Automate Your Research

How Can You Keep Up?

The number of new academic papers produced in a given year is staggering. For 2006, the total was estimated at 1,350,0001. For 2012, Biological Abstracts alone contains data for over 500,000 papers. How are researchers to keep abreast of developments in their field?


Academic journals and databases offer tools that automatically notify you about new developments. One of the easiest and most popular is signing up to receive a journal's table of contents in your email. Usually, that just involves going to the journal's home page and entering your email address.


Below are some more advanced techniques to customize your information diet.


Search Alerts from a Database

Search alerts let you save a search in a database. The database will automatically email you with new results that match your search. This service is available from most of the Library's databases. It often requires signing up for a free account.

EBSCO Databases

To save a search as an alert that can be automatically run, click the "alert" radio button. The "Save Alert" screen appears. Enter a name and description for the alert and choose options such as frequency—saved searches are run at your selected frequency and the results are sent to your email address.

EBSCO Databases include Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, CINAHL,Communications & Mass Media Complete, ERIC, SocINDEX, SPORTDiscus, and many more.



Google lets you set up search alerts, but the feature is carefully hidden.

Project Muse

Click on "Tools" at the top of the page, then select "Email Alerts." The page will ask for a proxy string. For IC, use:

Proquest Databases

ProQuest offers alerts for specific searches, and for publications. Both options begin with a search. On the search results page, click "Create Alert."

Proquest Databases include ABI/INFORM, Ethnic Newswatch, GenderWatch, MLA International Bibliography, Proquest Research Library, and more.


Run a search and then click on "Save as Search Alert" at the top of the search results page. You will need to set up an account, but this is quick and free.

RSS Feeds

RSS is a technology that allows you to subscribe to "feeds" in order to keep up with news from websites (including blogs) without having to actually visit the website every day or having your inbox cluttered with frequent updates.

In order to subscribe to a feed, you need to use an RSS reader. Feedly is a popular choice, as are The Old Reader and Newsblur. Firefox has a built-in reader ("live bookmarks"). Chrome users may want to install the RSS Subscription Extension to make it easier to subscribe to feeds.

This 2013 article from PC Magazine describes a number of RSS readers, web-based, desktop, and mobile.

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If This Then That is a service that lets you use RSS feeds as a data source for other services. The video below shows you how to use IFTTT to grab new articles on a given topic from a Nature RSS feed and have those automatically appended to a note in Evernote.