For early career researchers or postgraduates starting a PhD one of the first things to think about is where to find reading material.
A quick Google is unlikely to find robust, academic texts and instead may lead you to interesting but speculative blogs or research with an agenda.
It can also be difficult to dig out specific, peer-reviewed work, which is often behind a subscription wall, or to keep up to date with the latest research.
However there are a number of tips and tools that can help you immensely.
- Scour references and bibliographies of everything you read – they are a goldmine of reading material
- Always make sure you are logged into your institution library gateway before you start searching for anything online. It will mean you have instant access to a wider range of texts even those you find via Google.
- Be aware of the different Google tools. For journals and books use Google Scholar, for news stories use Google News, for images use Google Images etc. You will find what you are looking for much more quickly this way. Also make use of the Advanced Search functions to narrow down what you are looking for.
- Sign up to Journal Tocs. This enables you to get alerts from journals when new content is published. You can also search journals for key words.
- Set up a Reader to filter all of your searches to. You can get journal updates, key words, news feeds all directed to one place. Google Reader has been discontinued but there are now plenty if other alternatives.
- Get on Twitter. Think Twitter is about what people had for breakfast? Well you are wrong. It may once have been used for idle navel gazing but it is now the best network in the world and increasingly used by academics to share resources, publications and advice.
- Attend library sessions. Your institution probably puts on lots of sessions to help you find relevant research material. I found out most of the above by attending library workshops so it is definitely worth finding out what they offer.
- Sign up to academic mailing lists like JISCMail as these are always sending out details about new and forthcoming publications in your field.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. Email your supervisors or colleagues. Get in touch with other academics via email or Twitter. I found lots of valuable research material simply by asking for help on Twitter.
- Be organised. Whether it is keeping detailed notes, arranging lists on Twitter or using email folders make sure you can store information quickly and find it again easily.
If you have any other suggestions on how to find literature then please leave a comment below this post.
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