Michelle Cadoree Bradley, Science Research Specialist, Science, Technology & Business Division
Created: June 2020
Last updated: April 5, 2021
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This guide provides an inventory of the Library of Congress Tracer Bullet series. In addition to their titles, Tracer Bullets were identified by a number indicating the year of publication, followed by the issue number; this inventory allows access to the titles by either title or by year and issue number. Links are provided when available to the Tracer Bullets that are accessible online, but some titles may be available only in print format.
The Library of Congress Science Tracer Bullet series (ISSN 0090-5232) was an informal and irregular series of library pathfinders published from 1972-2013. They were designed to help someone begin to locate research materials on a subject about which they held only general knowledge.
These guides were produced by expert reference staff of the Science & Technology Division's Science Reference Section, and, on occasion, by guest librarians, consultants, interns, and volunteers. Most guides were aimed at the undergraduate level, however some, particularly those involving science fair projects, were written with parents and educators in mind. The Tracer Bullets were distributed as government documents to government depository libraries. In 1990 Omnigraphics, Inc. republished 173 of the titles in four volumes.
For more information on library pathfinders see "Library Pathfinders: a New Possibility for Cooperative Reference Service External," by Charles H. Stevens, Marie P. Canfield, and Jeffrey J. Gardner, in College and Research Libraries News, v. 34, No 1 (1973).
One of the important aspects of the Science Tracer Bullet is that the progress of the information in the format of the bibliographic guide is supposed to mimic the research process itself. The prescribed format defines a scope, gives review articles and basic texts, and then leads the researcher on to suggestions for finding additional information.
The major features of a Science Tracer Bullet include:
"Tracer bullets," also called "tracer rounds," are usually loaded as every fifth round in machine gun belts. They provide essential information to soldiers firing at an enemy target by creating a line-of-sight that allows them to track the trajectory of their bullets and adjust their aim. Because these compilations were intended to put a reader "on target," they were called "tracer bullets."
Part of the Science, Technology & Business Division at the Library of Congress, Science Reference Services is the principal location for research in the areas of science, technology, technical reports, and standards.