1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Where to find what research has been done on a specific topic?

  1. Apr 10, 2013 #1
    I am curious as to how you find all the various research that has been done on a particular topic? Though I am fairly new to the study of physics, I have been told that prior to becoming involved in a particular research project, you want to look into who else has researched that particular topic, how they did it, what conditions, etc. I have also been told that it is very important to look into ALL of the research so that you are not just duplicating someone else's findings. However, I am at a loss as to how you ensure you have looked at all the research? Is there somewhere in particular that is useful for gathering this information? How do you ensure that there wasn't some research that you missed?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2013 #2
    When trying to read up on a new field, I've found that the best way is to try to find a recent review article about it. In physics, try to search through a journal like Reviews of Modern Physics for something on your topic. Such a reivew paper would typically contain references to many things in that field, which you can then follow and read more about and again look at that papers references etc. After a while you start to get familiar with the terms and the important groups and from there on you typically know how to proceed further.
  4. Apr 10, 2013 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    1. You do a lot of literature search. Read physics journals that publish papers in your field.

    2. Your Advisor should have a lot of info on the state of knowledge of the field you are getting into. Ask him/her.

    3. Attend colloquium and if you have the opportunity, conferences and workshops.

  5. Apr 10, 2013 #4
    Thanks for the info. In response to your answers above:

    1. How can I track down the names of journals for specific fields? Is this just a "web search and gather journal sources" type of thing, or is there any type of methodical approach to it? How do I distinguish reputable journals from the trash?

    2. No advisor at this point, at least not for my particular major. Our physics teacher at our college didn't even major in physics. His major was engineering (masters degree).

    3. I will have to try to see if there will be any in an area that is a reasonable travel distance anytime soon. Is there any places in particular that are good sources to find out where these types of things are held?


    I appreciate whatever feedback you can give me. Until I transfer to a bigger university next year, I am mostly on my own as far as researching all this, but I want a competitive edge, so I really want to push to learn as much as I can now. I also figure the more I learn now, the less stress it will be having to take it all in while I'm doing harder upper-level courses at the same time. Thanks.
  6. Apr 10, 2013 #5
    You could just ask in this forum for a good review article of/in your field of interest if there really is no faculty member that you could ask. Considering that apparently you are not even a PhD student, yet, I am not convinced that reading research articles really gives you a competitive edge for anything. Doesn't have to stop you from reading them if you enjoy it, though.
  7. Apr 10, 2013 #6
    In that case I would just hold off on reading much until you actually find a group you want to join, unless something really jumps out at you. But if you are still new to physics then chances are it will be difficult to understand much of a research paper. So your time might be better spent studying fundamentals. Maybe you can give us more information about your background, though.
  8. Apr 10, 2013 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    First, you need to focus on a specific topic. Nobody can keep up with "everything" going on in a large field, let alone the whole of physics!

    Next, if you don't have an advisor, you need a good library, or more accurately, a good librarian to point you in the right direction.

    if your current college doesn't have that, I think the best option would focus on understanding your course work (note, understanding it, not just figuring out how to get good grades!) and leave searching the literature till after you move to a bigger college.
  9. Apr 11, 2013 #8
    Well thanks for all the feedback. As far as focusing on the fundamentals, I'm doing what I can as far as that. I tend to do far more questions in each chapter of our Calculus book, and have studied chemistry outside of what my courses taught me in Chem I and II. In the summer though, I will have quite a bit of time on my hands, which is why I figured I'd take on a couple of extra personal projects.

    Though I probably won't get that heavy into studying research, since like many of you already stated, I probably won't understand a lot of the terminology at this point, I just want to get an idea of the process is all. I think I've gotten enough information about it though to see that it is not a definitive process, but one of resourcefulness.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook