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How does one look up physics papers in a bibliography?

  1. Jul 3, 2012 #1
    This is perhaps a stupid question, but I'm an academic in a (non-physics) field where the references in a paper's bibliography are usually cited in a form like:

    H. T. Smith, F. R. Jones, B. T. Sun - "A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions" , Journal of Important Studies, 54(2), 2012

    If I want to look up the cited paper then I can just copy/paste its name into either google or google scholar, and it'll be the first hit. However Ive recently started doing some side research in physics (complex systems) and I'm continually frustrated by the fact that physics journals omit the paper name when they give the reference; the above would typically be cited as:

    H. T. Smith, F. R. Jones, B. T. Sun, J. Imp. Stud, 54(2), 2012

    Given only that information, is there an easy way to find the name of the paper without actually going to the journal website, trying to find the back issue, and then looking it up in that? Sometimes if you paste the authors name and publication year into google then it'll turn up, but usually it wont.

    Am I missing something? Do you guys actually have to go to the journal website of everything you want to look up from a bibliography, even just to find out its name and discover which paper is being talked about in the first place? Is there an easier way to do it? Why does physics have this insane referencing system anyway?
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 16, 2012 #2
    Noone knows this?
  4. Jul 16, 2012 #3
    I typically use ADS (google "ADS abstract service"). You can use the search function, but if you have even an abbreviation of the journal name, use the browse function by journal/volume/page service. Citations always have at least part of the journal name, the volume, and page number. Note, I don't know how comprehensive ADS is for some areas of physics (it started as an astrophysics service). But all of physics has the arXiv. Just note that not everything on the arXiv is published.

    I use ADS since it includes arXiv entries and the search function is far superior.
  5. Jul 16, 2012 #4


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    Usually, searching a few of the author's names, along with the journal, volume number, and year is sufficient to return the article from google. But yes, sometimes you have to go to the journal website and look up the article, and it takes about 15 seconds.
  6. Jul 16, 2012 #5


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    Because in many instances, just as in Physical Review Letters, there is a page limit to the article! Adding the title of the paper, which sometime can be quite long, simply adds unnecessary length to the paper. Furthermore, if one needs to find the paper, the First Author, Journal Name, volume, and page number are all that are usually needed to find that article at the journal itself.

  7. Jul 16, 2012 #6
    What is the problem? To find the journal's web site if you only have the abbreviated journal name? The abbreviations are largely standardized, in 95% of all cases you can guess the full name. For the rest, there are tables.


    Furthermore, using a professional citation data base like web of knowledge you can usually find the list of references in clickable form. More importantly, you can also find papers that cite the one you are starting with.

    In colloquial use there are even more (and non-standard) abbreviations like PRL, PNAS, JPCM, APL, ... But published papers use standardized abbreviations where it is always possible to "reverse engineer" the full journal name.
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