Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Biological Sciences: Referencing

The Library’s online Referencing Guide explains many of the principles of referencing, and helps you reference different types of resources, such as books, journals, webpages and images. This page is your gateway to that guide, but also gives you some help in referencing for biological sciences in particular.

Link to BU Harvard Referencing Guide

Referencing Informatics Tools & Databases - Guidelines and Tutorial

One issue for Biological Science students is how to reference certain special resources such as informatics tools and datasets. You might be tempted to reference these as webpages – however they are reviews of academic work by hundreds of experts, and are publications in their own right, and so should be referenced in a special way.

There are examples of some of these resources at the bottom of this box.

So how do you cite these informatics tools? There are 3 steps to do this (you can follow these on a helpful tutorial here to make things really clear).

  • First, find guidance on the site for how to cite. Look for the information at the bottom of the page, or under Help or FAQ’s. If you can’t find it, you can try ‘how do I cite [database name]’ in Google, and that should bring up the right page – but be careful it is advice on the actual database and not someone else’s opinion.
  • Secondly, make sure you have the correct version of the data in your reference. This will change at least annually, so check you have the most up to date version.
  • Thirdly, you need to convert the reference into BU Harvard format – again the tutorial should help with ways to do this.

Examples of these informatics tools are

Using Quotations

In the Referencing Guide there are instructions for what to do if you do find it necessary to quote from a text word for word. However:

  • In scientific writing, quotations should be rarely used if at all.
  • Quoting does not demonstrate that you know your subject or have analysed an argument.
  • Your writing should express things in your own words, demonstrating that you have understood what you have read.

Science Writing

You can find more help with scientific writing on our academic writing guide, which has a page specifically on the subject