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Homepage / Three ways to keep up to date with new papers in your favourite journals, and save time!

Three ways to keep up to date with new papers in your favourite journals, and save time!


For as long as I can remember (and that is a long time!) Zetoc has been a tried and trusted source used by researchers to help them stay current with new papers in their favourite journals. Keeping informed of new papers is important when you are researching in the same area over a long period, so you need to take steps to ensure you don’t fall behind. This is especially important for PhD students who do their literature review in the first year, as there is a risk that by the time they hand in new papers will have been published that they have not read, or discussed in their review.

Zetoc has never looked particularly sophisticated, but it did its job very well.  However, it is being retired from 1st August this year, a consequence of declining usage and changes in the way researchers find information.

If you are someone who relies on Zetoc to keep abreast of new papers, we recommend that you log in to your account before the service ends to note down all the journal titles that you receive alerts for, and then look at our suggestions below to replace it. If you have never used it, but the idea seems like a good one (and it is!), here are three ways that you can stay up to date with new papers published in your favourite journals, listed in no particular order. Which method you choose is entirely your preference:

  1. JournalTOCs

We don’t pay for this service as it’s free, and it works in the same way as Zetoc. Create an account on JournalTOCs (don’t use your Cranfield log in credentials – it’s OK to use your Cranfield email address, but invent a new password), then choose your favourite journals, sit back, relax, and wait for the TOCs (tables of contents) with clickable links to the full text of each paper to roll into your inbox.

  1. Sign up to receive alerts from journal home pages

The other option is to visit each journal’s home page and sign up from there. This may take you a bit more time than JournalTOCs where all the journals are held in one place. I suggest you Google the journal title and spend a few minutes looking around the page until you find the link to sign up to receive alerts. Most publishers offer this service.

  1. Receive alerts from your favourite bibliographic database

Most of our bibliographic databases allow you to search for the title of your journal (often called a ‘source’ title in a database) and then dig around in the database options to set the alert. If you can’t work out how to do this in your favourite database, please contact your information specialist who’ll be happy to help you.

Why not set up some search alerts?

You can also use the databases to create search alerts, where the database will run your search against all new papers added since the last time your alert ran. It’s a good idea to do this as there may be new papers of interest that are published outside of the journal titles you have chosen to receive tables of contents for. If you aren’t sure how to do this, or which database would be the best for your subject please contact your information specialist.

Some general advice

It may take you a few attempts before you find the optimum number of journal alerts to create – you need the key titles in your field, but too few and you may miss useful papers, and too many and you may find yourself overwhelmed. The same goes for search alerts – settle for the ones that provide you with the best results. If you find they are returning papers that are not of interest, try to work out what it is about your search that is causing them to come up with irrelevant papers and edit the search accordingly. If you struggle with this, please ask your information specialist for advice.

Find your information specialist

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Written By: Emma Turner

Emma is a Research Information Specialist based in the Kings Norton Library at Cranfield University.

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