The Literature of Forestry
and the raw material for future research - A.F. Spilhaus
The forestry literature is part of the larger scientific literature and is derived from basic research in related disciplines and applied research in forestry. Scientific literature is the principal medium for communicating the results of research and represents a permanent record of the collective achievements of the scientific community. This scientific knowledge base is composed of the individual "end products" of scientific research and continues to grow as new research builds on earlier research. This new research may add to, substantiate, modify, refine or refute existing knowledge. Research and discovery in the laboratory or field is dependent on existing knowledge and literature; and discovery is only valuable when it becomes part of the literature and the body of scientific knowledge.
The following table provides an estimate of the historical and current number of forestry publications in various formats that have been produced:
|Dictionary Catalog of the Yale Forestry Library||38,000 articles (1900-1940)||n.a.|
|Forest Science Database||810,000 articles and reports (1939 to the present)||40,000|
|WorldCat Database||200,000 books, reports, theses, dissertations (all time periods)||5,000|
Scientific literature is divided into two basic categories - "primary" and "secondary". Publications that report the results of original scientific research constitute the "primary" literature and include journal papers, conference papers, monographic series, technical reports, and theses and dissertations. The "primary" literature is eventually compacted into "secondary" sources which synthesize and condense what is known on specific topics. These include reviews, monographs, textbooks, treatises, and handbooks and manuals.
The following table shows where forestry research is published in the primary and secondary literature on a percent basis:
Document Types Indexed *
Number of Citations
Percent of Total
|Environmental Impact Statements||50||5.2|
|Theses and Dissertations||7||0.7|
Availability of scientific literature varies depending upon its publication format. Some formats are widely available, e.g., journal papers, while others have more limited distribution and are more difficult to identify and acquire. This "gray literature" commonly includes technical reports, theses, and dissertations.
The following chart illustrates common steps involved in the scientific research process (inner circle), the dissemination of research results through the primary and secondary literature (outer circle), and the personal assimilation of this information resulting in new ideas and research (inner circle):
Forestry serials can be grouped into the following three categories:
- Journals - regularly issued publications that contain papers reporting the results of scholarly research in the discipline
- Magazines & Newsletters - contain popular reports on developments in the discipline
- Monographic Series - irregularly issued publications that in most cases contain the results of scholarly research
Since many forestry literature databases and "Literature Cited" in scholarly journal papers abbreviate serial titles, the following sources can help you find the unabbreviated serial title:
- Abbreviation lists associated with databases listed in Articles and Databases: Forestry.
- Journal Title Abbreviations - lists both general sources and more specific sources in the sciences.
Copies of papers from forestry serials that are not available at HSU can be requested through the Library's Interlibrary Loan Service.
The research paper published in a scientific journal represents the most important "primary" source of information for the forest scientist and manager. Papers published in journals generally go through a "peer review" process before acceptance and publication. Seventy-five percent of the forestry research literature is published in this format.
In forestry, as well as other disciplines, there are "core" journals where the majority of important research is published. Following are several lists of "core" forestry journals that extend beyond the holdings of the HSU Library.
- Forestry Serials Covered (Forestry Abstracts) Lists the 53 journals from which the majority of papers are indexed in Forest Science Database.
- Important Journals in Forestry and Landscape Ecology (University of Wisconsin, Madison. Forest Landscape Ecology Laboratory)
- Journals Ranked by Impact: Forestry (In-Cites) Lists the top ten forestry journals based upon article citation analysis.
Literature databases listed in Articles and Databases: Forestry can be used to find individual research papers by author, subject, taxonomic category, habitat, time period, chemical compound, or geographic area. In addition many journal publisher websites now maintain a searchable database of articles that have been published in their journals.
While the results of most forestry research are published in journals, perhaps 10% of the research is published in individual issues of monographic series. Longer contributions resulting from scientific research are often published in this format. Monographic series typically have the following characteristics:
- They are published by government agencies, major universities or professional organizations.
- Individual issues are collectively published in a continuing series which has a distinctive name. Typical names include Bulletin, Special Report, Special Paper, Technical Report, and Technical Paper.
- Individual issues in the series are consecutively numbered, e.g. Technical Paper No. 36.
- Each issue has a distinctive author and title.
- There is no regular publication schedule in contrast to a journal.
- Individual issues contain the completed results of a single research project.
- Individual issues range from several pages to several hundred pages.
A typical example is:
Neff, Don J.; et al.(a) 1979. Forest, Range, and Watershed Management for Enhancement of Wildlife Habitat in Arizona.(b) Arizona Game and Fish Dept.(c) Special Report(d) 7(e).
where a=individual author; b=individual title; c=series author; d=series title; e=series number
To locate monographic series in the HSU Library you need to consult the following two sources:
- For federal and California State agency series use the catalogs and indexes listed in the Natural Resources Agency Government Documents and Technical Reports research guide. These series are located in the Documents Collection.
- For all other monographic series use the HSU Library Catalog or the Journal and Newspaper Finder. The key is to look for the series of which an individual issue is a part. You must look under either the series title (Special Report in the above example) or the sponsoring organization (Arizona Game and Fish Dept. in the above example). In the above example there is no listing under the author "Neff..."" or the title "Forest, Range..." since these are the author and title of the individual issue. The catalog will note each number held by the Library in a particular series, e.g., #1-25, 26-30, 35-.
As with individual journal papers Articles and Databases: Forestry can be used to identify research published in this format.
Theses and Dissertations
The outcome of graduate study conducted at universities is commonly a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation. In addition to the formal thesis or dissertation, research results are often communicated in other "primary" literature formats, such as the journal paper.
See Theses and Dissertations for how to find and acquire 1) HSU masters theses; and 2) theses and dissertations produced at other universities that are available in other libraries and on the Internet. In addition the following are specialized directories and databases to theses and dissertations in forestry:
- Forestry Theses Accepted by College and Universities in the United States (SD 373 O82) lists theses and dissertations completed between 1900 and 1990.
- Forest Science Database Indexes over 3300 theses.
- Theses in Watershed Management at HSU: 1967-2005 Alphabetical list by author.
Papers presented at national and international conferences, symposia, and workshops are another source of "primary" scientific information in forestry. For many of these meetings the presented papers are eventually published in a "proceedings" or "transactions" volume. Papers with no published proceedings may be refined and reworked for formal publication in a journal. Proceedings available in the HSU Library are listed in the HSU Library Catalog under author (generally the name of the conference, individual editor or sponsoring organization) and conference title.
Subject, taxonomic, geographic, and author access to individual conference papers is also provided by literature databases listed in Articles and Databases: Forestry.
Monographs generally are not part of the "primary" literature of science, but rather are "secondary" sources of information. They may be either scholarly contributions or popularizations on specific topics. Through scholarly monographs the "primary" literature on specific topics is condensed, summarized or reviewed. Most include references back to the "primary" literature. They may take the format of textbooks, treatises, taxonomic works, or a multitude of reference works, such as encyclopedias or handbooks. Monographs are listed in the HSU Library Catalog. For guidance in use of the HSU Library Catalog and library catalogs see the section on Finding Books in Forestry.
Institutions and individual authors of research publications may deposit or archive their scholarly work in an institutional or subject repository. The Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) and the Directory of Open Access Repositories (openDOAR) list some of the available respositories, including HSU's Humboldt Digital Scholar. Literature repositories of interest in forestry include: