First you type the field into an academic search engine such as Google Scholar. Then you read through the top results, and their references. With time and patience, you build a mental model of the field.

There are several drawbacks to this approach: it is very cumbersome and time-consuming, and you might still oversee an important source. Peter Kraker from the Know-Center in Graz has taken on the challenge to overcome these problems.

In collaboration with industry partner Mendeley, he has developed the application “Head Start”. “Head Start” is intended to facilitate and improve the process of literature search. The application presents you with the main areas in an academic field, and lets you zoom into the most important publications within each area. Most importantly, the overview is generated automatically from Mendeley’s social reference management system. Readership co-occurrence is used as a measure of subject similarity. “You can compare that to two books that are rented together from the library. The more often this happens, the more likely it is that they are of the same subject”, explains Peter Kraker. The publications are then grouped into areas according to their subject similarity.


“Head Start” is now available at the Mendeley Labs: Currently, an overview of Educational Technology is provided. The fields of Information Science and Artifical Intelligence are being prepared.

For more information, please contact Peter Kraker at