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Alert services: Introduction


Automatically collecting information using an alert

Alerts are current awareness tools.

They automatically notify you, by email or RSS feed, when new information is released online.

Most databases, websites, search engines, journals or journal aggregators, library catalogues or publishers’ catalogues provide alert services to which you can subscribe.

An alert can be created for an author, a journal’s table of contents (ToC), a topic, key words, an organisation, the name of a company and in fact for any field that can be queried within an information system. Some sources such as Scopus also provide for receiving a notification every time an author or an article is cited.

Examples of databases that provide an alert service:

Necessary precautions

An alert can generate noise as notification is systematic.

Various methods can be used to reduce this noise:

  • Combining several key words in the query.
  • Using less common or more specific terms.
  • Selecting a dedicated search tool rather than a wide-ranging one. For example, you can choose to use one of the databases to which your organisation has subscribed, or choose the Google Scholar search engine rather than Google.

For email alerts, you may want to use your email client’s filter system to sort messages into dedicated folders according to their sources.

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To cite this guide

LE MEN, Hervé, BERTIGNAC, Catherine. "Alert services". In UBL (Université Européenne de Bretagne). Formadoct. Rennes: UBL, 2010 (last updated on 3 July 2013). Available at: