Literature search on IDEAS: a tutorial

March 23, 2017

RePEc is foremost a initiative to enhance the dissemination of economics research. IDEAS is one of several RePEc services that make the RePEc bibliographic database available to anybody. This tutorial demonstrates how IDEAS can be leveraged to perform powerful literature searches.

Search

A good starting point can be to do a search for some keyword. A search on IDEAS can be much more useful that a search on a more general tool as IDEAS is dedicated to economics, thus results should not be “polluted” by results from other fields or that are not research. Say you are interested in some economic aspect of elephants (an example actually requested in a live demonstration). Then search for “elephant” is sufficient to give you all the economic literature on the pachyderms. There is a search form on every IDEAS page in the top right corner, and there is also a dedicated page with advanced options.

At the time of this writing, a search for “elephant” yields 298 results. For the following, we will use as an example one search results that caught our eye: Downward sloping demand for environmental amenities and international compensation: elephant conservation and strategic culling, a working paper.

Browse

Another way to find a starting point for your literature search is to browse by topic. For this, we have the JEL Classification from the Journal of Economic Literature. While by far not every item in RePEc has a JEL code, this again can be a useful starting point. This may require quite a bit of exploration for the newcomer, as one may have to navigate several branches until one finds the right topic. Or there may not be a close fit. For example, the economics of elephants does not have its own code in the JEL classification, it is somewhere in code Q.

Often, if you start with a reference paper, the associated JEL code can help you. On IDEAS, you find it in the “related research” tab. There is none for our elephant paper, but here is an example for another paper (as for all images, clicking on it will show your a larger view):

Another way to browse is to look at the publication profiles of the authors of the studies you have found. Often, at least one author is registered with RePEc and has assembled all their works into their profile. There may be other relevant items there.

References

RePEc tries whenever possible to extract the references in the indexed works and then tries to link those references with the holdings in RePEc. This process is fraught with stumbling blocks, but it worked in our example, as can be seen below. References typically contain the most relevant literature that preceded the work that is considered. These works are likely to be important. And as you browse or follow the references, you will start noticing that the the same works keep appearing. These should most likely be part of your final list.

Citations

As we have references, we can also do links the other way: where has this work been cited? This provides you with the literature that follows the work that is considered. And indeed, our example has been cited elsewhere. You can then explore these works, what references they have and what their authors have also written.

Find other versions

Sometimes, you cannot access a particular work because the publisher requires a subscription. However, there may be a previous version available that is in open access. In such cases, IDEAS will tell you with a red message that you can find a link in the “related works section” as in the example below. The links also work the other way: while looking at an open access version, it allows you to find where it was ultimately published. In some cases, it even allows you to find associated data or computer code.

Keeping current

If you want to continue to follow the literature you are interested in, there are several options available to you. See this blog post to learn about them. One of them it to use MyIDEAS, which can also be useful when you are doing your literature search, as is allows you to save items into folders as you work on IDEAS and then export the bibliographic references in various formats.


RePEc in February 2017

March 8, 2017

New this month: The IDEAS help page is being reworked, with upgraded FAQs. We have also started a recruitment campaign for RePEc Biblio editors. New functionalities have also been added for those editors. We have welcomed the following newly participating archives: Harvard University (V), Lima School of Economics, Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode, Institute of Development Studies (UK), Center for Economic Analyses (Macedonia), Sosyoekonomi Society, University of Greenwich, Universidad Michoana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (III), quite a list. We have counted 522,288 file downloads and 2,010,318 abstract views. And we have reached the following milestones:

1,000,000 paper announcements through NEP
900,000 cited items
25,000 book abstracts


How RePEc is making research available to everyone

February 23, 2017

Much of research in economics is funded directly or indirectly by public funds, so it stands to reason that the public should be able to access it. The public being other economists, political or economic decision makers, and the public at large. Unfortunately, there are roadblocks in considering or accessing this research. One recent impediment is a new tendency by decision makers to look less at advice from experts and the literature they have contributed to. A longer standing one is that a significant amount of research is gated behind paywalls. In this post, we want to illustrate how RePEc can help overcome these issues by giving a chance to everyone to read up on the economic literature

Accessing the literature

In many cases, freely accessible pre-prints are available as an alternative to the pay-walled articles. These working papers may not be the latest version, but they already give a very good idea of the final, published version. And many are in fact more complete than the journal articles, which have often been cut for space constraints. We have also noticed that the more an article is cites, the more likely it is available as a working paper.

On RePEc sites, we provide links between articles and their working paper versions (as long as at least one author is registered, has claimed all versions as theirs, and the titles are sufficiently similar. Misses can be rectified with this form). Users have clearly recognized this, as working papers are downloaded seven times more frequently, even after controlling for the notification services below.

Staying current

Working papers have another advantage: they are available much earlier than their published articles. This is why RePEc has emphasized working papers in its notification services. Most notably, NEP allows users to subscribe to alerts about new working papers in almost 100 fields thorough email, RSS feeds or Twitter. This is, as everything on RePEc, free and accessible to everyone. Other useful tools, which also include other types of publications, are MyIDEAS and the ‘date modified’ option at EconPapers search.

