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How do you learn the latest research without it costing tons of money?

  1. Jun 24, 2013 #1
    I have been trying to learn more about some of the latest research in different fields. I had been given some good websites to take a look at a while back here on the forums. However, though the sites give a nice overview of the research, they are not very in-depth or technical. In order to view the source articles, each one costs (on average) $25-30 to download as a PDF. Being a college student, this is of course not financially feasible for me.

    I am in a small college right now finishing my AA, so they don't have much of anything as far as physics resources. What I am wondering is how do college students typically gain access to the latest research being done without having to pay an arm and a leg? Is there certain journals that are common to subscribe to? Are there internet sources that don't redirect you to sites that try to charge you? Also, if you have to pay for these articles, does that mean that the writer of those articles receives compensation for them, or is it just other companies profiting off their work?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 24, 2013 #2
    Most people I know (maybe everyone) gets free access through their university. This may only be true at large research institutions but that's how it works as far as I know. I would never actually buy an article they are so expensive.
  4. Jun 24, 2013 #3


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    Yeah, can you check if your uni offers free access? For example, I'm currently reading this AIP article: http://jmp.aip.org/resource/1/jmapaq/v27/i11/p2759_s1?isAuthorized=no [Broken] and it obviously costs a lot to buy but if I use my university library: http://www.library.cornell.edu/ and simply search for the article using my uni account, I can access it for free if it shows up (and this particular article does show up). I personally just use my university account for papers that I can't find on arxiv.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Jun 24, 2013 #4


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  6. Jun 24, 2013 #5


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    A library is not just a place to dump books. If your college has only a small library and you don't have access to journals on line, talk with the librarian. It may be possible to arrange privileges at another local university or college library which has more resources. Many larger libraries also might have bound copies of older issues of journals or microform versions of these publications The last thing I would do is fork over money for a research paper.

    I think you will find that a large part of your research effort will involve weeding out articles which re-hash earlier research but which have a few novel features added to set them apart from the earlier work. Most research moves along in a very incremental fashion, and I would not expect to find a lot of groundbreaking papers like Einstein published in physics in 1905 which made his reputation much later.
  7. Jun 24, 2013 #6


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    It means companies profiting off their work. This is a hassle. Is there a better library nearby? Sometimes you will be restricted at a library depending on status. Some things are available free online.
  8. Jun 24, 2013 #7


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    In the US, libraries can borrow material from other libraries via interlibrary loan. For journal articles, this often means the other library sends a photocopy of the article rather than a whole bound volume or an unbound recent issue of a journal.
  9. Jun 24, 2013 #8


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    It is not that hard to get one journal article you know you want. If you want to search through hundreds looking for certain things a limited library can be a hassle. Or even if you want to look at one article a week without advanced notice.
  10. Jun 24, 2013 #9


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    When I was an undergraduate at a small college many years ago, before the Internet existed, I sometimes drove to a university library an hour away (uphill both ways, in a blizzard :wink:) and spent the day there.
  11. Jun 24, 2013 #10
    Well thanks for all the replies. I really appreciate it. As far as my college's library, I've talked to everyone who could help me there already. Their response was pretty much whatever I can find on our online library or primary campus's library I am welcome to, but that they don't have much resources outside of that. So as far as what I'm looking for, they aren't very useful.

    Since there were so many of you who replied, I'm going to divide this up into a couple replies on specific items mentioned...
  12. Jun 24, 2013 #11
    Well, my dilemma at this point is that I want to explore various sub-fields. From all the feedback I've been given here, it seems like the approach that would be easiest for me is to explore the various research topics in the sub-fields on the websites that give the synopses. Then, I will have to try to select just a couple that I want the original article for and try to figure it out from there. Maybe if I go to the librarian in search of just one specific article, they might be more helpful.
  13. Jun 24, 2013 #12
    I haven't tried my local library yet, just my colleges. I wasn't sure if scientific journals were something I could get access to from the local library. I will have to look into that and see if it would be possible to get the material there. Thank you!
  14. Jun 24, 2013 #13
    Oh, I'm expecting it to be incremental. One thing I am finding is that even within specific sub-fields, the research is very diverse. Someone suggested a while back that it is good to know what the latest research is in certain fields, but it seems like it is so diverse that it is impractical to try to be on top of all of it. I'm assuming what they meant is that once you decide on something specific you want to research, look for all the research on that particular topic that has been done to date, so that you don't end up re-hashing like you already mentioned.
  15. Jun 24, 2013 #14
    Thanks for this resource. It is one that I didn't have yet. Now, are these peer-reviewed and credible works? I wasn't sure since you labeled them "preprints."
  16. Jun 24, 2013 #15


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    Copied directly from http://arxiv.org/help/endorsement :

    The arXiv endorsement system

    Effective January 17, 2004, arXiv.org began requiring some users to be endorsed by another user before submitting their first paper to a category or subject class. Existing submitters will not require endorsement to submit papers on topics that they've been active in.

