The informed researcher

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Tue, 05/18/2010 - 09:37 by Olivier Bonaventure

A good researcher, young or old, must stay informed about the progress of his/her field. In the 20th century, the library was the researcher's best friend to stay informed. Most researchers spent some time regularly in the library to browse the table of contents of the new magazines and journals. Some companies even published special journals that contained abstracts of papers published in key journals. Current Contents was one of these journals.

The web has completely changed the researcher's job. Spending time in the library is not necessary anymore provided that researchers, and young researchers in particular, efficiently use all the available web-based tools. Here are some good practices that could be useful for young researchers who want to stay informed :

  1. Identify the key journals, magazines and conferences of your field. Compare your list with your colleague's list or discuss it with you advisor/
    Most publishers have free alert services that you can configure to receive an email every time a new issue of a journal or magazine is published :

  2. Identify the key researchers who have published the best papers in your field. Try to discuss with them if you meet them at a conference. Visit frequently their website to read their new papers and technical reports. Do not hesitate to send them feedback or comments on their recent papers. Most researchers love to receive comments on their work.
    Recently, google has added an email-based alert service to google scholar. Subscribe to this service to be automatically informed when a new paper that matches your keywords is published, or a new paper from one of the key researchers of your field. Once you have published your own papers, define alerts to be informed about citations to your work and do not hesitate to contact the researchers who cite your work.

  3. Read, read, read, read and take notes. Examine all the alerts that you receive and read the most interesting papers. Researchers spend lots of time reading papers and you should receive several papers (or more) per week. Take notes about the relevant papers and maintain a bibliography that you can easily reuse when writing your own papers. Keshav's advice on How to read a paper are a MUST read for all networking researchers.