Academic Skills

Clever strategies to keep up with the latest academic research

Every day, hundreds of new academic articles and books are published. No wonder it is easy to feel overwhelmed! However, with 4 clever strategies, you can get a grip on new publications and keep up with the latest research in your academic field.

Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Cactus Communications, affiliated with R Discovery. I only recommend products or services that I truly believe can benefit my audience. As always, all opinions are my own.

Strategy #1: Block time every week just for reading

The biggest challenge to keep track of new academic publications may be time. Juggling research and teaching obligations, working in a different job next to a part-time PhD, or engaging in numerous activities to establish a competitive all-round academic CV. The reasons for a perceived lack of time are numerous. Sitting down to ‘just read’ can often seem impossible. Yet…

Blocking one hour every week to read new publications can be a complete game changer.

Let’s face it. There are times in your (busy) day and week when you simply cannot perform at your best. For instance, right after lunch or on a Friday afternoon. This may not be the time you actually produce new ideas or write hundreds of words.

Thus, make an energy audit in which you identify the times when you may not be at your peak performance but still have enough brain capacity to read academic publications.

Block this time in your agenda. This can be, for instance, one hour every Friday afternoon. Stick to it, and permit yourself to ‘just’ read.

You will soon reap the benefits and feel much more on top of new publications related to your academic research.

Strategy #2: Use the app R Discovery

We live in exciting times: technological innovations using AI, Machine Learning, NLP, and Deep Learning can simplify your life by helping you to find, access and understand academic literature. One of them is the free app R Discovery.

R Discovery is an app that provides you with daily personalised reading recommendations (including smart summaries and key highlights)!

The app allows you to create a custom profile, where you can set up your preferences in terms of the topics and journals you want to follow. Furthermore, you can indicate whether a topic you want to follow has high, moderate or low priority. 

Based on this input, R Discovery creates a personalised feed with daily reading suggestions. And if you like you can receive notifications which remind you to check suggested articles, which is super handy!

R Discovery app: menu, feed settings personalisation and reference manager export

Based on your preferences, you also receive suggestions for further topics and journals to follow.

Additionally, for each suggested article, you can indicate whether it was relevant for you or not. This feedback helps the app to improve its reading recommendations for you and to provide you with even more targeted reading suggestions.

R Discovery is available via the App Store and Google Play Store for the app, or as a laptop and desktop version via your browser. You can also use both, as all changes you make to your account conveniently sync.

The best part is: You can use R Discovery entirely free of charge. There are no hidden costs whatsoever. And you can conveniently add your institutional account to access paywalled journal articles.

Furthermore, with one click you can add relevant publications to your Zotero or Mendeley library.

R Discovery app impressions

The app has access to more than 30,000 journals worldwide and 98M+ research articles in its database.

Thus, using R Discovery regularly is a quick, free and efficient way to feel in control when it comes to new publications and developments in your research field.

Strategy #3: Review papers for academic journals

Another great way to keep up to date with academic literature is to review articles for academic journals. Reviewing a manuscript provides you with early access to new ideas in your field. But this is not the only advantage:

Reviewing a manuscript forces you to thoroughly read and engage with the latest ideas and developments in your research field.

Interestingly, when it comes to reviewing papers, there are two groups of academics: Those who complain about the amount of requests for article reviews they receive. And those who complain about not receiving any review invitations.

If you belong to the former group, you may want to think about reviewing in terms of ‘killing two birds with one stone’: getting a review done and keeping engaged with new academic literature.

Furthermore, you don’t have to accept every invitation. Instead, make sure to recommend (early career) scholars who are interested in reviewing papers when you decline an invitation.

If you belong to the latter group, start being proactive. Get over your doubts: YES, PhD students can be reviewers. And they are often the better ones because they take the task seriously and know how much unconstructive criticism can hurt.

Reach out to your more experienced colleagues (who may be journal editors) and let them know about your interest to review articles. You can even contact journals directly.

Strategy #4: Follow relevant scholars on Google Scholar

Google Scholar provides you with a list of article recommendations based on your Google Scholar profile. However, in contrast to R Discovery, these recommendations are at times not very relevant or personalised if you don’t have many publications of your own. Nonetheless, Google Scholar has one useful function:

Google Scholar allows you to ‘follow’ scholars who have their own Google Scholar profile, and you will receive email alerts if they publish anything new.

It works as follows: Search for your favourite academics on Google Scholar, and click on their profile if they have one. On the righthand side, next to their name, you find a blue ‘follow’ button. You can choose different options:

Follow options on Google Scholar

So if there are several scholars whose research is pivotal for your own, following them on Google Scholar is the way to go.

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