How do I do a literature search of the research literature on cryptography? Assume there's some topic in cryptography I'd like to learn more about; how do I search the cryptographic research literature to find research papers that might be relevant? What's the best process to use for finding relevant research?
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It depends on whether you're in university or not. If you are and your school has the for-pay journals, start by searching them for the topic. Also try 'eprint.iacr.org' and google scholar.
To find the most important or seminal papers in a topic you should look at the number of people that have cited it. This is an imperfect but useful heuristic for culling a large number of papers down to a few gems.
And don't overlook Wikipedia. If the topic has a well-fleshed-out article, the citations will be a useful starting point.
EDIT: And don't be afraid to send out a few emails. Professors work really hard on their research and they love talking about it! For example, I recently needed to learn more about order-preserving encryption. I emailed Adam O'Neill, a recently minted PhD who published several important papers on the topic. He was extremely helpful and pointed me in the direction of his and his colleagues' work that I might not have found otherwise.
Here is how you do a literature search, to find relevant research papers in the literature:
The result of this should be a (possibly large) set of relevant papers. Now go read all of those papers, to understand what they are doing.
Once you have some research papers that look like they might be relevant, here is how you read go about reading them: