Keeping up with the literature: Your suggestions

Last month we asked “How do you keep up with the literature?” (cross-posted on the ASPB blog and Plantae). Several of you shared your tips, thanks! Here we’ve compiled the replies we received from you.

Follow specific journals

One tip is to follow the Twitter or Facebook pages of your favorite journals (in case you don’t already do this, you can find us on Twitter at @ThePlantCell, @PlantPhys, or on Facebook at and We’ve also recently started a ScoopIt page for Plant Cell with links to new articles for those of you who don’t like or can’t access social media sites.

Most journals also offer the option to sign up for email delivery of table of contents (also known as eTOCs), or you can subscribe to the journal’s RSS feed.

But what about the papers that might interest you but are published in journals you don’t follow? Two suggestions for expanding your radar beyond your favorite journals are to follow topical aggregators or curators, and to set up keyword or citation alerts, both described below.

Follow topics via aggregators or curators

Twitter and ScoopIt good places to find  new papers sorted by their topics, through aggregation (usually automatic) or curation (usually manual).

As examples, here are a few topical Twitter accounts that I follow:

I follow a lot of plant biologists on Twitter and regularly hear about new papers from Tweets, which often include useful commentary about the new work. Anne Osterrieder curates a list of more than 300 plant scientists on Twitter, all of whom you can follow with one click by subscribing to her list.

ScoopIt is also powerful and easy to use, and it has the benefit of being more easily searchable and feeling more “permanent” than Twitter. (ScoopIt also works well in courses, as a place for the instructor or students to share a seletion of papers). Here are a few ScoopIt pages I follow:

Set up keyword and citation alerts

Several of you recommended various tools for automated alerts to new papers, as specified by keyword searches or citations of key papers.

Tools include:

NCBI. Using NCBI tools you can create and save searches for various databases including PubMed, and have the results emailed to you at the frequency you specify. Find the search tools here, along with a video tutorial to show you how to get started.

Google Scholar. Google Scholar is a great search tool, but you can also use it to set up alerts. Many people are not taking advantage of all that Google Scholar can do. Check out these tips to get the most out of it. (And if you haven’t already done so, while there please set up your Google Scholar Profile – it’s one of the most efficient ways to manage your online profile, and here is a step-by-step how to guide).

PubCrawler. PubCrawler searches PubMed for your search terms of interest, and is developed and hosted by Ken Wolfe’s lab in the Genetics Department, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

HighWire. The publisher HighWire hosts a suite of tools for researchers to search and set up alerts, including tips for how to optimize your search terms.

SciFinder. In addition to publications, you can search (and set up alerts) for compounds and reactions. Tutorials for how to use SciFinder are available here in several languages.

SciReader.  I’m glad to have learned about SciReader. It has an interesting and engaging interface, and allows the user to do all of the usual searching and downloading tricks as well as to share and recommend papers. I’m less thrilled about the fact that I had to hunt for “Plant Science”, which is buried under the topic Eco/Evo and Environment.  :-/

Web of Science (also Web of Knowledge) is a powerful searchable database that provides opportunities for search and citation alerts, but access requires an institutional subscription. Tutorials are available here.

ResearchGate. A few people indicated that they use ResearchGate to keep up with new publications from favorite scientists.

QxMD. I haven’t had a chance to play with this one, but here is what the recommender says, “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.”

Thanks Debatosh, Andreas, Rebecca, Dhruv, Molly, Jeffrey, Benjamin, Douglas and Andrés for the great tips! Did we miss anything? What other  sites and tools help you keep up with the literature?



3 thoughts on “Keeping up with the literature: Your suggestions”

  1. Keeping up can be hard. Opti-Sciences will be launching new blogs at the end of next week related to the latest in chlorophyll fluorescence, photosynthesis, and chlorophyll content measurement. posts by others will be welcome. For now, a Plant stress guide is available at the website It is a compilation research used to measure all types of plant stress, listed by type, and with references to the papers. The list is independent of chlorophyll fluorometer brands and all are referenced.


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