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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The Latest Articles on Managing the Literature
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.
Learn how Mendeley allows you to organize a library containing your favorite articles and generate citations and bibliographies while writing papers.
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.
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.
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!
Researchers need to access journal articles, but paywalls can sometimes put up a fight. Discover the different legal ways you can access paywalled articles.
Getting involved in the post-publication review of scientific papers can seriously improve your critical analysis skills: here’s how.
Can peer-review models like Peerage of Science ease a major bottleneck in scientific publishing? We assess the pros and cons of this model.
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!
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.
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.
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:
- Subramanyam RV. Art of reading a journal article: Methodically and effectively. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol 2013;17:65–70.
- França TFA, Monserrat JM. Writing papers to be memorable, even when they are not really read. Bioessays 2019;41(5):1900035.
- Erren TC, Cullen P, Erren M. How to surf today’s information tsunami: On the craft of effective reading. Med Hypotheses 2009;73(3):278–9.