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Managing the Scientific Literature

A Definitive Guide to Taming the Scientific Literature

Managing the scientific literature can feel like a full-time job. How do you ensure you don’t miss an article that says the same thing as the thesis you’ve been working on for 3 years? How many new articles in your field have been published this month, and how are you going to find time to read them all? What’s the best way to write a literature review? 

There are lots of tools to help you stay on track, and we’re here to take the hard work out of managing the scientific literature, so that you can focus on doing your best work in the lab.

Whether you’re looking for tips on the best citation manager for your thesis, a guide to advanced search on PubMed, or an explanation of what Boolean operators are, we’ve got something for everyone, at every stage of research.

The Complete Guide to Managing the Scientific Literature
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    Courses

    Hone Your Critical Analysis Skills

    Learning to review a scientific paper critically will help develop your critical analysis skills, enabling you to read and digest the latest literature efficiently. Strengthening your critical analysis skills will also help you assess and improve your research and make you a better scientist overall.

    Whether you are just starting in your scientific career or have read (and reviewed) hundred of papers, this free course can help you strengthen your critical analysis skills.

    Getting Started

    How to Manage the Scientific Literature

    Whether you’re just starting out in research or you’re a seasoned pro, there’s no denying that managing the scientific literature is a mammoth task.

    We’ve pulled together all our top tips on how to carry out a literature review, how to choose between physical and online storage of papers, and how to set up RSS feeds.

    Check out the sections below for your one-stop shop on all things science literature-based. Happy reading!

    A young woman sitting on the floor of a library aisle surrounded by books and coffee and with an open book balanced on her head to represent how to keep on top of new literature

    Useful Tips to Keep on Top of New Literature

    Keeping track of new literature can be a time-consuming process. Here are some helpful hints and tips to help you keep up to date.

    A pile of books with an open book on top to represent keeping track of the scientific literature

    Keeping Track of Your Literature

    We show you how to get organized and develop a system to stay on top of your literature reviews.

    A picture of a young girl sitting atop a large pile of books with an open book on her lap to represent tips for improving your literature survey

    7 Tips to Improve Your Literature Survey

    Read our top tips to help you get the most out of your scientific literature surveys.

    Reference Managers for Scientists represented by ladders against piles of books.

    How To Get Organized With Reference Managers for Science – An Overview

    Check out our rundown of the key features of the most popular reference managers to work out which one will be best for you and your research.

    Software Apps

    Take the Hard Work Out of Searching For Papers

    It often feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, and managing the scientific literature is a huge task.

    Check out our guide to tools such as PubCrawler, Trello, and LabGuru and discover how these nifty software apps and tools can save you time and effort.

    An image of a male swimming front crawl to represent the Pubcrawler tool

    Using PubCrawler: How to Speed Up Your Literature Searches by Crawling

    PubCrawler automatically searches PubMed and GenBank for queries that you specify, and emails you the results, helping you stay on top of your literature searches.

    Literature Hub

    7 Types of  Software Apps You NEED in Your (Science) Life

    Here we take you through 7 of the best science software apps that can save you time and money!

    Tops Tips for Reading Papers

    How to Read—and Write—A Scientific Paper

    When you’re reading umpteen scientific papers a month, you need to make sure you’re taking the important information from each of them.

    Reading effectively is a really important skill, so check out our top tips on how to read a paper effectively, and discover some handy hints for writing up your own research.

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    How to Read a Scientific Paper

    We show you how to read a scientific paper efficiently to make the most of your reading time.

    A man covered in notes and paper indicating under preparedness for journal club

    Journal Club: How to Prepare Effectively and Smash Your Presentation

    Journal Club. So much more than reading a paper aloud. So many ways to mess it up. Got to present one? Then read our journal club toolkit.

    scientific review

    Writing a Scientific Review: Gathering Information, Writing, and Creating New Knowledge

    Read our top tips on how to write a scientific review, from gathering your information to getting it published.

    A picture of dodgems at a fairground surrounded by blurred fast light to represent speed reading

    How To Read Manuscripts (and Anything Else) Twice As Fast

    Learning how to speed read can save you a bunch of time; we’ve outlined some simple steps that will dramatically improve your reading speed.

