Literature Search Tips

Fantastic! You’re ready to join us and dig up new heartrate records in the literature. But you’re no exactly sure where you should even start looking. Don’t worry, we’ve put together a quick guide to get you started.

I. Places to look:

Try online searches as well as scientific databases, which may require library access.

Online scientific databases:

II. Search terms:

Use common names as well as genus and species. Look up current and past genus names. Try different queries for “heart rate.”


  • Brown bear “heart rate”
  • Brown bear ECG
  • Ursus “heart rate”
  • Ursus arctos” “heart rate”

III. Identify goal of article:

The authors want to…
…just measure heart rate (rare)
…measure change in heart rate with temperature.
…measure change in heart rate with hibernation/torpor.
…measure heart rate when diving underwater.
…compare metabolic rate to heart rate (usually to infer metabolic rate from heart rate later on).
…test the effects of tranquilizers on an animal (i.e. heart rate lets them know how close the animal is to death).

IV. Find resting heart rate

This is the tricky part. Once you get a feel for it, it will become easier, but first have to experiment where to look.

Where to look?

  • Check figures for heart rate (beats per minute) on any axis or in a table.
  • Skim results…do the authors mention heart rate numbers that could represent resting heart rate? (rarely will they describe it as resting heart rate; you will have to figure that out)
  • Skim methods…sometimes authors mention resting heart rate in the methods for comparison or describe what they did in enough detail that you can interpret heart rate numbers from results.

How to infer resting heart rate:

  • Is the animal active or is it inactive? Inactive for resting HR
  • Is the animal conscious or tranquilized/sleeping/wounded? Animal should be conscious
  • Is the animal at the standard temperature it operates under? Should be at a standard temp

*Hint: look at a graph of heart rate. If the second two criteria are met, but you’re not sure if the animal is active or inactive from the results, choose the lowest heart rate from a graph. That will be the resting heart rate.

V. When you find it

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