    Why does arXiv require endorsement?

    arXiv is distinct from the web as a whole, because arXiv contains exclusively scientific content. Although arXiv is open to submissions from the scientific communities, our team has worked behind the scenes for a long time to ensure the quality of our content. In the past, our system has been arbitrary, not terribly accurate, and demanding on our staff. The new endorsement system will verify that arXiv contributors belong the scientific community in a fair and sustainable way that will scale with arXiv's future growth.

    arXiv is an openly accessible, moderated repository for scholarly papers in specific scientific disciplines. Material submitted to arXiv is expected to be of interest, relevance, and value to those disciplines. Endorsement is a necessary but not sufficient condition to have papers accepted in arXiv; arXiv reserves the right to reject or reclassify any submission.

    The new system will ensure that arXiv content is relevant to current research at much lower cost than conventional peer-reviewed journals, so we can continue to offer free access to the scientific community and the general public. Although our system may be imperfect, people who fail to get endorsement are still free to post articles on their web site or to submit their publications to peer-reviewed journals.

    Who can upload?

    During the submission process, we may require authors who are submitting papers to an archive or subject class for the first time to get an endorsement from another arXiv author.

    We may give some people automatic endorsements based on topic, previous submissions, and academic affiliation. People who've already authored papers in arXiv will receive automatic endorsements so they can continue submitting papers in areas that they are active in. During the initial deployment of the system, we may also give automatic endorsements to submitters from known academic institutions.

    We will tune the endorsement and auto endorsement criteria for specific archives and subject classes to fit the needs of specific communities, and expect to make changes in our criteria over time.

    Who can endorse?

    Endorsers must have authored a certain number of papers within the endorsement domain of an archive or subject class. The number of papers depends on the particular subject area, but has been set so that any active scientist who's been working in her field for a few years should be able to endorse IF her work has been submitted to arXiv and IF she is registered as an author of her papers. Endorsement domains have been chosen to reflect related subject areas and ensure that it will be easy for people to find endorsements: most archives (ex. hep-th, cond-mat, q-bio) are currently endorsement domains, with the notable exception of the physics archive, in which individual subject classes (ex. phys.acc-phys, phys.med-ph) are endorsement domains. To ensure that endorsers are active members of the community, we only count papers that have been submitted between three months and five years ago.

    If you'd like to be able to endorse, the most important thing that you can do is make sure that you're registered as an author of your papers. If you can get the paper password for a paper you can claim ownership of a paper immediately. If you don't have the paper password, you can request ownership of a paper, but it could take several days for administrators to verify your identity.

    If you're looking for an endorsement, you can find somebody qualified to endorse by clicking on the link titled "Which of these authors are endorsers?" at the bottom of every abstract. You can then find the email addresses of the submitter on the abstract page at the top of the"Submission history" section. It's best for you to find an endorser who (i) you know personally and (ii) is knowledgeable in the subject area of your paper -- a good choice for graduate students would be your thesis advisor or another professor in your department working in your field. If you do not personally know anyone who is eligible to endorse, you can search for recent submissions in your field of interest and then verify that the submitter is eligible to endorse. It is often a good idea to send eligible endorsers a copy of your proposed submission along with the endorsement request. Please note, however, that it is inappropriate to email large numbers of potential endorsers at once, or to repeatedly email the same endorser with a request for endorsement.

    What are my responsibilities as an endorser?

    A typical endorser would be asked to endorse about one person a year. The endorsement process is not peer review. You should know the person that you endorse or you should see the paper that the person intends to submit. We don't expect you to read the paper in detail, or verify that the work is correct, but you should check that the paper is appropriate for the subject area. You should not endorse the author if the author is unfamiliar with the basic facts of the field, or if the work is entirely disconnected with current work in the area.

    If an author asks you for endorsement, he or she will send you a six-character alphanumeric endorsement code. After you enter this code on the endorsement form, you can tell us that you do or do not wish to endorse a person. If you choose not to endorse a author, you should use the endorsement form to explicitly tell us that you do not wish to endorse this person.

    The fact that you've personally endorsed or not endorsed a person and an optional comment that you leave us is private between you and the arXiv administrators -- this information will not be shared with arXiv users or the person requesting endorsement.

    We reserve the right to suspend a person's ability to endorse for any reason. If you endorse a person who makes an inappropriate submission, we may suspend your ability to make endorsements. If you feel uncomfortable about endorsing an author for any reason, don't do it -- ask the person to find another endorser.


