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Scientific references to published articles follow certain conventions. Although these conventions can vary slightly from country to country, they tend to follow a similar pattern. For instance:

This reference can be broken down into several sections: In this case, the authors are Thomas H.Rich, Patricia Vickers-Rich and R.A.Gangloff. The paper was published in 2002, and the title is "Polar Dinosaurs". The paper appeared in the scientific journal called Science, in volume number 295, pages 979 to 980. If you went to a library to read this article, you would look for the journal called Science, then find the right volume number.



In the case of books rather than scientific journals, the format is:

Which breaks down to: Often the same book will be distributed by different publishers, and printed in different cities, in other parts of the world. However if the author, date of publication, and title are the same, then there is a very good chance it is the same book. Although just to confuse things, sometimes even the title may vary.



Another type of reference is to a paper published in a book (rather than a scientific journal) that contains many other papers by different authors. For example:

This breaks down to: In this case, the book called "The Dinosauria" was edited by Weishampel, Dodson and Osmolska. The specific paper within this edited volume was written by Norman, with the title "Problematic Theropods: Coelurosaurs", and appeared in pages 280 to 317 of the book. If you were to look for this article, you would search for the book "The Dinosauria" by Weishampel, Dodson and Osmolska, rather than "Problematic Theropods" by Dodson (which is one of several articles that make up the book itself).



Where Do I Find These Papers?



Most university (college) libraries will carry copies of the major scientific journals, such as Nature, Science, or Scientific American. These tend to be general interest journals, so they sometimes don't go into a lot of detail on any one subject. More specialised journals like The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology or the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences will tend to carry more detailed papers, but they may not always be available at all libraries.

I'm fortunate, since I live in a major city (Melbourne, in Victoria, Australia) and have ready access to two nearby universities (La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne), not to mention various TAFE institutions. However I find it hard to get some of the journals published in other countries (although the University of Melbourne has a huge selection of obscure "foreign" journals). If you don't live in a large city, or are not close to any universities, then major public libraries may carry some of the general interest scientific journals. However the more specialised the journal is, the fewer libraries tend to carry them.

In the case of books, rather than scientific journals, you may get lucky and find them at nearly any library. Plus there is the added bonus of being able to buy them to keep from book stores. I have bought many of my Australian dinosaur books from the Monash University Science Centre in Clayton, a suburb of Melbourne here in Australia. If you live in Australia, then see their on-line catalogue for the books they carry.



Can I Find Them Online?



These days you can do almost anything online. Book stores such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble allow anyone with a credit card to order almost any book you can imagine. Most scientific journals also have online services. Subscriptions can be expensive (it's always better to photocopy articles from a library where possible), but by registering for free most journal websites will allow you to read a summary of each article (called an abstract). I'm registered with Nature and Science. Occasionally Nature will give you full access to all their articles on a trial basis, or general access to important articles (they even give away free copies of the magazine itself sometimes). The Science website allows free access to articles that are more than a year old, a practice that will hopefully catch on with other online journals.

Online papers can be downloaded as web pages, but an easier and more convenient method is to download PDF files. These files can be read using a free PDF viewer called Adobe Acrobat, which can be downloaded easily off the internet. It even allows PDF files to be viewed in the internet browser window. You can read PDF files on you computer, or print them out as hard copies.



Online Examples

From the journal Science (requires free registration):

Various papers by Steven Wroe:

Muesum Information Leaflets

Gaia Volume 15, 1998:

CSIRO Publications:

Miscellaneous papers:



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