This is a guide to using the Web of Science to search for biological literature at the University of Delaware. It also includes links to help you obtain the references you've uncovered.
All of the resources mentioned here can be accessed from anywhere on campus, including dorm rooms, using the "on campus" links. The "off campus" links take you to a proxy server, where you enter your UD user ID and password. Some of these resources seem to change web addresses fairly often. If a link doesn't work, go to the main library web page from on campus or the main library web page from off campus and find what you need.
The Web of Science is a database of scientific references from thousands of journals going back to 1900. Like several other literature databases, the Web of Science indexes authors and titles, and for most papers since 1991, it also indexes the abstracts. What makes the Web of Science particularly valuable is that it indexes citations; thus if you have an older paper on a particular topic, you can see the more recent papers that cite that older reference.
To access the Web of Science, go to here if you're on campus or here if you're off campus, then click on the Connect button.
For most searches, you should use the "Search" tab, which is the initial search screen you see after connecting.
A topic search finds words and phrases in the title, abstract, and keywords of articles. Only articles published after 1990 have abstracts and keywords in the SCI database. The rules for searches are similar to those used in many Internet search engines:
A topic search also finds matches in the "Keywords Plus," which seem to be random words pulled from the reference list of a paper. Thus if you search for mytilus trossulus, you'll get papers that mention that species of mussel in their title, abstract or keywords; you'll also get a few papers about clams, starfish and snails that merely cite a paper or two about Mytilus trossulus.
Keep in mind that for papers from before 1991, the Web of Science does not include abstracts or keywords, so a topic search will only find the words you're looking for if they're in the title. To do a thorough search of the valuable older literature, you're going to have to do more than topic searches.
Enter author names as last name followed by initials, with no punctuation. You may use the wildcard symbol, Boolean operators and parentheses for author searches as well. Thus searching for kreitman m and aguade m finds only the papers that these two authors published together. Some authors are inconsistent about whether they use their middle initial; for example, if you just search for kreitman m you'll miss papers he published as M.E. Kreitman; a search for kreitman m* would be one way to get all his papers; kreitman m or kreitman me would be even better.
Hyphenated names are sometimes indexed with the hyphen and sometimes without, so if you are searching for papers by M.C. Farach-Carson, for example, you should enter farachcarson mc or farach-carson mc. People with two unhyphenated last names sometimes have them combined and sometimes have one treated as a middle name; thus to find papers by J. Maynard Smith you should enter maynardsmith j or smith jm (and then expect to wade through a lot of references by other people named J.M. Smith).
If you're beginning a career as a research scientist, do an author search for your own name. If there are a lot of publications by people with the same name as you, you might want to add a middle initial or two to the name you use in publications; it will help you literally make a name for yourself. While you're practicing with Web of Science, it also fun to see how many authors have last names that would be rather embarrassing when they introduce themselves to English speakers.
You may combine author and topic searches. If you're only interested in R.K. Koehn's papers on the heterozygosity-fitness relationship, you could enter heterozygosity in the topic box and koehn rk in the author box.
These fields are mainly used for narrowing down a search. An author search for smith jm yields over 2600 papers; if you know that J. Maynard Smith is at the University of Sussex, you can enter smith jm in the Author box and sussex in the Address box and just get papers by him. If a newspaper article says there's a new Nature paper about sonic hedgehog, but doesn't give any more publication details, you can enter sonic hedgehog in the Topic box and nature in the Publication Name box and find it.
If a search gives you an overwhelming number of references, you may want to narrow it down using the Refine Results choices on the left side of the page. For example, a search for crab evolution yields 681 references. However, 167 of them are in the subject area Astronomy and Astrophysics, presumably because they refer to the evolution of the Crab Nebula. Choosing Evolutionary Biology and Genetics and Heredity as the subject areas yields 96 references.
Often you will want to look up one paper that you've seen referenced somewhere else. The quickest way to do that is to enter the title, or at least a large chunk of the title, into the search box, surrounded by quotation marks. You can then do either a Topic or Title search and, unless the authors picked a really boring title, you'll find just that paper. For example, if you see a reference to the article "Life-history and spatial determinants of somatic growth dynamics in Komodo dragon populations" you could search for "somatic growth dynamics in Komodo dragon" and it would be the only result.
A search gives you a list of references, from most recent to oldest, that meet the search criteria. Click on the title of a paper to see an expanded version of the reference, often with the abstract. This view of the reference has three or four useful links, of which the "Times cited" link is often the most useful. Clicking on this gives a list of the more recent papers that have cited the one you are looking at. If you are interested in the topic of heterogeneity among genes in the ratio of polymorphism to divergence, you might start by finding the 1987 paper by Hudson, Kreitman and Aguadé, one of the classic papers on the subject. Clicking on the "Times cited" button gives a list of all of the papers published between 1987 and today that have cited the 1987 paper.
The "References" link is a list of all of the references cited in the paper; this gives you older references on the same subject. Those references that are in the SCI database have links; other references are presented in a rather abbreviated format, and it will usually be easier to figure them out if you look at the actual reference list in the paper. Books and book chapters aren't in the SCI database, so you'll have to look at the actual reference list to get enough information to find them.
