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Using RSS to Keep Up with Scholarly Research

Keeping up with professional journals can sometimes feel like a full-time job: a lot of paper, checking of websites, using a library's subscription resources. RSS is one way to make tracking professional literature a little easier.

What is RSS?
RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a flexible format that feeds frequently updated Web content – such as academic journal articles – to subscribers. Rather than checking several places to keep up with various journals, you can have all of their content "pushed" to one place where you can easily access it.

The presence of RSS is usually indicated with this symbol: RSS logo.

Reading RSS Content
In this guide, the "place" where you can access the articles from journals that interest you is an "RSS reader". The screen shot below shows recent listings from the journal Advertising & Society Review as they appear in a subscriber's RSS reader, this one provided by Google.

screenshot of Google Reader gathiering Advertising and Society Review

To get access to scholarly journal articles delivered to you in this manner, you must take four steps:

  1. Create an RSS reader account.
  2. Find electronic versions of journals that interest you and feature RSS feeds (RSS logo).
  3. Add each journal title to your RSS reader.
  4. Log in to your RSS reader regularly to find new content.

1.Create an RSS reader account.

The examples in this guide use Google Reader, which was Web-based and, therefore, did not require downloading of any software.

Google no longer supports Reader, but there are many free and paid alternatives. All work essentially the same way.

2. Find electronic versions of journals that interest you and feature RSS feeds (RSS logo).

Most of the journals should be freely available to you via the Library's database subscriptions. Use the journal lookup tool (see screen shot below) to find the titles that interest you and to make sure:

  1. that the holdings for each title are current; and
  2. that an RSS feed (RSS logo) is available for each title.
Screenshot of Serials Solutions search

The following is a screen shot showing the result for a search of the journal New England Journal of Medicine, showing the databases which make it available in full text and the years of coverage.

Screenshot of Serials Solutions search results

Click on the database name to get information about the journal title (see screen shot below).

Screenshot of an EBSCO journal page

3. Add each journal title to your RSS reader.

How to add a journal title to your RSS reader depends on the database that indexes that journal. Click on the links below for specific instructions:

EBSCO / Project Muse / Proquest / ScienceDirect / WilsonWeb

Important Note: If your journal is in JSTOR, you cannot track it using RSS. JSTOR does not currently support RSS feeds.

4. Log in to your RSS reader regularly to find new content.

Every time new content is available, it will appear at the top of your results page. You can skim the titles and click on those that you wish to access in full text.

screenshot of Google Reader in action

You also might consider downloading the Library Research Toolbar, which helps connect your online research to Library resources.

Part II of the guide is here.