Home > Tutorials > Tutorial 1: Finding Papers With Data (Part 1)

Tutorial 1: Finding Papers With Data (Part 1)

As I type this, 34 35 37 individuals have expressed interest in joining the ODP. This is a tremendous response, and we are incredibly grateful for your support. If you are interested but haven’t yet notified us, it’s never too late (just send me an email indicating your interest)! So far, we have 72 75 79 108 verified and 88 85 80 53 unverified data entries – quite an expansion beyond yesterday!

Some of you are quite new to paleontology, or at least to this kind of research. You’re probably looking at this blog post or the email of welcome I sent you, wondering “What next?” So, I want to give you just a quick tutorial on the basics of finding data for entry. In future posts, we will discuss the finer points of entering data.

As you recall, we’re collecting measurements of limb bones from ornithischian dinosaurs (mostly plant eaters, if you’re not familiar with them). We’re accepting two basic kinds of data for this project: 1) measurements taken from the literature; and 2) measurements taken directly from specimens. The present post will focus primarily on #1.

The first step is finding the literature. Of course, we have a page devoted to various places to find and download open access papers that could potentially have measurements. But, this doesn’t do you much good if you don’t know what papers to look for! So, I want to give you a few hints and pointers on how to go about this.

As an example, I want to focus on downloadable PDFs from the American Museum of Natural History’s (AMNH) publications. In a very laudable move, they have made their entire run of publications freely available. Classic papers, including the original descriptions of iconic dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex, Protoceratops, Velociraptor, and more, are all here. Many of the publications’ authors did an excellent job of measuring their dinosaurs, too. So, the AMNH is going to be a key data source.

As a start, you have to find the appropriate papers for download. Their search engine is pretty good, and available here. You’ll want to search “all publications” (the default selection). So, what next? The easiest thing is to just type in the name of a dinosaur. Remember that for now, we primarily want measurements for ornithischian dinosaurs (don’t worry, I’ll give you some names / keywords later on). As a test, try “Saurolophus” (a kind of duck-billed dinosaur).

This should bring up two papers – one from 1913 and one from 1912. Download the PDF for the one from 1913 (it’s a large file, and might take a little while), and then scroll through the pages.

Success! On page 6 (or p. 392, as paginated in the original volume) is a whole mess of measurements. And not only do they have measurements for Saurolophus, but two other dinosaurs. Humerus length, femur length – they’re all here. From this point, it’s relatively straight-forward to enter the data on the data entry sheet (which I’ll cover in a subsequent tutorial). Note that I’ve already entered the data from this paper (which should be listed on the Verification List, under “Brown 1913″), but they need to be double-checked (there’s a task for someone!).

Well and good, but if you don’t know dinosaurs, what should you look for on the AMNH website? I recommend doing a search on some of these terms (the links should take you to the search page): *hadrosaur* (the asterisks are wild-card characters to broaden the search), *ceratops* (note the wildcard characters again), *trachodon* (an archaic term for some kinds of duck-billed dinosaurs), Monoclonius, Styracosaurus (two kinds of horned dinosaurs), etc. Many all of the papers found this way contain useful data.

The following papers that might result from these searches have been entered once already, and need to be re-entered on the verification list:

Brown B (1908) The Ankylosauridae, a new family of armored dinosaurs from the Upper Cretaceous. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 24: 187–201. [note - please post a comment if you are going to check this one, so we don't have unnecessary duplication of efforts]
Brown B and Schlaikjer EM (1937) The skeleton of Styracosaurus with the description of a new species. American Museum Novitates 955: 1-12.
Brown B (1913) The skeleton of Saurolophus, a crested duck-billed dinosaur from the Edmonton Cretaceous. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 32: 387-393.
Brown B (1914) Leptoceratops, a new genus of Ceratopsia from the Edmonton Cretaceous of Alberta. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 33: 567-580.
Brown B (1916) Corythosaurus casuarius: skeleton, musculature and epidermis. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 35: 709-716.
Brown B (1917) A complete skeleton of the horned dinosaur Monoclonius, and description of a second skeleton showing skin impressions. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 37: 281-306. Just verified by Tom H. Green and Ville Sinkkonen!
Gilmore CW (1933) On the dinosaurian fauna of the Iren Dabasu Formation. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 67: 23-78.

