Literature searching

Some people look at doing literature searches as a chore. Me, I think it's fun.

My typical project protocol normally goes like this:

  1. Come up with an idea
  2. Do a quick literature search to see what else there is on the topic
  3. Draft up a protocol for the experiment
  4. Do the experiment
  5. Analyze the results
  6. Do a more extensive literature search in preparation for writing it up
  7. Write, revise, rewrite
  8. Submit for publication somewhere

Step 6 is the fun literature search, because it means trips to the library. I usually find everything I need using PubMed, although sometimes it takes a while to find the right search terms to use. Get a collection of abstracts, highlight the ones I want to get and it's off to the library to dig out dusty old journal volumes for the paper I'm looking for. When I'm done, it's always fun to browse through the journals to see what interesting articles were being published at the time. That's my favourite part of the literature search. Now and then I'll even stumble onto a bonus article that I need to copy. You'd be surprised at how much interesting reading you can find in a 10 or 20 year old journal volume. Usually it's mostly from a historical perspective, but sometimes there's that long forgotten article that just happens to have exactly what you're looking for and didn't show up in the literature search.