Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

With this being a potentially subjective question I know I'm threading on thin ice, but this is an actual "physics" problem I face from time to time:

The situation is this: I hear about some phenomenon. For the sake of definiteness, let's say it is the Jahn-Teller-Theorem. I'd then like to find a good source that has a graduate level introduction to this phenomenon. The problem is that all Google turns up is either a very simplified explanation of the thing at hand (think Wikipedia), or a research level text that assumes its readers already have a perfect understanding of what the thing is. And original papers often do not provide such a clear answer (Legend has it that Born and Oppenheimer's paper on the adiabatic approximation is quite inaccessible and the relevant thing, the BO-Expansion, appears hidden somewhere in the appendix...).

I believe that I am not alone with this problem and I wonder if there is a straightforward approach to finding good introductory (but NOT superficial) texts on a given phenomenon.

share|cite|improve this question
I think this may be too general - or if not, the answer would be "ask here" ;-) Basically I think it'd be a better question if you just ask for the specific reference (about the Jahn-Teller theorem) that you're looking for. – David Z Mar 28 '11 at 17:58
Agree with @David. There is no universal solution to this. You just search using any tool you can think of. And this site should be pretty good a tool too, if you are able to formulate clearly what you are looking for. – Marek Mar 28 '11 at 18:03
That's what I feared :D. Which means that self-study is pretty darn hard if you're searching for information on topics that aren't that in the focus of popular interest. Which encompasses a lot of solid-state physics. – Lagerbaer Mar 28 '11 at 18:06
It would be nice if there were a physics specific high (graduate) level version of wikipedia. – MBN Mar 28 '11 at 18:13
Agreed. A way to set this up would be if professors would give it as assignments to do a literature research on a phenomenon and then write such an article about it. – Lagerbaer Mar 28 '11 at 18:19
up vote 12 down vote accepted

If I'm trying to learn about, say, geometric phases, what I tend to do is fire up and search for

"geometric phases" review


"geometric phases" resource letter

That usually does the trick. And I tried this for { "jahn-teller" review } and I found an AJP article titled "The Jahn–Teller effect: An introduction and current review". I presume that's the kind of thing you're looking for?

Of course, the broader your search topic, the more likely you are to find a good review or resource letter.

share|cite|improve this answer
Good. If one has access to Web of Science or some other citation index, do the same: narrow the selection to review articles. – Peter Morgan Mar 28 '11 at 18:39
This is what I was looking for. I didn't know about resource letters. Good hint. – Lagerbaer Mar 28 '11 at 18:51
Well, searching directly using google (with the same terms) works a lot better for me (at least on the few topics I tried). – Marek Mar 29 '11 at 8:55

As already said, there is probably no universal answer. Probably best and most obvious options are:

-asking here :)

-searching directly in Google Books. You will probably find both introductory, but still advanced texts, and very technical ones.

-checking references. This is obvious, but it is usually worthy to a) find any advanced paper on the subject b) look up all the papers mentioned in the introduction.

By the way: google has lauched beta of 'Google scholar', which allows to search papers by key-words, citations etc

share|cite|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.