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Publishing Archaeological Experiments: a quick guide for the uninitiated
EuroREA is a magazine dedicated to publishing reports on and in archaeology. But what are the ways of publishing archaeological experiment? We asked this question and here we present the answers we received.
Alan K. Outram, Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter, UK
EuroREA and, in America, The Bulletin of Primitive Technology provide good forums for people to publish their experimental work. This short article provides some basic guidelines for those who are not so familiar with academic publishing. My aim is to encourage people to publish their work in a way that will be useful to the widest possible audience within the field of archaeology.
A standard experimental write-up in a scientific academic journal will usually have the following sections:
|•||Introduction and Aims|
|•||Materials and Methods|
|•||Discussion and Conclusions|
Setting clear aims will help produce a clear methodology. If one identifies questions, such as how long, hot or fast something will be, then that will lead to obvious need to record those variables. Within the materials and methods section, experimental accounts often lose their value because they are not specific enough. Scientists like to be able to repeat experiments. In fact, part of the scientific definition of an experiment is repeatability. Reports need to say how and where things were measured and what they were measured with. This may well require you to produce diagrams or take photographs to show how the equipment was set up. One also needs to be detailed about the precise materials used.
The results should be clearly discussed and displayed. Tables and graphs may well convey your results better than simple description. When using diagrams, pictures, tables and graphs, remember to give them suitable captions so that people know what they show and to number them so that you can refer to them from the text when their contents are being discussed. One thing that tends to be missing from a scientific paper is any kind of reflection on the experience of carrying out the experiment. This can be very important to experimental archaeology, however. Archaeologists will be very interested in the experiential side of experiments. After all, they do study the human condition. So discussion about the difficulty, awkwardness, ease, speed, conditions, smells, , skill level, danger etc. of a process are interesting, just as in the same way as ethnographic accounts are interesting. The discussion and conclusions should, of course, relate back to the original aims and you should clearly sum up what you have found. It is at this point that it might be useful to identify future work that would take the study further or reflect upon better ways to carry out the experiment.
Academic papers are almost always referenced throughout. They will not only have a at the end, but will have references throughout the text that relate to the items in the bibliography. Referencing is invaluable to academics. It allows researchers to identify exactly where somebody obtained their information from so that they can locate those sources if they want to find out further information. It also gives the work credibility, by building upon the work of others. The most common system used in archaeological publications is the Harvard Referencing System. If anybody wants to find out about it, there are many guides available on the World Wide Web.
|•||Provide background information on the experiment and why it is interesting.|
|•||Provide clear aims for the experiment.|
|•||Be detailed in describing how the experiment was conducted, including recording methods and details of the materials used.|
|•||Provide enough information to allow somebody to repeat what you have done.|
|•||Use diagrams and photographs where necessary to explain aspects of thethat are not easily described in words.|
|•||Use tables and graphs where appropriate to display results.|
|•||Make sure all figures have adequate captions and labels and number them so that you can easily refer to them from the text.|
|•||Unlike a standard scientific report, feel free to reflect upon the experience of carrying out the experiment.|
|•||Relate conclusions to the original aims.|
|•||Perhaps suggest the direction of future work.|
|•||Reference your work if at all possible, using the Harvard System.|
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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.