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Information for current awareness

Getting started...

There are a few major types of current awareness services:

  • Saved search alerts - do a database search, and be notified whenever new papers matching your search terms are published
  • Journal alerts - be notified when a new issue of a relevant journal is released
  • Book alerts - be notified of new books in your field
  • Citation alerts - be notified when a relevant paper is cited

RSS symbol

How you set up the alerts will vary depending on the database or web site which provides the alerting service. Keep your eye out for the RSS symbol (pictured right) or the word 'alert'. To receive email alerts you will often be asked to create a free account.

If you do not already use an RSS reader, refer to the Choosing an RSS reader box below.


Many databases allow you to set Saved Search Alerts. This means that any time a new article is added that matches your search criteria you will automatically by updated via email or RSS. You can also be notified of any new publications by a particular author whose work you are following. 

To create a saved search alert:

  1. Create your search query in your chosen database
  2. Look for the saved search options to save your search. The process of setting up saved search alerts differs between databases. In most cases you just need to look for the RSS logo or the email alerts options. The options for the major databases are here:





To be notified when a new issue of a relevant journal is released, follow these steps:

  • Google the journal name and go to the journal homepage
  • Look for the RSS symbol or the word 'alert'
  • If you can't see alerts on the journal homepage, look up the journal in the A-Z Journal List and see which databases contain that journal. The database may provide an alerting service that you can use.

Here are two services which can alert you to new books which match your search terms:

Google Alerts

  • Enter your search query
  • For 'Result type' select 'Books'
  • Select your preferences, then click 'Create Alert'


  • Enter your search terms
  • Look for the RSS symbol at the bottom of the screen

Library Search

If you refine your results to resource type books, you can save a search that will send you alerts for new books in the Library's collection that match your search criteria.

You can use citation alerts to be notified when a relevant paper is cited. Most academic databases do not have the ability to do citation alerts. These are the 3 major ones which do:


  • Search for the paper you are interested in
  • Click the title
  • Look for the links on the right for email alerts and RSS:

Web of Science:

  • Search for the paper you are interested in
  • Click the title
  • Look for the Create Citation Alert button:

Google Scholar:

  • Search for the paper you are interested in
  • Click the 'Cited by' link under the summary:

  • Click the Create alert button in the filter options on the left hand side:

Choosing an RSS reader

If you are not already using an RSS reader, the following options may suit your needs: 

Read this article on Life Hacker to find out which RSS reader might be right for you. 

Alternatively, if you are using Microsoft Outlook as your email service you can set up RSS feeds within Outlook. The RSS reader will appear underneath the email folders. To add an RSS feed, right click on Add a New RSS Feed: 

Searching the literature