Databases of the week: Finding journal articles in biology

December 16, 2019
Michael L Newman
Web of Science

Listed below are seven of the most frequently used databases for finding biological literature. Which is the best database for finding journal articles in biology? The quick answer is that it depends on your specific topic. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

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If you are looking for articles in cell biology, molecular biology, neuroscience, developmental biology, or other areas of biomedical research, start with PubMed.  

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If your research is in ecology, evolutionary biology, plant science, or other disciplines that are less directly related to medicine, start with BIOSIS Citation Index.

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For articles in agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, food and nutrition, laboratory animal care, and other applied areas of biology, start with CAB Abstracts and Agricola.

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For marine biology, BIOSIS and Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA) are good choices.

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For biobusiness, bioengineering, biopsychology, and other interdisciplinary topics, try a multidisciplinary database.  There are many of these, and Web of Science Core Collection will give you a good start.  Other frequently used multidisciplinary databases are xSearch, Scopus, Google Scholar, SearchWorks Articles+.

Each of these databases, and particularly BIOSIS and PubMed are large and wide-ranging in their subject coverage.  They overlap but there are unique citations in each. On those occasions when you need to be more comprehensive, search two or more databases and compare results.

To help you select the right database, below are descriptions of the most frequently used article databases in biology.

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AGRICOLA, produced by the National Agricultural Library (NAL), indexes publications and resources encompassing all aspects of agriculture and allied disciplines, including animal and veterinary sciences, entomology, plant sciences, forestry, aquaculture and fisheries, farming and farming systems, agricultural economics, extension and education, food and human nutrition, and earth and environmental sciences.  The database contains citations for journal articles that include abstracts, in addition to bibliographic records describing monographs, serials, audiovisual materials and online content. 

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Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA) is an abstracting and indexing service covering the world's literature on the science, technology, management, and conservation of marine, brackish water, and freshwater resources and environments, including their socio-economic and legal aspects.  The overall objective of ASFA is to disseminate information on aquatic sciences and fisheries to the world community, bearing in mind the special interests of developing countries in this field.

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BIOSIS Citation Index combines carefully indexed life science coverage with the power of cited reference searching. The database covers botany, zoology, microbiology, and other areas of biology, in addition to related and interdisciplinary fields such as agriculture, biochemistry, bioengineering, biomedical research, biophysics, biotechnology, ecology, medicine, and pharmacology. 

 

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CAB Abstracts is the most comprehensive source of international research information in agriculture, environment and all related applied life sciences. CAB Abstracts covers over 8,000 rigorously selected serials, in addition to books, abstracts, published theses, conference proceedings, bulletins, monographs, and technical reports​.  Subject coverage ranges across the applied life sciences, from agriculture, the environment, and veterinary sciences, to applied economics, leisure/tourism, and nutrition.

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PubMed is a free resource that is developed and maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), at the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). The database comprises over 30 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. PubMed citations and abstracts include the fields of biomedicine and health, covering portions of the life sciences, behavioral sciences, chemical sciences, and bioengineering. 

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Web of Science Core Collection indexes over 21,100 peer-reviewed, high-quality scholarly journals published worldwide (including Open Access journals) in the sciences, social sciences, and arts & humanities. Conference proceedings and book data are also available, and cited reference searching in publications from 1900 to the present is a valuable feature of the database.

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Zoological Record is the world’s oldest continuing database of animal biology. It is considered the world’s leading taxonomic reference, and with coverage back to 1864, has long acted as the world’s unofficial register of animal names. The broad scope of coverage ranges from biodiversity and the environment to taxonomy and veterinary sciences.

 

The Databases page lists dozens of additional databases for biology.  These cover a wide variety of topics, from general to very specialized, including sequence data, metabolic pathways, laboratory protocols, population studies, biodiversity data, and much more.

 

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