Alerting Services


What is an Alert Service?

Why Use an Alert Service?

How to Set up Alert Services


What is an Alert Service?

An alert service is a type of user account in a database that automatically sends email notifications for new citations or tables of contents. The names (alert, autoalert, favorites) and the procedures for setting up these services vary among vendors, but they generally operate in the same way:

You specify the search terms or the journal titles and the database automatically provides you with updated results via email.

For some alert services you must register with a password and establish a profile or personal account; for others you simply provide your email address. Some alert services limit the number of searches you can save. In many databases you can define how often a search is run

Many databases have services which help you stay up-to-date in your field, or alert you to new publications of interest. Most alert services are sent as email, but some are now offered as RSS feeds. If you need more information please see the ‘RSS Tutorial for Content and Webmasters’.

There are different kinds of alert services:

  • Table of Contents Alert (TOC) automatically e-mails you the latest table of contents for your selected journals.
  • Saved Search permits you to re-run a successful search at a later date to collect relevant results added since the last time you ran the search.
  • Search Alert (SDI) is a saved search that runs automatically whenever the database is updated and automatically e-mails you the results.
  • Citation Alert With a citation alert you receive an e-mail alert each time an article on your list is cited in a new article.
  • Personalized Services are creatively customized database services which allow users to organize and manage databases for their personal interests and needs. Under the scope of these services, there is the user’s profile or personal account, including search history and user preferences and the information collected through the search behavior. Through the use of these services, the users are able to set-up, review and edit their alerts & saved searches, marked lists, free trials, newsletters, subscriptions and any research items they have submitted. The personalized services give users the chance to have privacy during their searches. They are helpful for the users to improve their experience of using databases.
  • RSS Feeds (or "Really Simple Syndication") is a way to share and receive information using XML (Extensible Markup Language). A Database that wants to allow other  sites to publish some of its content creates an RSS document and registers the document with an RSS publisher.


Why Use an Alert Service?

An alert service will provide you with a list of the articles newly added to a database on a subject that the researcher has requested. This will save time running the same search on a regular basis in a particular database when you want to keep current on a particular research topic.

Many alert services will send the table of contents of the latest issue of journals that you regularly review. Again, this saves time checking for the table of contents manually.


How to Set up Alert Services?

Alert services vary between different databases and publishers, and they often have different names. This can sometimes make it difficult to find the alert services you want.

There are a few ways to find alert services on a database or publisher site:

  • Look on the home page for options such as "alerts" or "email updates".
  • Look for options such as "Register", "Create Profile", or "My Account", and read about what kind of alerts are offered if you sign up.
  • Look for an option to set up an alert when you're on a search results page, or when browsing journal issues and subject categories.
  • Some databases, don't link to alert services from the home page. However, the services are offered once you search or browse.

You'll need to register with each site in order to set up your alerts. Registration and services are normally free to library clients, as they are included in the subscription the library has purchased.

The best place to start is with the database you use most, or look for alert services next time you're searching or browsing journals online. Be sure to go back and fine-tune your alerts from time to time, so that they stay relevant and useful.


Alert services offered by major databases and publishers

This is a brief list of the services offered by some of the most popular databases and academic publishers.



TOC Alerts


Saved Search


Search Alerts


Citation Alert


RSS Feeds


Personalized Services




ABI INFORM (ProQuest)            
Academic Search Complete (Ebscohost)              
ACM (Association for Computing Machinery)              
American Chemical Society (ACS)              
American Institute of Physics (AIP)              
Business Source Complete (Ebscohost)              
Cambridge University Press (CUP)              
IEL (IEE/IEEE Electronic Library)              
Institute of Physics (IOP)              
ISI Emerging Markets              
Kirk Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology              
MLA (Modern Language Association)              
Nature Publishing Group              
Oxford University Press Journals              
ScienceDirect (Elsevier)              
SIAM Journals              
SpringerLink (including Kluwer Journals)              
Web of Science              
Wiley Interscience              

Many academic publishers and distributors also offer alerting services from their websites, and these may include alerts about books as well as journals. Many professional associations and societies offer publication and conference alerts from their websites.