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How do I Locate Specific Research?

  1. Jul 27, 2011 #1
    Could I get instructions to help find original research? Looking up research seems to be a laborious process if one is not sure of the exact title.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 27, 2011 #2
    Tips from experienced researchers, please! :smile:
  4. Jul 27, 2011 #3


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    Well you have to have some idea of what you're looking for in the first place. You don't need an exact title (unless you're looking for a specific paper), but you should be able to come up with relevant keywords. Then you can use any number of search engines to zero in on topics of interest. Probably the one I most commonly use is PubMed (because I'm a medical physicist).

    Once you have a specific topic that you're following, you tend to browse through the journals that publish in that area on a regular basis. Some journals even allow you to set up alerts so that monthly, any articles that are published under topics of interest to you have the abstracts forwarded to you by email.

    It's also worth noting that performing exhaustive literature searches IS a laborious process.
  5. Jul 27, 2011 #4


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    Hey Thing1 and welcome to the forums.

    Is the research relatively old or new?

    If it's a little older than most, then I have found (in mathematics) that things like monographs and the like tend to be published where a group of experts publishes a handbook that collects a lot of results together and makes something that makes it easier for the researcher.

    I think the above is a natural result of time: when research starts it probably starts off as someone's notes and slowly gets polished into journal articles which later become part of the collective in central textbooks.

    If the research is old, then I recommend looking for monographs or handbooks on a particular subject, but if its new research, then things like journal articles, or other sites that publish this sort of thing.
  6. Jul 28, 2011 #5

    I'm interested in doing my own research. I need to know if a paper has already been written or not. To do such a thing, I must guess several of the correct title words, which could still return 100s of results. Not to mention I could be looking in the wrong place -- and I'm not a PhD in the researched field, adding to my frustrations.

    I did find this: http://www.library.cornell.edu/resrch/intro
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011
  7. Jul 28, 2011 #6
    My fear is spending months or years researching a topic that has been covered already.
  8. Jul 28, 2011 #7
    Perhaps if you described the topic you're interested in it would be easier to help you?

    Your university library will subscribe to databases of research (and almost certainly provide courses on how best to use them); you could also try Google Scholar. You don't have to find a paper on your exact topic, first go. Once you've found a paper that's related to what you're after, skim through it and see whether the bits that interest you have references you could look up. This may well lead you back to a review article summarising the state of the art at the time it was written. If you need to know about research since then, you can always search for papers that cite the review article.

    But in relation to your final two comments: (a) you are probably going to need to look through hundreds of results to do a comprehensive review of any reasonably active subfield of modern science; and (b) the first thing you need to do when starting a research topic is get a feel for what's been done—and what's currently happening—in the field. You certainly shouldn't be spending years on a project without checking in to see what other people are doing, otherwise you are likely to end up reinventing the wheel!

    You certainly don't need to be a PhD in a particular field to do good research in it, but one of the important skills you learn during the PhD is how to navigate the literature. If you are serious about your research you need to spend serious amounts of time learning this skill, and then serious amounts of time exercising it.
  9. Jul 28, 2011 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    Also, PhD students normally work with an advisor who is doing research in the same field and should be able point you to some relevant papers on your topic, to get you started. After that, you start following references in those papers, and then references in those papers, etc.
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