Keeping up with new scientific literature

Researchers struggle to read everything that comes out in their field. Not surprising, knowing that almost 2.3 million scientific papers were published in 2016. That is around 6,300 a day!

Researchers often have their own routines to keep up with the most relevant literature, usually checking a few critical journals when new issues are published, following known authors in the field, and using online tools like Google Scholar, ResearchGate or This post is a quick review of a few easy tricks to set up alerts with Scholar, that can make a reading routine much more efficient. Google Scholar is by now the best known and used search engine for scientific literature.

First thing to do is to set up your Google Scholar profile. Visit the Google Scholar site and log in to your Gmail or Google account. Click in the three parallel lines on the top left to open the menu. Follow the instructions of the account setup. Add your articles, areas of interest and verify your email. Add co-authors as this is helpful later to set up alerts.

Once logged in (to Gmail or your Google account) visit the Google Scholar site, and click in the three parallel lines to open the menu.

Scholar allows to set up citation alerts for your own papers, alerts for your entire body of work in just one click. Whenever one of your articles is cited Scholar will send you an email. Usually a paper that cites one of yours has a high likelihood of being relevant to your research interests. To set up this alert, click on «My  profile» on the left side menu and then click on the «Follow» blue button. Select «New citations to my articles». Done! In this same window select «Recommended articles» too, and that will set up an alert for Scholar’s own assessment of publications that might be of interest to you. These are based on your own papers and the papers that you have saved in your Scholar library. Build  up these two sources to get more relevant alerts.

Researchers usually know several other researchers that work in the same field and they like to follow, read their papers and listen to their talks in conferences. In Scholar is also possible to set up new article alerts for academics in your field. Just search for their Scholar profile and click on the “follow” button. You can choose to follow their “new articles” and their “new citations”, but for highly cited authors be aware the latter might well flood your inbox.

Finally, particular topics and keywords can also be tracked just running a search in Scholar and clicking on the “create alert” link in the menu. This will send you alerts whenever there is a new result for these particular search terms. Choose your keywords wisely!