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Current Awareness Tools: Email Alerts

What are Email Alerts

Email alerts are messages sent to you each time an area of interest of your choice is updated. Email alerts can be from sources including journals, databases, and organziations. A few examples of alerts include:

  • Table of Contents (TOC) Alerts: These alerts are sent out from Journals every time a new issue is released with the table of contents.
  • Search Alerts: You can automatically save searches from any database and have new results sent daily, weekly or monthly.
  • Citation Alerts: Save your favorite article in a database and get an email every time this article is cited.


Table of Contents Alerts

Many journals offer Table of Contents (TOC) alerts. Look for links such as E-Alert Sign Up, New Issue Alert or TOC Alert. Some journals require you to sign up for a free account before you can get alerts set up. Others simply ask you to enter your email to get the latest TOC in your email. Here is an example from JAMA Pediatrics.


Science Direct Personalized Recommendations Emails

ScienceDirect has launched a new personalized recommendation email service that uses an adaptive algorithm to analyze your most recent reading activity on ScienceDirect (only if you are registered AND signed-in!).  Based on the insights assembled, an email with the most recent and most relevant recommended titles will be sent to you by email.


Learn more about the ScienceDirect personalized recommendations here.


Database Search Alerts

When you complete a literature search for a long term project or a topic that you focus on in your specialty you should consider setting up a saved search that sends you alerts when there are new citations added to the database that meet your search criteria. This saves time and increases your access to updates in the literature since the new results are sent directly to you instead of requiring you to have the time to go back and reconstruct your search.

Here are instructions for several popular databases on our site:

Set up these using a search strategy and get emails letting you know about any new publications that match your search strategy.  Learn more about developing search strategies from our Evidence Based Literature Searching Guide and you can also request assistance from a librarian with developing a literature search to set up alerts by requesting a consultation (email or through our Literature Search Request Form. Our list of databases and online resources is available here:

Find more information about using our databases and setting up search alerts in our Database Tutorials Guide.

Citation Alerts in Google Scholar

Citation alerts can be set up in most databases and journals.Here is an example of how to set up a citation alert using Google Scholar.

  • Go to Google Scholar
  • Type in the title of the article that you are interested in, using quotes to go straight to the correct title.  You can also search for a topic of interest, author name, journal name, etc.
  • On the results page, click on the gray envelope in the left menu on the bottom labeled as "Create Alert"
  • On the next page add your email address, choose Show up to 10 results or Show up to 20 results


Learn more about using Google Scholar alerts on their help page here:

Google Search Alerts

Create alerts for specific Google search results using Google Alerts: 

You can create alerts for any type of Google search you would like - news topics, your name, grant funding, etc.  You must create a (free) Google account to sign up for alerts - if you have an account for any existing Google product you can reuse it here.

To create an alert:

  1. Go to and make sure you are logged in.
  2. Enter the search terms you want an alert for, including any advanced search operators you desire (limit to specfic websites, phrase searching, etc.)
  3. Choose how often you want to receive alerts.
  4. Select specific source types if desired or search all (default).
  5. Adjust language or region defaults if desired.
  6. Choose how many results to receive at a time
  7. Choose deliver to method - You can choose email alerts or RSS feed alerts.
  8. Your saved alerts will appear in a list at the top, you can edit them at any time by returning to  and logging in with your account.