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Understanding Current Awareness

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What are current awareness services?
Current Awareness Services (CAS) are any service that allows you to keep up with developments in your area of interest.  They can include:
  • Journal abstracting and indexing services
  • News updates
  • Database 'saved search' alerts
  • Journal tables of contents
  • Website update alerts
  • Blogs - weblogs or vlogs (videologs) - originally a kind of web-based diary, but now used for spreading all sorts of news from all kinds of websites.

What are the benefits of CA services?
They take the hard work out of keeping up-to-date.  You only need to register your interests with a service provider once - no need to do a new search each time you want information.  Information can be delivered to your desktop.

How are CA services delivered?
Many CA services used to be delivered on paper by post.  For example, photocopies of journal tables of contents sent out by the library.  Now you can register on a website and check for content updates.  The information comes to you via:
  • email, or
  • an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) newsfeed.  To receive alerts using RSS, you set up an account with a 'newsreader'.  They enable you to view content updates from websites, which that you have subscribed to, that produce RSS feeds.  For more information on RSS feeds read the tab below.
You can set up alerts to previous information / literature searches to resources available nationally across the NHS and the general internet.
Some will require separate registration – and many will send you an email verification to confirm the search alert before you receive.  Don’t forget to check your junk/spam folder if it doesn’t appear in your inbox.  Some are more complicated than others to set up!
  • HDAS - this is the only one that will create the search alert using your Athens password.  After searching you need to save the current search in order to create the search alert.  You can get results weekly, fortnightly or monthly emailed to you. 
  • NHS Evidence - you will need to register with a separate account to your Athens one to save searches and set up search alerts.  You have to save the search to create the alert.  Currently NHS Evidence provide limited details regarding the frequency alerts are emailed to you.
  • Cochrane Library - Separate registration is required to save and create search alerts.  A verification email will be sent to confirm your registration.  You can either log in before searching or at the point you wish to save your search.  After searching you need to save the current search in order to create the search alert.  There are no details from Cochrane regarding how often these arrive in your inbox. 
  • Google Scholar - no account or registration is needed for search alerts.  After conducting your search click on Create Alert, complete the brief box.  A verification email will be sent to confirm you wish to receive alerts.
  • TRIP - separate registration is required to create alerts.  Alerts are created in Settings according to selected criteria, i.e. profession, area of interest.  A search alert can also be set within the Settings page.  Note: you cannot save a standard search, you can only save the Automated Search shown in the Settings page. 

For further guidance in setting up search alerts please click the guidelines below or access the presentation at the bottom of this page.
Journal Table of Contents
These are alerts that you can set up to inform you when a new issue of a particular journal title, either electronic or paper, is available.  There are a number of ways in which you can source these.  You could register separately with a variety of academic journal publishers or direct to established journal websites such as The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, BMJ
  • JournalTOCs - Alternatively you could register with a stand alone service such as JournalTOCs.  This is a fully searchable collection of almost 25,000 academic journals with new articles notified directly from the publishers as soon they are published online.  It is for researchers, healthcare staff, students and anyone who is looking for current papers, published in their chosen field of interest, including international coverage.  Provided by Heriot-Watt University, JournalTOCs is a national service, free of charge to individual users.
  • CASH - Current Awareness Service for Health - CASH aims to keep health professionals up-to-date with new developments for the benefit of patient care and improved decision making.  It is a collaborative service provided by librarians from around England who monitor and capture content from across 3 broad sectors - Primary Care, Secondary Care and Mental Health

For further guidance in setting up journal TOCs please click the guidelines below or access the presentation at the bottom of this page.

The internet is simply too large to keep track of everything that is available, let alone new content on your favourite websites. 
Website alerts are the best way to keep up to date with new content.  They are usually RSS feeds – Really Simple Syndication, which put simply means an internet protocol to easily transfer data.
Look for these symbols on websites:
RSS text image
If they are visible you can get RSS alerts.  RSS feeds tend to be available on announcement and news pages.  RSS feeds are provided to you via a News Feeder or Aggregator.  These can be desk top based, usually via your browser e.g., Explorer, Firefox or Chrome.  Alternatively they can be web based.
  • Desk top based -  With a desk top feed no subscription/registration is required and they are simple to organise.  However they can only work on the machine they were set up on and generally cannot be transferred to follow you around.
  • Web based - These feeds offer greater adaptability and content.  In addition, with many, they can be accessed wherever you are using the internet including your smartphone.  However they require registration and some may require a small one off or annual fee.  Click here to access a list of current web based feeds.  Please note: 1) these may change over time, and 2) some may not be accessible from Trust computers; if you set them up at home you may not be able to access them from our network.

For further guidance on website alerts and RSS feeds please click the guidelines below or access the presentation at the bottom of this page.
For further advice on understanding current awareness take a look at the presentation below, or book a 1:1 or group training session, please contact Muneeb Liaquat via email or on 01905 760601.


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Page Last Updated: 06 April 2022