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Contemporary Concepts in Publishing

Smart Software Tools for Your Next Literature Search


Dr. Avriel Licciardi, Research Communications Strategist

November 2021

Many researchers—especially graduate students and early career scientists—find staying abreast of new publications in their field exhausting and overwhelming. Despite subscribing to various ‘alert tools’, which provide field-specific recommendations curated by a user, the influx of new and relevant literature has become difficult to keep up with, and many scientists’ inboxes are continually flooded with paper recommendations.

In an effort to tame this information overload, many new software tools have emerged that employ artificial intelligence to craft their recommendations. While article suggestions received directly from colleagues, peers and mentors should continue to be valued (and given), the options below are alternative visual literature-mapping and paper recommendation software tools.

Literature-mapping software

Connected Papers: An alternative to daily email alerts, Connected Papers uses a single, user-chosen ‘origin paper’ to build a map of related research, based partly on overlapping citations. The core concept is that scientists can search for an ‘origin paper’ and then identify pertinent recent papers, how they relate to other research, and how many citations each article has accrued.

Open Knowledge Maps: Similar to Connected Papers, Open Knowledge Maps generates publication maps; however, Open Knowledge Maps uses keywords rather than a central, ‘origin paper’. In addition to journal articles, this tool includes other content such as data sets and research software.

Academic search tools

Google Scholar: As one of the more dominant software tools, Google Scholar recommends papers depending on which articles users have authored and listed in their profiles, in addition to a user’s co-authors, places where one publishes, and papers a user frequently cites. Google Scholar allows users to create extra e-mail alerts based on authors or keywords.

ResearchRabbit: Launched in August 2021, ResearchRabbit has users save relevant papers to a collection, and then provides updated lists of recommended articles based on the papers within or added to that specific collection. ResearchRabbit mirrors commonly used music-streaming platforms, focusing on precise recommendations instead of more broad-brush alerts.

ResearchGate: ResearchGate, a type of social network for academics, provides paper recommendations through a rolling feed when a user is logged in to the platform. Recommendations are curated based on a user’s own publications and which publications they have viewed on the platform.

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