If you’re working with older print materials like I am for the moment, you probably realize that citation styles have changed over the years. In particular, what now would be cited as an abstract related to a specific conference volume would previously be cited as an independent article within the journal issue it was first printed.
For example, I have before me the following citation:
Howard, A. D., 1946, Caliche in glacial chronology: Geol. Soc. America Bull., vol. 57, p. 1204.
We’re clued into the fact that this is really an abstract by the single page number, which helps. If you’re not into citing abstracts, especially if abstracts in your field usually don’t contain real data, you could probably skip reading this reference entirely. If it were a more modern abstract (within the last five years or so) I might be inclined to contact the author for a copy of the poster or presentation they gave at whatever meeting this was–but only if I was pretty sure this would be helpful. Unfortunately, this reference is quite a bit older than many working geologists so this option is not open to us.
So let’s say I still want to read this abstract. I could go up to the library (conveniently located in the same building as I am) and track down this volume. The library is closed today for floor-waxing, so that’s out of the picture. The Internet is our last resort, but luckily we have an institutional subscription to the GSA journals (“luckily” because they won’t take my member ID for some reason).
On this page (for the GSA Bulletin), there are a variety of search fields. Not all of them will help you in this case. If I search for “Howard” in Author I get 26 results, but not what I’m looking for.
Not very helpful. You might be thinking “drat, another bad reference,” but this isn’t so. Since we’re looking for an abstract, we need to do a full-text search, because (and this is what I found out today) GSA abstracts are not stored by title in the database!
The correct field to use in this case is “Text | Abstract | Title,” which is full-text. If I put in “caliche in glacial,” up pops the result I’m looking for:
ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS PRESENTED AT THE DECEMBER MEETING IN CHICAGO, DECEMBER 26–28, 1946 Geological Society of America Bulletin December 1946, v. 57, p. 1173-1302, doi:10.1130/0016-7606(1946)57[1173:AOPPAT]2.0.CO;2
…drift to the northeast indicate that the Wisconsin ice actively erodedonly within an inner zone marginingLake Michigan. CALICHE IN GLACIAL CHRONOLOGY ARTHUR D. HOWARD U. S. Geological Survey, Washington 25, D. C. Studies in northwestern North Dakota and northeastern…
* Full Text (PDF)
Here’s a question for another day and another blogger: which publisher has the best search capabilities and easiest access to past issues?