UWP 121H: History of Scientific Writing

by Ruth Gustafson, Sheena M Campbell – May 23, 2022

Sciences Topic Ideas and Search Terms

The top journals SCIENCE and NATURE have been publishing key science literature since the 19th century. Top licensed biology-focused journals include: Biological Reviews, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B – Biological Sciences (oldest continuously published biology journal in the world),  Quarterly Review of Biology, BioScience, FASEB (Federation of the American Societies of Experimental Biology) Journal and BioEssays.  Premier licensed medical journals — publishing since the 19th century — include JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine),  Lancet, and  BMJ (British Medical Journal).  See also the Journal Citation Reports to find top journal publications in other science categories including key titles about the History and Philosophy of Science.

Once you’ve picked a topic, you will need to think of search terms to use for locating articles and other publications. The UC Davis Library online catalog uses Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). Each library subject database — such as BIOSIS Previews or PubMed — also uses subject lists that can help you precisely search your topic.

Ruth Gustafson

Student Services
Student Services and Researcher Services Librarian



In this Guide:

UC Davis has extensive life science collections in the Shields Library (Biological, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences) and 2 separate health sciences libraries. Important science information may also be found as part of the Government Information collection of Shields Library, Lower Level. Veterinary information is located at the Carlson Health Sciences Library.   The Physical Sciences & Engineering Library is closed through Summer 2020.

  • Biological, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, Shields Library:  The BioAgEnvi Sciences print collections are located mainly on the 3rd floor of Shields Library. Some collections in the environmental sciences and marine biology are located on the 2nd floor in the G classification areas.
  • Blaisdell Medical Library, Medical Education Building, UC Davis Medical Center
  • Carlson Health Sciences Library, Southwest UCD campus
  • Physical Sciences & Engineering Library, Currently Closed – most of the current collection has been moved to 3rd floor Shields in the T call number areas
  • Government Information Collection, Shields Library  — Choose Government Information gold button.  The UC Davis Library is a federal and state depository library with extensive historical and current collections in print, microform and electronic formats. We collect extensively from major international, intergovernmental organizations, selectively from local jurisdictions, and on a very limited basis from foreign governments. Agriculture, forestry, the environment and ecology are areas of strength. We collect comprehensively from the U.S. Congress and California Legislature, along with federal and state laws and regulations. The Library’s collection of technical report literature is extensive. We emphasize statistical data in all collecting areas. Most government documents and maps are listed in the Harvest UC Davis Library Catalog and the UC-wide MELVYL Catalog. Some materials, such as technical reports and historical documents, may require specialized indexes or assistance from government information librarians.

The UCD Libraries selectively buy materials on writing in the sciences. Browsable subject headings that bring up these types of publications as well as history of these areas include:

Biology — Authorship; Communication of technical information; Life sciences — Authorship; Medical writing; Medicine — Historiography; Science — Historiography Technical writing; Technology — Historiography

Selected current books on science writing are now found in the Shields Library Reference collection, 2nd floor Shields. These cannot be checked out but can be used in the library or chapters copied or scanned.

  • UC Library Search: UCD Library Catalog setting
    Replacing UCD Library Catalog on July 27, 2021, the new UC Library Search includes all of the UC library collections.   This setting is specifically for the UC Davis libraries including (for the first time) the holdings of the Law Library. If you Sign in (on top right corner) using your UCD login and Kerberos passphrase, you are prompted with your loan period, can renew books online, and request items that have been checked out to another borrower, or are in storage.

NEED a PRINT ONLY ITEM AND CANNOT COME TO CAMPUS?  We’ll ship it to you!  Implemented during COVID time, the UCD Library is continuing with our shipping service.   Make sure to “Sign In” and then click on the REQUEST link and we’ll mail the whole item to you.  Make sure you have your correct address listed, when prompted.

ONLY NEED a chapter or an article from a PRINT ONLY ITEM?  Scanning service available for all UCD affiliates.  Use the DIGITIZATION link but make a note of the specific chapter/article you need and include as much info as you can, especially page number(s), if available.

You may renew your checked-out items up to three times which means for about a full quarter.  Book returning: “If you are in the [UCD] area and would like to return materials, you can deposit returns via the remote book drops or at Shields or Blaisdell Medical Library. Materials may also be mailed back at no cost to you. Contact shieldsinterloan@ucdavis.edu for additional instructions and to receive a postage-paid mailing label.”


  • Understanding Call Numbers

    Author: Library Instruction Services, Shields Library

    Library of Congress Classification is used for all of the UCD libraries except the health sciences libraries (which use NLM — National Library of Medicine — classification). Learn about how books are arranged in the UCD libraries with this guide.

    Date: 2004

Print books in the history of scientific writing may be found throughout the library but many are in the call number range of Q 125 …   In addition, the following are selected online titles that focus on specific aspects of historical scientific writing.  Make sure you have the Library VPN, Pulse Secure Pulse Secure Client client connects to the Library VPN turned on before accessing these eBooks from off campus.

