How to find a "classic" or "watershed" paper

Here are some suggestions on finding "watershed" or classic papers for your presentation:

- Check the list of Surgical Milestone Papers on to see if it includes your topic.  The times an article has been cited is noted when available.  Citation indexing became available with the publication of Science Citation Index in 1964.  A number of these articles are too early to be included in the SCI database that goes back to 1900 and some of the journals are not indexed in SCI.

- Look at relevant sections of the text Surgery: Basic Science and Clinical Evidence - online and on reserve at Call# WO 100 S9613 2008. This book is a gold mine. Each chapter gives a summary of the history of surgery for a particular indication including historical vignettes, and an excellent bibliography!

- Other books:

Sabiston's Textbook of Surgery (online) Find the chapter on your topic; some include a brief section on history, look especially at the Selected References at the end of each chapter. As a bonus, these are annotated to explain their value and importance to surgery in this field. 

Landmark papers in general surgery (Online) / edited by Graham J. MacKay, Richard G. Molloy, Patrick J. O'Dwyer. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2013.

Great Ideas in the History of Surgery. Countway WO11 Z5q There is a bibliography is on page 548, but you will need to read the related section of text on your topic for background on the significance of entry. Use the Index.

Operations that Made History Countway WO11.1 E470 This slim volume covers only 18 surgical procedures but if your topic is there you will find a very concise bibliographies after each.

Surgical Case Histories from the Past. Countway WO11.1 E47s Each case history describes a case which leads to a surgical breakthrough. If you topic is in here the 3-4 references of your section will be valuable.

Surgical oncology : fundamentals, evidence-based approaches, and new technology Countway QZ 268 S961 2012 - superb for oncology topics includes list of "landmark papers" and tables of evidence.

- You can consult other authoritative textbooks on your topic and look at the references to the most relevant chapter. If the authors have done a good job writing the background section of the chapter they should reference the "watershed" papers. Try searching the HOLLIS catalog and/or ask a librarian for help identifying books. It's good to give the "big names" (Schwartz or Sabiston), but also think about texts on the specific topic. For example, Principles and practice of surgical oncology : multidisciplinary approach to difficult problems. OR 50 Studies Every Plastic Surgeon Should Know. 

- Search in Science Citation Index (aka Web of Science) which allows you to search on a topic and then rank articles by the most cited. Be sure to search multiple synonyms since this database has no indexing. It is computer generated so the keywords the author used are what is found. For example if you topic is gastric cancer, I would suggest entering "gastric cancer" OR "stomach neoplasms" OR "stomach cancer" OR "gastric neoplasms" as a start. Be sure to put the phrases in quotes so it will be searched as a unit and to change the field searched to topic. 

When you have the search results, on the right hand side of the screen change the "Sort by" option to "Times Cited" on the drop down menu. This will bring the most cited studies to the top of the list.

- Search HOLLIS for works that end with "collected works" OR look for "classic papers" in the title. You might search for "gastrointestinal surgery-collected works to find collections of papers.

Stuck? Not finding what you need? Ask a Librarian for help!

Tips for Specific Presentation Topics

In addition to the broad strategies listed above, here are some suggested sources to consult in your search for classic papers for your presentations. Definitely try the broad strategies in addition to looking at these titles. The suggestions are not comprehensive but they should give you a good start. Please, if you find other valuable sources, let me know so we can expand these lists.

Using PubMed to Find Historical Stuff

PubMed doesn't have any tools to help you find specific landmark papers, but there are specific tools to help you find historical works:

Use the History subset. You can access this search limit by choosing "Show Additional Filters" from the column to the left of your PubMed results. Choose "Subjects" then at the bottom of the new Subjects box, choose customize. Here you can select History to limit your search to historical articles.

With less fuss, you can just append AND history[sb] to your search. For example

cholecystectomy AND history[sb]

If that returns to much stuff, you can use the history subheading, either on its own or appended to a MeSH term:

cholecystectomy AND history[subheading]


Need more help? Check the PubMed User Guide.