These papers don’t need to be re-entered, because they’ve been done twice now:

Brown B (1913) A new trachodont dinosaur, Hypacrosaurus, from the Edmonton Cretaceous of Alberta. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 32: 395–406.
Brown B (1913) The skeleton of Saurolophus, a crested duck-billed dinosaur from the Edmonton Cretaceous. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 32: 387-393.
Brown B (1914) Leptoceratops, a new genus of Ceratopsia from the Edmonton Cretaceous of Alberta. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 33: 567-580.
Brown B (1916) Corythosaurus casuarius: skeleton, musculature and epidermis. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 35: 709-716.
Brown B (1917) A complete skeleton of the horned dinosaur Monoclonius, and description of a second skeleton showing skin impressions. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 37: 281-306.
Brown B and Schlaikjer EM (1937) The skeleton of Styracosaurus with the description of a new species. American Museum Novitates 955: 1-12.
Brown B, Schlaikjer EM (1942) The skeleton of Leptoceratops with the description of a new species. American Museum Novitates 1169: 1-15.
Gilmore CW (1933) On the dinosaurian fauna of the Iren Dabasu Formation. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 67: 23-78.

All of the rest of them haven’t been entered even the first time! Do you think we can get all of the relevant AMNH publications entered and double-checked before the end of the week?

A Few Quick Pointers

Much of this information is already contained in the FAQs and How-To Guide, but given the length of these documents it’s easy to overlook a few key points. Future tutorials will also address aspects of this in more detail, but I figured it would be helpful to talk about some of it right now.

  • Units: Please enter all measurements in millimeters. If the paper gives the measurements in centimeters, please do the conversion (multiply by 10) while entering the data.
  • Before Entering Data: Check to see if the paper is listed on the Tasks for Contributors page. Papers on the finished list are already closed out, and don’t need to be entered in any form. Papers on the other list need to be re-entered on the verification spreadsheet. If you don’t see the paper on either reference, odds are good that nobody has gotten to it yet.
  • Why Do We Need Data from the Literature Entered by Two Contributors? When keying in data from a paper, it’s very, very easy to mistype a number, or enter data into the wrong column, or miss a measurement altogether. In order to make our database as reliable as possible, we independently check all entries from the literature. Believe it or not, project contributors have caught several mistakes that I made when entering data on my own.
  • Bibliographic Data. I really, really appreciate it if you send me a formatted bibliographic entry for each paper that you input. We need to be building the bibliography from day 1, and it’s a lot easier to do it now than in a mad rush while preparing the final publication. Please send a formatted bibliographic entry to me with each entry. See here for info on how we would like the entries formatted. The examples on the Tasks page might also be helpful.
  • How I find out if someone has entered data from a paper already? Check out the list on the Tasks for Contributors page.

Do you have any other questions? Ask them in the comments section, and we’ll do our best to address them!

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Categories: Tutorials
  1. September 10, 2009 at 7:46 am

    “Brown B (1913) The skeleton of Saurolophus, a crested duck-billed dinosaur from the Edmonton Cretaceous. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 32: 387-393.

    Brown B (1914) Leptoceratops, a new genus of Ceratopsia from the Edmonton Cretaceous of Alberta. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 33: 567-580.

    Brown B (1916) Corythosaurus casuarius: skeleton, musculature and epidermis. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 35: 709-716.”

    I believe I sent verifications for these yesterday. :)

  2. Andy Farke
    September 10, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Oops, you are right. The email got lost in the shuffle – thanks for noticing!

  3. Rob Taylor
    September 10, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Suppose I’m working from a table of measurements that does not distinguish between left and right elements, providing only a single value for each bone. From a due diligence perspective, would we then look to the narrative to determine whether both or only one of the elements was preserved? For example, if I read that only the right tibia was found, my inclination would then be to enter the measurement in the ‘R L’ column as opposed to the ‘L’ column. (Obvious increase to processing time, so wanted to probe from a cost-benefit perspective and determine which approach should be used.) Many thanks!

  4. Andy Farke
    September 10, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    From a cost-benefit perspective, I think it’s best to just go from the data given in the table. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from checking the text, but given all of our time constraints, I don’t think it would be a good move to make it mandatory. Also, the narratives are sometimes a little bit hazy when it comes to certain aspects of bone description, in a way that might confuse things or introduce inaccuracies. So, IMO, I would say just go from the table alone (unless the text has additional measurements that didn’t make it into the table).

  5. Yves-Antoine Klein
    September 10, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I checked this paper today:

    Brown B and Schlaikjer EM (1937) The skeleton of Styracosaurus with the description of a new species. American Museum Novitates 955: 1-12.

  6. William Miller
    September 11, 2009 at 1:51 am

    I’m working on this one:

    Gilmore CW (1933) On the dinosaurian fauna of the Iren Dabasu Formation. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 67: 23-78.

  7. Andy Farke
    September 11, 2009 at 5:31 am

    This one has been double-checked now. . .sorry for any inconvenience this caused!

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