One of the major challenges for university faculty and scholars in general is keeping up with the literature in their fields. The complication of interdisciplinary scholarship just increases the task. Decades ago, research libraries might offer their faculty a table of contents service; a faculty member could request the tables of contents from a certain number of journals, and those tables of contents would be photocopied and delivered to them in campus mail. If an article looked particularly important, the faculty member could go over to the library and read it.
The electronic age has certainly increased the number of journals that exist in any given field, and has also increased the access to journals. Journal aggregators, the companies that libraries pay to provide large packages of electronic journals, like ScienceDirect and Project Muse, offer table of contents service electronically. Setting this service up is both free and easy (really!).
Start by going to the list of e-journal collections on the Olson Library web site (http://zc9gn3am3j.search.serialssolutions.com/). Select one of the links on the list of e-journal collections, preferably one that you think will have many journals that you already use. Keep in mind that the interface for each aggregator will be different, so the links to set up this service will probably be in different places.
You will first have to create an account with the aggregator. Look for a link that says “sign up,” “log in,” or “my account.” These links tend to be at the top of the page, but you can’t count on that. NOTE: Currently, content alerts are not available at the Directory of Open Access Journals.
You’ll be asked for your e-mail address and your name, and you will be required to create a password. Once you’ve created that account, you can sign in and set up content alerts. You’ll be given the opportunity to select journals, usually listed in subject areas. There’s no limit to the number of alerts you can set up. If you prefer, you can get these alerts as RSS feeds.
Once you’re signed up, you’ll get a contents alert e-mail every time one of your selected journals comes out with a new issue. You’ll be able to skim the table of contents in your e-mail, and, if there’s nothing interesting to you there, you can delete it. If you see an article that looks interesting, you can click on the link and look at it. You’ll usually be able to save the pdf of the article. You can also just print the article.
If you have any questions about setting up a contents alert, call or stop by the Public Services Desk to ask for help from a reference librarian. These services are provided by the Olson Library, and we also provide support for using them.