    Recent Articles

    The Latest Articles on Managing the Literature and Peer Review

    Scientist stopping the spread of misinformation in science.

    Stand up for Science: How to Detect and Fight Misinformation

    Misinformation is a common problem across the internet and particularly on social media. Learn how to identify misinformation in science and what to do when you see it being spread.

    Man holding papers representing peer review in science

    How Does Peer Review in Science Work? 

    If you’re unsure as to how the peer-review process works, the difference between open and double-blind peer review or are wondering if peer review is broken, read on.

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    How To Get Organized With Reference Managers for Science—ReadCube Papers

    Discover more about how ReadCube Papers can help you keep on top of your references.

    Image of a filing cabinet with open drawers and lots of coloured files to represent the reference manager EndNote

    How to Get Organized With Reference Managers for Science—EndNote

    Learn more about the key features of EndNote to work out if it’s the right reference manager for you.

    A stack of books with a pair of glasses on top and library shelves in the background to represent the reference manager Mendeley

    How To Get Organized With Reference Managers for Science—Mendeley

    Learn how Mendeley allows you to organize a library containing your favorite articles and generate citations and bibliographies while writing papers.

    A young woman sitting on the floor of a library aisle surrounded by books and coffee and with an open book balanced on her head to represent how to keep on top of new literature

    Useful Tips to Keep on Top of New Literature

    Keeping track of new literature can be a time-consuming process. Here are some helpful hints and tips to help you keep up to date.

    Literature Hub

    Three Cool Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do On PubMed

    This article provides interesting insider PubMed tips, including how to use search filters and how to set up automatic search alerts.

    A picture of a young girl sitting atop a large pile of books with an open book on her lap to represent tips for improving your literature survey

    7 Tips to Improve Your Literature Survey

    Read our top tips to help you get the most out of your scientific literature surveys.

    Got a Question or Suggestion?

    Didn't find what you were looking for? Or perhaps you have some tips and tricks that we haven't covered here?

    Get in touch and let us know so we can continue to improve the information we share!

    Contact us here.

    Reference and Citation Managers

    Find the Right Reference Manager To Suit You

    After years of hard work in the lab, you’re finally writing up your thesis. But what is that scribbled note in your lab book? Is that a reference? Where did it come from? How will you ever find it again? 

    Reference/citation management software can help you get your citations and references in order, eliminating (some of) the pain of writing up and ensuring that you don’t fall foul of correct citation formats.

    We’ve summed up the key features of the best citation managers so that you can make the best choice for your work.

    Happy researcher after organizing papers with Zotero reference manager

    Zotero Reference Manager: A Super Simple Guide for Busy Researchers

    Organizing your files is simple with Zotero; we’ve got the lowdown on functionality, usability, and access.

    A woman with a large red textbook covering the bottom half of her face to represent the top features of ReadCube Papers for scientists

    How To Get Organized With Reference Managers for Science—ReadCube Papers

    Discover more about how ReadCube Papers can help you keep on top of your references.

    Image of a filing cabinet with open drawers and lots of coloured files to represent the reference manager EndNote

    How to Get Organized With Reference Managers for Science—EndNote

    Learn more about the key features of EndNote to work out if it’s the right reference manager for you.

    A stack of books with a pair of glasses on top and library shelves in the background to represent the reference manager Mendeley

    How To Get Organized With Reference Managers for Science—Mendeley

    Learn how Mendeley allows you to organize a library containing your favorite articles and generate citations and bibliographies while writing papers.

    Reference Managers for Scientists represented by ladders against piles of books.

    How To Get Organized With Reference Managers for Science – An Overview

    Check out our rundown of the key features of the most popular reference managers to work out which one will be best for you and your research.

    Downloads

    How to Review—and Present—A Scientific Paper

    Keeping up to date with the literature is far from easy, but it's frustrating when your notes on an article you have read carefully are lost, or miss key information.

    You can avoid having to reread the same article again and again by ensuring you make the right notes the first time around.

    And if you're wondering how to turn an impressive paper into a stunning journal club presentation, or simply don't know where to start when organizing it all—relax.

    Check out our easy-to-use templates and checklists for reviewing any article, and organizing an unforgettable journal club meeting.

    Checklist with pencil, phone and drink to represent the Bitesize Bio Article Summary Template and Checklist.

