How can I obtain technical papers?

16th October 2004

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How can I get hold of technical papers? Are any published on the web?

Does a reference such as:

Salgado, L. & Azpilicueta, C., 2000. "Un nuevo saltasaurino (Sauropoda, Titanosauridae) de la provincia de Río Negro (Formacion Allen, Cretácico superior), Patagonia, Argentina," Ameghiniana 37(3): 259-264.

contain enough information for me to track down a copy?


How It's Done Today

Some technical papers, though probably not a very large proportion, are available on the web. Unfortunately, the standard problem of the web bites hard here: it's a big web, and it's hard to find your way around it.

There are at least three good places to start:

Papers that don't make it onto the web are available in paper or microfiche at many University libraries. One correspondent drives into Memphis and uses the Library at the University of Memphis. Another works on-campus, so uses his university's library for what material it has, but also points out that there are many more available through interlibrary loan. Many non-academic libraries will also be able to help here.

Additionally, many authors will provide xeroxes on request, but of course that just introduces the problem of finding out contact details for authors. One correspondent said ``just track them down, and call or e-mail them with the request'', which makes it sound easy. When I commented that ``I just don't know how this stuff works'', he replied, ``Neither does anyone else really. There's no standard procedure. Hang in there.'' :-)

The good news is, although the way things work is far too loose and haphazard to dignify with the name ``system'', it does work. I know this because I tested it, and am now the proud owner of a nice, new paper that (of course) I can't understand. Here's how it worked.

The amazing thing is, this apparently isn't unusual. It's how things work. It does take a certain amount of arrogance to cold-call someone who's never heard of you and ask for something, but as Thomas R. Lipka says, ``This is the most inclusive group of people I have ever come into contact with''. It's true.
Stop Press. Since I obtained the Sauroposeidon paper by the method described above, it's been made available online, along with a lot of other material, on the web site of the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at

How It Will Be Done Tomorrow

There's a lot of interest in establishing an automated web-based system for retrieving, if not actual soft-copy papers, then at least definitive references and/or instructions for obtaining hard-copy.

No promises on this yet - it's at a very early stage.

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