SciFinder for Agriculture, Environmental Sciences, and Engineering

A guide to how SciFinder or SciFinder Scholar can be used in Agriculture, especially Soil Science, Environmental Sciences, various fields of Engineering and related fields.

Five Top Tips for Searching in SciFinder Scholar

1. SciFinder DOES NOT require that you use Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT. Type in the best description of your topic as a sentence, such as:

What is the effect of deep flooding on the uptake of heavy metals during phytoremediation?

SciFinder's software will designate the most important words and find them where they occur.  SciFinder then gives you the option of selecting which answer set you feel is most appropriate. You can see in the example below that you may choose sets of references by how many times the terms show up in the citations.

 2. SciFinder uses a concept heading list of subject terms as a controlled vocabulary. You may use the concept terms to make your search more inclusive. See the example below.

3. You may have to use synonyms to draw a more complete set of article citations. Put the synonyms in parentheses after the initial term. SciFinder automatically finds plural forms and spelling variations.

For example: goats (capra) gets entries with the terms goat, goats or capra

4. SciFinder can use the full title, an abbreviation, or an acronym for journal title searching. Don't use spaces or punctuation in acronyms or abbreviated titles. The software generalizes titles to those closest to what you put in and includes them in the results.

5. Search for who has cited particular authors using the format Lastname FirstInitial SecondInitial such as:

Brye K R

to get a better result. Use the author's last name alone to see, and be able to select from, variations of the name. First authors work best, but subsequent and additional authors should also be found.

SciFinder shows how many times an article has been cited, but it is not indexing ALL possible relevant journals or books. You may need to use other databases to get a comprehensive search.

Sorting Results

In the example below, the search set has been sorted by how often the works have been cited by other works. Choose "citing references" on the dropdown menu to do this.

Having been cited often is one way that important authors, papers, and journals may be identified (although it is important to remember that someone's work may have been cited for an error).


Searching in SciFinder--Fill in the Blanks

The developers of the database have worked hard to make SciFinder's search pages very explicit, by including boxes for specificly required fields.  For example, the author search requires last name, then asks for first name and initial; you may search with just the last name, if it is distinctive enough, and then choose from the resulting list.

Journal title searches generalize the title, so that if you put in Soil Science Journal, you will also get variations such as Soil Science Society of America Journal.  You may search using journal title abbreviations, but don't use punctuation: JES, not J.E.S.

Concept Headings and Index Terms

Index Terms and CA Concept Headings are two types of controlled vocabulary that gather citations on similar topics under consistent terms. Reviewing the controlled vocabulary may help you define your topic and will provide you alternative phrases that may be very useful if you are not finding what you expect to find or need more material on a topic.

CA Concept Headings and Index Terms are listed at the right side of the screen after you change the default, authors' names, to CA Concept Heading or Index Terms. You narrow your search results by clicking on the term or heading.