Because I have autism I am forced to go it alone for writing a computer science research paper outside of conventional US university auspices toward a doctorate by publication through an accredited UK or European university that will offer it.

As such, I know I must do an unassisted literature search.

Is there some agreed-upon standard between computer science departments as to how extensive the search must be to meet professional research standards?

My problem will be affording library access and download fees, which could be a problem as my resources are scant.

Do I therefore include?

  1. USPTO
  2. Freely published papers.
  3. Books available in Gutenberg.
  4. Hobbyist websites.
  5. Anything else freely available.

Am I to include, regardless of the cost or my paper becomes unacceptable?

  1. University reserve libraries for textbooks and proceeding, which may bar the general public.
  2. Relevant topic journals such as ACM or IEEE which are only accessible online for a fee.
  3. Elsvier and Wesley collections having a huge price to access online.
  4. Textbooks through Amazon.

Anything else I haven't thought of?

  • 4
    Why downvote? This is a legitimate circumstance, and a legitimate question. Jun 19, 2023 at 22:40
  • 13
    I know plenty of researchers with autism. Why does this preclude you from doing a "regular" PhD? Jun 19, 2023 at 23:31
  • 1
    Semmyk-research, I am from US. I've done research as a junior author for an employer, I've done my own commercial paper, and I made an algorithm for another employer that I want to write a paper about, and then use in more research before approaching a UK university remotely. Jun 20, 2023 at 3:12
  • 1
    Interlibrary loan (ILL). You should be able to get any book or article your want through that, assuming you have library privilege through some institution, even if they don't have all the requisite subscriptions. I have limited literature access, but I have been able to get any book or paper requested through ILL.
    – jdods
    Jun 21, 2023 at 13:01
  • 1
    @jdods I feel much reassured Jun 22, 2023 at 2:34

4 Answers 4


It's difficult providing answer, however there are approaches you can take towards conducting lit review (within or outside formal university env)

When conducting lit review, you need to consider couple of things beforehand.

  • purpose of the review
  • objective of the review which indicates expected outcome
  • type of review: systematic, narrative, scoping, rapid review
  • Search strategy
  • venue: just as you've listed, where you'll source your articles. Try to leverage community library. Also, if there is a uni around, don't be scare of walking in to request assistance: you might get help.
  • search criteria informed by purpose and objective
  • exclusion criteria
  • results synthesis

That's a broad approach that's applicable across board. For CS and IS, you can for instance look at Okoli, 2015. There are lots of options.

You can look at PRISMA-ScR (Tricco et al., 2018), if you want to combine the 'rigour' of systematic with the 'flexibility' of scoping.

  • Both very helpful. I am grateful for the fast and thorough response! Jun 20, 2023 at 4:33
  • @eternalsquire If it's been helpful, you can do the honour of upvoting (or marking as answer). Jun 20, 2023 at 7:59
  • I see some go around downvoting (pulling down) Answers with pride with no care or following the pack! This I complained about in my post supporting the June strike. Jun 20, 2023 at 8:02
  • I upvoted, and tried to mark it as answer. Both papers are the starting points I was looking for. Thank you! Jun 20, 2023 at 8:24

This isn't so much an answer to the concrete question you are asking, as an answer to what I feel is lurking behind it:

At the end of the day, you get a PhD because some committee of people at a university approves your thesis. In other words, the only place where you can get a definitive answer to this or any similar question you have is to ask the members of that committee for their opinion on it. Who those are we cannot know (because you only vaguely describe the university you hope will give you your degree, but in practice, every reputable institution will require you to do a literature review that is comparable to those that are commonly found in theses from that institution -- so start there with looking for examples.

I will add, though, that I would be surprised if you got a reprieve because you lack the funds to access specific literature: PhDs are awarded for original research work (which includes being familiar with the literature) and people will not generally lower their standards to account for a student's financial means. This is one of the (many) reasons why universities do not confer degrees for theses by people not affiliated with the university.

