This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series How to stay on top of the literature in 2020

How to stay on top of the literature in 2020 – Part 1

Ocean Fact - Study Hacks - How to stay on top of the literature - Use your network

In order to catch the newest research that may be useful for my own research, I use a set of tools and technics that in combination can save you the pain to do a literature review each time you start writing an article. Indeed, it is most likely that you will work in your field for a couple of years and we can derive already existing tools and technics in the sole purpose of staying on top of the literature. One challenge that I set to myself a couple of months after starting my PhD was to find the new diamonds of my field before by supervisor does. Why so when it seems so simple and effortless to do? Each time I would stop by her office to tell her I found this very interesting piece of work for our research, not only she would have always find it before me, but in the meantime, she would also have finished reading it and absorbed the main piece of information! When thousands of potentially relevant articles come out each week, it becomes vital to easily access and sort the most relevant research. In this new series of articles, I will describe technics in increasing order of broadness and efficiency. Let’s dive in!

1. Use your niche and people in your field

A. Ask your colleagues

If you want to find the most relevant research, you can rely on the scientists contributing to your field. Some of them will be your colleagues. One good habit to start is to use the internal mailing list to your department (or an even more specialized mailing list) to share the latest research. You can use this internal channel to promote your own research once it’s published and follow the updates of others. The head of our department has the good habit to share articles that could be relevant to everyone else. Some of which I picked for writing up my Licentiate exam. But not every good reads were written by members of your own department, so how can you follow their research?! Well, wasn’t the following of strangers democratized by Twitter?

B. Follow the right people on social medias (Twitter, Facebook…)

Rely on social medias to follow the latest research of your peers. For instance on Twitter, a freshly published article will most likely be retweeted and will be easier to catch if you follow many people in your niche. One of the most recent features of Twitter is the possibility to create lists. I created lists (see here) that contain accounts of scientists in my field (or journals as you will see in section 2) that I can easily scroll to look for tweets with articles (Fig 1).
Figure 1 - Where to find the Twitter Lists

Figure 1 – Where to find the Twitter Lists

I am clearly not an expert on Twitter and my supervisor seems way better than me at this, but one of the drawbacks I found in using Twitter is that it easily gets messy. Not all the tweets scientists will share will be about their latest research nor about research at all. You can easily end up scrolling thousands of tweets before to find what you want. However, if a tweet with an article gets retweeted a lot, the algorithm will most likely catch it and highlight it to you. On top of that, mostly the younger generation is on Twitter, though it took me years to start an Academic Twitter, or a Twitter at all.

C. Use scientific social medias: ResearchGate, Google Scholar

If, anyway, you want to rely on scientist profiles on social medias, I recommend you follow them on Research Gate, the Facebook for researchers. Other people can recommend articles to you, or your articles to others, and you can use this network engine for many more purposes. One last way to stay up-to-date on the research of someone is to follow their profiles on Google Scholar. Most researchers (older generations included) have a public profile there. You can subscribe to their alerts through Google Alerts and get notified once they publish something new (Figure 2). I use those profile alerts sporadically. You can easily get overwhelmed with thousands of emails which most would be duplicates as in science we tend to collaborate with each other. The best practice I found was to follow the Principal Investigator as he/she will most likely be on each papers along with the co-authors you would like to follow. I also included some personal favourites for their style of writing along with former supervisors (Owen Petchey, Emmett Duffy, Dominique Gravel, Ferenc Jordan, Jennifer Dunne, Benjamin Planque… the list would be too long to list everybody).
Figure 2 - How to follow the updates of a researcher on Google Scholar

Figure 2 – How to follow the updates of a researcher on Google Scholar,

for an example of profiles, see here.

That is all for today. In part 2, we will how we can take advantages of journal website to get access to their updates. All the technics described in this series work together and will ensure that you will never miss the new milestone in your field. If you have your own technics, you can share them with this community. It will be a pleasure to welcome a guest post on the blog.

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Author of this blog post.

  • Pierre Olivier

  • Ph.D. Student

  • Founder of Ocean Fact

Series NavigationStay on top of the literature in 2020 – Part 2 – Scrap academic journals >>