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At conferences scientists will present talks/papers to their peers papers on their current research. This cutting edge research may or may not eventually be published in a journal. The term "conference proceedings" usually refers to a published compilation of these papers from conferences, but also from events like symposia or workshops. Not every event will publish the material presented and some proceedings will include poster sessions and extended abstracts.
Why are conference proceedings difficult to find?
Finding conference proceedings can be tricky because
They may be published/catalogued as a book, journal, or series
Individual papers from a conference may be published as a book, journal, or series rather than all of the presented items
Societies and Associations may only publish abstracts, or extended abstracts, from a conference
Authors may "publish" their conference papers on their personal or institutional website
Conference Proceedings Citations
A lot of information is included in a citation to a conference paper. These examples from Southern Cross University should help make deciphering a conference proceeding citation a little easier.