“One of the most important tools for researchers is the ability to find and judge the work of other scientists. These talents are developed over time but can be expedited by a working knowledge of how to efficiently use internet databases.” - Miller et al. Am. J. of Physics (2009)
Three samples were chosen for further study, translates to 'the other samples didn’t make sense, so we ignored them'“ - A Guide to Translating Scientific Articles

Websites that consolidate high impact results

Searching the journals

When you are doing a literature search on a specific topic you can use (choose the web of science option) or I prefer Here are some strategies:

  • Search for key words in the title/abstract
  • Find a recent paper (last two or three years) and then start looking up the references. This is a quick way to find the key influential papers in a field.
  • Start with a very influential paper (something that is cited hundreds of times) and then see who has cited this paper recently.

Whenever there are too many hits, try limiting to some of the more important journals, for example:

From any campus computer, find the journal homepage and download the pdf of the article you want to read. You can also download articles from home if you get the correct VPN software from cosine.

Interlibrary loans

OSU has online access to most major journals, but exceptions include Nature Physics, Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Communications, and Nanotechnology. If OSU is not subscribed to the journal you want to read, go to this website to request an interlibrary loan. This will take one or two days. Someone will scan the article for you and email you a copy. The service is free.

To lobby for access to journals, contact the Physical & Mathematical Sciences Librarian at Oregon State University.

The archives

Many scientists are frustrated by the private journal system which make access to information (information which scientist generate through their research) prohibitively expensive. In the same spirit as the open source software movement, researchers publish their work on “the archives”. You can access the condensed matter archives at

Email alerts for table of contents

When you are working on a specific experiment, it is important to watch the new literature as it is published. The ISI web of knowledge has an excellent (and free) service where they email you if someone cites a certain paper. For example, if you place an alert on the paper “Single molecule detection of a chemical reaction with a CNT”, you will be notified every time someone cites this paper.

For keeping up with a broad range of physics/nanotechnology topics, consider subscribing to email alerts from Science, Nature, Nature Nanotechnology, Nano Letters and the Virtual Journal of Nanoscience and Technology (CNT section). For journals published by the American Chemical Society use this e-mail alerts link.

If you don't subscribe to email alerts, you should set aside 2 hours a week to browse the table of contents of the online journals. You get new ideas. You find out what fields are hot. You learn what groups are active in your field.

Reading a journal article

When a researcher “reads” an article, they often do not read the whole thing. Here is a typical formula for quickly digesting the important points of an article

  • 1. Read the title and abstract. Do you have an idea what they were doing? (If not, you might need to read the introduction)
  • 2. Look at the figures. Do you see some convincing data?
  • 3. Read the conclusion. Is it consistent with the data in the figures?
  • 4. Do you need more details? Jump directly into the appropriate section (background, methods, discussion etc.)

Deciphering academese can be very amusing, see the famous PhD comic

The Science-News Media Circus


Many of the new nanotechnology ideas that we read about in journals have an accompanying patent written by the same authors. The US Patent office website is workable, but rather awkward to use. A more user-friendly interface is

There is a growing number of journals that deal specifically with nanoscience and nanotechnology. See this comprehensive list. Here is a quick summary:

Which Nanotechnology Journal Should I Publish In?

Good question! The answer is not clear.

Impact factor (2009)JournalNotes
20.6Nature Nanotechnology
13Nano Lettersfounding editor was Charlie Leiber
13ACS NanoMore 'comprehensive' than Nano Letters
6.5Smallhas a biology bent
5.0NanoscalePart of the Royal Society of Chemistry journal family, the UK equivalent of ACS
5.0Nano ResearchFounding editor was Hong-Jie Dai
4.0NanotechnologyPart of the IOP journal family (IOP is the UK equivalent of APS), quick turn around time.
2.0Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology?
Journal of nano research?

Note peer reviewed:

  • Nanoscale Research Letters (not peer reviewed? an interdisciplinary forum for communication, since Jan 2007, Impact factor 1.73)

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