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Research Skills: Keeping Up to Date

A step-by-step approach to ensure that you possess the key skills required to find, retrieve and evaluate information on your research topic.

Managing Your Alerts

An alerting service enables you to keep up to date with the latest research and literature in your field of study. An alerting service saves you time as it eliminates the need to re-do searches regularly. The terminology for alerts varies. They may be called alerts, e-mail updates, create profile, register, my account, auto alert, favourites or RSS feeds. More information about the alerting service is usually given when you click on the term.

Some of your alerts will be required for a short time only, eg. while writing an assignment or conference paper, but others may be required for a much longer time, eg. updating a course you are teaching or research for a post-graduate degree. It is therefore important to know how to delete or edit your alerts, how to keep track of your alerts in a management file and how to unsubscribe from the service. This is particularly pertinent for RSS feeds as they generally fill up your in-box very quickly and prevent any other messages from being sent or received.

RSS Feeds

RSS is technology that allows content or headlines from a blog and other changing web pages eg. news sites, newsletters, journals, podcasts, publishers’ homepages, subject databases, etc, to be viewed in a software application called a feed reader or aggregator.  Other names for RSS feeds are Web feeds, XML feeds, RSS channels, and syndicated content.

Links are given to the full article, news item or whatever you are monitoring. RSS is an excellent way of distributing regularly updated content without having to go to all the individual sites that interest you.

Numerous readers are available and you should choose the one that suits you best. 

Subject Databases

Most of the subject databases the Unisa library subscribes to allow you to set up free alerts to new content via e-mail or RSS feeds. Please remember that you should choose the e-mail option if you have off-campus access to the library. You may use the RSS option if you are on the campus.

The alerts may take the form of

  • Table of Contents: these are generated and delivered each time a new issue of an individual publication is available
  • Saved Search Alerts: the database will periodically re-run your search and send you new material
  • Topic Alerts: the database will automatically send you new articles on pre-selected topics
  • Citation Alerts: informs you every time a selected document or author is subsequently cited in the same database

Journal Table of Contents (TOC)

A TOC alert tells you when new issues of your chosen journals are available.

It is one of the best ways of keeping up to date with the latest articles, current research and publishing trends in your field.

The TOC is often published before the journal is generally accessible to subscribers.

TOCs can be set up from publishers’ websites, subject databases, Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory and the Unisa