Friday, 04 June 2010
Last month, Google Scholar introduced a new feature to help researchers keep up with new additions to the vast realm of sources which Scholar indexes: Google Alerts. The Alerts feature enables you to specify search criteria and then receive emails each time an item is added to Google Scholar which meets your search criteria. This feature is analogous to email alerts offered by other literature citation databases and helps compensate for the fact that Google Scholar doesn’t (yet) offer RSS feeds.
The process for creating an alert is simple: execute a search in either the default Google Scholar basic search box or in the Advanced Search screen. In the results list, click the envelope icon in the Scholar selection bar. In the Alerts screen which appears, modify the alert query as required, enter an email address, specify whether you want 10 or 20 results, and then click the Create Alert button. You will receive an email containing links to new Scholar entries matching your search criteria as they are received. You can specify as many alerts as you like and you don’t need to set up an account or submit personal information to do so.
As with all literature databases, the trick for developing effective searches alerts is to apply words or phrases which are neither too broad (resulting in an overwhelming, possibly meaningless set of alerts) or too narrow (causing key items to be overlooked). Google Scholar does not offer the extensive "under the hood control" that some other databases do, but you can use the Advanced Search options to refine your criteria. At present, not all Advanced Search criteria seems applicable for alerts but you can try, for example, restricting search results only to sources coded for specific disciplines or authors. Note that date ranges are not meaningful for search alerts, in part because many sources which Google Scholar tracks do not contain meaningful metadata about publication dates, but also the intent of the alerts is to highlight new content in Google Scholar, not screen for particular publication dates.
More detailed instructions for setting up Google Alerts are available from the Google Scholar website. These include guidelines for creating alerts for articles which cite a particular work that you are interested in.
The items listed in the alerts you receive from Google Scholar may display a "Get This Item at Tufts" link. Such links indicate that Tufts subscribes to the journal listed in the citation; clicking on them will provide access to the article’s full text for any Tufts affiliate. This feature can be initiated through the Google Scholar Preferences screen, where you can set links to a maximum of three libraries (including WorldCat and the NIH Library).