Database Alerts

February 23, 2007

Many databases to which the Smith College libraries subscribe allow you to set up a search ‘Alert.’ Alerts are also known as CAS (current awareness service) or SDI (selective dissemination of information). I prefer Alert because it is self explanatory: the service ALERTS you to new information.

I have alerts set up through PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO – as well as some other science databases. You can have many different alerts set up in the same database – based on your various research needs.

Today, I am going to show you how to set up a simple alert in PubMed.

As with most alert services, you need to set up an account in the database of interest. In most cases, you must be a Smith student, faculty or staff to set up an alert with the subscription databases. However, because PubMed is a free service to anyone with internet access, the account function is available to everyone. In the case of PubMed, the account is called My NCBI. There is a link to My NCBI in the upper righthand corner, and also in the left sidebar.


Once you have an account set up, you can perform the desired search you want to set up as an alert. In this example, I want to set up a search on: breast cancer AND tamoxifen


At this point, you want to click ‘Save Search’ (see the link to the right of the search box?) If you are not already logged into your account, you will be prompted to do so. You will be given the option of naming your saved search, and deciding if you want to receive email updates for new search results. By indicating YES, you do want email updates, you are setting up an alert.


You are usually allowed to determine the schedule that you are notified of new items. The great thing is, as soon as you set up the alert – you no longer have to think about performing that particular search! You will receive email updates listing only the new literature based on your search strategy.

Questions? Ask A Librarian!