There are two interesting posts from Kerin at Savage Minds. One is about signposting (for and against). The other is about becoming an expert in an area in a short time. Kerim has several interesting tips and pointers. There is one that I usually give my seminar students which is missing in Kerim’s list — I am not even sure that it is relevant for what he is talking about. In any case, for what it is worth, here it is. Find a paper — any paper, in the topic in which you are interested in. Backtrack and front-track references: that is go through all the references in the paper as well as go through all references in the papers that refer to this paper. And keep back and front-tracking from those papers. Within three steps or so, one finds that there are a few papers that everybody refers to in the field. Those are the classics in the field which the seminar student should read first. And then, there are some which are widely referred to. Those are the ones which the student should read next and so on. This method is the easiest one to identify important papers in any area.