Imagine you're attending a conference and your team has a novel research idea that combines concepts X and Y. While you're an expert in X, you lack knowledge about Y. However, a strong understanding of Y's existing research (state-of-the-art) is crucial for writing a compelling introduction, related work section, and ultimately, demonstrating the novelty of your idea.

I always struggle in this scenario. While databases (WoS, Google Scholar) are helpful, searches often yield overwhelming results or very few. I have also tried online guides but they didn't work great.

So, experienced researchers, what are your strategies for efficiently obtaining a quick scoping for a new research area?

3 Answers 3


In my experience I would say this is not possible.

It's far more productive for everyone involved to find a collaborator instead who has knowledge in that area. Usually the important things to not miss are less about the things you know you need to know and more about the things you don't even know to look for.


Talk to someone in field Y. If you are at a conference, try to do it then. Perhaps a conversation with the person who presented the concept there. Ask them for guidance on a good way to get familiar.

Failing that, try to find a colleague at your own institution or someone in your circle of contacts to bring you up to speed.

Depending on the web without guidance is probably inefficient as well as likely to lead you off into the weeds.

If X and Y merge then discussions with an expert in Y can lead to collaborations on that intersection: win-win.

Since you have a team, you can make it a team effort with each member casting a net for insight.


From my experience, when you're using Google Scholar, you typically need to find one key relevant paper. I have no solution for how to find this particular paper: sometimes, I just can't find the right keywords because I'm not familiar with the field. But once you find that paper, you will know it and then you can click through to papers that cite it, and then to the papers that cite the most cited among them, and quickly get to the state-of-the-art.

I admit this isn't a complete solution to your problem, but this strategy has helped me before, so it might be useful for you too.

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