Hunting Down the Old References

June 5, 2009

While writing the research papers one quite often needs to get back to the full texts of old (pre-Internet or at least pre-arXiv) references. Of course, having access to a good library and/or the interlibrary loan usually solves the problem but can be somewhat time- and cost-consuming.

It is not that well known, however, that there is a fair chance to find the old paper or preprint you need online for free. Of course, the first thing to try is Google or perhaps another search engine of your choosing. However, if this does not work, you still have a fighting chance, at least as far physics and mathematics are concerned. The places to try are:

  • the KISS preprint server (you can also try the umbrella interface at SPIRES)  allows you to search in (and get to the full text of) a huge database of scanned preprints  going back to the 1970s at least. The database covers mostly high-energy physics and related areas, including a fair share of mathematical physics and mathematics. For instance, you can find there a number of preprints by Richard Feynman, including the unpublished ones.
  • the Digital Mathematics Library
  • NUMDAM and CEDRAM (French mathematical journals)
  • The Project Euclid
  • MathNet.Ru (Russian mathematical journals)

All items but KISS are purely mathematical databases (to be precise, MathNet.Ru includes several physics, mechanics and mathematical physics journals as well).

If you know of other similar databases (be it in physics, mathematics, life sciences,…), please feel free to drop a comment with the relevant link(s).

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N. David Mermin: Writing Physics

June 1, 2009

This great lecture by a prominent physicist can be found here (hat tip: Biocurious)


How to Write a Really Good Research Paper

April 29, 2009

Here are the slides and the video of a nice talk by Simon Peyton Jones with some general advice on the subject.

Some excellent advice on writing (primarily for mathematicians) can be found at the blog of Terence Tao;  see also  this post at the blog of Daniel Lemire for some important (especially for beginners) technicalities, and Six Rules for Rewriting by Michael Nielsen. More writing tips can be found here.

Some tips on avoiding the writer’s block can be found here at the Tomorrow’s Professor blog. Another possibly helpful trick is the writing microschedule by Gina Hiatt.

Having right coauthors can greatly improve the quality of your paper; for interesting discussions on scientific collaboration go here, here and here (these three posts deal with collaboration in mathematics but can be of interest for other scientists too) at the Secret Blogging Seminar, here and here at the blog of Michael Nielsen; see also this post at the Backreaction blog, and this article by Richard Reis.

Mathematicians can also make use of the classical text How to write mathematics by Paul R. Halmos. Another potentially very promising tool for mathematicians is Tricki (the wiki of  math tricks and techniques) whose aims and scope are discussed at the blogs of the Fields medalists Tim Gowers and Terence Tao, see e.g. here and here.

Update: some advice on dealing with the paper rejection can be found here.

Update 2: A very interesting story on turning potential competitors into collaborators is discussed here, here, here and here.  See also these two posts and these two discussions on the caveats of peer review and possible danger of scooping (with focus on the life sciences and physics), and this post on the catch 22 of publishing in the top journals.

Update 3: Google has recently produced a demo for a new online collaboration tool, Google Wave; see the post of Terence Tao for more details and a broader discussion of various collaboration tools at the Secret Blogging Seminar.

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Academic Time Management

April 5, 2009

As usual, there is a great advice on the subject from Terence Tao. See also a paper in the Science Careers. The comments with further suggestions and links are welcome!

Another useful tip from the Lifelong Scholar’s blog: whenever you take a break, make you sure you have a specific task to do when you get back to work.

Update: there are many more resources on the academic productivity. To list a few,

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Advice for the (Would-Be) Graduate Students

March 28, 2009

A great collection of advice and links on the subject is here. For the (prospective) graduate students in mathematics, Terence Tao provides excellent advice here, and there is a whole new blog on the subject. As for the physics students, go here and here. See also my earlier posts, especially here and here. Some interesting material can be also found here and here.

Update (via ZapperZ blog): More advice from the Science Careers: here, here, and here.

Update 2: excellent advice for the graduate students in math is available at the Secret Blogging Seminar, here and here.

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How to Maximize Citations

March 23, 2009

I have just found some great advice on how to boost your citation count, i.e., get more citations for your publications (which may, as you well know, increase your visibility in the science world and your chances of getting tenure) . An interesting discussion of the so-called Matthew effect in science (to start, see the classical papers by Robert K. Merton here, here, and here) and its influence on the citation patterns can be found here.

Update: I also found some interesting tips on how to get your papers cited here and here.

As for the general advice on writing research papers, see excellent writing tips from the blog of Terence Tao.

Update 2: making your work available online (e.g. at the arXiv; see this post of Terence Tao for further details) can significantly increase its chances to be cited (but be careful with the copyright issues when making available the work you have already published).

Update 3: Also, quite obviously, publishing your paper in a high-impact journal may increase its chances of getting cited. But submitting your papers to the journals perceived as prestigious has plenty of caveats — see e.g. this post by Terence Tao and this post by Massimo.

Update 4: see this post about the citation trading at ectropy.info

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How to Succeed in Science

March 22, 2009

I have recently come across two papers on the subject (addressed primarily to the biomedical scientists but mostly of general interest too) by Jonathan Yewdell in Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology: here and here.

As usual (cf. e.g. this discussion), this advice should be taken cum grano salis.

More related advice can be found in the other posts on this blog.  I especially recommend the talk You and Your Research by Richard Hamming, and the advice from Terence TaoJames D. Watson,  and Steven Weinberg. See also advice from E. W. Dijkstra and J.H. Conway

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