Finding Information on an Organism

Finding Information on an Organism

This guide is primarily for students in Biology 151, Ent/BPS/Bio 112 and other classes in which students are required to find information on an organism. If all you have been given is a name, these checklists can help you find clues to its place in the taxonomic hierarchy, who first described it, and other information.

This handout is designed to be a checklist, rather than a definitive guide on how to use the individual sources. Consult other library handouts, appropriate online help, or ask a reference librarian for further assistance. Note: Some books may be on Reserve.
Determining the classification (where it fits in):

Animals: General (including insects)


Location, Comments

Nomenclator Zoologicus, ed. by S.A.Neave.

Ref QL354.N4 (Covers 1758-1966 in 7 vols)

Taxonomic index on PubMed

via PubMed through the Library Home page

Searchable Index to Organism Names in Zoological Record

Google (Internet search engine)

Index Animalium

Ref QL354 .S5 (Covers 1801-1850)

Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms

Ref QH83 S89x 1982 (2 vols.)

Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia

Ref QL3 G7813 (13 vols)

The New Larousse Encyclopedia of Animal Life

Ref QL50 .L32 1980

Animal Life

QL101 A55 1991

Animals: California Marine Invertebrates



Location, Comments

Lightís Manual: Intertidal Invertebrates of the Central California Coast

QL 362 L53 1975

Invertebrates of Southern California Waters

QL164 I58 (library has v. 1-2 only)

Between Pacific Tides

QL138 R5 1985

Common Intertidal Invertebrates of Southern California

QL 164 A45 1976




Location, Comments

Gray Herbarium Index

Ref QK11 .H37 1968

ING: Index nominum genericorum

Search Plant Taxonomy in INFOMINE

Metacrawler (internet search engine)

Finding books, articles or other data that may give clues to the information you need




Biosis (BIO & BIO85)

CDL hosted database (Melvyl) Access through Melvyl ( or via theUCR library home page (

CAB & Agricola [Agriculture]

Web Databases-- access via UCR library home page

GeoRef [Paleontology]


Zoological Record [Zoology]

Ref QL1 Z65

Web of Science [All fields]

Web database ( or via the UCR library home page (, then click on electronic resources)

size=2>Books in the library

Melvyl or Scotty subject search on the family

Search the name of your organism in these databases. In addition, if you know who first described the organism, do a Cited Reference search in Web of Science, for example: search Andrews 1891 as a cited reference.


In most cases this assignment is not easy. You will find out about many information sources, many of which may be new to you. To learn to use the various sources, consult online help, the front of the reference book, or a library handout as appropriate. If you need more assistance, the reference librarians can guide you.

In some cases there may not be data easily available. Itís not that youíre dumb, but the sources just canít be tracked down very easily. The library may not have all the original sources, either.

Once you find the family of your organism, you can try to find a book in MELVYL or Scotty on the family, or class, for example, "clams" or "Annelida." Check the indexes to see if your genus/species is listed.

Note that the MELVYL System or Scotty (the UCR Library Catalog) is not the best place to start your search. Biological handbooks, dictionaries and encyclopedias or a classified index, such as the Zoological Record or Gray Herbarium Index are a better first stop in order to determine what the organism is.

Watch out. Sometimes the organism name is misspelled.

Last modified: 4/29/2004 3:03 PM by by M. Potter

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