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Keeping up with the literature

The number of journals and publications grows continuously. With the rise of open access journals and PLOSone pumping out almost 30.000 publications per year, the amount and diversity of reading material can be expected to increase even more. As your research focus and methods portfolio increases, you can have a field day with the ever increasing pile of literature reaching you through your inbox and search engines (or old-school via the library the letterbox/mailbox). This pile is only going to increase as your research focus and methods portfolio expand.

The Problem:

It is increasingly difficult to find and read all the literature that relates to your field - not to speak of nurturing your broad interest in areas of science outside your immediate research field.

The Solution: 

Establish a workflow that can be easily adapted to have relevant literature automatically come to you and set up a "one-stop-shop" to access all your reading material for easy screening and moving the relevant publications to a "read later" collection. I found that RSS feeds are a very efficient way to screen large amounts of content. If this sounds very technical and makes you want to leave this page - please be assured that getting familiar with the benefits of using RSS feeds will make all the difference. It will tremendously cut down the amount of time you have to spend to find relevant information and give you a clean interface with condensed information to select your reading material.

Find and generate RSS feeds relevant to your work: 
The sources are available through your favorite journals or search engines. If you like to follow individual journal you can find examples of RSS feeds here (Nature Journals, Science, Cell). If you like to search pubmed, you can automate the process by setting up as many searches as you like to always deliver the updated results as RSS feeds.

Use RSS readers to have the literature come to you: 
I use feedly as a newsreader to quickly go through all type of information, including publications, online newspapers, blogs, and other websites I follow online. In addition I keep the most relevant feeds related to my area of interest, colleagues, and methods in my outlook RSS reader as a reference.
It is easy to scan abstracts and use the included link back to the source, which you can easily transfer to your literature database of choice (compare how we organize references in Zotero).
Importantly: Make an appointment with yourself to set aside time for reading (I like to do at least 30 minutes a day).


There are email subscriptions available for the electronic table of contents (eTOC) of most Journals (e.g. PNAS). If you like to search you can try quertle for search and content delivery. Other options are blogs / social media (twitter, google+ or linkedIn). Or check out pocket. Most can also be accessed through RSS-feeds using the workflow described above.


Use RSS feeds to have relevant literature automatically come to you.

Figure 1: Reading is so much fun - just make sure your reading list does not run dry.

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