Searching for Organisms in BIOSIS content

In many areas of biological research, the organism being studied or used as a model is a key part of any literature search. To make use of specific BIOSIS fields, and to gain the benefit of the relational indexing to determine context and increase relevancy, the best course is a database-specific search in BIOSIS, rather than a more generic search across the whole of your institution’s Web of Science platform access.

BIOSIS covers all types of publications, reflecting all aspects of biological research. To be included, items must contain biology and they must relate to research.

The BIOSIS product family

biosis blog 1

In addition, the BIOSIS Citation Index contains BIOSIS Previews content, plus citations to the articles included.

Organism content is gathered throughout the range of BIOSIS family products. The organisms recorded in BIOSIS are the focus of the publication. This ensures that records retrieved will feature the required organism as the focus of the research, rather than as an incidental mention in the text of the publication.

Element Definition Uses
Organism name The name(s) or organism(s) used in the publications. This could be the scientific/Latin name or the common name in English. Up to 20 animal names are gathered. Where there are more than 20, broader terms are used to aggregate more specific names. Use to search for a particular organism name. Organism names are not controlled terms and so the search should include synonyms of the search term
Variant Where provided in the article, a variant name may be captured to facilitate searching. For example, a common name relating to the scientific/Latin name Use to search for a particular organism name. Variants are not controlled terms and so your search should include synonyms of the search term
Details Further details relating to the organism such as gender, developmental stage, role, etc. Use to restrict a search to particular characteristics of an organism such as gender, developmental stage or role
Super Taxa A set of broader-level classifier terms taken from the hierarchical controlled Super Taxa vocabulary which is available online for term selection. Examples: Mammalia, Hominidae, Diptera Use to broaden a search to a wider organism group or classifier or disambiguate organism names. These terms are equivalent to the now-discontinued Biosystematic Codes. Select terms from the online thesaurus.
Taxa Notes Broader common name terms applied to each organism name to allow filtering of a search by broader group. For example, Fish, Mammals, Insects Use to filter a search for broader groups of organisms to avoid the need to enter large numbers of organism names in a search

In the Web of Science platform, these elements can be searched simultaneously using Taxonomic Data in the Basic or Advanced search.

Taxonomic Data structure                                                        Example

biosis blog 2

Searching specific organisms

Searching Topics in basic search includes the Taxonomic Data. However, there are occasions where it is useful to specify the Taxonomic Data in a search, such as in disambiguating terms which could refer to more than one type of concept. For example, “Turkey,” which can be a bird or a country and so could occur as an indexing term in the Taxonomic Data or the Geopolitical Locations elements. To search for publications referring to turkey (the bird), restrict the search for turkey to the Taxonomic Data to eliminate occurrences as the country. This will also eliminate less significant and incorrect contextual mentions of “turkey” from the abstract and focus the search on items where turkey, the bird, is the focus of the article.

Use of the Super Taxa and Taxa Notes for broader term searching

To broaden a search, review relevant articles for suitable Super Taxa terms or consult the online thesaurus list to select a term using the links on the Basic and Advanced Search pages. These terms automatically include any narrower terms and the organism names classified to them. So, searching “Artiodactyla” would include all family-level names listed hierarchically under it, while searching “Bovidae” would include all organism names classified to Bovidae

Taxa Notes can be used to filter a search to retrieve records relating to a broader organism group; this feature is presented as a list for selection of the Taxa Notes term. Taxa Notes currently use US spelling (For example, “Mollusks”).

Super Taxa and Taxa Notes can also be used to disambiguate organisms with similar names. For example:

Zebra AND Mammalia – would exclude zebra fish

Example search

Question: What information is available on populations of humpback whales in the North Pacific?

  • Identify the main topics for the search:
    • Populations
    • Humpback whales
    • North Pacific
  • Determine how to search the main topics
    • For maximum retrieval
      population [Topic]
      megaptera novaeangliae or humpback whale* [Taxonomic Data]
      north pacific [Topic]      (or you could specify Geographic Data in an Advanced Search)

Searching the Latin and common names for humpback whale increases retrieval. BIOSIS reflects the author terminology, which may not include both common and Latin name, so both are required for maximum retrieval. The Latin name can often be acquired from records in the BIOSIS database using a search of the common name and reviewing article titles. Searching in the Taxonomic Data eliminates incidental mentions of the whale in abstract text and ensures precision and relevancy.

biosis blog 3

To broaden the search to all members of the Balaeopteridae, use the Super Taxa term in the Organism Classifier. To broaden to all whales, use the Super Taxa term “Cetacea” or the Taxa notes filter “Cetaceans,” depending whether you need to search the term directly or filter a search.

In common with searching of any concept in BIOSIS, always determine if the concept is broad (in which case there may be a controlled term suitable for the search – check the online thesaurus), or specific (in which case synonyms and variants may be needed for full retrieval)

Using the intelligence, context and power of the BIOSIS indexing can achieve highly precise and complete searches. Through this series of blogs we will continue to explore various search topics and the best way to retrieve information using the value-added indexing in BIOSIS content.