Keeping Track of New Academic Journal Articles

Generate new ideas and stay ahead in your research

Reading the latest articles from journals in your field of study is vital for staying ahead of information that impacts your work, and for generating new research ideas. Today, this is a difficult task with the proliferation of new journals, and an increase in the number of articles released each day. The publication industry over the last two decades has largely switched from paper-based to digital (Chen, 2019), and as a result researchers now have more options than ever to find a journal to publish their work. The National Science Foundation documented that the number of journal articles published in scientific and engineering journals grew by 4% over the last decade.

Although keeping up with and reading new publications often feels like drinking water from a fire hose, using the best tools that works for you can save time, prevent burnout, and keep you focused on what matters most — your research and having a life.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Readers

Most journals in your field will offer an RSS subscription link. Navigate to the journal’s website and copy and paste the RSS feed link into your RSS reader of choice. RSS readers are apps that conglomerate the RSS feeds that you follow and present them in a magazine style for easy navigation. Interesting blogs or websites that share their research with an RSS feed can also be added to your RSS reader.

Many RSS apps are free to use, however, some like Feedly or Unread offer more features that are worth a subscription or download cost.

The Researcher App is a new academically focused RSS reader and free to use. For scholars that only want to keep up with academic journals than the Researcher App is the best choice. The key benefit of Researcher is that journal RSS feeds are added within the app, and a user simply follows their journals. If a journal is missing, email the Researcher App developers and have the journal added. Another unique feature is that you can integrate a Zotero or Mendeley account. Zotero and Mendeley are reference management apps that keep track of citations, associated PDFs, and offer Cite While You Write capabilities. When connected, flagged articles within the Researcher App are automatically populated within your Zotero or Mendeley database.

Email Notifications

Journals and academic databases, such as Google Scholar and Web of Science, offer users email notifications as new papers are published. To receive updates navigate to the journal’s website and sign up to receive a table of contents when issues are published.

Another method is to create a free account associated with an academic database. With an account, you can receive notifications from specific journals, or notifications related to a custom keyword. The advantage of the keyword approach is that all journals within the academic database are searched, not just the ones you subscribe too.

My Keyword Alerts Used in Web of Science.
My Keyword Alerts Used in Web of Science.

Reference Management Apps

Many reference management apps, now owned by the major academic publishers (e.g., Elsevier — Mendeley, Wiley — Papers Readcube), suggest new papers to read based on your PDF library. This integration will further improve as the recommendation algorithms advance within these apps.

For Mac or iPad users another potential solution is Devonthink. Devonthink is more of an information management database and unlike reference management apps it does not organize or create reference citations. Researchers use Devonthink, however, to maintain and organize their PDF library and to take advantage of its superior search capabilities. A bonus of Devonthink is its integrated RSS feeds. You can use Devonthink as an RSS reader, and conduct literature searches that span both your PDFs and new publications from your RSS feed results.

Keeping up with the latest discoveries and theories in your field can have profound results in your research. Choose which method works best for you. Are you an email master and like receiving emails in your inbox? Then sign up for email notifications. If your inbox is a source of anxiety, then try an RSS reader or a reference management app. Although staying on top of the academic literature may feel overwhelming, if you develop a system, you can live a more productive and less stressful life.

Post-PC or Original Hipster?

I am converting to using an ipad as my main research tool over a laptop or desktop computer.
After all my iPad and iPhone for that matter has a lot more power and ability than my first iMac or iBook computer that had only a 3G hard drive.

Caveat: I still use my MacBook Pro or Windows desktop for statistics, GIS, formatting manuscripts, and backing up data.

Why convert to a Post-PC device?

First off it is really cool being able to work from anywhere, and not to worry about battery power for most of the day. The other critical factor for me is that I think the iPad is the single greatest computer device ever invented. My mother uses an ipad and knows nothing about computers. I like how intimate it is to work on an ipad, it is more like working with a pen and paper at your favorite desk or table. I am also convinced I will read and write more since there are fewer distractions – as long as not too many games are downloaded anyway.

My Favorite Apps

Endnote: excellent reference and PDF manager, this app really makes it possible for me to leave the desktop behind.

Pages: only significant word processor on the market, I do enjoy using this app and having it sync with my desktop version, but I am waiting for the ipad version of Scrievner.

Numbers: only significant spreadsheet app on the market.

Keynote: only significant presentation app on the market; I prefer Keynote over PowerPoint on my desktop, I do not like the changes in format presentations go through converting from the desktop to ipad version.

Goodreader: best pdf reader app; I like the ability to export highlighted sections and notes that I then copy and paste into my notes section within Endnote. I typically open my PDF attached in Endnote into Goodreader due to Endnote’s limited PDF annotation capabilities.

Bento: great and easy to use database. I think it is quicker to enter data on my ipad than on a desktop spreadsheet or database.