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Conference Proceedings: A How-To Guide

Techniques for locating conference papers and journal articles that were based on conference presentations.

Search Tips

Many professional associations have websites which contain information about their publications. Entering keywords from a partial citation into a bookstore or site search feature will often provide additional details about the publication. Association bookstores are usually not searched by popular search engines such as Google. The drawback to association websites is that they typically only include information from recent publications or the most current conference proceeding. Looking for older publications on these sites will generally not produce results.

It is usually best to enter only a few keywords and avoid words like ”international,” “conference,” “paper,” “proceedings,” and “symposium,” which may be incorrect in your citation and usually do not add anything distinctive to the search. If you find it necessary to include these words, be sure to try both singular and plural versions due to incorrect citation variations.

Include the name of the city where the conference was held as part of your search – it can often narrow the search down much quicker than other keywords.

If the citation comes from an article bibliography, scan through the bibliography for other similar references – typographical errors in the publication year, author names or volume numbers may be correctly listed in other references.

If you are looking for a computer science or electrical engineering related conference – try looking in ACM or IEEE databases even if the citation doesn’t specify ACM or IEEE. ACM and IEEE conferences often have a plethora of sponsors and citations may include one of the other sponsors and not ACM or IEEE. Also, ACM and IEEE proceedings are not always published in IEEE Xplore or ACM Digital Library. These are often published by commercial presses and neither ACM nor IEEE may have retained the copyright – so it may be listed in their databases, but not provide the full text. In those instances, the proceedings are usually easily found in WorldCat.

Society acronyms – to abbreviate or not? If the citation shows it abbreviated, try searching for it using the acronym. If unsuccessful, spell out the acronym.

Don’t trust acronyms in a citation to be correct! If you are unable to locate the citation in WorldCat or one of the indexes in the discipline, try leaving out the acronyms.

ACS (chemistry) is frequently confused with ACM (computer science) and is often misspelled as CAS (because they are familiar with Chemical Abstracts Service or they just get in a hurry and type it incorrectly).

ASM – There are several scientific societies with these initials including American Society for Metals, American Society for Microbiology, and American Society for Mammalogists. It is also often mistyped as AMS or ACM.

AMS – could be either the American Mathematical Society or American Meteorological Society.

Don’t trust the publication year to be correct. Depending on where the conference was held, and who sponsored it, the proceedings can take 2-3 years to become published. The person who cited the proceedings may have confused the year of publication with the year the conference was actually held.

Never assume the citation shown is a paper from a conference – it may be for the actual conference title and editor.

If you are unable to locate the proceedings you need – try looking for other articles by the same author that were published a year or two after the conference. Authors often expand on the original topic as well as cite their own early publications in later articles.

If all else fails, contact the author directly and ask for a copy of the article or additional details on where it was published. Authors are usually quite eager to have their work disseminated more widely and willing to provide reprints or copies of articles. Author email addresses can be found on conference websites, a Google search, or the title page of other published articles from the same author.

Use the Quick Search box on the library homepage to see if the ISU Library owns it. The most efficient search for conference proceedings is to pick some unusual words in the citation and input them in the search box. If you know the city where the conference was held use this as one of your keywords as this is a great way to narrow down your search quickly.

If unsuccessful, search for the name of the conference putting it in quotation marks - e.g., "International Conference on Pollution Control in the Marine Industries" - be sure to leave off any numerical information such as 3rd or year. The results list will show either 1 main record or each successive conference cataloged individually.

If you have a citation to an article that was published in a particular volume within a series (e.g., the Institution of Chemical Engineers Symposium Series), the quickest way to locate these in Quick Search is to search for words in the series name and the actual volume number that you are looking for (e.g., institution chemical engineers AND 111). Even if you get a ton of results, note that the volume you are looking for should appear near the top of the results. This also works well for other large proceedings series for which you only have a partial citation (e.g., spie Proceedings AND 857). If you cannot find it in Quick Search, run the same search in WorldCat to verify you have the series name correct and that the volume actually exists. If you can find it in WorldCat but not in the ISU Quick Search then it means we probably do not own the volume.

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Lorrie Pellack
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