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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Yesterday, the Plashing Vole posted a request for tips on keeping up with research. While I don't want to improperly place myself in the "super researchers" category, I thought I'd do a quick list of ways in which I keep abreast of new research.

  1. I don't. I've given up on reading in one particular area in a generalized sense. By this I mean that I don't read all contemporary DeLillo criticism, for example, because, at the moment, I'm not working on DeLillo. So that's my first tip: read for particular projects. For the duration of work, keep abreast of new stuff. I'd try and narrow down the project, as well. Something thematic like masculinity could be too broad, so perhaps try for something more specific.
  2. When you've got a particular project underway, use the tech to your advantage. Set Google Scholar alerts for the projects you are working on and the aticles will come to you. The MLA International Bibliography also has this useful feature.
  3. When first starting a project, grab the first 8 relevant books that come up in your catalogue search (I use the British Library catalogue). Then, skim the introductions and cross-reference their bibliographies. Find the citations that occur in all these works; they're the big names. This should take no more than 5-6 hours.
  4. Mark individuals whose work you want to read (those working most closely on things with you). Talk to them. Notify each other when you find papers of interest. Read their bibliographies closely.
  5. Give theoretical, generally applicable, works preference as these are trans-applicable. If you're working on masculinity and Wales in the interwar period, ignore those specific applications of the theoretical discourse that sit so far removed from your three areas as to be irrelevant.
  6. You can't read everything. Make a damn good stab at it, be pretty sure you've covered your ground and then let peer reviewers do their worst. If you're near-as-damnit sure that you've covered everything reasonable, a peer review is a good way to test it. Obviously, don't submit early and make extra work for reviewers, but this is exactly what the review process is for.