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Biology-Indexes and Abstracts: Home

Research techniques for Find It@NSULA Libraries for biology as well as biology and related databases.

Biological Indexes and Abstracts

Indexing can be done in various formats. The most common ones for print indexes are listed below:

Subject Indexing: Index Medicus-indexing is arranged by subject headings using a controlled vocabulary. The subjects are listed in the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings). The benefits to this type of indexing include articles on the same subject will be listed together. It is simple to use and generally consistent over time. The disadvantages come mainly from the subject headings not changing as quickly as terms in use. Also, articles that do not fit neatly in a category must be forced to fit somewhere.

Keyword in title indexing: Biological Abstracts is the best example of this type of indexing. The major keywords in the title of an article are used to organize the titles. The biggest advantage to this type of indexing is flexibility and timeliness. The biggest disadvantage occurs when authors do not use the same terms. For example, if one article uses the scientific name in the title and another author uses the common name, the two articles will usually not be together. The best way to use this index is to make a list of all possible terms--especially scientific and common names and search them all.

Citation Index: Web of Science is the best example of this although Academic Search Complete and PsycInfo also use is. JSTOR to a lesser extent and Google Scholar also provides citation index. This indexing is based on the concept that articles on the same topic will cite each other in the indexing and trace back to one major article. To use this type of indexing, you must find an major article on a particular topic and using the citation index, find other articles that cite the original article. This type of indexing is non-linear, except for the first article.

Other Indexing: Zoological Record uses a modified subject indexing in that each volume is arranged by species: Aves, Pices, Insecta, Mammalia etc, then subject indexes within that volume.

Although not as readily apparent in online databases as their print counterparts, knowing how the online indexes are constructed can be helpful in searching.


The following databases are useful in researching biological topics. You can access them by going to the Library Webpage ( and look at the menu on the right hand side. Find Database Directory and click on that button. Scroll down to Science and Technology and click on that button.

Academic Search Complete: a multi-disciplinary database indexing more than 8,500 full text periodicals including 7,300 scholarly titles.

Agricola: contains records from the National Agriculture Library. In includes animal and veterinary sciences, plant sciences, aquaculture, human nutrition, etc.

Biological Abstracts 1969 to Present: covers more than 4,000 international journals on life sciences. Note that you can consult Major Concepts to find potential search terms.

Medline: created by the National Library of Medicine provides citations to over 5,600 biomedical journals. Use the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) to locate terms.

Other databases you might wish to consult include the Environmental Index and Greenfile for environmental studies and JSTOR for older articles.

NOTE: Scientific databases do not have as many full-text articles as other subject fields. You will need to rely on Interlibrary Loan to obtain copies of most articles.