What are RSS and email alerts?
Why should I use them?
RSS feeds and email alerts can help you find out about new literature in your field, such as:
- table of contents from new issues of your favorite journal
- new articles on your specific research topic
- new books in your field in the MIT Libraries
- new patents in specific technology areas of interest to you
- news in science, technology, business, health, etc. from Google, New York Times, BBC, etc.
RSS feeds publish frequently updated web content in a standardized XML format which can be subscribed to using a variety of programs called feed readers or aggregators.
A comparison of RSS feeds and email alerts is below.
RSS feeds vs. email alerts
|Aspect||RSS Feeds||Email Alerts
Need to log-in or register with content provider?
|Subscribing to feeds is (usually) anonymous.||You must set up an account for each, so there are multiple logins to deal with and some lack of privacy.|
Is it segregated or integrated with your other content?
|Segregates your news so it doesn't get buried as you deal with more urgent emails.||Integrates your news with your email so there is only one interface to check.|
How easy is it to manage?
|Items are automatically deleted or marked as read; much easier to manage if you fall behind in your reading. You can choose to save items for later.||Every news item that comes in has to be manually deleted, filed, or filtered in some way.|
What's the interface like?
|Different readers allow different layouts and usually have customizable preferences.||Similar to RSS feeds.|
How available is it?
|Common for table of contents alerts, but only some databases have RSS feeds for saved searches.||Common.|
Choose an RSS reader
How do I get an RSS reader/aggregator?
Many web-based RSS readers/aggregators are available (free or paid) as well as client-based software and mobile apps (freeware and commercial). Many readers will sync your feeds and favorites across computers and mobile devices.
Put RSS feeds right into your browser
- Firefox: live bookmarks are part of your regular bookmarks
- Internet Explorer: feeds are incorporated into your favorites
Find RSS feeds
- Look for an orange button on a web site that looks something like this:
- In Firefox, when a feed is available a button should appear next to the URL in the location bar.
- Search Google - ex: search "nature RSS"
- Many readers offer a feature to help you discover feeds relevant to your interests.
Get email via feeds
It's a little trickier to get email as RSS feeds. Try searching Google for "convert email to rss" to browse some options.