Papers and Ideas

In yesterday’s lab meeting, students asked how I find out about new papers. This is the first installment of a series of posts with some ideas. These were inspired in part by Lateef Nasser’s Radiolab episode and Transom article about how he gets ideas for his stories (check those out for more inspiration!).


There are a few ways you can sign up for emails or other notifications when new papers that fit a particular search criterion come out. You could use these to search for papers by a particular author, papers that use a particular keyword in the title or abstract, or (using some tools) papers that cite a particular reference.

  • Google Scholar Alerts is one of the simpler ones: it uses the Google Scholar search syntax (e.g. author:p-a-selkin to search for my papers), and sends you emails when new material comes up. Some suggested uses are on the Google Scholar Alerts help page.
  • Web of Science (available through the UW Libraries website) can send you alerts, too. You’ll have to sign into Web of Science’s account system (in addition to signing in through UW’s library) by clicking the “Sign In” link at the top right of the Web of Science pages.
    • Once you’ve run a search, a “create alert” button will appear on the left side of the search results web page, as in the image below. Click it to get email updates when new papers are published that fit your search criteria. There are “secret” tricks in Web of Science (see also this) that let you combine terms to find publications that are particularly relevant. Examples include “detrital zircon” AND himalaya and Archean NEAR (paleomagnet* OR paleointensity) Once you learn these tricks, this type of alert can be particularly useful  to let you know about researchers whose work you weren’t familiar with. You can also search by author if you find a researcher in your field whose work you want to keep up with (see Networking, below).
    • If you want to be alerted whenever a particular reference is cited, search for that reference and click the title: the “create alert” button appears on the right side of the page for that reference. The latter type of alert is useful if you find a fundamental reference in your field that everyone seems to cite. New papers will often cite classic work in their field.
    • Journal Alerts: individual journals send out alerts when they come out with new articles. These usually include the whole table of contents, which can be quite extensive. Sign up through journal web pages, which you can access by searching for the journal’s name through the library catalogue. Some good options are Science and Nature, which are very general but have articles that often generate a lot of “buzz”; for general geo-related papers, try Geology and GSA Bulletin, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, and Earth and Planetary Science Letters. For sedimentology/stratigraphy/paleo/climate-related papers, try Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Journal of Sedimentary Research, Sedimentology, and Marine Geology. For geophysics and paleomagnetism, try Earth Planets Space, Geophysical Journal International, and Journal of Geophysical Research. For mineralogy and petrology, try American Mineralogist, Canadian Mineralogist, and Journal of Petrology. You will find others as you read more. 


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