Monday, January 21, 2013

Learning to Read (Efficiently)

The Gist:  Feed aggregators like GoogleReader are not just for blogs!  This can be a great way to browse primary literature and bring journal articles directly to you, all in one place.  It's a great way to stay well read and it's easy to set up.  After assisting other med students and attendings with setting up their feed aggregator with their favorite journals, I figured I'd share this video below, in the event it's useful for anyone else.

  • Abstracts in one place
  • Accessible from any smart phone, tablet, or computer.  RSS feed applications for smart phones and tablets abound and sync with GoogleReader.  For example, I use the Feeddler app (free), but there are many.

  • Makes it easy to increase the exposure to primary literature by making journals "scannable"
    • Note:  I do not endorse just scanning abstracts but some journals may have a lower yield of interesting or relevant articles but one can still scan the abstracts easily to detect papers that are worth checking out the full text.  
  • The "Articles in Press" RSS feed option available from many journals makes the newest literature available (less wait time because there's often a good bit of lag time until the article is published in the journal).
  • FOAM is eco-friendly -No paper! 
  • Full text is rarely available.  Most medical school libraries/institutions have an e-journal option on the library web page.  Take advantage of this, if available.
    •  If you have access to the full text through your academic institution or individual subscription, bookmark commonly visited journals in your browser.  Ex: I have an entire 'journals' folder to ease the access to full text.  This takes out those steps of searching through the library website for e-journals and reduces the number of logins required. 
    • Docphin and Read by QxMD are interesting platforms for full text that an increasing number of institutions have access to.  I don't have access to these, but Keeping Up! from Vanderbilt did a review on the program.  Upside: Improved readability and seamless full text if you are with a participating institution.  Downside:  It's another app to open/go to compared with one feed for blogs, articles, etc.  

    • Use Evernote to save and store full-text articles for easy accessibility.  The Google Chrome browser has a free "web clipper" application available for Evernote, making it easy to save articles.  There's an Evernote application for smart phones, as well. 
Real-time feedback from Twitter demonstrated that Pocket is a platform markedly similar to Evernote  but perhaps more user-friendly. Check it out

Another tip:

  • Information overload.  Choose what's important or valuable for you so the process is still meaningful and not overwhelming.  Here are some excellent tips from Chris Nickson.


  1. Between software engineering, emergency medicine, foodie, and news RSS feeds I probably have 200+ subscriptions...without Google Reader I'd never make heads or tails of it.

    (It should come as no surprise though, that 80+ news feeds results in only 2-3 unique stories per hour.)

  2. Great article :) Inspired me to write an addition to my FOAM article this week. I use both pocket and evernote, and the two can play nicely together using if this then that recipes at