Finding the right literature

With over two million works indexed, the amount of material available in RePEc may be overwhelming, especially to non-specialists. Both EconPapers and IDEAS try to make it easier by making the RePEc bibliographic database accessible in different ways: search, browsing, keywords, JEL classification, links to references, citations and author profiles. We are working on tutorials that should make it easier for the unexperienced user to unleash the full potential of the sites.

In addition, there is the RePEc Biblio, in which editors curate lists of the most relevant papers in their field. At the time of this writing, 115 topics are covered, and the site is expanding. This site should become helpful to get introduced in a topic and quickly find answers, even for non-specialists. As the site is organized as a tree with increasingly narrow topics, concrete answers for interested users will eventually be available.

You can help, too!

You can help by making more research easily accessible. There are two main ways: first, by making the working papers from your institution available on RePEc, following these instructions. Second, if the first option is not working out, upload your working papers at MPRA.

You can also contribute to the RePEc Biblio by taking care of topics in your area of expertise, either by assembling lists of relevant literature or by asking others to do so for sub-topics.


RePEc in January 2017

February 7, 2017

A very short report this month. RePEc slipped into the new year with a slow start, as only two new archives joined: WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management and Name: CRC TRR 190 (Rationality and Competition). Still, we recorded 591,840 file downloads and 1,848,929 abstract views in January 2017 and reached a few milestones:

1,400,000 indexed articles
400,000 articles with extracted references
4,500 working paper series indexed


Who is the typical RePEc user?

January 17, 2017

This answer is not that easy to answer, as using RePEc services typically does not require any registration. Still, some services use Google Analytics, which provides some elementary statistics about users, but nothing about demographics. Below are some of what we can learn by looking at the Google Analytics for IDEAS for 2016. This may or may not apply to other RePEc services.

First, one can learn a few things from the browser that is used. 53% of users have it set to use US-English, 8% British English, 4% each for Spanish and Chinese, and 3% each for French and German. This language variable, however, does not correlate perfectly with the location. Indeed, only 18% of users are in the United States, the next most frequent countries being the United Kingdom (7%), India (7%), Germany (4%), Italy, France, Canada, China (all 3%), and then with 2% Australia, the Philippines, Kenya, Colombia, Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia. This wide distribution is actually quite encouraging, as the goal of RePEc is to democratize the access to research, and getting “non-traditional” countries to adopt RePEc services this well is a good sign. In particular, Africa represents 9% of the traffic, South Asia 10%, Southeast Asia 7% and South America 6%. And yes, there is traffic from North Korea.

What about browsers? Chrome is the clear winner, at 55%. Next come Firefox (14%), Safari (13%), Internet Explorer (8%), Opera Mini (3%) and Edge (2%). In terms of operating systems, Windows is first at 66% (of which 53% is Windows 7, 27% Windows 10, and 13% on Windows 8.1), then 14% on Macintosh, 10% Android, 6% iOS, and 1% Linux. It is clear from this that desktop use is still predominant (81%), while 16% use a mobile phone and only 3% a tablet.

Where is traffic originating? Most of it comes from search engines (76%), while 15% of traffic is referred from another website. 8% of traffic is direct, meaning from bookmarks or by typing the URL in the browser. 1% is coming from social media.


RePEc in December 2016, and a look back at 2016

January 5, 2017

We have two new features to announce this month: First, our directory of economics institutions, EDIRC got a face lift that includes much better viewing on mobile devices. Second, we have a new ranking for authors, the Euclidian measure of citations, following the article of Perry and Reny. Also, we counted 425,384 file downloads and 2,082,757 abstract views for the RePEc services reporting these statistics. Last month, we welcomed the following new RePEc archives: ERINA, University College Dublin (III), Dickinson College, UNESCAP (II), University College Algebra, Università Bocconi (II), Union of Scientists (Varna). Finally, we reached the following milestones:

10,000,000 matched citations
1,250,000 items in registered author profiles
1,000,000 paper announcements through NEP
900,000 articles with abstracts
800,000 items with extracted references
750,000 indexed working papers
400,000 working papers with extracted references
15,000 links to RePEc items on EconAcademics

As for 2016, what have we achieved? In terms of RePEc services, MyIDEAS received a complete overhaul with new features, CitEc is making a big push to expand the coverage of citation extraction and added an API, and SocioRePEc made available a series of tools for authors. In terms of content, RePEc now indexes 240,000 more items, a growth of 12%, in part thanks to 80 new RePEc archives, 200 new working paper series and 292 new journals, CitEc extracted the references of 140,000 more items, a growth of 20%, and 2,800 more authors are registered with the RePEc Author Service, a growth of 6%. We counted 5,610,593 downloads and 25,928,965 abstract views, an increase over last year which reverses a decline in traffic that lasted several years.

Next year is going to be important for RePEc andwe hope to have more positive news.


RePEc in November 2016

December 3, 2016

The RePEc rankings got a tiny addition, top authors by number of Twitter followers, which immediately received a lot of attention … on Twitter. More importantly, we have a new NEP report, NEP-GEN (Gender Economics). We have welcome the following newly participating RePEc archives: University fo Cape Town, Ministerio de Economía y Finanzas Publicas de Bolivia, Universidad Michoana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (I+II), Historical Household Budgets Project, LAREQ Press. We have counted 560,219 file downloads and 2,223,007 abstract views in November 2016. And finally we have reached the following milestones:

400,000 working papers with extracted references
100,000 monthly downloads through NEP
4,500 listed working paper series