Tips and tricks for staying on top of new research

You’ve probably heard the phrase “publish or perish”. The idea that you need to continually produce work has become more common (if possible) over the last few decades, resulting in an increasing number of articles, books, and other works to keep track of. But this is a bit of a catch-22, since you also need to prove mastery of the field in order to publish your work. So how to keep up with the increasing mass of scholarship on any given topic?

The simple answer? Alerts.

The type of alert you use will depend to a certain degree on your field (for example, papyrologists will probably want to use the papy-list and What’s New in Papyrology; religious scholars may prefer the Biblical Studies list), but the three I’ve picked out below should be applicable to everyone.

1. BMCR “books received” lists. This is not the same as subscribing to the Review (although I recommend that advanced graduate students do that, too — there’s a link on the same page). There’s only so much time in the day, and usually 4-5 books reviewed (and because they are reviews, they’re about a year behind). Instead, you can check the new books that have been published and sent to the BMCR. Yes, you’ll get only an author, title, and publisher — but that’s usually enough to know whether this is a book you should set aside time to read. It takes about 3 minutes to skim through the titles each month.

screenshot of BMCR books received November 2015

2. Individual journal contents alerts. You can sign up for these on JSTOR or on the journal’s website. Here’s an example of how to sign up on JSTOR:

CJ on jstor

By clicking on “receive updates by email”, you can enter your email address to get the table of contents delivered to you as soon as they’re published.

Screenshot 2015-12-24 at 9.41.47 AM

You’ll need to do this for every journal that you’re interested in. You can also do the same on many journals’ websites. This is particularly useful for those journals that aren’t on JSTOR. Here’s an example of JRA:

jra screenshot

Click on “new content alerts” and you’ll again be taken to a form to fill out to receive new alerts in your inbox.

Screenshot 2015-12-24 at 9.47.18 AM

If you sign up for a Cambridge Journals account, you can access all of their journal alerts in a single window (CQ, JRS, JRA, G&R, etc.)

When these alerts appear in your inbox, you receive a hyperlinked table of contents. Here is an example of the CJ alert we signed up for at the beginning:

Screenshot 2015-12-24 at 9.52.15 AM


But be careful — just because the issue shows up in your inbox doesn’t mean you have access to it. All of the access rules about JSTOR still apply. So while you now know that these articles exist, it’s up to you to find them on your campus.

3. Calls for papers. These are generally collected by professional associations (in North America, the SCS). But for those of you on twitter, it might be easier to follow @FastiCongress. The Rogue Classicist also keeps a regularly-updated list of conferences.


4. FASTI online. Although not a complete list of records, this site offers timely excavation information and some publication data (before these data are ‘officially’ published). If you’re interested in the material culture of a specific region, you can search geographically to find your site(s). Because this is a useful and somewhat complex resource, we’ll give it its own page one day soon.



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Tips and tricks for staying on top of new research by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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