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University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

Natural Science: Reference

Reference Sources

References sources are useful for getting a general overview of a topic. They do not formulate new ideas or interpretations; rather, they summarize existing knowledge and scholarly research, and their entries often include citations to the sources used to compile them.

A reference source is generally not something you will use as a cited source in a research paper. However, it can be a good starting point for your research on a topic because you can gain a background understanding of current knowledge and theory about that subject, and the citations can lead you to good secondary sources and related works.

Ebook Reference Collections

These are collections of electronic reference books that include books on life science topics.

Reference Ebooks

Print Reference Books

The following books are recommended general reference works that cover life sciences. Reference books are marked with red stickers on their spines. They do not circulate; you must use them in the library. Click on a book to go to its catalog record.


In almost all cases, Wikipedia is not acceptable as a source in academic research. Anyone can add or revise Wikipedia content, and that content may be incorrect, incomplete, or biased. The only people overseeing the quality of the content are other Wikipedia users.

In contrast, the reference sources here are by academic publishing companies, and the entries have been written and edited by experts.

Wikipedia can be useful for getting a quick overview of a well-studied, non-controversial topic. Then, with that background established, you can proceed to scholarly sources. Be wary of articles on obscure or controversial topics, as they are more likely to be biased or to be the work of a limited number of people. 

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