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Using Maps to Prioritise Your Reading List
Using Maps to Prioritise Your Reading List

You've found some new articles, but where do you start? See how Litmaps' visualizations can be used to analyse article quality and relevant.

Digl Dixon avatar
Written by Digl Dixon
Updated over a week ago

Having a huge set of papers to dive into can be overwhelming. Amongst this stack of papers, it may be hard to figure out where to start or what order to go through them. But, by visualising your papers and sorting them by what matters most to you, you can create an orderly reading list in no time. Here, we’ll show exactly how to do this using the Map visualisation.

Visualising and prioritising papers

You can use Maps to quickly sort and order papers based on a variety of measures, like when they were published and how many citations they have. By visualising your papers, you easily see their connections and relative importance, thus making it obvious which papers to start your reading on.

Let’s set up a map to get started

There are a couple ways to set up a Map. We can either use an existing Litmaps collection, or pull in papers from an external source like a reference manager or list of titles.

To set up a Map from an existing collection:

  1. See the list of collections in the middle of the page

  2. Click “View Map” for the collection of your choice

  3. Click “Save to edit in fullscreen” at the top left

  4. Give your Map a name and click “Done”

If you’d like to upload papers from an external source, like a reference manager, or search for papers manually, then you can do that, too. If you’re still gathering papers, check out our guide on how to use Litmaps Discover to quickly create your own reading list for a new topic.

To set up a Map with any papers you’d like to pull in:

  1. Click “New Map”

  2. Click “Add Articles” at the top of the page

    1. Add your articles from Litmaps collections, reference managers, searches, etc. See our guide here for detailed instructions on how to add articles.

  3. Save your Map

    1. Press Save at the top, and give your Map a name

Use your map to prioritise your reading list

You can quickly distinguish papers of interest by spotting where they show up on the map. By default, papers are visualised along the x-axis according to their publication date, and along the y-axis by the number of papers their cited by. So, papers towards the top right of the visualisation will be the most recent ones with the most citations — and are often a great place to start to find recent, impactful work.

Depending on how you’d like to prioritise your reading, you can change the visualisation parameters to help you order papers. Below, we dive into several ways you can change the visualisation to prioritise papers of interest.

Keep in mind, just changing the article size alone is an easy way to distinguish papers based on a particular measure.

If you want to find…

… then change the article size to:

Review papers

Reference #

Articles most central to your research

Map Relevance

Newly published, high-impact papers


To prioritise impactful papers, central to your topic:

Finding the papers most central to your topic is the same as looking for the ones that are most connected to all other papers in your collection. Here’s how to find them, ordered by their impact according to their citations:

  1. Set the x-axis to Momentum; set the time adjustment roughly halfway

  2. Set the y-axis to Map Relevance

  3. Examine papers towards the top right. These are the most inter-connected and with highest impact, adjusted for time.

To prioritise recent and impactful papers:

Recently published papers that are making an impact may be of special relevance if you’re trying to figure out the latest updates in a field. But, it’s also not as easy as just looking at the number of citations. After all, newer publications naturally have fewer citations. That’s why Litmaps has Momentum which adjusts the citation count based on its publication date.

  1. Set x-axis to Date

  2. Set y-axis to Momentum, move the time adjustment towards the right — this will boost more recent papers to the top

  3. Set article size to Cited By #

  4. Go through papers starting at the top right, focusing on the largest dots.

To prioritise review papers:

Review papers includes literature reviews, systematic reviews, umbrella reviews, etc. These papers are a great place to begin your reading with, but finding them isn’t always as simple as looking for papers with a large number of references. Instead, we recommend visualising based on reference count, citation count, and date of release. This way, you can distinguish older from newer review papers, and take into consideration how reputable the review is, based on its number of citations.

  1. Set x-axis to Date

  2. Set y-axis to Cited By #

  3. Set article size to Reference #

  4. Start with the largest articles towards the top. These have many references and citations, and are likely review papers.

Saving papers and curating a reading list

Now that you know how to visualise your papers in different ways and go through them, you’ll want to record which ones you’d like to read. One way is to save each paper you’d like to read in a new collection.

To create a new collection for your reading list:

  1. Click on the article in the visualisation

  2. Click the plus, “Add to…”

  3. Click “Add to collection…”

  4. Press “New Collection” and create a new collection for your custom reading list

Then, to view your new reading list:

  1. Click “Your Library” in the sidebar

  2. Select the collection you’ve made

  3. View all the papers you’d like to read here as a list

  4. Optionally, you can download them as a .bib file

    1. Select all papers

    2. Click on the Export icon at the top right

    3. Click “Download”

For more details on all the different axes and scaling options, see our user manual here. If you’d like to learn more about using maps to prioritise your reading list, watch our in-depth video tutorial here.

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