MathSciNet from the American Mathematical Society, is the premier indexing and abstracting database for mathematical content. It contains information about articles from over 3100 periodicals, with around 100000 new articles added to the database every year. MathSciNet also includes more than 7500 books, conference proceedings, and technical reports. Beyond simply including the typical bibliographic information, MathSciNet incorporates the content of the American Mathematical Society's Mathematical Reviews. These reviews are written by experts in an article's subject and exist for a not insignificant percentage of papers as far back as the 1940s.
The mechanics of searching the MathSciNet database are not too different from using an advanced search in a library catalog or other database. It allows a user to search for publications, authors, journals, or citations. The real strength of MathSciNet's search, and what sets it apart from many other databases, is in how it deals with uniquely identifying authors and articles, and the power of the MSC (mathematical subject classification) system.
When you first visit MathSciNet you are presented with a multi-field search which allows filtering by publication type and time. The fields contain many options which will likely seem familiar, such as Author, Title, Journal, and Institution. It will also contain less familiar options like MSC Primary, which lets you search for all articles that have been given a specific MSC number by a subject area expert; MR Number which lets you search for an article by the unique id the article has in the database; and Reviewer which would let you search for all articles that have been reviewed by a single person. By allowing you to search via the MR Number, MathSciNet has helped to deal with what can often be a thorny problem in database searching: how to deal with easily finding articles again. As you search the database you can keep note of the MR Numbers of relevant articles and use those to quickly get back to the article at a future date.
MathSciNet has also tried to tackle another big problem in database searching: finding all the articles written by an author. This problem stems from many people sharing names. Instead of using names to identify authors in their database, MathSciNet has also assigned authors unique identification numbers. To search for an author and find all of their publications, click on the author tab on the home page of MathSciNet, and then search using their name (last name then first name) or using their ID number. You can also click on an author's name in other parts of the database and you will be brought to the author's MathSciNet profile. If you have published a mathematics paper, make sure to check if you have your own author profile. If you do, you can log in and add a photo and otherwise edit the profile.
The Journals search allows you to find a publication by name or ISSN. The search results will provide links to a journal profile that contains information about the publisher, previous names for the journal, its dates, and how it is indexed in the database. It also provides links to the issues, articles, citation history, and RSS feeds that can inform you when new articles from the journal are added to MathSciNet.
Selecting Citations from the main search menu brings you to a new set of search options that allow you to search for highly cited articles by author, journal, MSC number, and year. It also provides top 10 lists of the most cited journals by year.
Another unique aspect to the MathSciNet database is the focus they place on the connections between the authors in the database. There are two main ways they do this.
The first one you can find by clicking on free tools in the upper right of any page on MathSciNet and then clicking on the collaboration distance tab. All you need to do then is type in the name of any two mathematicians and the database will find the shortest path, using co-authored papers, between them. They even kindly include a use Erdős button to make it easy to find any mathematician's Erdős number.
The other place to find out information about the connections between mathematicians is using an author's MathSciNet profile page.
On any author page you will have the option to click on co-authors which will bring up a list of all of the people who co-published papers with the author. You can sort these results by name, publication count, citation count, or earliest publication.
The profile page also, in many cases, offers a link to the author's mathematical genealogy from the Mathematical Genealogy Project. This is database of the connections between advisor and student in mathematics, with information going back centuries of over 200,000 mathematicians.
Mathematical Subject Classifications
Mathematical Subject Classification(MSC) is a scheme developed to classify mathematical papers by the two primary mathematical databases MathSciNet and Zentralblatt MATH. MSC consists of codes for 63 different mathematical disciplines, with second and third levels for all 63. A typical MSC classification is five characters long, where the first two are numbers representing the mathematical discipline, the third a letter which describes the sub-area of the discipline, and then two more numbers representing the specific problem area or object which is the focus of the work. For example 05C78 would be assigned to a paper from combinatorics(05), where the work was done in Graph Theory(C) and focused on graph labeling(78). Publications indexed in MathSciNet are assigned one or two MSC values by subject area experts when they are added to the database. MSC is updated every decade so as to keep track of changes and trends in mathematical research, you can find out more about the current version of MSC(2010) used by MathSciNet here or you can browse MSC values on MathSciNet by clicking on free tools in the upper right hand side of the page and selecting a mathematical discipline from the drop down menu.