Academic Keepie-Uppie

135px-meredith_beard_28cropped29Much like keeping a ball in the air without using your hands/arms, it can feel like it requires constant effort and concentration to stay up-to-date with the latest research literature in your area.  In this post we’ll look at some of the useful tools that are out there to help make this that little bit easier.

Keeping up-to-date is a lot easier and quicker if you have a solid foundation for your understanding of the literature.  Make sure you have updated your literature searching skills through online or face-to-face training and/or reviewing Polly’s previous blog post.

  • Our main literature search platform providers include EBSCO, Ovid, ProQuest, Scopus and Web of Science.  All bibliographic databases are listed on FindIt@Bham, and find out which ones are most useful for you via your LibGuide.
  • Ulrichs is a comprehensive tool that will help identify which journals or periodicals are available globally on a subscription or open access basis for all subject disciplines.
  • JISC Library Hub Discover now incorporates the former COPAC (combined Library Catalogues) and SUNCAT discovery tools.
  • Look for theses across the UK using EThOS (British Library) or browse the University of Birmingham’s etheses repository.
  • Library Services makes yearly strategic purchases of new and archival resources. These are publicised through the usual Library channels, including Twitter, and added to FindIt@Bham.

Once you have confirmed which sources are most useful for you and your literature searching skills have been sharpened, you can update yourself periodically through:

Tables of contents

  • BrowZine allows you to view the table of contents for key journals in all subject fields for which Birmingham has online access (the excellent patter uses this tool).  Bookmark your favourite journals using mobile app functionality, then click out to any articles that you wish to read. A Help guide is available.
  • Some researchers use Zetoc, the table of contents alerting service from the British Library.


  • Register for a free personal account on your preferred platform/database and set up a search alert to let you know when new articles are published which satisfy your pre-set search criteria.
  • Use a citation database (Web of Science or Scopus) and set a citation alert for key articles so that you are notified every time a selected article is cited by subsequent authors.


  • Networking with your peers (face-to-face or online) will help you to stay connected, as will attending any research group events taking place in your School / College.

Make sure you are keeping good records of the literature you have already read so that you aren’t revisiting material you have already seen – good reference management software is useful for this (e.g. EndNote or Mendeley).

How do you keep up-to-date with the literature in your area?  Which tools do you find most useful for this?

With many thanks to Lynne Harris, Research Skills Advisor in Library Services, for her contributions to this blog post.

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Helen Kara

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