A Review of Biological Abstracts
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Edith Scarletto, MLIS 
Reference & Instruction Librarian 
Jerome Library 
Bowling Green State University 

Biological Abstracts is a research literature database of biological, health, and life sciences clinical and academic literature. It was reviewed using an institutional subscription to Biological Abstracts through Clarivate Analytics Publishing and the Web of Science interface. The intended audience includes academic, research and clinical settings, life sciences students, researchers, and clinical professionals. 


The content includes over 4,300 peer-reviewed journals and 18+ million records in the complete collection and comprises documents from 1926 to its current update. It is available from Clarivate Analytics Publishing on several platforms through an online subscription. The Web of Science platform includes the backfile of Biological Abstracts from 1926 to its current update with BIOSIS and MeSH subject term indexing, as well as linked searching through any other Web of Science database to which the institution has subscribed. Researchers can combine citation searching, reference linking, and tracing. Biological Abstracts is also available on the Ebsco platform from 1969 to present coverage, with indexing from BIOSIS thesaurus and MeSH. An additional subscription is needed to include the backfile from 1926-1969. Full text linking to publisher platforms is available on both platforms as well as a link resolver for the local institution.  

The updated classic database Biological Abstracts covers the range of life sciences from basic biology and botany to medical literature at the molecular level, paleontology, and nutrition. The abstracts are derived from leading journals, including Science, Nature, Soil Science, and Cell, among others. The detailed indexing and new features include tabular links to chemical compounds (nutrients), genes, species, and thesaurus term (controlled vocabulary) links between articles along with quick Journal Impact Factor notes that enhance the interoperability of searches and provide avenues to discover related content. Reference tracing also aids in research patterns and citation mapping between researchers. Endnote Web is included in subscriptions to Web of Science platform products for up to 10,000 records. The vendor supplies handouts and tutorials for searching within the platform. 


The search functionality uses a basic document search for keyword searching as well as field searches within the record and thesaurus searching via BIOSIS indexing, MeSH terms, and taxonomic data within the chart for species and family. An advanced search with multiple search boxes is available for all field searching as well as multiple keyword document searches. Additional notes on funding sources for studies are also displayed if applicable. A Journal Impact Factor is listed on the article detail page and new retraction icons are displayed on the results page as appropriate. This is an especially good development as a surge of retractions for biomedical articles has arisen in recent years. Before this new addition, researchers needed to link to the full-text journal note before a retraction might appear. A range of search limits from other subject terms, dates, authors, and publications can be included or excluded from the results page.  

Those who create an account or researcher profile can create a unique homepage for Web of Science products — including Biological Abstracts — to save search histories, set search alerts, mark lists, and sync their profile and articles with their ORCID iD.  

Direct export of records is available to EndNote Web, researcher profiles, or RIS tagged citation format, Excel, Tab delimited file, email, and Fast 5000. Users have a limit of 500 records for other file formats but can save permanently to EndNote Web for a maximum of 10,000 records.  

Business Model 

Subscriptions are subject to review by the publisher. A sales representative contacted for pricing information for this review could not list criteria without individual institutional information (per an email from a Clarivate account manager, July 2023). 

Based on my institutional subscription, vendor usage statistics are broken down monthly by product and are counter compliant, so an organization can see the use of Biological Abstracts as well as other Web of Science subscription products. Access to Biological Abstracts is online and continues only if a subscription is maintained.  


Biological Abstracts is a critical basic life sciences research tool with sophistication to meet the needs of seasoned researchers. It is a great resource for academic libraries and clinical use in corporate or other laboratories.  

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