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Oceanography Research Guide


oceanography journal"...every fresh fact that is revealed.....is a clue leading from the very chambers of knowledge, which the discoverer leaves behind him to guide his followers. It is never lost.....for we may at pleasure take up the thread and commence where it ended...." Matthew Fontaine Maury from Address Delivered before the Literary Societies of the University of Virginia on 28th June, 1855

The oceanography literature is part of the larger scientific literature and is composed of specific discipline literature as well as that of other basic science disciplines. Scientific literature is the principal medium for communicating the results of scientific research and represents a permanent record of the collective achievements of the scientific community. It is composed of the individual "end products" of scientific research and continues to expand as new research builds on earlier research.

Modern oceanographic research began with the voyage of the "H.M.S. Challenger" during the years 1872 to 1876 which resulted in a 50-volume set of scientific reports. Since the Challenger voyage, there has been a proliferation of oceanographic publications paralleling the general growth and diversification of scientific literature.

Scientific literature is divided into two basic categories - "primary" and "secondary". Publications that report the results of original scientific research to constitute the "primary" literature and include journal papersconference papersmonographic seriestechnical 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 scientific reviewsmonographs, textbooks, treatises, and handbooks and manuals.

The availability of scientific literature varies depending on its publication format. Some formats are widely available, e.g., journal papers, while others have limited distribution and are difficult to identify and acquire. This "gray literature" commonly includes technical reports, theses, and dissertations.

Scientific Research/Publication Cycle

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):

Scientific Research and Publication Cycle

Oceanography Serials

Oceanography 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 and Newsletters - contain popular reports on developments in the discipline
  • Monographic series - irregularly issued publications that, in most cases, contain the results of scholarly research



The research paper published in a scientific journal represents the most important "primary" source of information for the oceanographer. Seventy-five percent of the oceanography research literature is published in this format. The first journals publishing extensively in the field of oceanography were established in the 1870s. By 1900 there were eleven titles including the Biological Bulletin from Woods Hole and the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom Journal. Starting in 1950 there was a rapid expansion in new titles paralleling greatly increased research in the field of oceanography. Today Genamics Journal Seek lists journals in oceanography and in marine biology. Other sources of information on marine science journals include:

  • Marine Science Journals and Serials: An Analystical Guide (ref GC 1 B37) contains annotations of marine science periodicals as of 1986
  • Marine Science and Technology (from the 2007 edition of Magazines for Libraries) contains an annotated list of recommended journals.

Paralleling the "core" journal concept found to be true to most scientific fields there are approximately 15 titles that account for 75% of the significant publications in marine biology and 10 titles which account for 50% of the significant publications in physical oceanography. See  SCImago Journal and Country Rank: Oceanography andSCImago Journal and Country Rank: Aquatic Sciences for highly ranked journals.

Journals provided through the CPH Library are listed in the Journal and Newspaper Finder

Literature databases typically index individual research papers by author, subject, taxonomic category, habitat, time period, life stage, chemical compound and geographic area. In addition many journal publishers maintain a searchable database of articles that have been published in their journals.


Collected Reprints and Digital Archives

A source for older journal papers in oceanography are the annual reprint collections of journal and conference papers authored by personnel at major oceanographic institutions. They can be used when the CPH Library does not have the journal you need and when you can identify the author of an article as coming from one of these institutions. The CPH Library has "collected reprint" collections from the following institutions:

  • NMFS. Southwest Fisheries Center. Collected Reprints (Docs C 55.334) Library has 1971-1993.
  • NOAA. Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratories. Collected Reprints (Docs C 55.612) Library has 1966-1979.
  • Oregon State University. School of Oceanography. Collected Reprints (GC 1 O75 and microfiche MC 1417) Library has 1956-1978.
  • Texas A&M University. Contributions in Oceanography (GC 1 T48) Library has 1950-1975.
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Contributions (GC 1 C32 and microfilm 2056 and microfiche MC 1625) Library has 1939-2001. Indexes are available that cover 1938-19691970-1981 and 1982-2001.
  • University of Georgia. Marine Institute, Sapelo Island. Collected Reprints (QH 91 A1 G4) Library has 1965-1994.
  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Collected Reprints (GC 1 W62) Library has 1936-1980. See WHOI Contributions to the Scientific Literature for a cumulative index from 1930 to the present.

