Day 12: How to filter the academic literature

By James Hayton,
July 21, 2018
I'm James, I'm a former physicist (PhD, Nottingham, 2007) and author of "PhD: An Uncommon Guide to Research, Writing & PhD Life".
Since 2010, I've been helping PhD students all over the world overcome barriers in their research and writing
My strategies have helped thousands of PhD students just like you to build confidence, write better and finish on time
60/60: 60 short videos for PhD students in 60 days

Looking for day 14? I sent the wrong link in a recent email... You can find day 14 on how to tell good research from bad here

In the last few videos, I've talked about starting with the most influential, groundbreaking papers before going into an iterative process of reading the less influential material.

To do this, you need a way of filtering the literature so you can decide where to put your attention. I do this with 4 categories; A, B, C & D.

The A-rated papers are the absolute best and most relevant sources. These are the ones that significantly affect your work (i.e., if you took them away, your work would be completely different). There will be relatively few of these, but you will read them many, many times.

The B-rated papers are high quality and relevant, but maybe not quite essential. They influence the way you think, but your work doesn't absolutely rely upon them. There will be a lot more of these.

The Cs are not clearly relevant, but maybe interesting? They're OK, and perhaps very important to someone else, but not to you. You can keep these and look at them again later if you need to.

The D rated papers are either not at all relevant or just low quality. There could be thousands of these. Don't spend any time on them.

Remember, you can always re-categorise the papers later. It's an iterative process!

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