Skip Menu

Return to Skip Menu

Main Content

At one time, librarians regularly flipped through new journal issues, comparing contents against index cards submitted by faculty listing areas of interest and typing up bibliographies of potential matches. Now alerting services (also called current awareness services) can provide such lists automatically. Alerts can be sent from publishers, article-indexing databases, or third parties that combines these sources.

There are several kinds of alerts you can receive, through email or RSS feeds:

Table of content alerts
Receive the table of contents of newly published journals you have selected, often with links to the publisher's site with the article (that may not be the location where we obtain the article, however). These are often available well before the print issue is published.
Search alerts
Also called Saved Search Alerts or Keyword Alerts. Create a search that is periodically re-run, with new matches to your search criteria sent to you. Construct a well focused search to limit the number of results sent and to ensure results are on-topic.
Citation alerts
You can track when a specified article or author is cited in newly published articles with citation alerts. Most publisher sites limit results to citations appearing within their own journals, while databases can provide citations from many sources.
New publication alerts
Receive notification of new publications (other than journal issues) from a publisher or professional organization. This could include books, proceedings, newsletters, standards, etc.

Note that you can easily receive table of contents to journals that are not part of the Virginia Tech Libraries subscriptions or article citations that we do not have local access to. The links provided in your alerts may point to a vendor that is not the source we use to obtain the content. Off campus users may need to take extra steps to access linked content. In any case, there are some simple steps you can take to access any content you are alerted to.

Once you are alerted to the existence of a journal issue or article, check the Journal Title Database to see if there is online or print availability. For journal articles not owned locally or available electronically, submit a request through ILLiad.

Many journal and other academic publishers provide alerting services for their publications. Most publishers provide this service for free (so a library subscription to their publications is not needed), though registration is typically required. As is often the case, you can receive alerts to publications to which the library does not have a subscription, or for which we receive access from another source. 

Many databases provide email and RSS alerting services to highlight new content as it is added to the database. These kinds of alerts can be more useful than publisher-based alerts when your research topic is covered across multiple journals or is multi-disciplinary. Unlike publisher-based alerts, you will need to make use of Off Campus Sign In to setup and access profiles or accounts at database web sites, and the alerts you receive often provide the proxied version of the link to the article.

Many publishers and databases provide RSS feeds to alert you to new issues or content. To subscribe to feeds, install RSS feed reader software, or use an online source like Google Reader. Look for the RSS icon rss or a link labeled with rss. Right-click the icon or link and copy the linked address. This address typically ends with rss or xml, but may not. You will paste or import this address (URL) into your feed reader software to subscribe to the feed. The software will regularly check for updates to the feed and will alert you to any changes.

For instance, a table of contents feed would be updated to entries from the latest issue of a journal whenever that journal is published online. Your feed reader would list the articles from that latest issue, and each entry would link to the article at the publisher's site. (Note that publisher's site may not be where the Virginia Tech Libraries has access to that article.)

While most people set up alerts for articles and journal publications, you may also want to be alerted when new books on a topic are published or added to the Virginia Tech Libraries' collection. If you find a newly published book, you can Suggest an item for purchase or request to borrow it through interlibrary loan.

After you have received an alert...

You can encounter two issues in received alerts:

Inability to access the item off campus

Make sure you are either connected to the VPN or through Off Campus Sign In.For the VPN, be sure to select the option to send all traffic through the VPN. Emailed links rarely include access through Off Campus Sign In,. but you can install the LibX browser extension, then either right-click the link in your browser and choose to follow the link via Off Campus Sign In, or go to the link, then right-click the page and reload it through Off Campus Sign In.

Inability to access the item through the publisher's site

You may be alerted to a new publication through a publisher's site, but we have access through a different source. If you cannot access the item even using Off Campus Sign In or the VPN, search the Journal Title Database to see if the journal issue is available through a different provider. For journal articles not available locally, submit a request through ILLiad.

BrowZine mobile and tablet app


View our top periodicals from your tablet! BrowZine is a browsable newsstand of the library’s top journals. Easily discover, read, and monitor the key journals in your field through push alerts of new table of contents.