When advising students performing research in one's group, what's the best way to make sure that they keep on top of the literature?

  • Is it best to forward any article of interest to the student?
  • Should we keep a list of journals the student should follow independently of me?
  • Are there other practices (reading journal, etc.) to make sure they stay up to date?
  • Is this something that can be pursued at a group level instead of on a one-on-one level?

4 Answers 4


As a current student, I find that the constant barrage of requests makes it very hard for me to keep up with the literature unless it is very pertinent to my staying afloat. Thus, reading should be tied to my staying afloat.

The most effective way seems to be a journal club with the advisor with the duty of presenting rotating between the advisees. As a side note, a journal club without the advisor falls apart rather quickly. There should be mechanisms to make sure that attendees actually read the papers as well as the presenter doing a good job with reviewing the prior literature. I've personally learned quite a lot in this format.

The other method would be to set up a system to share papers. Using an RSS feed is pretty effective along with using NCBI's email updates. Internally, Mendeley groups or Google+ work well.


It depends on the structure of the group, and the research area. I'm in computer science, in a specific subfield, and so I know when the main conference paper lists come out. I try to publicize these lists, and have meetings where we discuss papers that sound interesting - I also point out papers that have done something significant.

This only works well though when the research group is relatively homogeneous. If different students are working in different areas, then the basic principle is the same as above, but the sets of conferences tracked might vary.

The same could be done for journals that tend to release issues on a regular timeline. Or even with the arxiv.

Ultimately, the goal is to instill some good habits, rather than actually keeping the students aware of the literature. They have to learn to do it on their own.


If you really want them to keep up to date, just forwarding things will not be sufficient. You could organise something like a reading group where people present advances in the field. This would make sure that they not only know of new literature, but have also read and understood it to some extent.

What actually works will depend on your group though. If people can't be persuaded to take part in a reading group, you'll have to do something else.


At the beginning, I require the student to read certain papers and explain them to me, as preparation before starting any research. Afterward, I consider it the student's responsibility to keep up (and even to help me keep up) with the literature related to the thesis topic. To make it easy, we usually establish a Mendeley group and each of us posts relevant papers there.

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