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Researching the Literature Review: 4. Keep Current

How to guide for researching and managing the literature review.

Topic Search Alerts

Many databases (including Google Scholar) let you save search alerts.  This can be helpful if you are researching a topic and want to know when new research comes out on the topic without having to go search in the database.  Once you set up an alert, it is generated automatically through either email or RSS feed.  Go to your database of choice, enter your search terms, then look for an option to create an alert on the search results page.  You will be walked through the process of setting up an alert.  In most databases, you need an account to save a search alert.

Search alert

Table of Contents Alerts

Many journal websites provide the option to get alerts for the tables of contents (TOCs) of their newest issue.  This can be useful for keeping up more broadly in your field (a great strategy for prelims or comps).  Look up a journal in your field.  Most journal websites contain a link called something like alerts, Table of Contents, or RSS feeds.  If you sign up for alerts to journals the library subscribes to, you should also be able to open the full-text of articles that you are interested in.  However, you (and the library) don't have to subscribe to a journal to receive table of contents alerts.

Journal TOC Alert

Alert Ideas

Not only can alerts be used for topics and journal table of contents, you can also get alerts for:

  • specific authors (useful for tracking important researchers in your field)
  • citations (useful for tracking when someone cites either an article you write or an important article in your field - see how in Google Scholar)

JournalTOCs

JournalTOCs is a free service that helps you find many journal table of contents all in one place. Other features include:

  • Search by subject to find major journals in a discipline.
  • Receive email or RSS notifications when a new table of contents is available for a journal of interest. 
  • Set up email or RSS feeds for several journals at one time.
  • Use JournalTOCs as a large, free, database to find articles by keyword searching.

screenshot of JournalTOCs

RSS Recommendations

You can get many alerts through RSS feeds.  Never heard of RSS feeds?  RSS  is a format for delivering regularly changing web content, like news-related sites, blogs, article databases and journals. To use RSS feeds, you will need a piece of software known as an RSS reader. Here is a list of commonly used RSS readers to get you started.

To Do - Set Up an Alert

1. Go to your preferred subject database.  Search for a topic of interest to you.  Look for an alert option and set up an alert for your search.

2. Use JournalTOCs to find a journal in your discipline.  Set up an alert for the table of contents.