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Desert Diary


Let's pretend you've just completed gathering data on the distribution of desert pocket gophers as affected by the presence of Diamondback Rattlesnakes. Having spent 3 years of your life on this, naturally you want the world to know your results. The sad fact is, little Johnny, just entering first grade, most likely won't see it in a textbook for many years.

Your results, a line or two in that book, will have a past—usually a long, drawn out history—behind it. Analyzing data and writing up results for publication requires months, sometimes years. Add some more months for review of a manuscript by experts in the field and more time for rewriting, then more months waiting until your turn comes up to appear in print.

Now all you have to do is wait for the need of a new textbook. Then, add a few more years for the author to research the book, the reviewers to tear it apart, the author to do his rewriting, and the physical printing. Johnny's now in high school.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

example of publication

The introductory portion of a paper of original research (Harris, 1987) presented in a scientific journal (National Geographic Research). A portion of such information eventually becomes incorporated into textbooks.



Harris, A. H. 1987. Reconstruction of Mid-Wisconsin environments in southern New Mexico. National Geographic Research, 3:142-151.