A century of science publishing a collection of essays

Online access

  • Contributor(s): Fredriksson, Einar H.
  • Related Persons: Fredriksson, Einar H.
  • Subjects: Science publishing — History — 20th century; Science — Periodicals — Publishing; Electronic books
  • Publisher: Amsterdam ; Washington, DC : IOS Press
  • Publication Date: c2001

An anthology of nineteenth-century American science writing

Online access

  • Contributor(s): Resetarits, C. R.; ebrary, Inc.
  • Alternate Title(s): Anthology of 19th-century American science writing
  • Subjects: Science — United States — History — 19th century; Scientists — United States — History — 19th century; Electronic books
  • Description: pt. 1. 1800-1846 : naturals and naturalists — pt. 2. 1846-1876 : warriors — pt. 3. 1876-1900 : scientists.; Includes bibliographical references.; Electronic reproduction. Palo Alto, Calif. : ebrary, 2011. Available via World Wide Web. Access may be limited to ebrary affiliated libraries.
  • Publisher: London : Anthem Press
  • Publication Date: 2012

The Britannica guide to the 100 most influential scientists the most important scientists from ancient Greece to the present day

Online access

  • Author: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Staff Corporate Author
  • Alternate Title(s): 100 most influential scientists
  • Subjects: Science — History; Scientists — Biography; Electronic books
  • Publisher: London : Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc.
  • Publication Date: c2008

Companion Encyclopedia of Science in the Twentieth Century

Online access

  • Author: Krige, John.
  • Contributor(s): Pestre, Dominique.
  • Alternate Title(s): Companion to science in the twentieth century
  • Related Persons: Pestre, Dominique.
  • Subjects: Science — History — 20th century; Electronic books
  • Publisher: Florence : Taylor and Francis
  • Publication Date: 2013

Languages of science in the eighteenth century

Online access

  • Contributor(s): Gunnarsson, Britt-Louise, editor
  • Related Persons: Gunnarsson, Britt-Louise, editor
  • Subjects: Science — Europe — History — 18th century; Scientists — Europe — Intellectual life — 18th century; Technical writing — Europe — History — 18th century; SCIENCE — History; SCIENCE — History; Electronic books
  • Description: The eighteenth century is an important period both in the history of science and in the history of languages. In this volume, seventeen authors explore, from a variety of angles, the construction of a scientific language and discourse. The chapters explore the forming of scientific communities, the emergence of new languages of science, the spread of scientific ideas, and the development of scientific writing; Includes bibliographical references and index; Print version record
  • Publisher: Berlin ; New York : De Gruyter Mouton
  • Publication Date: 2011

The quotable Darwin

Online access

  • Author: Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882 author
  • Contributor(s): Browne, E. J. (E. Janet), 1950- editor
  • Alternate Title(s): Quotations. Selections
  • Related Persons: Browne, E. J. (E. Janet), 1950- editor
  • Subjects: Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882; Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882 — Quotations; Evolution (Biology); Natural history; BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Science & Technology; SCIENCE — Life Sciences — Evolution
  • Publisher: Princeton : Princeton University Press
  • Publication Date: 2017

Science and technology in medicine : an illustrated account based on ninety-nine landmark publications from five centuries

Online access

  • Author: Gedeon, Andras
  • Subjects: Science — History — Pictorial Works; Science — history; Science — history — Pictorial Works; Biomedical Technology — History — Pictorial Works; Biomedical Technology — history; Biomedical Technology — history — Pictorial Works; History of Medicine; History of Medicine — Pictorial Works; History, Modern 1601-; History, Modern 1601- — Pictorial Works; Medical technology — History; Medicine — History; Science — History; Medical technology; Medicine; Science; History
  • Publisher: New York : Springer
  • Publication Date: 2006

Science for all the popularization of science in early twentieth-century Britain

Online access

  • Author: Bowler, Peter J.
  • Subjects: Science news — Great Britain — History — 20th century; Communication in science — Great Britain — History — 20th century; Electronic books
  • Publisher: Chicago : University of Chicago Press
  • Publication Date: 2009

Science in print: essays on the history of science and the culture of print

Online access

  •  Author: Apple, Roma D.
  •  Subjects: Science publishing — History; Scientific literature — History; Communication in science — History
  •  Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  •  Publication Date: 2012

There is a subject guide matching nearly every department at the UC Davis campus.  Find the Subject Guide which best matches your major!  This browsable list is organized by broad disciplinary categories:  General & Multidisciplinary Resources, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, Arts & Humanities, Biological Sciences, Engineering & Transportation, Government Information, Health Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences.   See especially the Subject Guide for HISTORY: Science, Medicine and Technology .

Clarivate Analytics Journal Citation Reports (JCR) is a comprehensive tool for assessing the importance of research journals in disciplines and subdisciplines including medical specialties.   Check the JCR category on History and Philosophy of Science .

NOTE that *review* journals tend to be listed as top ranked titles, taking space away from original research titles, so use with caution. Typical review series may have the following words in their title: Advances in … ; Annual Review of …; Critical Reviews in … ; Current Opinion in … ; Expert Reviews in … ; International Review of … ; Progress in … ; Trends in …

Journal Citation Reports (JCR) is an annual publication by Thomson Reuters with each yearly data analysis being completed in the summer of the following year. JCR indicates: most frequently cited journals in a field: highest impact journals in a field; and largest journals in a field. JCR Science Edition contains data from over 7,300 journals in science and technology. JCR Social Sciences Edition contains data from over 2,200 journals in the social sciences. NOTE: For disciplines that have longer timespans for citation, consider sorting for ranking by using the 5-year Impact Factor sort.
Release Coverage: 1997-2015 (for 1996-2014 data)
Impact Factors in Wikipedia: validity, manipulation, and misuse of Impact Factors
Using JCR Wisely