As new researcher and having started my PhD studies less than one month, I would like someone experienced to give me some advice. As researcher, which are your habits concerning research papers you read. How you choose the literature you read ? Do you 'follow' journals/ research groups/conferences/topic?

Are there tools for this reason?


2 Answers 2


Starting good literature habits at the beginning of your PhD is excellent. Here's the method I use:

-First, I created a publication alert for litterature highly specific to my study subject. I used Web Of Science for that, but only because my library subscribe to it. I think you can create similar alert using Google Scholar. I try to keep really up to date with that list because it is centered on my project.

-Second, I follow some journals relevant to my research using RSS feed. Each time there is a new articles in those journals, I get an alert. There is multiple RSS feed organizer software. I personally prefer to received them in my email inbox using Thunderbird. I'm not very good at keeping up with that list, but I try at least to read the article title, to know if something relevent wasn't find by my citation alert. I also got alert from BioRxiv.

-Finally, I follow researchers on Research Gate and thus I receive alert when they publish. I chose to follow the researcher I most often cite.

Keeping up with the literature is hard! I think organisation is part of the key.


What I did (pre-Internet!) was to skim each of the many journals relevant to my field carried by the library when they came out, reading the papers that seemed relevant. If highly relevant, I'd photocopy them, scribbled complete details on the reference (journal, volume, number, pages, month, ...) on the back of the copy, wrote up a short (2 to 5 lines) summary into my "survey" chapter and added it to my bibliography database. If something relevant was in the references, I'd chase them down and applied the same technique. This survey, after pruning, became my "State of the art" chapter.

Writing a short summary forces to really understand the paper, having the summary helps finding the paper if some further details are needed later, the bibliography database will be invaluable (not just now, also later).

Today I do mostly the same, just that I keep electronic copies of the papers, and add a custom field to my BibTeX entries to keep the URL (which might point at some preprint, a technical report that gets summarized, or even not-so-legal sources that can't be mentioned officially).

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