Making sense in the flood

Publications are the currency of academia, hence the concept of “publish or perish”. This idea has led to the hypertrophic growth of journals and articles.

If we want to have a comprehensive understanding of a field of medical ethics, even a quite narrow one, we cannot read everything and retain the relevant information. Moreover, as proposed by Theodore Sturgeon (and recently endorsed by Daniel Dennett) “ninety percent of everything is crap”; or, in other words, we cannot be sure a priori that every piece of literature we retrieve is worth being read.

Therefore, while approaching a new field, we have two distinct problems:

1. (Assuming for the sake of discussion Sturgeon’s law as true) how can we reduce the amount of non relevant/interesting literature in our corpus, without wasting too much time and loosing relevant information?

2. Let’s assume a random bioethical topic as an example: end of life. During the last 10 years 17974 papers have been published on this issue, and 10% of 17974 is still a lot of stuff to read. How can we approach such an amount of literature so that we have both a granular understanding of the single paper and an overall view of the main topics in the field?

This presentation aims to present an unbiased set of strategies to cope with this problem.

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