  • Autistic people like me don't need answers from people seeing "lurking" questions. We only want answers to the actual questions literally asked. I didn't look for pity from an institution regarding means, and I didn't look for the possibility of a doctorate from a university that I did not join even for a doctorate by publication program. Your answer reflects ableistic bias, it's condescending, and it's humiliating. Please retract. Jun 20, 2023 at 8:07
  • 2
    @eternalsquire in this answer please do not take the "lurking" as about you, but about your issue. This answer is trying to make you think about the big picture. In other words: your issue is not the funding. Your issue is that first you find an university supporting you (i.e. accepting you into a PhD program, even without funds) and then you can use their library and other resources to access the literature you need.
    – EarlGrey
    Jun 20, 2023 at 10:11
  • 1
    @EarlGrey - Chicken and egg problem, but non-degree status for a limited number of hours is one possible solution. Thank you, though. Jun 20, 2023 at 11:25
  • 3
    @eternalsquire You are free to take or leave my answer, but I do think it is worth pointing out that you stated "As such, I know I must do an unassisted literature search." and that that is likely not the right starting point. It's like wanting to write a talk without knowing who the audience is -- it's likely not going to be a hit with whoever ends up being in the audience. This has nothing to do with autism or any other (in)ability. All I tried to point out is that you're starting at the wrong end if you ignore who you're writing the literature review for. Jun 20, 2023 at 16:59

On the matter of cost: nobody is expected to pay those fees to download papers off publisher websites!

You can

1 get access to a university connection and download them for free

2 ask the authors for a copy (they'll be happy to send it)

3 ask acquaintances in Academia to download them for you

You can also pray to saint Alexandra of the hub (I probably can't go into details here but you can imagine)


Because I have autism I am forced to go it alone for writing a computer science research paper outside of conventional US university auspices toward a doctorate by publication through an accredited UK or European university that will offer it.

This is an assumption you've made, and one I'd strongly say is false, off the top of my head I can think of several people with autism in the scientific community that I know, at least a couple of them full professors (and there are probably other's that I know who I'm not thinking of).

As such, I know I must do an unassisted literature search.

Is there some agreed-upon standard between computer science departments as to how extensive the search must be to meet professional research standards?

These standards are exactly why people will say you should do a PhD if you want to get into academic research (industry research/R&D is different to academic research). The other reason is that more people who are part of that field means more people you can bounce ideas off or who know key parts of the literature that are relevant to whatever you are working on.

Because of autism I am poor at taking tests and at oral exams. I can't pass conventional qualifying exams.

If this is the reason you believe you should go it alone and avoid more traditional PhD training, you should change the framing of your question from, "how do I do research alone?" to "which universities can accommodate for my disabilities and how?" Keep in mind a key word you used was conventional. If there is an unconventional way to prove achievement equivalent to what they are testing for that works for you then that solves this problem.

A strong support community, like the kind that develops in a PhD program, is important for producing good results and good papers. If part of the reason you are wanting to "go it alone" so to say is because of social phobias or a preference away from social interaction, keep in mind these people will be the kind who will want to talk to you and go into detail about research while chatting over lunch. Worst case in that scenario, someone might say half jokingly, no work over lunch and half the people will switch to something more conventional while the other half will continue talking about science and just make sure they aren't forcing the dissenting voice to join them.

As a last note, and to confirm your goals, is your goal to get into research and a PhD is a step on this path. Or is it to prove you are skilled/intelligent/smart enough to do research without anyone's help for one reason or another. Despite the fact that basically no one does this, including those who say they did or who everyone else says they did. A PhD is a challenge and involves displaying all of these things even if you get plenty of help and accommodations in order to achieve it.

  • First option, joining a program with accomodations just for the joy of doing research now and later. It has been, however, my experience that phd residency and qualifications exams are not geared toward people like me. Departments I have encountered over the years do not offer accomodations I am aware of. Does anyone else know? Jun 23, 2023 at 20:17
  • If anyone knows about a decent ph.d program accommodating people with disabilities that allows open book open notes exams, slower attendance, and part time residency, I would love to hear about it. Jun 23, 2023 at 20:37
  • I learn best by doing. But ph.d programs are not formatted that way aside from ph.dd by publication I really have nothing left to prove. I'm 60 years old and all I want to do is make a recognized original contribution to human knowledge. Jun 23, 2023 at 20:43
  • @eternalsquire If your goal is just to make an original contribution to human knowledge then maybe a PhD is not what you need. I say to do serious research you need PhD style training, but not necessarily the PhD. The PhD is needed for grants/funding/academic positions/the title Dr, but if you aren't going for those then you can just focus on getting training rather than qualifications. Jun 23, 2023 at 22:24
  • If you're retired and have money to live off/are only working part time then what you could try to do is to get to know a group in your area who's work you're interested in. Try to find out what they are doing and look up their papers on arXiv.org (a pre-print server that a lot of computer scientists post their papers to before being peer reviewed and published, and are still available after publication). Then get in contact with some of them and say you're interested in their work explain your position and ask if there any group meetings/seminars/colloquium that you could attend. Jun 23, 2023 at 22:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .