Searching for the Literature on the Net

C. S. Prakash prakash at Acd.Tusk.Edu
Sun Feb 9 16:51:39 EST 1997


Subject: CONDUCTING BIBLIOGRAPHIC SEARCHES ON THE INTERNET


Here I reproduce a short article I wrote on bibliography searches in the
February '96 ISB News Report . You can receive this free newsletter
through email or in hard copy. Visit http://www.nbiap.vt.edu or send an
email to <traynor at nbiap.biochem.vt.edu>

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CONDUCTING BIBLIOGRAPHIC SEARCHES ON THE INTERNET
Most scientists perform a periodic pilgrimage to the library or
subscribe to literature alert services to keep up with recently
published papers in their area of interest. In a rapidly advancing and
information intensive field like biotechnology, it can be a continuous
and demanding activity to keep track of papers appearing in scientific
journals. Now, thanks to the Internet, you can retrieve titles and even
abstracts of scientific papers from your desktop. The most
comprehensive and integrated database of molecular biology information
is the Entrez search system (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/). Although
Entrez is from the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the
National Library of Medicine (NIH), the literature related to
agricultural biotechnology is well covered. For instance, a search for
'Arabidopsis' generated 1695 citations while 'Bacillus thuringiensis'
produced 863 hits.

Entrez is more than just a database of 1.3 million citations. It is a
comprehensive information retrieval system that integrates the MEDLINE
molecular biology subset and databases of nucleotide and protein
sequences, genomes and 3D structures. Thus with a few clicks, users can
not only find titles of papers with blazing speed, but also receive the
abstract and download protein and nucleotide sequences of genes
mentioned in the papers. Entrez also links you to related papers for
every citation and provides a "glossary" type explanation of key words.

To navigate to the MEDLINE subset of Entrez, click on "Entrez" under
the "NCBI Services" and then choose the "Search Molecular Biology
Subset of MEDLINE". You will be provided with a simple and user-
friendly interface where you can search with key words, author names or
gene symbols; more advanced searches including Boolean search (AND,
NOT, or OR) are permitted.

Uncover is a document delivery service run by a private company whose
database indexes thousands of titles daily in the science, technology,
and medical fields. Uncover can be found on the Web
(http://www.Carl.Org/uncover) while a text-based interface is available
through telnet (database.Carl.Org). Uncover maintains 8 million
citations from nearly 17,000 journals; 5,000 citations are added daily.
The user interface is simple and you can search using key words,
journal titles or author names. Uncover returns your query with
complete citations but does not provide abstracts except for occasional
summaries. For many journals, you can browse through each issue's Table
of Contents. The search for citations is free, and you can receive
full-text documents by fax for about $10 to $15, often within one hour.
For a $25 annual fee, Uncover also provides an electronic alert service
that regularly emails the Table of Contents from up to 50 journals of
your choice.

For searching titles in agricultural subjects (including
biotechnology), the Integrated System for Information Services (ISIS)
from the USDA's National Agricultural Library (NAL) is your best bet.
The ISIS cannot be accessed through the Web yet, although the NAL is
hoping to have a Web interface soon. ISIS can be reached by telnet
(opac.nal.usda.gov); enter "isis" at the login prompt. In the menu,
choose "4" for "Accessing Journal Article Citation Database" and then
enter the command "/IND". Boolean searches are permitted and abstracts
are available for many recent citations. ISIS includes the popular
AGRICOLA database, a vast repository of practically everything
published in agricultural research. Unlike the friendly interface of
the Web, navigating through the text-based ISIS with its arcane
interface can be frustrating as it is necessary to remember the search
commands. ISIS can thus be rather unforgiving to the novice, but the
NAL provides search tips and a list of commands for ISIS on its Web
site (http://www.nal.usda.gov/isis/).

C. S. Prakash

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C. S. Prakash Prakash at Acd.Tusk.Edu
Center for Plant Biotechnology Research
Tuskegee University Phone (334) 727 8023
College of Agriculture Fax (334) 727 8552
Tuskegee, AL 36088. USA
http://agriculture.tusk.edu
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