Skip to main content

CAB Direct (CAB Abstracts): Search Tips

Search Tips

There are a number of tools you can use to improve your CAB Direct searches.

  • Use Boolean Operators and parentheses to build your search
  • Use truncation to broaden your search
  • Use quotation marks to search for phrases

Knowing how to use these techniques - on their own and together - will help you narrow your search when you have too many irrelevant results as well as broaden your search when your search when it's too limited.

Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators link concepts and are used to broaden or narrow your search. Briefly, here's how they work:

AND - finds results with your all search terms.  AND narrows your search so that you retrieve fewer articles.

OR - finds results with any of your search terms.  OR broadens your search so that you retrieve more articles.

NOT - finds results without the specified search terms.  NOT narrows your search but it can be tricky to use.

Take a look at the Boolean Operators guide for more detailed information about how to use this valuable search technique.


Truncation is a search method in which symbols are used in place of letters or words to help you broaden your search.

CAB Direct employs what is known as “word-stemming." In most cases, word-stemming removes the need for truncation, but it can still be used.

When searching for several words that have the same beginning, or stem, the use of truncation can save time. For truncation, use the asterisk (*), as in the following examples:

Hawaii* finds: Hawaii
Hawaii Island
  nutri* finds: nutria
nutrition, etc.

Quotation Marks

Sometimes you will want to search for a specific phrase rather than searching for individual, single words and combining them with the Boolean Operator AND.

When you do a phrase search, the record will have to contain all of the words, in the order you specify, and right next to each other.

To specify a phrase search, simply enclose the phrase in quotation marks. For example:

"cattle housing"

Doing a phrase search results in fewer, generally more relevant, results. These are examples from CAB Direct:

cattle housing retrieves 11,146 records

"cattle housing" retrieves 4,826 records

Phrases and single words can be searched in combination, and will be linked with AND, as in this example.

"cattle housing" europe "animal welfare"

Refining Your Results

>Screen shot CAB refine function.

To the right of the displayed records, is a list of options to Refine Results.

These  are expandable lists of search terms that have been created by analyzing the content of the retrieved records.

The most frequently occurring terms, names, codes and dates are listed in order of occurrence. Next to each term is the number of records, from the current results list, that contain that particular term.

Clicking the link will limit the current search results to records containing that entry.

Refine Results options include:


 CABI’s controlled indexing terms - used  to index all the major concepts in the original article. Useful for finding just the really important papers.

Organism Descriptors

Field is used for animal and plant names.

Document Type

Will limit results to records for original articles of a specific document type, such as Journal or Book.

  Year of Publication

Year the original article was published.

  Publication Title

Title of the publication (usually a journal title) in which the article was published.


Author and editor names.

  Geographic   Location

Terms used to index important geographical concepts in the article.


Language of the article.

CABI Hosted Full Text

Publications hosted but not hosted by CABI.

  Open Access Journals

Journals available in open access.

Need More Help?

E-mail Sci/Tech:

Sci/Tech Reference Desk Hours:
Monday-Friday 9 am-4 pm
Closed holidays

Sci/Tech Reference Desk Phone:
(808) 956-8263