Using RSS to help you keep up with the literature

This is a followup to my 2014 post about “Keeping up with the literature“. I’m a strong advocate of arranging for the information to come to you rather than you having to go looking for it. I’ll look at stuff that shows up in my mailbox, or is otherwise put right in front of me, but I’m unlikely to do literature searches unless I’m looking for something fairly specific. One trick that I have perhaps not used as much as I should is RSS feeds. An RSS feed sends you a one-line summary of new content added to a web site. Some RSS feeds allow you to narrow what is sent to you according to your field of interest. Some journals provide RSS feeds. You might find this a useful alternative to receiving tables of contents by email. In some cases, RSS feeds might be useful because they will only show you content from a specific section of a journal, so you don’t get overwhelmed with lots of irrelevant stuff.

I currently subscribe to a couple of RSS feeds from the Physical Review journals. The Physical Review journals cover a huge range of topics, most of which are of no interest to me. Getting their complete tables of contents would waste a lot of my time. However, they have specialized RSS feeds broken down by area of interest. I subscribe to the Physical Review Letters Soft Matter, Biological, and Interdisciplinary Physics feed, as well as to the Physical Review E Biological Physics feed. The volume on these feeds is very manageable, and I can quickly find the few articles of interest to me.

To get started, you need to install an RSS reader application. Journals (or other web sites) with RSS feeds will display this logo:

(The logo may be quite small, and may not be colored.) If you click on this logo, you will typically end up at the actual RSS feed page. You want to copy the URL of this page, and then give it to your RSS reader application. The RSS reader will typically sit in your toolbar (or equivalent for your computer’s OS) and let you know when something new appears in your feed. And that’s it! When you see material in which you’re interested, you just have to click on it, and you will be taken to the article.