The "View Related References" link yields papers that cite many of the same references as the one you're looking at. Sometimes this is useful, and sometimes it isn't. For example, let's say you're interested in finding papers on variation in the polymorphism to divergence ratio among genes in humans. You start by searching for papers that have cited the classic Hudson, Kreitman and Aguadé 1987 paper, which presents the statistical test used for this kind of comparison. There are hundreds, and most aren't about humans, but one of the most recent papers is on variation at the Duffy blood group locus in humans. Clicking on the "View Related Records" link for this paper might give you papers that have looked at polymorphism and divergence in other human genes, which is what you want, or it might just give a bunch of papers on the Duffy locus, which you don't really care about.
Many articles have a "Get It!" button. In theory, you should click on this and get the full article. Sometimes this works, and sometimes (especially when using the proxy server from off campus) it doesn't work. There may also be a "Full Text" button; this will probably work. If these buttons don't work, or the reference doesn't have either button, add it to your list of references and get it as described below under "Obtaining papers."
All of the above searches started on the "Search" page. The "Cited Reference Search" page is useful for finding papers that have cited multiple papers by the same author, or for finding papers that have cited sources that aren't in the SCI database, such as books, book chapters, papers from before 1900, and papers from obscure journals.
To use the Cited Reference Search page, select the "Web of Science" tab and then click on "Cited Reference Search." Enter the name of the author in the Cited Work box. If the list of references this yields is too long, enter the date to narrow it down. For example, to find papers that have cited the book The formation of vegetable mould, through the action of worms, published in 1881 by C. Darwin, enter darwin c in the Cited Author box and 1881 in the Cited Year box. You'll get a list of references published in that year by Darwin. Click on the one you want, then click on the Finish Search button.
It is possible to look for citations to more than one paper at once. Let's say you're interested in papers that test whether the frequency distribution of nucleotide polymorphisms fits the neutral model. There are two classic statistical tests for this, the Tajima test of 1989 and the Fu and Li test of 1993. To get a single list of papers that cite one or both of these, enter (fu yx and li wh) or tajima f in the Cited Author box and 1989 or 1993 in the Cited Year box. Go through the list and find the two papers you are interested in, click on the boxes next to them, then click the Search button.
Once you've got a list of relevant references, you'll want to read them. You can get many of them with the "Get It!" or "Full Text" buttons in Web of Science. If that doesn't work, go to main library page, available on-campus or from off-campus. Enter the first part of the journal title in the "E-journals by Name" box and hit Search.
If the library doesn't have the electronic version of your journal, it may have the printed version. To find out whether the print version of a journal is in the library, use Delcat from on campus or off campus. Once you get to the record for the journal, click on the link next to "Holdings." This will tell you which volumes of the journal are in the Morris Library, the Ag Library, the Marine Studies Library, or the Library Annex.
If the article you need is only in the Marine Studies Library, in Lewes, Delaware, you can order it from there. To order a paper from the Marine Studies Library, you can fill out a recall form at the Circulation Desk in the library. Or you can use the online recall form. If you use the online form, put "Marine Studies" before the call number and include the journal name, volume and page numbers in the Title box. In a few days, you'll be notified that your journal is being held for you at the circulation desk in the main library.
If the article you need is in the Library Annex, where older bound journals are stored, fill out a form at the Circulation Desk or use the online form. If you do this by 2 p.m. on a weekday, your journal will be available at the circulation desk in the main library by 4 p.m.
If the article you need is not in the UD library system, you can order it through Interlibrary Loan. There is no cost for this to you (but it does cost the University a few bucks for each item, so don't go crazy). Fill out a form in the Interlibrary Loan office of the Morris Library, or fill out the online form. Sometimes you'll get a pdf file e-mailed to you; other times, you'll be notified that a dusty old volume is waiting for you at the circulation desk. It may take a couple days, or it may take a couple weeks, so don't put this off until the last minute.
Reference lists usually abbreviate the names of journals, but you'll need the full name of the journal to look it up in Delcat or order it via Interlibrary Loan. There's a fairly comprehensive list of journal abbreviations here; if you still can't find it, ask for help at the Reference Desk in the main library.
Those interested in biomedical literature may want to use Pubmed . For some journals, it has abstracts going back to the 1970s, and it includes some biomedical journals that aren't covered by Web of Science. However, its coverage of non-biomedical journals is not as complete as that of Web of Science, and it doesn't have citation searching. To illustrate the difference, a search for papers on Komodo dragons found 22 in Pubmed and 73 in Web of Science, while a search for papers on uvula cancer found 165 in Pubmed and only 47 in Web of Science.
Google Scholar is an attempt to make a database of scholarly publications, with citation information, similar to Web of Science, except free to everyone. It can do some things that Web of Science can't do; it includes some books and book chapters, for example, and can do topic searches for words in the entire text. I used to dismiss Google Scholar because it wasn't nearly as comprehensive as Web of Science, but it's rapidly getting better, so you might want to give it a try. I'm not familiar with the various options and search strategies that Google Scholar uses, so I can't help you much; you'll have to figure it out yourself.
The library subscribes to a number of specialized literature databases, which may be useful for digging out more obscure references. A complete list is available from on campus or off campus. Of note to biologists are Agricola (agriculture), Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts, Chemical Abstracts, and Dissertation Abstracts (master's and Ph.D. dissertations). And if you're working on a particularly obscure animal and are desperate for every scrap of information about it, go to the Morris library and use the Zoological Record. As a print resource, it's more tedious to use than an electronic database, but if you want to find that 1947 article about your snail in the Minutes of the San Diego Conchological Club, the Zoological Record may be your only hope.
Return to John McDonald's home page.
This page was last revised February 3, 2013. Its URL is http://udel.edu/~mcdonald/litsearch.html