Erik Gahner Larsen

How I find new research

There is a lot of new and interesting academic research coming out every day. Working papers, book chapters (you can usually ignore these), journal articles, books etc. So, how to stay up to date on all this new research? Here are my personal recommendations.

First and most importantly: Twitter. This is by far the easiest way to keep yourself updated. You don’t need to (re)tweet or in any other way engage in the conversations on Twitter, but you should at least have an account and follow your favourite scholars1.

Luckily, it is impossible not to hear about new research from a person if you follow that person on Twitter. Furthermore, people are usually good at tweeting about interesting research similar to their own interests (which hopefully will overlap with your interests).

That also brings us to the challenge of using Twitter: information overload. The more people you follow on Twitter, the more difficult it is to ensure that you notice the tweets relevant to you. It is very easy to follow new people on Twitter. Good Twitter use is not about following as many researchers as possible but about optimizing the signal-to-noise ratio, i.e. seeing more relevant tweets and less irrelevant tweets.

I can recommend that you do a mental cluster analysis and create (private) lists of people connected within their respective domains. For example, you can create lists with academics within different fields/topics (U.S. political scientists, European political scientists, open science, R, economists, psychologists, sociologists etc.)

While there is an overlap between the different lists, they can structure your Twitter use and make it easier to stay up to date on what is going on compared to one major feed with everybody, especially if you are offline or busy not being on Twitter for multiple days and eventually have to catch up. You can read more about lists on Twitter here.

Second, Google Scholar. An important feature of Google Scholar is that you can follow researchers, articles and key words (so-called email alerts). If you follow a researcher on Google Scholar, this will give you a mail notification when the person has new research. You can also follow citations to that persons, i.e. get mail notifications on the new research that is citing work by the person.

Within any scientific subfield there is usually a review piece or two that everybody cites. It is a good idea to sign up for notifications in relation to those articles so you get a mail when there is new work that cite this work. Last, if you work with specific concepts it is a good idea to follow such key words as well.

Third, journal RSS feeds. This was my main method for years, basically getting notifications about the most recent number of a journal and/or articles available in advance/FirstView. I still follow the journals but it is getting less useful for three reasons. First, there is a heavy delay so you have often seen the work months (if not years) in advance of the actual publication (especially if you use the two methods above). Second, there is an overlap with the above methods, so if anything relevant is coming out, you can be sure that it will reach your Twitter feed. Third, going back to the signal-to-noise ratio, the more generic journals you follow, the more irrelevant research will end up in your feed.

These are just a few of the ways in which you can find new research (again, my recommendations). If you want another example on how you can find new research in line with your interests, see this tweet from John B. Holbein (he usually tweets a lot of interesting political science research).

  1. If they are not on Twitter you should reconsider whether they are in fact your favourites. []