When I was in my third year of PhD, I was quite lost. I was investigating a linguistic phenomenon that had been treated from the time of the Greek grammarians and philosophers onwards, through the Roman and the Middle Ages, to the present day. I was literally overwhelmed by the literature I had read, in at least 5 different languages. My doctorate risked losing focus, because the stimuli I had tracked down in my readings, over such a long period of time and across different disciplines, were so many. It was then that a friend – to whom I am still grateful – gave me a wise advice that I want to share with you now. He told me: "Your doctorate must be a blade of grass that you grow into a baobab." In other words, what he suggested was to focus on a specific point of interest and to know everything about it. He didn’t mean I was not supposed to know all the rest – the context, the “story” of the concept, the various interpretations it had received in the various disciplines that had dealt with it, but that I was supposed to “make a choice”. What would I be the expert of? You may wonder why I am recalling this story in this lesson, which is dedicated to the state of the art of a scientific paper. The reason is that I think… you should do the same. Let us see how. Imagine you are writing a paper about digital storytelling at school, more specifically about an educational experience with collaborative digital storytelling in a pre-school class where all the students create, together, an interactive digital story. Look at how many key-words you have. Digital storytelling is the main one, of course. Then there is the educational context: digital storytelling at school. Then, there is the “collaboration” thing: kids are actually working together to create the story. Then there is “interactive”: it’s not a linear video, it’s an interactive story they are creating, where the user can select what she wants to see. There is also a hidden additional key word: multimedia. Since digital stories are made of videos, images, audio, text… What kind of state of the art will you make, then? Not easy to tell. Let us start with the broad option. Showing you know the field. So you start with digital storytelling in general (quoting the proper authors). You then focus on digital storytelling for education, of course. Then on digital storytelling at school. Then at pre-school. Then you have to consider the implementation of the experience, so you discuss digital storytelling as performed by individuals. Then digital storytelling by groups, then by groups of students, then by groups of “heterogeneous” students or homogeneous students (in terms of performances). You then may want to move to the human-computer interaction field and discuss the features of interactive applications. You may want to specifically discuss about the different impact videos with respect to slideshows have, in education. You may think you are done, you are not. The educational benefits need to be discussed as well, and put into relation with different educational paradigms. You will talk about constructivism, at the very least. And eventually, you have to go through the literature that discusses the benefits digital storytelling can generate. Ok, let’s stop. Do you get it? You just can’t do this. So what can we do? Number one, we have to ask ourselves what the purpose of our paper is. Sometimes, the same experiment, the same experience, can give vent to different research questions. The research question we choose is going to be our “lighthouse” all across the paper. So, let us imagine we want to discuss the educational benefits related to self-expression digital storytelling can generate. The context is: at school and with kids of a very young age, organized into groups. With this goal in mind, we will stick to the literature that is as close as possible to this specific topic. We will show in the background, so to speak, that we are also familiar with the broader picture. For example, we can quote the most relevant study on digital storytelling in general, or a couple of studies on educational benefits by digital storytelling in education, more in general. But we won’t be bound to quoting the whole corpus of human knowledge on the subject and all its facets. We will show, instead, that on the topic of “Educational benefits related to self-expression that digital storytelling can generate, at school and with kids of a very young age, organized into groups” we know everything. Remember the blade of grass and the baobab. I want to finish up this lesson with two practical advices. Advice number 1: when you investigate the state of the art of a new field, start from repositories like Google Scholar, or ACM digital library or IEEE digital libraries… looking for quite recent papers on the topic you are interested in. Read the state of the art section of 3-4 recent papers. If they come from authoritative venues, they should be well done. And therefore you should be able to identify the authors that are points of reference in the field, since they will be quoted by most. This can be a good starting point. In addition, of course, check in the same repositories what the most cited papers on your topic are. Advice number 2: when you aim at publishing at a conference or journal you are not familiar with, make sure you explore thoroughly that venue, with regard to your topic. Check if there is anything that has been published before close to what you are doing by searching the proceedings of previous years. You don’t want to get into a new friend’s house by throwing the door down, but gently knocking at the door, right? So do the same when trying to be accepted by a new community.