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Keeping Up-To-Date : Current Awareness > Collection Methods

This guide aims to teach you how to set up your own current awareness system with basic tips and tools.

Information collection methods

There are two important methods:

  • Automatic collection (push technology): users subscribe to alerts or mailing lists to receive targeted information, which is "pushed" to them whenever there is an update;
  • Manual collection (pull technology): users go online to "pull" the most recent information on a given topic.

(translated from InfoSphère Sciences 2014)

Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages, yet both are important to cover all sources.

Comparative Table of Collection Methods

  Manual Automatic
Pertinence of results


the best


depends on the strategy implemented

Time spent


a lot each time


a lot to set up, very little afterwards

Frequency


easy to forget


guaranteed

Scope


everything the user has access to


limited to the sources offering automatic alerts

Method 1: Automatic collection

Most databases and several websites offer alert services.

It is often possible to choose between subscriptions by RSS feed or email alerts, in addition to subscriptions to newsletters and mailing lists.

There are also free tools for:

  • Creating individual RSS feeds (see the RSS Feeds tab in this guide);

Method 2: Manual collection

Some sources cannot be monitored automatically, therefore it is necessary to collect information manually.

  

The following tips will help you optimize manual collection:

  • To make sure you check the source regularly, plan and create alerts in your calendar;
  • To reduce the time to create a search strategy, copy/paste the strategy in your current awareness plan;
  • To reduce the time looking for websites, save and organize the URLs in the browser’s bookmarks.

Mailing lists

A mailing, distribution, SMS, newsletter list, or listserv sends out email messages to subscribers. There are three distinct types of lists: public, semi-public, and private. 

Research groups, conferences, committees, or professional associations generally use this type of tool. Usually, their website displays a box in which a user can enter their email address in order to subscribe.

Social media

Following experts on social media is also a way to keep up-to-date, participate in, and comment on scientific news.

Whether via a blog, chat room, or even a microblog, the information disseminated, which is transmitted in real time and does not follow a journal publishing process, is relevant to staying in touch with what happens daily in your areas of interest.

The very popular Twitter is an example of microblog, yet emails and podcasts also fall into this category.

Twitter

The Library created lists of Twitter accounts for many engineering fields. It is possible to subscribe to the complete list in your domain, or to follow only specific accounts that seem the most interesting.

The small scheme below from KatiePhD and inspired by ES Darlin's work illustrates Twitter's main benefits for research, which are not limited only to keeping up-to-date.