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Communications of the ACM

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How to Find, Read, and Organize Papers

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stack of documents

You have to actually read the papers. The key is to set up a streamlined routine

Credit: Getty Images

I was in the first year of my Ph.D. program, having just joined my thesis laboratory. I knew that success would require a strong intellectual foundation. I spent long hours poring over papers, determined to master the literature in my research area.

Yet despite good intentions, my efforts fell flat, due in large part to inefficiency. I had no way of tracking whether I was missing key studies in my topic area, and no system for keeping up with the new papers coming out daily. The volume of papers was so overwhelming that I found myself procrastinating, making the problem even worse.

I realized that it was time to give my workflow a major overhaul.

In the two-plus years since, I've iterated through many versions of my workflow, and after lots of trial and error, I've finally found a literature-management system that works for me. Here's what I do.

From Nature
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