding out which databases are of most use to you is to set up similar alerts in several databases, and see which database finds the most appropriate material - and how quickly. Click on the 'Keeping up with research' tab above for information on alerts.

A list of databases relevant to Genetics can be found here : You might find that databases you were not previously aware of give excellent results for your query - the only way to find out is to try different resources!

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E-resource help

  •  Check in the e-journals box in the e-resources LibGuide to find out if the journal you are looking for, and the relevant year, is available online
  • For answers to other common questions about e-resources, (journals, ebooks, databases)  see these Frequently Asked Questions
  • Please also feel free to get in touch with your subject specialist librarian, at
  • The e-resources blog will inform you of new databases and trials