The Paper Database solves many of the most common problems in finding, categorizing, and retrieving scientific papers when you need them. Here are a few of the more common problems that we have come across:
- Search engines do a poor job of filtering out animal and cell research: if you are a basic scientist or translational scientist cell and animal research is of utmost importance to you. You can’t do your work without it. But to many of us, this is just more noise that adds to the information that we need to sort through to find the answer we’re looking for. This is why we have excluded animal and cell research from our database.
- Trouble finding the right keywords: many of us aren’t familiar with scientific language or aren’t sure how to phrase what we’re looking for. Do you search “soda” or “sugar-sweetened beverage”? “Adiposity” or “fat”? “Severe” or “morbid” obesity? Sometimes the right words just don’t come to us.
- Paper titles do not indicate the full extent of the findings: papers are jam packed full of interesting findings but typically only the primary outcome is listed in a paper’s title. But what about the rest of the information? It may be super important to the question you’re looking to answer but difficult to find when it is buried in the paper’s text. At The Paper Database we do our absolute best at categorizing all the outcomes, not just the primary one.
- Paper citations are limited: journals limit the number of citations in a journal article. So if you are using the citations of an article to grow your body of literature, you better use the citations of many articles or you are going to miss a chunk of the literature. Of course meta-analyses and review papers are rich sources of citations but even they cannot provide the entire history of a topic.
- General lack of historical perspective: oftentimes in the introduction of an article, the first scientist to discover a phenomenon is cited and maybe some of the more recent findings but what about everyone else? Where is the history? Where is the sequence of papers that lead to the most recent papers. Knowing what has been done before is a cornerstone of science (build upon the shoulders of others, don’t recreate the wheel) and yet we tend to do a poor job of truly knowing our history unless you were a part of it. In building out The Paper Database we found so many papers and interventions that we had no idea existed and we doubt that most of us, especially those of us who are younger and/or new to the field know the rich history of our areas of study.
- Cannot remember the author or journal: let’s say that you have the PDF of the paper you’re looking for on your computer but you can’t remember the author, year or journal. How are you possibly going to find it? The best you can do is a keyword search and hope that the words you are searching happen to be in the title of the paper. Your best bet at this point is probably to do a Google search and hope that the paper title comes up so you know what to search for in your own files.
- Cannot remember where you saved the paper: we’ve made the mistake many times where we have saved a PDF of a paper and placed it into a specific folder. Doing so made perfect sense at the time but now after clicking on several folders you just can’t seem to find the right file path. This is super annoying.
- You have no system of categorization: hopefully you have some system of organization. When we started out we saved papers by their title or saved it by a generic title such as “fat metabolism paper”. What the hell does that even mean? If you’re not saving the paper by first author, year, and journal, you’re not doing it right. The Paper Database hopes to save you the time as we have undertaken the tedious work of saving the first author, year, journal, and title of each paper.
- You have a constant fear that your paper collection is incomplete: if you’re like us you have a constant fear that you’re missing something. The Paper Database will scour the table of contents of over 150 journals each time the journal is published whether that is weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly to help alleviate this fear.
- Cherry picking data: some cherry picking is done out of pure self-interest. For example, there are many people (marketers) out there who are just fine with cherry picking facts to support their product or service. But most of us don’t try to cherry pick. It just kind of happens. We don’t have time to sort through and collect every piece of evidence. We perform a search or two, go a few pages deep (if we are extra diligent), and come up with the best answer that we can, given the information we have. A goal of The Paper Database is to give you ALL of the information upfront so you can spend less time searching and more time analyzing and DOING.
- Wasting time down the rabbit hole: while getting off track and digging deep down a rabbit hole may lead to unexpected and stimulating discoveries, it can also be a waste of your time when you’re on a deadline and a form of procrastination.
The vast majority of us have never been shown or taught how to organize our research papers. We just kind of developed a system on our own (on the fly) and refined it the best that we could along the way. We probably have wanted to clean up and more fully develop our system for storing and retrieving papers for some time but we just haven’t found the time. Well, we say, now is the time.