Literature List: How to organize a scientific work

“I took a speed reading course and 
read ‘War and Peace’ in twenty minutes.
It involves Russia.”
Woody Allen

Last weekend, I did a presentation for the MinD-Akademie in Germany with the topic: “The Future of Your Research — How to organize a scientific work?”. It was a lot of fun creating the presentation and even more fun holding it (great audience :-)). Over the next few days I’m going to put the material online here (presentation slides translated in English). As this takes a while, here the cited literature:

Science in General and Advisers/Colleagues

  • Cham’s “PhD Comics”:
    I could have done the whole presentation with PhD Comics, but no one would have believed that they actually describe “real” situations (“real” because it’s a little over the top, but always with a nugget of gold). Great to get a humorous view on academia.
  • Sternberg’s “Psychology 101½”: Sternberg, R. J. (2003). Psychology 101 1/2 The Unspoken Rules for Success in Academia. Washington, DC: APA.
    A very good book by a distinguished professor about life in academia. While written with psychology in mind (he is psychologist), some aspects can probably be applied to other domains.
  • Pausch’s “Last Lecture”
(Video & Book): Pausch, R. (2008). Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. New York: Hyperion. [Video here on YouTube]
    A brilliant presentation about a person’s life in academia (and in general) — it shows what you can accomplish and what is needed. For all who think that a job in academia is more than just making money to life by (badly in many cases).
  • Schwartz’s “The importance of stupidity in scientific research”: Schwartz, M. A. (2008). The importance of stupidity in scientific research. Journal of Cell Science, 121, 1771. Available at
    A one page article about the necessity of feeling stupid while doing research. Should be required reading by every PhD student just to get the “but I did study it, why don’t I know the answer in advance” out of one’s mind.
  • Patterson’s “Your Students Are Your Legacy”: Patterson, D. A. (2009). Your Students Are Your Legacy. Communications of the ACM, 32(3), 30-33. doi:10.1145/1467247.1467259
    A brilliant argument for good advisory — and what makes good advisory. Should be required reading for everyone who advises students.
  • Schmidt & Richter’s Artikel von 2008 und 2009: Schmidt, B., & Richter, A. (2008). Unterstützender Mentor oder abwesender Aufgabenverteiler? – Eine qualitative Interviewstudie zum Führungshandeln von Professorinnen und Professoren aus der Sicht von Promovierenden. Beiträge zur Hochschulforschung, 30(4), 34-58. und Schmidt, B., & Richter, A. (2009). Zwischen Laissez-Faire, Autokratie und Kooperation: Führungsstile von Professorinnen und Professoren. Beiträge zur Hochschulforschung, 31(4), 8-35.
    Both articles are in German but they are very interesting — more information on them in a posting about them.

Finding a Topic and Planning the Research

  • Perry’s Criteria for a good dissertation topic: Perry, C. (1998). A structured approach to presenting theses. Available online at
    An excellent text about doing a thesis with some very good points on selecting the right topic.
  • Booth, Colomb, & Williams’ “The Craft of Research”: Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (2003). The Craft of Research. (Second Edition). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
    More on the basics of what research is and how to do it — applicable for many domains.
  • Ullman’s “Advising Students for Success”: Ullman, J. D. (2009). Advising Students for Success. Communications of the ACM, 52(3), 34-37.
    Another great text about advisory — with more focus on choosing a relevant topic.

Managing Literature

  • Reference Manger Overview:
  • citavi:
    A very interesting reference manager, because it offers more than a database for storing reference information. It offers a way to organize knowledge taken from the articles, which is something few reference manager do. Very interesting!
  • Sente:
    A reference manger that offers intelligent note taking capabilities. More in this posting.
  • Zotero:
    An interesting reference manager because it works in the browser. But there is still the problem of storing more than just the articles.
  • Mendeley: [Update: Until it becomes clear how Elsevier treats Mendeley, I no longer recommend using Mendeley (currently looking for another solution).]
    Interesting because it is also a social network. You can get information what people who read similar articles have read. Very interesting and the way of the future.

Capturing and Managing Ideas and Data

Preparing Studies and Analyzing the Data

  • Field’s “Discovering Statistics Using SPSS”: Field, A. (2005). Discovering Statistics Using SPSS (2nd Edition). London: Sage.
    My statistics book was the Bortz (German book) — which was … not that suited to learn what statistics is about and why it is interesting and useful. Field manages to do both en passant — a very well written book and highly recommended.
  • Pallant’s “SPSS Survival Manual”: Pallant, J. (2007). SPSS Survival Manual. McGraw-Hill, Open University Press.
    Everything you need to know to do the standard tests in statistics for psychologists. Looks cheap but is the best practical handbook I know. Very, very useful.
  • Goodwin’s “Research in Psychology”: Goodwin, C. J. (2009). Research in Psychology. Methods and Design. New York: Wiley.
    Good basic text about research.
  • Wright’s “Making friends with your data”: Wright, D. B. (2003). Making friends with your data: Improving how statistics are conducted and reported. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 73, 123-136.
    Something every researcher should know — very interesting text.
  • example for a “strange” but very valuable source: Froman, R. D. (2001). Elements to Consider in Planning the Use of Factor Analysis. Southern Online Journal of Nursing Research, 2(5). Retrieved from


  • Silvia’s “How to Write a Lot”: Silvia, P. J. (2007). How to Write a Lot. Washington D.C.: APA.
    Read this to avoid delaying your writing. A brilliant text that smashes the typical excuses of why not to write and gives very useful hints to write.
  • Alley’s “The Craft of Scientific Writing”: Alley, M. (1996). The Craft of Scientific Writing (3rd Edition). New York: Springer.
    The best text I know of regarding the criteria for scientific writing and a very convincing text that technical writing (e.g., all research papers) is craft, not art, i.e., you need to get your facts straight, not divine inspiration.
  • Bem’s “Writing the Empirical Journal Article”: Bem, D. J. (1987). Writing the empirical journal article. In M. P. Zanna & J. M. Darley (Eds.), The compleat academic: A practical guide for the beginning social scientist (pp. 171-201). New York: Random House.
    Can be found online in a different version (which I did read). The standard text for psychologists working in research.
  • Yaffe’s “How to Generate Reader Interest in What You Write”: Yaffe, P. (2009). How to Generate Reader Interest in What You Write. ACM Ubiquity, 10(7).
    An interesting text to capture the reader.
  • Lamott’s “bird by bird”: Lamott, A. (1994). bird by bird. New York: Anchor Books.
    A very good book about (fictional) writing, but with helpful hints for academic/technical writing as well — esp. to write a “shitty first draft”, you can always improve it later.
  • Academic Phrasebank:
    If reading articles does not give you the necessary vocabulary or you struggle with the right phrases, this site will help.


  • Trafimow & Rice: Trafimow, D., & Rice, S. (2009). What If Social Scientists Had Reviewed Great Scientific Works of the Past? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(1), 65-78. DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01107.x
    A brilliant article about how tough and irrational the peer review process is in the social sciences. More in this posting or look directly in the article — very humorous and highly recommended.


  • Reynolds’ “Presentation Zen” & “The naked presenter”: Reynolds, G. (2008). Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. Berkeley, CA: New Riders. and Reynolds, G. (2011). The naked presenter. Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
    Brilliant books to avoid death by PowerPoint.
  • TED talks:
    Great for inspiration — many of the speakers can convey not only their message/the facts but also why they love this topic.

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