How to boost your PhD research discovery

Starting a PhD degree is daunting. You’re probably beginning your first full-time job in academia and you have to write numerous papers in a research field you’re not fully familiar with. Day-to-day you’ll spend a lot of time discovering new knowledge, writing literature reviews and publishing papers, which will ultimately form the foundation of your PhD degree. But as a new researcher, it’s often hard to know where to start your research discovery.

At, we’ve spoken with our users about their literature review process. They gave us tips and tricks on how to improve the research discovery, which have helped them find more relevant papers, save time and organize research in visual maps.

Traditional keyword-based literature search is constrained to what you already know as a researcher, and finding the most relevant papers becomes an exercise in pairing the perfect match of words. That isn’t to say that keyword search is outdated, but that it must be coupled with additional powerful research discovery tools. Only then can you be sure you’ve found the most relevant papers.

4 steps to boost research discovery

So here’s a step-by-step guide on how to research like the pros (aka Irisians aka our users).

1. Find a research paper

Head over to our friends at PubMed, and look up an existing research paper or systematic review which covers the topic you want to discover. For example, on the image below I’ve searched for a systematic review for autonomous vehicles.

2. Copy the link

When you have found a paper, copy the URL or DOI of the article.

3. Search in

Go to your account at (available for free), and paste the URL or DOI into Explore. will now look for related articles.

To get a bit techy: builds a fingerprint of your chosen paper based on the most meaning-bearing words in the abstract and contextual synonyms and hypernyms. Then, matches the fingerprint against more than 200 million papers.

(We’re connected to several Open Access databases, including, PubMed and CORE)

4. Explore the visual research map

After a few seconds, you’ll have a map of research papers divided into topics. In the below example, has identified 186 related papers, ready to be discovered.

Click on a topic to see underlying papers, and start reading papers that are relevant to your PhD degree.

The number of papers can be filtered down by narrowing the relevance score or letting read papers for you. But we’ll explore that in another post.

Good luck exploring

Reading a lot of research papers is daunting (and sometimes boring), we know. That’s why we built — to help researchers get an overview of the seemingly unsurpassable mountain of published papers, and seamlessly identify the relevant ones. Good luck exploring!