    The short answer is that they are not peer reviewed, but have a certain minimum of credibility. It's important to note that on the abstract page of an article, it is possible to see in which (if any) peer-reviewed publication the article has been published in. This will be listed in the field labeled "Journal Reference."
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  17. Jun 24, 2013 #16


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    First, I'm highly suspicious that your college library does not seem to offer journal access. That would be the kind of issue I would take my tuition elsewhere over. If an institution is claiming to provide you with a post-secondary education, journal access should be one of the highest priorities on their list... if not for the students, at least for the faculty to keep current in their respective fields.

    You may want to talk with a few of your professors. They should know what and how to look for such things if the librarians are unable to help you. (Although even that is surprising... every librarian I've ever met seems to derive a level of self-actualization from connecting me with the information I need.)

    Another thing to try, if you're just generally searching for academic work on a particular subject is Google Scholar:
    It has the incredibly handy feature of posting a link to the paper if it happens to be freely available online somewhere.

    As for Arxiv... it's reliablilty is field-specific. (EDIT: looks like Zombie Feynman beat me to the puch here.) The idea behind posting preprint works is that the peer-review process can be painstakingly slow. A six month lag time between submission and publication is not uncommon, so you can imagine how this potentially inhibits research. Ideally, when a group is ready to submit a work, they will post it to arxive, or another preprint server to make it communally available. Such preprint servers are themselves not peer-reviewed although to my understanding there are some gates that need to be passed to post. In fields like particle physics where you have large collaborations and committees that oversee each publication internally before it goes out for review you can be pretty confident that the stuff posted is legitimate. In my field (medical physics) there is a risk that something that gets loaded up to a preprint server may not have been well-scrutinized.

    Something else to look into is becoming a student member of particlar organizations. In my field, for example, I usually recommend students join the AAPM, which comes with a subscription to the journal Medical Physics - one of the big journals in our field... although in many cases (AAPM included) even student memberships can be costly.

    Finally I also thought I should point out that when people say they have "free" access through their libraries, what they mean is that there is no additional cost to them. Universities pay through the nose for journal access and this, of course gets passed on - either to students in the form of increased tuition, or to taxpayers. As a result there has been an ongoing controversy with respect to "open access" journals, where the authors essentially pay to publish, but the work is freely available.
  18. Jun 24, 2013 #17


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    I was in fact thinking of your college library. At the small college where I work, the library handles interlibrary loan requests from students and faculty.
  19. Jun 24, 2013 #18
    Zombie, thank you so much for the information. I didn't have much time to look at the site earlier, and you've saved me the time of having to dig through the site to find that information myself.

    Choppy, trust me, the college I am at is not the one I would have chosen if circumstances were different (long story). I figured since I was just planning to get my AA here and transferring for my BA that it didn't matter. However, their lack of resources is astonishing.

    As far as what a couple of you have said about the library, I am going to try to select just a couple of articles in particular that I am interested in and see if my college's librarian can locate them for me. Although the librarian wasn't familiar with any resource in particular, maybe by looking for a couple of specific articles, we might stumble onto a resource, or at the bare minimum, a way for me to get access to that information through them. Maybe the problem was that I gave them something that was too broad. I will give it a shot in the next week or so and see what happens.

    Thanks again for all the feedback. I really appreciate it. As sad as it is, I find these forums to be a far greater resource than my college. The head of the science department doesn't seem interested in much more than teaching classes (and is the only teacher of physics at our college despite having majored in engineering), the college overall seems clueless about physics co-ops/internships/projects (I had to go to my local hospital myself and get connected with their nuclear medicine department), and overall they just seem ill-prepared for those serious about a profession within physics. They only recently changed from a community to a state college, which I know is a part of their problem. Anyway, I am really looking forward to finishing my AA and transferring to a university next year with more resources.
  20. Jun 24, 2013 #19


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    Many of them are, some of them aren't.

    It's common for researchers to upload their new paper to arXiv at the same time that they submit them to a peer-reviewed journal. This replaced the old system where they mailed photocopies to large university physics departments all over the country (or even the world), to get a preliminary version out for discussion before actual publication. Hence the name "preprint."

    When/if the paper actually gets approved for publication, probably after some revision, they usually upload the final version alongside the original one. You can tell which ones actually got published because there's a journal reference on the preprint's "home page."

    Some stuff does get posted to arXiv without actually being submitted for peer review anywhere, or even having failed peer review. Some of it is credible (lecture notes by established profs, etc.), some of it isn't (fringe / cranky / crackpot stuff). It helps to know something about the author and his/her reputation.

    (When I was in grad school, the "preprint rack" at the rear of the departmental colloquium room was where faculty and grad students congregated for coffee and cookies every afternoon at 3:30 pm, before whatever colloquium was taking place that day. :tongue2:)
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
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