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Related FAQs: Literature Searches, Collecting aquatic literature

Related Articles: Collecting Aquarium Literature


Literature Searches, or
Just Where the Heck Do You Get All This Stuff?


By Bob Fenner


So you've heard and seen and read that there is oodles written and being written on most every aspect and group of aquatic life. But where is it? Oh yeah; a big library. And once you're there, oh woe, there is a bunch of materials> books, scientific journals, periodicals, microfiche, tapes & & & many other formats. But all you want to know is "what do they have on rainbowfishes?" and "how in blue blazes do I find it?" Well Dear Reader, have no fear- All will be revealed as I relate the deep dark secrets of how to search the literature!

First: The, A, Some Sources of Info.:

The medium is not the message. You need not live in a major town with a huge library, or a big college with the same. All you need is love. Actually, all you need is a decent computer, modem, phone line and access to certain data bases. Because, cous' most everything you want information-wise can be gotten over the wire. Note that in the previous sentence I wrote info. not the beauty and excitement of the old analog (printed) copy replete with illustrations and photos.

If you do want to see the paper firma, get thee to a bibliotheca (Big Bad Library) or be willing to shell out some buckos for available services that will copy or send what you want. More about how all this works later.

How To Find It:

Part I.You can do what everyone did a few zillion years ago> gather together as much lit. as you can, study & take good notes & when you get the big chance to write that magnum opus about your Oscar, Sid, march it all out.

I sort of do this in the process of regular reading of industry, science and hobby mag.s in this and other fields. Noted, copied pieces are duly filed in manila folders in hanging file folders under systematic and topic headings.

But what about that great growing body of information you can't afford to buy, don't have time to sieve through, that would take hundreds of lifetimes? Thank goodness for>>>

Part II: Indices:

Fancy plural word for index; systems that attempt to survey and list legitimate articles and books and more; even ongoing research. Some of these Index Systems have been reviewed in these pages; the Zoological Record, Biological Abstracts et al.. These have sub-indices for geography, biosystematic and many other headings. These refer you to the actual citation which typically has a concise outline (called an abstract) of the work's content. From there you can decide whether you'd like to run down the original.

Get some help from a friendly neighborhood superhero Reference Librarian at figuring out whether they have said issue in their holdings and/or how to get it in an inter-library loan or copy-service. Hotay so far? Okay.

Part III: Even Better; The Age of Computers!:

Used to be tedious and expensive, but what we'd do (and some places still do) is develop a search strategy and then pay the big bongo bucks to run it, or better put, to seek matches in their data base(s). I recollect we were charged down to five places to the right of the decimal (hundreds of thousands of a second) for computer time. But, tah-dah! Time marches on! Tempus you-betcha fugit, eh? Zo>>>

Part IV: Yay! CD ROM:

Stands for Compact Disc Read Only Memory. More of those shiny plastic CD's, just like music and videos, but this time with colossal amounts of knowledge on them in the fields you interested in.

Here's how you work them. Get whatever CD's you want from the library, load them the handy-dandy Reader/Terminal/Keyboard/Printer combo. provided and follow the instructions/options as they appear on the screen.

Allow me to run you through an example. I was interested in pumping up my references for an article on koi (ornamental carp) nutrition- so's I bopped on down, which I usually do on Sunday's, to UCSD's (University of California @ San Diego) SIO (Scripps Institute of Oceanography) Campus Library @ LJ (La Jolla), a beautiful facility, and it's free!

Anyhow, I popped in the most recent release of the Biological Abstracts CD and Keyed through the menu's down to the Search mode. Initially I asked the device if it had any listings for the key term: Carp. I'll say; there were more than eleventhousand citations with this key term in them! Realizing that there are several varieties of carps; like white amur, big headed and silver carp species, popular in human food aquaculture, I further limited the search by adding a secondary search-limiting term: Cyprinus carpio, the scientific name for the common and domesticated koi-carp. This gave me some mere eleven hundred citations. Much better. You may be wondering why I didn't just use the fancy word "nishikigoi" or koi or ornamental carp, or, or. Well, I wanted what I wanted: to allow for materials that would touch on all useful variants of the species itself, not just those that had dealt with the species for looks only.

The last determinant abstract limiting term I screened for was "nutrition" (in reality I tried foods and feeding too), and proceeded to preview the abstracts of the hundred twenty or so selections left. These programs are really neat. They have very useful features like "browse" if you're not quite so sure where you're going. And they are fast; I mean really quick. You press enter, blink your eyes and they're done.

At SIO, if you like what you see, it's a simple press of a button to make a copy of the screen, maybe check out if there's a complete copy on the premises, haul upstairs and get it. Such a deal. If there were a snack bar inside, I'd never leave. But don't let me digress any further.

A Conclusion/Beginning:

The more you know, the greater your appreciation. Use the literature; it is the embodiment/testimony/collective knowing of all who have come before. It's all there for those who would use and contribute to it.

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