CAB Abstracts/CABCD User Guide
CAB Abstracts contains information on over 4.6 million research papers covering all aspects of
agriculture and related applied life sciences, including biotechnology, plant and animal breeding, food
and nutrition, forestry, veterinary medicine and the environment.
What do you want to find out? In this example, we want to find out about cotton’s resistance to herbicides.
The most basic technique is to search for any relevant word or phrase. Free-text searching will
retrieve the most results, but some records may not be that relevant (e.g. if you are interested in
maize breeding, a free-text search on these two terms will also retrieve records about maize fed to
breeding cattle). When searching within the free-text index (“natural language” searching) consider
British and US spellings, truncation and abbreviations.
Search: cotton AND herbicide* AND resistan*
Search: cotton AND herbicide resistance
Searching indexed concepts
For a more precise result, search the index fields (DE, OD, GE, SU). These fields, explained overleaf,
are used to index all the important concepts in a paper using index terms selected from the CABI
controlled vocabulary (The CAB Thesaurus). To search in a particular field, use the IN operator, e.g.
‘cotton in OD’ retrieves records indexed with cotton in the organism descriptor field only. Searching
a specific index field ensures that you only retrieve records that have been indexed using that term,
rather than retrieving any article that simply mentions that word. It is advisable to look up the
controlled term in thesaurus before searching.
Search: cotton IN SU and herbicide resistance IN SU
Terms selected from Thesaurus. Results: 223
Searching other fields
You may want an even more precise result, and may only want papers whose main focus (i.e. title) is
about herbicide resistance in cotton.
cotton IN TI and herbicide* IN TI and resistan* IN TI
Terms selected from Thesaurus. Results: 23
Review / Refine Results
You can refine your results by adding additional search terms or using the limit field. The ‘Limit’ field
limits your results by year of publication or publication type amongst other options. You can also
broaden your results by including synonyms and spelling variations (e.g. singulars/plurals,
scientific/common names, etc.).
Mark, Print, Download
To mark records: On WinSPIRS, click on the book icon next to each record or select ‘Mark Record’
from the Mark Menu. On WebSPIRS, check the white box to the left of the record.
To print: Select from the menu on WinSPIRS or click the Print icon on WebSPIRS.
To download: Select from the menu on WinSPIRS or click on the Save icon on WebSPIRS.
Both print and download give you the option of printing/downloading marked records, all records,
current record or a range of records.
Version 1, July 2004
CAB Abstracts / CABCD User Guide
To build a search
Operator Sample Use Find abstracts containing:
and Cattle AND housing Information about cattle and housing in the same record
or Cattle OR sheep Information about cattle or sheep or cattle and sheep in
the same record
not Cattle NOT housing Information about cattle but not about cattle housing
near Cattle near feeding Finds words in the same sentence in any order
with Cattle with feeding Finds records that contain both terms in the same
? question mark int??net l Each ? is equivalent to ONE character
finds internet or intranet
* asterisk nut* * matches any number of characters
colo*r finds nutrient, nutrition, nutria, nuts
finds colour and color (use * within a word for spelling
( ) parenthesis (Milk OR dairy) AND Use parenthesis with search operators AND, OR, NOT to
protein metabolism preserve the correct search logic
Some of the key fields are listed below, a full list can be found under the ‘Help’ section.
Author AU Indexed in full so must be searched as last name hyphen and
initials, or last name truncated. E.g. keane-* in AU or keane-mg
in AU or keane-m* in AU.
Broad Terms BT The broad terms from CAB Thesaurus. Retrieves the Broad Term
plus all Narrower Terms. E.g Europe in BT retrieves Europe, or
France, or Germany, or Spain, etc.
CABICODES CC Contains alphanumeric broad subject codes. The list can be
found under help. E.g. KK codes cover all of Forestry.
Descriptors DE Controlled index terms from the CAB Thesaurus, that are not
Geographic, Plant or Animal terms (see GE and OD below).
E.g. pesticides in DE.
Geographic Headings GE Controlled geographic index terms from CAB Thesaurus.
E.g. australia in GE
Identifiers ID Contains indexing terms which are not currently in the CAB
Organism Descriptors OD Organisms (plant and animal) index terms from the CAB
CAS Registry Number RN The Chemical Abstracts Registry Number for chemicals listed in
the DE field. E.g. 15299-99-7 in RN
Subject Headings SU Let’s you search simultaneously in DE, OD, GE and ID
Title TI The English title of the original article. E.g. poultry in TI
The CAB Thesaurus
The CAB Thesaurus is a controlled vocabulary designed specifically for indexing CAB
Abstracts. Selecting a term from the CAB Thesaurus, when searching for indexed terms (DE,
OD, GE, BT or SU), ensures that you use the correct term. For example, the preferred term
for ‘beetles’ is ‘coleoptera’. Using the Thesaurus ensures comprehensive retrieval of
To use CAB Thesaurus, simply click on the Thesaurus button, type in the word or term you
are looking for, find the corresponding term in the Thesaurus and click ‘search now’ or ‘add to
list’ if you are looking up multiple terms.
Version 1, July 2004