Info Tool of the Week: Alerting Services

Do you feel overwhelmed by all the information available in your subject area?  Are you frustrated by never having enough time to scan the journals in your field — or even to know when new issues become available?  Do you wish there was a way to get all this information organized and delivered to your desktop?  Well — there is!

Many journal publishers and journal article database providers provide alerting services for their products.  These services allow you to have the tables of contents (TOC) of each new issue of a journal delivered to your E-mail inbox or RSS feed as soon as it becomes available — sometimes even before the print version of the journal hits the library shelves.  This allows you to keep up with all the journals you read regularly or whose TOCs you want to scan for useful material — all without ever leaving your lab or office.

While it is possible to set up such alerts individually at a publisher’s web site, many researchers are using an alert service that aggregates thousands of titles into a single location.  One such service is called ticTOCs (see http://www.tictocs.ac.uk/ )  This British-based alerting service offers you nearly 13,000 scholarly journals to choose from, along with links to view TOCs at their site or to set up RSS feeds for ones of particular interest, so you’ll always know when a new issue of your favorite journal becomes available.  Check the site link above for more information or come by the Library for a demo or to explore other options.

Another kind of alert you may want to consider is a subject alert.  For this type of alert you would construct a subject search in the online database(s) of your choice, then save it as an alert.  After that, the database provider will automatically run your saved search weekly or monthly and send to you via E-mail or RSS feed any new results that have been posted to the database since your search was last run.  Most of the library’s major databases offer this service — check with a librarian for assistance in constructing and setting up your alerts or if you have questions about subject alerts.

TIP:  You can learn more about alerting services from the Library’s Keeping Up with Current Scholarship subject guide.

TIP: You can set up alerts for books, as well as for journal articles!  VIRGO, the Library’s online catalog, provides a way to set up alerts for authors and subjects that interest you, so that you can be notified when new materials are added to our collections.  Use the “Login to VIRGO” option under “Services”, do a search, then use the options on the left side of the page to set up your alerts.  Ask at any library for assistance or details!

TIP:  Did you know you can set up alerts for web searches, too?  Absolutely!  Web search engines such as Google, Science.gov and Intute all offer some kind of alerting service for searches conducted in their databases.  So now you can keep up with new material in web form as well as published articles!

FINAL TIP:  Even with alerts you can become overwhelmed with information.  One key is to limit your TOC alerts to just those key journals you find consistently most useful.  Then use subect alerts to keep up with everything else — but make sure your subject alerts are precisely crafted to return only the most useful items.  For help constructing searches or using databases effectively, please contact a librarian or come by any UVa library for assistance!

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1 Response to “Info Tool of the Week: Alerting Services”


  1. 1 Fred November 4, 2009 at 4:45 PM

    Readers of this post might also find the following of use:

    10 websites to help you keep up-to-date with scholarly journal contents http://hwlibrary.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/10-websites-to-help-you-keep-up-to-date-with-scholarly-journal-contents/

    From: The Spineless? blog, providing news, views, information and advice on the Library’s resources and services, for all staff and students of Heriot-Watt University.


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