Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Staying on Top of the Literature

Recently, 'Michael' placed the following comment on one of my posts:
"Thanks for sharing this interesting list of articles! I'm wondering, how do you go about finding these types of articles to read? Are you a subscriber to these publications/do you regularly check for new updates online? I'd like to start keeping more up to date with academic articles, but I'm not sure where to start." 
Well, that's a good question, Michael. And I'm sure that there are many undergraduate students and non-academics who wonder the same thing when it comes to keeping up with the latest developments in econometrics. (I've phrased it that way because I'm also sure that grad. students will be getting appropriate advice on this, and other matters from their supervisors.)

Let's take a step back in time first.

When I was an undergad. student in mathematics and statistics, (in the 1960's) I faced the same quandary. I was especially interested in trying to get a sense of the statistics literature, in particular. One way in which I dealt with matters was by frequenting the "recently arrived journal issues" section of the university library. Frankly, that was about all that I could do.

There was no internet, of course. There was no email. And "Working/Discussion Papers" had yet to emerge.

I certainly don't recommend that strategy today, Michael.

Why not? Because you'll always be a year or two out of date in terms of what is really going on!

The publication delays in econometrics (and any other area of economics) and statistics are substantial. The refereeing process typically takes some months. Papers typically then have to be revised once or twice (with further reviews in between). And then there is generally a backlog of "accepted" papers waiting to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal in question.

Fortunately, the electronic age in which we live helps out here, in several respects.

First, many authors release a "polished" electronic version of their work as a Working Paper or Discussion Paper. This occurs either prior to, or at the time of, submission of the paper to an academic journal. So, anyone can get an "early bird" look at what research is going on. Of course, there may be even earlier draft versions of the work circulating in a more limited manner.

Second, most academic journals provide an "open access" list on their website of the titles of papers (usually with abstracts) that have been accepted for publication, and are in the queue for their final appearance. If you (or your institution) don't have a subscription to access the full paper, it's a simple matter to email an author and ask them for an electronic copy. In this era of citation frenzy, most authors will happily oblige!

In the case of either working papers, or papers that have been accepted for publication at a journal, it's a simple matter to arrange for automatic email updates of new papers in particular areas that interest you. For journal articles, just go to their website and sign up. In the case of working papers, I suggest that you make use of the wonderful resources offered by RePEc - especially the EconPapers module. Again, you can sign up for automatic notification of new papers in specific areas that interest you - go to their New Economics Papers page.

Michael, I hope this helps a bit.
I do have a couple of final comments.

Keeping up with the econometric literature can be a challenging task for anyone. Don't make the mistake of thinking that every paper with an interesting title or abstract should be read carefully from beginning to end. Don't be afraid to be selective. On the other hand, read widely. And please remember that there's lots going on in the statistics literature that's highly relevant to econometricians. 

In that connection, I leave you with this post from Rob Hyndman.

© 2017, David E. Giles


  1. Another problem in keeping up with the latest is the emergence a lot of new journals. Many of them do publish good articles. More review articles and meta-analyses would certainly help. That's why journals such as the Annual Reviews of ___, and Journal of Economic Survey, and Cliometrica are of great utility.

  2. Another great way to keep up with the latest is scanning the programs of conferences. Conference talks are often about work that is not yet published, or about to be published, or recently published. Attend the conferences you can, and study the programs of conferences you can't attend.

  3. Dave,

    Thanks for the well thought out response! The resources you shared seem like a great starting point, and this is exactly what I'm looking for. Incidentally, I also realized that I hadn't updated my blogger profile in ~10 years, and I wouldn't have noticed this if it weren't for your article, so I thank you for that as well.


    1. Michael - you're most welcome, and I'm sure your question was helpful to a number of others.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.