Today, authors of research publications may deposit their work in an institutional or subject digital archive. The Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) lists available archives. Digital archives of interest to oceanography include:

  • arXiv.org Eprints in physics, mathematics, computer science and quantitative biology.


Monographic Series

While most oceanography research results are published in journals, perhaps 10% of the research is published in individual issues of what are called monographic series in the library world. Longer contributions resulting from scientific research are often published in this format. Monographic series typically have the following characteristics:

  1. They are published by government agencies, major universities or professional organizations.
  2. Individual issues are collectively published in a continuing series which has a distinctive name. Typical names include BulletinSpecial ReportSpecial PaperTechnical Report, and Technical Paper.
  3. Individual issues in the series are consecutively numbered, e.g. Technical Report No. 38.
  4. Each issue has a distinctive author and title.
  5. There is no regular publication schedule in contrast to a journal.
  6. Individual issues usually contain the completed results of a single research project.
  7. Individual issues may range from several pages to several hundred pages.

A typical example is:

Park. T.(a) 1994. Taxonomy and Distribution of the Marine Calanoid Copepod Family Euchaetidae.(b)Bulletin(c) of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (d) V.29(e).
where a=individual author; b=individual title; c=series title; d=series author; e=series number

To locate monographic series in the CPH Library you need to consult the following sources:

  1. For federal and California State agency series consult the catalogs and indexes located in the Documents Collection.
  2. For all other monographic series use either the library's catalog, OneSearch . The key is to look for the series of which an individual issue is a part. You must look under either the series title (Bulletin in the above example) or the sponsoring organization (Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the above example). In the above example there is no listing under the author "Park" or the title "Taxonomy and Distribution..." since these are the author and title of the individual issue.

Following are some of the oceanography monographic series available in the CPH Library. These are shelved in the regular book collection rather than Periodicals.

  • Allan Hancock Monographs in Marine Biology (QH 95 L6)
  • Atoll Research Bulletin (Docs SI 1.25)
  • Bulletin of the Ocean Research Institute (University of Tokyo) (GC 1 T59)
  • Bulletin of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (QH 95 C3)
  • Bulletin of the Yale University Bingham Oceanographic Laboratory (QL 121 A1 Y32)
  • California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigating Reports (Cal Doc M 135 A8)
  • Contributions in Marine Science (University of Texas Institute of Marine Science) (QH 92 T4)
  • Florida Marine Research Publications (SH 11 F66)
  • MIT Sea Grant Program Report (GC 1000 M37)
  • Pices Scientific Report (North Pacific Marine Science Organization) (GC 721 P535)
  • Reports & Studies (IMCO/FAO/UNESCO/WMO/IAEA/UN Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Polution) (GESAMP) (GC 1080 R465)
  • Smithsonian Contributions to Marine Science (Docs SI 1.41)
  • Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology (Docs SI 1.27)
  • Studies in Tropical Oceanography (Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. University of Miami) (QH 91 A1 S8)
  • Technical Series (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission) (GC 1 I66)
  • Texas A&M University Sea Grant College Program (TAMU- SG) (GC 1021 T4 T42)
  • Unesco Reports in Marine Science (GC 1 U265)
  • Unesco Technical Papers in Marine Science (GC 1 U27)

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.

Conference Papers

Papers presented at national and international conferences, symposia, and workshops are another source of "primary" scientific information in oceanography. For many of these meetings the presented papers are eventually published in a "proceedings" or "transactions" volume or made available on the web. 

Literature databases listed in Finding Articles also provide subject, taxonomic, geographic, and author access to individual conference papers.

Following are some of the regularly recurring oceanography conferences received by the CPH Library. 

  • Coastal Engineering Conference. Proceedings (TC 203 C6)
  • European Marine Biology Symposium. Proceedings
  • International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. ICES Marine Science Symposia (formerly Rapports et Proces-Verbaux des Reunions) (GC 1 I68)
  • Offshore Technology Conference. Proceedings (TC 1505 O36)

Conference papers are also included in some of the oceanography "collected reprint" collections.

Monographs (Books)

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.

Monographs may take the format of textbooks, treatises, taxonomic works, encyclopediashandbooks and other reference works. For guidance in searching library catalogs see Finding Books in Oceanography.