Every week I download scores of megabytes worth of the scientific literature to my computer desktop—papers that I have come across in a search, papers I think will be relevant to my research, papers in my field of study, papers that interest me because of their titles, papers that have cited mine. I don’t even come close to reading all of these papers, but I skim through many, and read a few.
I’m curious how people handle the massive amounts of information. I once asked advice from a senior colleague who told me “Read everything, and remember it all.” Yikes. He continued: “Failing that, read the important papers of the important people in our field.”
My group has a weekly “journal club” meeting in which everyone presents a five minute summary of a paper in the literature—preferably recent and project-relevant. The goals are to make sure we all keep up with literature of interest to our research, and to spend time analyzing how papers are written to notice what works and what doesn’t. To help with this I came up with a brief rubric for presenting papers:
1. Read a paper either from the very recent literature or an old classic
2. What is the take-home message?
3. Why did you choose this paper (i.e. Relevant to your research? Interesting title? High-impact journal?)
4. Science: what was successful about this paper? What was unsuccessful?
5. Figures: Was there a successful figure? What about it is successful? Any unsuccessful figures? Why/why not?
6. Writing: what was successful about the way the paper was written? What was unsuccessful?
Please let me know about your experiences with journal club. Is it useful? What formats work? What doesn’t work? What are people’s techniques for structuring time in order to do a better job of keeping up with the literature?