Or alternatively do good PhD students and researchers spend some part of their day, regularly, reading new research papers and pre-prints?

Please give some reasoning of why and why not, if possible.

Background for those who are interested:

I am a physics student. I am new to publishing research papers and research in general. Just around a week back my summer intern work was submitted to a journal and a pre-print was made public in arXiv (I am the corresponding author). This was my first experience with publishing a paper, so I didn't know what to expect (except for corrections, major/minor revision notification from the journal ;[ )

However, within 12 hours of being public in arXiv, I received a mail from a PhD student and the next day I received a mail from another PhD student. One of the mails was about how his research paper (published a month back) disproved a popular notion which we had mentioned in our discussion and the second one about his research paper and possibility of matching both our results.

Both of these PhD students were from two very very prestigious universities, so I was quite surprised. While I expected people asking for clarification or pointing out mistakes I did not expect such a practice.

Is it common for all PhD students to do this? Or do good researchers do this on their own? (Which might explain why these two are in top schools). But the topic of this research is very hot with lots of new papers being published every week. So I can't imagine how one would achieve it. Also, until now, I always thought that we will have a specific problem for our PhD, so I am not sure in what way this'll be useful. (I know one has to do literature study before starting.)

Since I would be applying for graduate schools next year I though this might be something I should practice, if it helps me as a researcher.

  • 2
    I check the arXiv every day, but I don't think this is related to how good a student I am! I don't read every paper; if the title's not interesting or relevant, I won't even read the abstract. I might open one paper a day and look at the plots, and average one a week that I read in detail. I'm in my 3rd year now. I read a lot more in 1st year. Oct 16, 2019 at 15:08
  • 1
    It is useful at least. The messages you got can be more or less relevant, that depends on your evaluation. Being up to date is crucial in my opinion. Obviously the load can be shared with the rest of the group and this normally happens naturally. I don't know what you mean by good but a researcher must spend some time going through papers/preprints, rather than reading. Select journals / topics / keywords, as suggested in the answers.
    – Alchimista
    Oct 17, 2019 at 10:05

2 Answers 2


It sounds like you are not yet a graduate student. Otherwise I'd suggest that you talk to your advisor about this. In the future, if your advisor suggests that you read something, and perhaps comment on it, then you should do so. The theory is that it is always good to make your advisor happy.

But a random paper from a random person, especially another student, should put no obligation on you. Especially if you are asked for comment. But you have made yourself "public" by submitting your paper, and therefore a target for such requests. Ignore them if you like or read them if you find them interesting, and comment if you like. But there is no implied obligation.

One reason for sending out such requests is a bit sinister. The others may just be "fishing" for citations in your future work.

In a more positive light, knowing about this other work helps guide you away from problems already solved or about to be solved.

However, it is also true that graduate students do need to spend time, perhaps a lot of it, reading papers. But those papers should relate to your own research trajectory, not necessarily those of others. Later in your career you review the work of others as an implied public service to the profession, but it is too early to expect that now.

  • Indeed, I am still a Master's student and will apply to graduate schools next year. But I have a guide who is the co-author and will bring this into his notice as you suggested. Also, what do you mean by "sinister"? We have already submitted the manuscript to a Journal so there can't be much that they can do I think.
    – Indigo1729
    Oct 16, 2019 at 14:16
  • 3
    "Future work". I send you may paper hoping you will cite it in your future work. An attempt to 'pad' my own resumé.
    – Buffy
    Oct 16, 2019 at 14:22
  • OP accepted this answer so maybe I'm wrong, but I thought they were asking whether they should read Arxiv papers regularly, which it appears these students must have done in order to send a reply, rather than how they should react to people sending them papers. This answer doesn't seem to address the title question. @Indigo1729 maybe you can clarify?
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 25, 2020 at 16:14
  • @BryanKrause, doesn't the last paragraph speak to that?
    – Buffy
    Dec 25, 2020 at 16:18
  • Hmm, I suppose, but I would have expected it much earlier in the answer that otherwise seems to be mostly a tangent. But I've just noticed now that this is a year+ old Q&A, I didn't realize it was bumped and not new.
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 25, 2020 at 16:26

There are pages like http://www.arxiv-sanity.com/ to filter the mass of papers on arXiv and give you the chance to read what interests you most. Furthermore, you can also go through all recent papers on your phone (instead of browsing instagram, reddit or whatever), read the abstract and mark everything that might be interesting to later read. I'm not sure if it is expected, that might strongly depend on your institute, group or advisor, but it is surely possible to do it in nicer ways than by simply clicking through arXiv directly.

I know good researchers who check arXiv daily, I know other just as good ones that haven't looked at it in months, so there also is no general rule there for after the PhD it seems.

Btw, if anyone knows of other nice ways to filter the arXiv feed, feel free to share/add, I'm not yet 100% happy with the ones mentioned that I currently know.

  • 1
    Why not subscribe to get an email with abstracts of papers in only some specified categories? That way, even if at a given day you skipped arXiv, you just browse trough two such emails the next day. Or you can accumulate emails and read them weakly etc.
    – user68958
    Oct 16, 2019 at 14:47
  • benty-fields is pretty good, it learns what you're interested in and puts those papers first, and also has functionality for voting on papers for journal clubs etc. Oct 16, 2019 at 15:02
  • @corey979 Some active fields (e.g. AI/machine learning) have 20+ new papers per day. As long as the abstracts are not collected into a single mail, this will be an insane amount of mails.
    – Dirk
    Oct 17, 2019 at 6:32
  • They are collected in a single mail, irrespective of to how many categories you subscribe, so you get one email per day. Here's the instruction: arxiv.org/help/subscribe
    – user68958
    Oct 17, 2019 at 7:20
  • FYI, I just checked and there were 889 new papers in AI and machine learning alone in the last seven days... @corey979
    – Dirk
    Oct 17, 2019 at 11:10

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