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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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7.4 Alerts

Alerts are usually delivered to your email inbox automatically on a regular basis. In some cases, the service you subscribe to generates custom RSS feeds to add to your feed reader. You will have to register with the database or service to receive alerts. We will take a brief look at five of these here:

  • Database search alerts. Once you have developed and run an effective search using a database, you may want to save it. Once a search history has been created, you can manually re-run a search at a later date without having to remember the search terms you used, or you can set it up so that the database re-runs your search regularly and emails you the results – this is known as a ‘search alert’. Most databases have guides which provide advice on using the different functions of the database, so try looking through these to find out whether the database you are using supports saving searches. You will usually need to register with a database in order to save your search. Recall that you set up a search alert as part of Activity 6 using Google Scholar (in STEP 3).
  • Citation alerts. Citation searching is particularly useful because it mimics the way in which researchers use literature, i.e. looking at the references at the end of articles to determine others that may be relevant and useful. Citation searching is a method of searching that relies on entering specific details (e.g. name of a ‘key’ author, journal article or book). It is then possible to retrieve from the database other articles that have the original ‘key’ author, article or book cited in the bibliography. Recall that you explored the ‘cited by’ and ‘related articles’ queries as part of Activity 6, based on the article you selected (in STEP 4). Citation alerts can also be set up in some databases to let you know automatically when someone has cited an article or author you have found particularly useful. By using citation alerts you can build up a picture of important articles and authors in your field.
  • Journal table of contents. To keep-up-to date with the most recently published issues of journals, you can set up ‘Table of Contents alerts’ using the British Library Zetoc [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] or the Journal TOCs services. Alerts can be set up to be emailed to you, or be made available in the form of an RSS feed which you can add to your feed reader.
  • Articles accepted for publication. It is possible to receive the details of some articles which have been accepted for publication, but have not yet been published. To do this you can use the ‘forthcoming titles’ or ‘articles in press’ tools which some journal providers offer. You will usually need to set up an RSS feed using a feed reader to receive information in this way. The key is to make a list of important and authoritative journals in your field of study, look for this functionality and set up an RSS feed if available/provided.
  • Conference Alerts. Conference Alerts brings together conference organisers and academics who need to stay informed about conferences in their field. You can register for a subscriber account and a monthly email will be sent to you about conferences matching your interests.