For studying advanced topics, what's the better and nearer to complete approach? Can books cover what's in research papers, journals or those ACM transactions, or Springer's LNCS? Or reading research papers is indispensable for getting advanced? If we can't depend on books for information, how can a learner know of what he is missing in a specific topic, since research papers cover a specific (very specific) topic which cannot be found in a collected manner of the whole topic as books do. Is there a place (may be wikipedia) which could help finding the way through a topic? Rephrasing my question, do research papers offer new information which may not be found in books or are they clever applications of the information found in books?

closed as primarily opinion-based by user22815, gnat, Ixrec, user40980, durron597 Apr 26 '15 at 22:55

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Most research is going to be dependent on other research, but should offer something more or at least help in confirming an existing belief. I would expect to learn something new that wouldn't be found in other books. Otherwise, what's the point?

Books tend to pull lots of information into a single location. I would expect them to utilize the existing research and not the other way around.

  • Will the information in the research be found later in books if it was that valuable or should I keep searching and reading all the research found (which is impossible)? – Amir Nasr Dec 24 '11 at 19:10

I'm a CS researcher myself. The best way to leverage research papers is to find the most recent publication on your desired topic and then look at the related work section to see previous research in the area. If you find that some papers are referenced very often, then it's probably a canonical work that you should read. Google Scholar also helps here because it will track how many other papers cite a particular paper.

Another resource is ACM Computing Surveys, where each article has a complete survey of a given field. Extremely handy for academic research.

Communications of the ACM and IEEE Computer are general-audience monthly magazines with research topics written by laymen, and the related work section of each article is usually very good.

If you can find a really good, recent book on a given topic, that would be preferrable because the whole book is written by one author (or just a few co-authors), so the writing style is presumably more uniform. Books are presumably written more for laymen and are better to understand.

  • Thanks for mentioning Google scholar, but the other part of the question is whether books can contain what's in the research even if later? or is it owned by the research except in exceptional researches? Can wikipedia help in getting the collected references about a specific topic whether from books or researches? – Amir Nasr Dec 25 '11 at 9:59
  • I'd also recommend IEEE Software as regular magazine about research topics, geared toward software practitioners. IEEE Computer reaches across computing, including hardware, scientific computing, networking, and so on, while IEEE Software focuses exclusively on software development and topics of interest to software developers across any industry. Both are very good, however, and I subscribe and regularly read both. I then follow up with the cited works contained in articles I'm interested in. – Thomas Owens Dec 25 '11 at 12:01
  • @AmirNasr: Certainly books can cite and paraphrase material from earlier research papers. Any graduate-level textbook will typically contain dozens or hundreds of references to papers. Regarding Wikipedia, I have not found it to be as comprehensive for specific topics as a dedicated books. The most technical and single-topic-specific books are from Springer, as those books seem to be generally written by PhD-educated professors or researchers. – stackoverflowuser2010 Dec 25 '11 at 20:57
  • I meant wikipedia not as a source but as a place to find sources collected in topics and know what should be known about a topic. – Amir Nasr Dec 25 '11 at 21:24
  • It varies tremendously by topic. Some Wikipedia articles are exhaustive, while others are not. Just dive in and start reading. And then once you've become one of the world's leading experts in your field, go back and edit the Wikipedia article with references to help others out. – stackoverflowuser2010 Dec 25 '11 at 21:47

Books, or what is is often referred to as the "dead tree edition" take months to print. In a rapidly advancing field like medicine where knowledge doubles every 18 months (or less), the printed version might well be considered a "history book".

Websites like this one are constantly being updated and often you can get the latest information very quickly from extremely knowledgeable people. Even better, you get a two-way interaction so you can request a better explanation for something you don't fully understand.

Journals come in both on-line and printed versions. Clearly a printed journal lies somewhere between books and current information in terms of timelessness.

As for a "complete" approach? A wise person will utilize all available sources of value, including books and journals.

  • 1
    In medicine "the knowledge doubles every 18 months"? Seriously? – Rook Dec 24 '11 at 16:44
  • Rook: Yup according to Dr. Nick van Terheyden in 2007 (probably faster now). see: speechrecognition.wordpress.com/2007/11/26/… – JonnyBoats Dec 24 '11 at 16:48
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    Given the vast body of knowledge presumably assembled over the years, I find this hard to believe. There's certainly massive growth in knowledge, but why should the growth be quadratic? It would require medicine research to discover as many new diseases, treatments, symptoms and diagnosis as all previous research discovered. Either they're cloning new researchers, or these guys are so smart, they outperform themselves continously. But maybe we all misinterpret the "clinical" part. – user7043 Dec 24 '11 at 16:57
  • @JonnyBoats - An ill-informed statement, if ever there was one. On the internet anyone can be an "expert" I guess. – Rook Dec 24 '11 at 17:04
  • Here is what Ray Kurzwell has to say on The Law of Accelerating Returns kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns – JonnyBoats Dec 24 '11 at 17:23

There are a lot of useless papers, and a lot of great papers. Use the books to learn the fundamentals, and fill in your knowledge where you need to understand papers.

Blog posts, lambda the ultimate, and cstheory.stackexchange are also great resources.

Basically: use everything you can get your hands on that is relevant.

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