Research Tools

The first 500 articles of my #365papers challenge

By Elina Mäntylä


In September 2016 I learned about the #365papers challenge. That means you read one scientific article per day for one year. I decided to start the challenge in the beginning of October 2016. I didn’t want to wait until the start of 2017.

I have over 2000 articles saved as pdf’s in my Articles folder, so finding enough articles was not a problem. I haven’t read properly many of those articles or I’ve read them so long time ago that I’ve forgotten the details. I wanted to have some system for choosing an article each day. I have of course mainly saved articles that relate to my own study topics; ornithology, trophic interactions, insects, bird migration etc. So should I read only one topic for a week or month? Or progress alphabetically? Or start from the oldest ones? Or just pick one in random every day?

I have named the article files as ‘first author’_’publication year’_’journal abbreviation’ (such as Mantyla_2004_EcolLett.pdf). So I decided that it is easiest to pick articles by their publication year. In October 2016 I read articles published in 2012, in November 2016 articles published in 2011, in December 2016 articles published in 2000 or earlier, in January 2017 articles published in 2001 and so on until in February 2018 I read articles published in 2014.

To add motivation I decided to post every article in Twitter with suitable hashtags and link to the official article webpage. I also posted four summaries of my first year reading #365papers in my own blog.

On 12th February 2018 I reached the goal of 500 articles read and it felt a good point to gather some statistics. A full list of the articles can be found here.




– The 500 articles were published in 115 different journals. The table below shows the most common ones. The top journals quite clearly show that I’m an ecologist.

– The general topics of the articles mirror my research interests: 276 about herbivory, 247 about ornithology, 212 about plant chemistry, 78 about herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs), 49 about tritrophic interactions between predators, herbivores and plants, 40 about avian vision, 30 about bird migration and 24 about avian olfaction.







– The 500 articles had 416 different first authors. I had read more than one article from 53 first authors. The top list of those has quite many of my colleagues and coauthors, which is not surprising.

– There were in total 142 female first authors among the 416 different first authors. That was a positive surprise.

– As I’m Finnish I have plenty of colleagues from Finland and I’m also generally interested in research done in Finland. So, 117 of the 500 articles had a Finnish first author (and 80 of the 416 different first authors).




I have liked this #365papers challenge and will continue doing it. Maybe not daily during field work seasons but as often as I can. I think all this regular reading has made me a better scientist. Especially I’ve noticed that now it’s easier to review manuscripts (and maybe my reviews are now of better quality?). Possibly in 1.5 years from now I will write a blog post of the 1000 first articles I’ve read in #365papers?

Author biography: My research has been mainly about tritrophic interactions between insectivorous birds, herbivorous insects and plants. This includes vision and olfaction of birds, and plant chemistry. But I have also research of territory choice and migration of birds. I’m now postdoctoral researcher at Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic. Previously I have studied and worked in University of Turku, Finland and Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.

Twitter: @elinamantyla

Image caption/credits:

Fig 1. Titles and authors of some articles of the 500 I’ve read in #365papers so far. (picture prepared by Elina Mäntylä)

Fig 2. List of the most common journals

Fig 3. List of the most common first authors

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