How do you keep up with the literature?

Photo by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier,
Photo by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier,

In the Plant Physiology publishing workshop held at Plant Biology 2016, the question arose of how people keep up with the huge number of papers being published.

Mike Blatt shared the strategy used by his lab, which I’m familiar with as an honorary member.  The lab group meets weekly, and two of every four meetings are set aside for journal summaries. Half the lab members report one week, and the other half the next week. Each individual is assigned two or three journals to report on. Each report consists of a short summary of the papers of interest to the group, with accompanying written reports posted in a shared lab folder. In addition to the topics most relevant to the lab (cell biology, ion channels, guard cell dynamics, ABA signaling), the reporters alert the group to other articles of broad general interest such as breakthrough technologies. Often, of the hundred or so papers described during a journal summary session, one or two are selected for more in-depth discussion during a subsequent meeting.  One thing I like about this approach is that it helps students develop the skill and habit of browsing tables of contents.

How do you keep up with the literature? Do you make use of emailed electronic tables-of-contents (eTOCs)? Do you subscribe to RSS feeds? Do you follow journals on Twitter or Facebook? Do you meet regularly with your team to share your findings? Do you use a file-sharing service such as Mendeley? Do you rely on word of mouth from colleagues in your lab or department? Have you given up on keeping up? Do you employ a need-to-know strategy, doing a thorough literature search when you are writing?

Please share your good suggestions to help those who struggle with the task of keeping up with the literature! It seems that Plantae offers opportunity for private or public groups to share journal summaries and flag interesting papers, what do you think?


3 thoughts on “How do you keep up with the literature?”

  1. The best thing is to keep journal alerts (on social networks where graphic summaries or figures are displayed with short summary) or Pubmed alerts using keywords of your research area. For example, in photobiology, most of the investigators utilize hypocotyl as a study system. Hence keeping alert for the term “hypocotyl” will automatically send you emails whenever a work involving hypocotyl is published.
    Please follow these steps to setup such an alert to your email ID:

  2. Beside screening the eTOCs of relevant journals in my field of interest, I keep a list of key publications to receive alerts each time any of these papers get cited. This strategy is supported by several databases such as SciFinder or Web of Science. In addition I have saved search queries with some key words of my research topic at NCBI that is automatically executed every week and informs me about any new hits of published papers that match this query. With this combination of tools I am quite confident that I do not miss any relevant new publications in my research field.

  3. For mobile devices, I would heartily recommend QxMD to the plant community. It was developed for biomed, but it will work just as well for any group. If you have a library which you can use for access it automatically will download papers of interest to your device to read. You can have it gather articles by keyword and it updates as often as you like. It also allows the creation of public or private collections which can be useful for gathering pubs for a lab group.

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