Getting information to come to you: keeping up to date with search alerts and more

This is a summary of the Information Skills Programme session given on 12th July 2017

Why am I running this session? Because keeping on top of all the new information appearing that’s related to your work can sometimes seem impossible. You might have heard it called information overload. In essence it feels like there is too much information and not enough time. I can’t make this problem disappear, but I can suggest ways you can tackle it.
The first thing you need to do is work out what is information is really important to you. You do need to be selective. Then you need to work out what alerts you need and set them up. Finally you need to schedule checking your alerts into your workflow. How you want to do this is going to affect what sort of alerts you set up, so these two steps happen need to happen to some extent simultaneously.
So, what is really important to you? Fear of missing out, sometimes called FOMO, is phenomenon that has arisen from social media, but can pervade other aspects of life. Feeling like you have to be completely up to date with what everyone around you is doing, or what everyone in your field is publishing, is normal, but not necessarily helpful. I don’t have a magic solution that will mean you will be able to keep up to date with every single piece of news or information that might be interesting or possibly useful to you.
Be realistic about how much you can actually make time to monitor. If you do a lot of project work, what you need to keep up to date with might change depending on what project you’re working on. So you’ll need to factor in a little time to set up alerts at the start of each project.


Now you know what you need to keep on top of, you can start thinking about how you’re going to do it.
Firstly, where is the information you need? Is it journal articles, on websites, what people are saying about something (or you!)?
There are three ways you can get your alerts to come to you that I’m going to talk about today: email, RSS and Twitter.
RSS is a standardized system for the distribution of content from an online publisher and is an alternative to email notifications. If you use RSS you can get your feeds to come straight to email client, or you can use and RSS aggregator such as Feedly, Inoreader and Netvibes. One of the advantages of RSS is that some aggregators have apps, so it can be easier to check your notifications on the go.
If you decide to use Twitter for your current awareness, using a web tool will give you more control and make it more effective. The two big ones are Hootsuite and Tweetdeck – both of which are used by people here in the DAB.
Getting alerted to all the new articles in a particular academic journal stems from an old hardcopy method of keeping up to date – flicking through new journal issues looking for articles of interest. If you are in the lucky situation that your interests exactly match the content published in a particular journal, you can set up an electronic equivalent. With most journals you can opt to receive an email whenever any new accepted article is made available online, or just receive the table of contents for each issue. Articles are often accepted months before they are included in an issue, but opting for eTOCs will mean you receive fewer emails. Although easy and quick to set up, most people will need to subscribe to a lot of different journals and will be alerted to a large number of articles which don’t match their interests. Following a journal on Twitter will give you something similar, but most journals will tweet each article multiple times and will also tweet other things – which may or may not be useful to you!
Alternatively, set up email alerts for a particular search and you will be emailed when Google finds new results that match. Working out what terms to use in your search to get the best results isn’t always easy, but it’s the same approach as you would use if starting a literature search. If you’ve got time, you’re better starting with a larger number of searches and then cutting back or modifying any that produce too many irrelevant results. You can do a very similar thing with other databases such as web of science and Scopus.
Use searches or curated lists on Twitter – which you can store as columns in Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. Or set up notifications for new content matching searches on Google using Google Alerts. You have to be very specific if you want to do this if you want to avoid being deluged.
Setting your alerts up isn’t the end of the process. You need to remember to check them and that’s easiest if you schedule it into your day-to-day workflow.
When are you going to fit in checking notifications? You could do it throughout the day as they come in, but it’ll be more efficient to schedule a time to do them. Perhaps on your morning commute, when you come back from your morning coffee break or just after lunch. Whatever works for you. It really doesn’t have to take very long if you’re prepared.
If your using email for your alerts, it’s much easier to deal with them all in one go if they’re in one place. I have folders in my inbox for my different types of alert, and rules set up so that alerts go straight into these folders. To set these rules up in Outlook go to File → Manage Rules and Alerts → Add new rule and follow the instructions. As you can see in this rule description, all emails I receive from Science Direct Notifications and Wiley Online Library notifications go into my Journal TOCs folder.
That was a very quick whizz through of options and ideas for getting information to come to you. If you would like help with setting up alerts or a workflow, please contact me to arrange a 1-2-1 appointment.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s