How to quickly sort through the field literature


When I was teaching a class to graduate students, one of the assignments was for them to do a literature analysis on a specific area. This assignment has largely never been very complete and enjoyable.

A common practice among students is to take a keyword and search inside a literature database. If you get a single-digit result, rejoice. Download all the literature, read it all, and then manually make a statistical chart to show it.

If the number of documents searched exceeds three figures, what students tend to do is throw their hands in the air and tell me, "Teacher, there is too much literature. Couldn't read over it, so I didn't do it. Or you can tell me which documents are important? I'll get right on it and show it next week. "

I'm exasperated by this creative answer from time to time.

In effect, this task trains students how to review the literature when they do their thesis in the future. Their answers aren't all wrong. For the most part, you find an idea, a problem. A quick search will reveal relevant literature rolling in like the waters of the Yangtze River. Going through the entire literature is basically impossible. Even after looking through the stock, a much larger amount of incremental literature poured out again. You will soon fall into a deep depression. As it says in Zhuangzi - Inner Chapter - Master of Health and Life.

My life is short, but my knowledge is limitless. The end of the world follows the end of the world.

Your time and attention is limited and precious. Therefore you must have a good understanding of the literature discriminate against Treating. Select focus literature to read. Most of the literature will be discarded by you unread Or just sweep (skimming), you have nothing to be ashamed of or even blame yourself for.

What literature is the key literature? This is a problem you must learn to solve on your own. And you can't sit there and wait for the teacher feed (an animal, baby, invalid etc) To give you the standard answer.

best feature

The great web of knowledge made up of academic journals, conferences, and large works is not substantially different from the online forums you are familiar with.

If you frequent the forums, you should have a good idea of how to choose what to read.

A common practice is to go for the best and hot posts and read them first. Essence posts are important because their quality is highly rated, and recommended. Hot posts may not necessarily be of good quality, they may simply be on a topic of current interest, or some reference by the author is extremely controversial and thus attracts attention. More commonly, it's just pure "headlines".

Usually the forum is maintained by someone who takes care of the maintenance and removes the rough and tumble. Yet which of the academic literature is the cream of the crop? You'll have a hard time identifying it by looking directly at the label.

What to do? The easiest way to do this is to visualize the relationships between the literature.

This way, you can see which topic (literature) has more people replying (citing literature) under it, or which topics (clustering of literature) the post is on.

With these clues, you'll be able to target those key documents in the vast sea of search results.


This work, of course, can be done manually. It may also be a last resort before having easy access to computer aids.

nevertheless, Now if you're still going to hand-paint, It's just too inefficient.。 Literature visualization tools there are many。 Trade-offs in terms of functionality and ease of use, recommendVOSviewer。

Your first step still needs to be to collect the entire literature of interest. When collecting literature in a particular field, one should find a suitable entry point. The information stored therein must not only be comprehensive, but the citation relationships between documents must also be preserved intact.

Common portals include VOSviewer and VOSviewer. Note that both platforms have access control and a maximum number of documentary information to be downloaded in a single session. Please use the campus IP address to log in to operate, download the literature information as needed, and store it in the appropriate format. In order for VOSviewer to open correctly, select the text method split by TAB and the documentation record to contain all fields and citation information.

Then you can analyze it in VOSviewer. For example, you can choose to generate a term map. Literature on different topics is automatically clustered, with categories indicated by different colors, and associations between literature are clear at a glance.

Some of the subject terms are larger than others, which indicates the amount of relevant literature. At a glance, you will be able to find out which topics are of more interest to people in the "forum" you care about.

You can zoom in on the details and understand the connections between specific terms within a particular topic to grasp a more nuanced pulse.


The subject is just one of the many descriptive markers in the literature. This is because during the data collection phase, we save all the metadata. Therefore, you can analyze more angles that interest you.

If you are concerned about journal linkages, then it is worth looking at the network of associations between journals using co-citation relationships.

Journals in different fields are marked in different colors. You will clearly see how connections occur between journals in different fields.

If you have a more macro perspective, you can also use the authors' countries as nodes to see the collaborative relationships between authors from different countries.

This graph clearly tells us that today's scientific research activities have long since ceased to develop behind closed doors and independently. The stronger the collaborative relationship with the international academic community, the greater the benefits. Just look at the location and number of links to those big nodes and you'll see.


If you are interested, please read the following references to learn step by step how to use VOSviewer.

  1. VOSviewer。
  2. VOSviewer。
  3. VOSviewer。

If you're a video learner, watch the official VOSviewer by the author of VOSviewer. The author's English accent is a bit heavy, but the content is absolutely authoritative and clear.


apart fromVOSviewer, What other literature visualizations do you know tools? opposeVOSviewer, What are their strengths and weaknesses? Welcome message, We'll talk together. discussions。

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