Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Database: Biological Abstracts

Interested in exploring journal literature "in virtually every life sciences discipline, including biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, botany, pre-clinical and experimental medicine, pharmacology, zoology, agriculture, and veterinary science"? Then a database that we've just added will be a valuable tool!

Biological Abstracts (aka BIOSIS) is considered the definitive index to life science literature, and has been so for generations. Over 250,000 records from journals worldwide are added annually to Biological Abstracts. Over 4,200 journals from 100 countries are indexed. And "every item included in Biological Abstracts has met the high standards of an objective evaluation process that eliminates clutter and excess and delivers data that is accurate, meaningful and timely."
Unfortunately, with the word "Abstracts" in the title, you know that this is an index that provides citations, useful controlled vocabulary (subject and other limiting terminology) and summaries....and nothing more. That is the main reason that we got BioAbs on our familiar EbscoHost platform. Ebsco provides direct-linking to many articles available in its proprietary databases like Academic Search Complete. But it also allows us to make use of Custom Linking and our Serial Solutions 360 Link (look for the green 360 dot-link below results list records).

It's not unusual to have more than one access option on some articles. Although with indexing as extensive as this, not all articles will be available through our collections.

The really admirable thing about Biological Abstracts is the great many precise "Limit Your Results" options that you have from the opening search screen or from the Source Type and Subject limits in the left frame of any results list after you perform a search. There are also many clickable link terms attached to individual article records.

Below is an example of the kind of index links that are available on a single record about shad in the Merrimack River:

In addition to publication level limiters such as: Date Published, Journal Name, Abstract Available, Language, Publication Type and Document type, the updated Biological Abstracts database also offers a host of additional limiters designed to support complex relational indexing, for example:

* Taxa notes
* Type of Organism Name
* Disease Affiliation
* Organ System
* Chemical Role

If a particular term or concept looks promising, click it to explore the entries that use that term or code. Or do what I usually do: perform a simple keyword combination search (like myotis lucifugus and echolocation) and then browse through multiple records, decide if there is better terminology available, and then use those terms in a fresh "advanced" search for more precise results. To get a sense of BioAbs terms, you can also search or browse the "Major Concepts," which is a link in the upper left frame of any screen, as seen below.

If you wish to see a more extensive list of the Controlled Vocabulary (Authority File) for the Biological Abstracts and BIOSIS databases, you can also take a look at this website from the publisher.

Biological Abstracts
is an expensive database, with older segments based on purchase instead of lease. We could not afford to add very deep backfile to the index yet. However, we did all coverage years back to 1995. This dovetails nicely with the kind of fulltext access we have through other databases and publisher aggregates.

Those of you interested in the life sciences should definitely make this professional-level abstracting service a regular research stop.

[FIND Biological Abstracts on the Sciences page of the "Database by Subject" Lists.]

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