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Re: Science writing classes

From: "Patty Ralrick" <pattyralrick@hotmail.com>
To: <dinosaur@usc.edu>

> For the most part, what was beaten into my head about scientific writing
> that you can never cite something that you found on the internet (to which
> concur wholeheartedly) and to be extremely wary of abstracts from
> conferences.  My Prof said over and over that abstracts should represent
> preliminary research and that after further study, everything may change.
> find that interesting as I see abstracts cited quite a bit.  Any thoughts?

I agree whole-heartedly. I usually try to submit abstracts only when I'm
nearing the end of my research project, but oftentimes this just isn't
practical (especially with early submission deadlines, research constraints,
etc.). One museum visit this summer (involving the "rediscovery" of a
specimen that's been noted in the literature as lost) made me change my mind
on the specific assignments for several "Torosaurus"
specimens--unfortunately, my published abstract says something slightly
different (but not embarassingly so--I wrote it on the basis of the pretty
comprehensive data I had at the time). My main utility for abstracts is
two-fold: 1) staking "my" claim on a specific area of study and 2) getting
preliminary results out there before a more comprehensive paper 1-2 years
down the road. Other people's abstracts work conversely--I can see quickly
and easily who is doing what, and find out their preliminary data.

An important thing to remember about abstracts (which is something I often
forget myself) is that abstracts have not been through the extensive
peer-review process that a full paper typically has. Yes, they look them
over for glaring errors, but never have I heard of an abstract sent back for
changes. This means that some pretty nutty ideas make it into the SVP
abstract volume and others. . .

Andrew A. Farke
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Box P301
501 E. St. Joseph St.
Rapid City, SD  57701

Phone: 605-394-2817

E-mail: andyfarke@hotmail.com