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									Keeping up to date
Current awareness services

Keeping up to date with the latest information to support your research, teaching and studies
can be a daunting prospect in this information intensive age. Fortunately, there are many
current awareness services available to highlight potentially relevant new information.

Active current awareness services use email or RSS feeds to alert you to new print or electronic
resources as they are published, while passive services can be consulted periodically, by
visiting a relevant web page to discover the latest information.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You can subscribe to RSS feeds using a feed
reader, which displays the items in each feed, and provides links to related resources, e.g.,
journal article full-text. The RSS reader may be a web based or a desktop application and
many are available for free download.

Instead of cluttering up your email or having to visit many different websites, RSS allows you to
decide when to review the latest updates by checking your subscribed feeds in your feed

The range of current awareness services includes:
• journal table of contents alerting
• updating bibliographic database searches
• citation alerts
• news alerting
• blogs
• new publications
• monitoring web page changes
• discussion lists and newsgroups

Journal table of contents services
Traditionally researchers have kept up to date by regularly browsing the latest issues of relevant
journals. This manual process can be a rather hit and miss affair. You may overlook a
particular issue, and certain journals may not be accessible at your local library/workplace.

eToC services are designed to take the unreliability out of this process. The electronic tables of
contents of all the key journals in your field can be delivered to your desktop by email or RSS
feed as each new issue is published. Very often linkage is provided to the electronic full text of
the article. If not, you can visit the Library (if available) to read the print version, or request an
inter-library loan.

ZETOC Alert is a service, free to UK academic institutions, which enables users to set up
personal email or RSS alerting for their choice of journal titles. Access to ZETOC Alert is via
Athens username and password. ZETOC records provide linkage to electronic full text where
this is available.

The ZETOC database contains the bibliographic records from the British Library’s Table of
Contents database, which comprises details of approximately 20,000 current journals. It is
therefore a very useful one-stop-shop for eToC alerts. However, in some cases you may get a
faster eToC service direct from the ejournal publisher.
Publishers’ eToC services
Many ejournal publishers, including ScienceDirect, Ingenta, Emerald, OVID, etc. offer eToC
services. You generally have to register with each service to set these up, but they will usually
provide a faster service and more direct links to full text or abstracts.

Updating database searches
Searching the literature using bibliographic databases can produce a more systematic and
comprehensive overview of developments in your field than simple browsing. However the
search results can only be as up to date as the day the search was performed. By saving well-
developed search strategies and re-running them periodically in one or more databases, you
can keep up to date. Many database services enable you to save your search, either locally or
on the remote server, so that you can re-run it later.

Some database services (including Web of Science, OVID and PubMed) go one step further
and allow you to set up auto-alerts. You will then automatically receive an email or RSS feed
giving you the newest search results whenever the database is updated. You generally have to
register with the database for these personalisation features, however there is a quick and easy
way of setting up an RSS feed in PubMed – simply Send to – ‘RSS feed.’

Citation alerts
Citation alerts can be set up from individual ejournals or the Citation Indexes in the Web of
Science, and will alert you when new publications cite a particular article.

News alerting
A number of internet news services will email you with links to online news items. You can also
subscribe to RSS news feeds.

Blogs, or web logs, are becoming increasingly popular ways of communicating useful, (as well
as sometimes irrelevant or trivial) information. The entries or postings on a blog are displayed
in chronological order and are therefore ideals for keeping up to date. You can find blogs on
academic subjects, for example the prestigious journal Nature has a number of blogs for
different subject areas. Many blogs allow you to set up an RSS feed to alert you to new entries.

New publications
Many book publishers will allow you to set up alerting profiles for the subjects of interest to you.

Monitoring web page changes
A number of services are available which will notify you by email whenever specified web pages
change. You could use this facility with any of the passive current awareness web page
services to remind you to re-visit the pages for the latest information.

Discussion lists and newsgroups
Electronic discussion lists and Usenet newsgroups are both useful forums for the exchange of
ideas between people with similar interests around the globe. Participation in such groups can
be a useful way of keeping up to date.

Discussion lists use email to enable you to participate in peer group communication on specific
topics. You subscribe to a list and receive by email all messages which are sent to that list.
You may send your own contributions or questions. JISCmail administers over 2,300 mailing
lists that you can join or leave at any time. Message archives are maintained and can be
accessed on the web. JISCmail lists are more also available via RSS.

More information can be found on the library web page and help and support are available from
the library staff at:
RCPSG Library
t: +44 (0) 141 221 6072
f: +44 (0) 141 221 1804

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