Read the literature


3 August 2012


I’ve just finished another reviewer report for a journal, and yet again I’ve had to make comments about reading the literature. It’s not difficult. Before you write a paper, read what other people have done. A simple search on Google scholar will usually do the trick. And before you submit a paper, check again that you haven’t missed anything important.

The paper I reviewed today did not cite a single reference from either of the two most active research groups in the area in the last ten years. Any search on the topic would have turned up about a dozen papers from these two groups alone.

I don’t mind if papers miss a reference or two, especially if they have been published in an obscure outlet. But I will recommend a straight reject if a paper hasn’t cited any of the most important papers from the last five years. Part of a researcher’s task is to engage with what has already been done, and show how any new ideas differ from or extend on previous work.