    Bitesize Bio’s Article Summary Template and Checklist

    Bitesize Bio's Article Summary Template and Checklist Your easy to use template and checklist for reviewing any article ...
    Download Here
    Image of Bitesize Bio's journal club checklist downloadable

    Bitesize Bio’s Journal Club Checklist

    Bitesize Bio's Journal Club Checklist Reliable step-by-step preparation. Effective presentation. Journal club. An opportunity to present cutting-edge research ...
    Download Here

    Open Access and Peer Review

    Learn More About the Publication Process

    You already spend a lot of your time reading (and writing) scientific papers, but how much do you know about the publication process? How do you know you can trust what you’re reading?

    Find out more about the peer-review process for scientific papers and learn about the models for making research freely available.

    Scientist stopping the spread of misinformation in science.

    Stand up for Science: How to Detect and Fight Misinformation

    Misinformation is a common problem across the internet and particularly on social media. Learn how to identify misinformation in science and what to do when you see it being spread.

    cartoon of two women detecting scientific fraud to depict the importance of post-publication peer review

    Pre- and Post-Publication Peer Review and Why You Should Get Involved

    Getting involved in the post-publication review of scientific papers can seriously improve your critical analysis skills. Here’s how.

    Image of smartphones sharing data to depict sharing your journal articles.

    How to Share Your Journal Articles Legally

    Sharing research articles legally isn’t always straightforward, even when you are the author. Find out why sharing your article could put you in a sticky situation and learn how to avoid it!

    An image of a computer, gavel and scales depiciting how to access journal articles legally

    How to Access Journal Articles Behind Paywalls

    Researchers need to access journal articles, but paywalls can sometimes put up a fight. Discover the different legal ways you can access paywalled articles.

    open access

    Open Access: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

    We review Open Access publishing models so you can make an informed decision about what is best for you and your research.

    PubMed

    Take Your PubMed Searches to the Next Level

    You’re probably already familiar with PubMed, but are you making the most of its functionality? We’ve pulled together a bunch of articles to help you!

    A picture of a man holding binoculars with a surprised expression to represent learning how to improve your PubMed searches

    18+ Ways to Improve your PubMed Searches

    Are you getting the most out of your PubMed searches or are you wasting lots of time slogging through pages of results? We’ve compiled some top tips to help you refine your searches.

    Literature Hub

    Out With the Old: New PubMed Search Tips

    PubMed has had a makeover. Find out where your favorite features have moved to and what’s changed in this shiny new version.

    A white megaphone against a red background top represent setting up a PubMed alert

    Setting up a PubMed Alert in 3 Easy Steps

    The easiest way to keep abreast of what’s going on in your scientific field is to set up a PubMed alert. We show you how.

    Glossary

    A–Z of Common Literature Search and Review Terms

    Is there a search term you’re struggling to understand, or are you flummoxed by MeSH terms? We’ve compiled a glossary of literature search and review terms to help you out. Click on the arrow next to the term to see the definition.

    The words ‘AND’, ‘OR’ and ‘NOT’. They define relationships between search terms and make searches in library databases more precise by narrowing, expanding, or excluding results from your searches.

    A term or descriptor that sums up the essence of a topic.

    A contextual evaluation of the academic literature on a particular subject. A good literature review surveys the existing literature and provides an evaluation and discussion of it.

    The National Library of Medicine’s bibliographic database of life sciences journal articles, with a focus on biomedicine. The MEDLINE database covers articles from 1966 to the present.

    Medical Subject Headings. A controlled hierarchical nomenclature produced by the National Library of Medicine and used to index, catalogue, and search information relating to biomedicine and health.

    A publishing model whereby research outputs are made available at no cost to the reader, so that anyone can benefit from accessing that research.

    Software that enables writers to record and use bibliographic citations in their work and generate bibliographies.

    Really Simple Syndication. A web feed that enables users to access updates to websites. Whenever new content is published by a website, the details of that content are sent to the user.

    Replacing the end of a word with an asterisk to let you search for a stem word with all its ending variants.

    Extensible Markup Language. A computer language that uses tags to describe content. This data format allows documents to be read by both humans and machines.

    Resources

    If you need more help with aspects of PubMed, check out their FAQs here.

    We've also compiled a list of further reading on managing the scientific literature:

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