Tracking down Techniques: Finding Research Methods Using the HSLS Protocols Search

Did you just join a new research group and need to figure out how to perform the standard lab protocols? Does your new research project require you to learn an unfamiliar technique? Are you reviewing a paper and want to check on variations of its experimental methodology?

Between the influx of new technology, plethora of scientific papers and tools, and limited time, it can be challenging to discover potential lab techniques that support your research goals. The HSLS Molecular Biology Information Service (HSLS MolBio) has provided shortcuts to access such resources for years, and we recently updated our Protocols Search engine. Located in the middle of the HSLS MolBio homepage, use the prominent search bar to find experimental methods and protocols with a combined search of Springer Nature Experiments,, and a filtered Europe PMC search.

  • Springer Nature Experiments is a collection of over 70,000 methods and protocols published in Nature Protocols, Nature Reviews Methods Primers, Nature Methods, and Springer Protocols. The latter source includes content from Methods in Molecular Biology, Methods in Molecular Medicine, Neuromethods, Springer Protocols Handbooks, Methods in Pharmacology and Toxicology, Methods in Biotechnology, Biological Methods, and a few additional non-series sources.
  • is “a secure platform for developing and sharing reproducible methods” supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Open Philanthropy Project, and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Researchers can use it to develop, publish, and share protocols and gain citable DOIs for their methodology outputs. Users can search for experimental protocols for their own use, and provide commentary for protocol optimization. This open access repository includes over 11,000 protocols. Read the July 2021 HSLS Update article, “Options for Publishing Research Protocols,” for guidance on publishing your own research protocols.
  • Europe PMC is a tool for searching the life-sciences literature. We developed a filtered search limited to 36 biomedical methods and protocols journals, including the “Current Protocols” journals and the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), with over 180,000 results.

Protocols Search queries can be keywords, phrases (with quotation marks), and/or combinations. To refine the results, searchers can filter by Topic Clusters. This is a particularly useful feature, as you can not only search within clusters but also discover associations you may not have previously considered. Clusters may also be “remixed” to discover even more sub-categories. We suggest playing around with the Protocols Search to reveal your “perfect protocol”—contact HSLS MolBio to let us know what you find, or if we can help you with your search!

Note: text similarities to the July 2021 HSLS Update article, “Meet Your Match: Finding ‘omics Analysis Resources Using the HSLS Database/Tools Search,” are intentional. They are related resources!

~Carrie Iwema