#Finding scientific information: RSS Feeds

RSS Feeds

Many websites that regularly offer new material can be followed with RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary). This way the user does not have to keep an eye on the updates of the pages, rather you can automatically get the information about changes on the website, for example, to your own computer browser programme.

An RSS feed is generated when the information provider codes the webpage content, not only as traditional text, but also with an RSS code, which is one of many types of XML. The person ordering the feed needs a reader or a reading program in order to read the coded text.


RSS readers

The person receiving the RSS content should be using a browser based reader, or a separate RSS reader programme which has to be separately installed. RSS reading programs can be downloaded from the internet; some are free, others you have to pay for. Online readers are not computer bound. By logging into the service, you can use the reader from any computer. The newer versions of the most common browsers can function as RSS readers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari).

An RSS feed can also be ordered to some email programs. In addition, many personalised starting pages of web services (e.g. Netvibes) can be set to read RSS feeds.


The RSS service symbol is often a white and orange RSS symbol or picture.

  • The new symbol
  • Older feed symbols

The button can be in the content of the page or at the right hand edge of the address bar of the browser. The order button might also be in the text as a text link. The simplest way to start using an RSS service is to press the RSS button; this copies the address automatically to the reader of the browser. The service may offer alternative readers, so you can make your choice. The URL of the feed can be moved to another reader.
The feed can also be added to a link list on web-pages using, for example, an iframe tag , or perhaps using the Del.icio.us service. However, if you decide to do this then you should get to know the terms and conditions of use of the original RSS feed service provider.

Examples of where RSS feeds are used

Journal hosting databases

New additions in many journal hosting databases can be followed with the RSS title feed facility (EbscoHost, Elsevier ScienceDirect, Blackwell Synergy). The RSS feed possibility can be checked on the database webpage.

Reference databases


RefWorks can also function as an RSS feed reader. Many reference databases give you the opportunity to order RSS feeds directly to RefWorks. The www address of the RSS picture is copied and saved to RefWorks through the RSS feed feature. The feeds can be followed if desired, and by clicking the link you can see the references that have appeared since the previous time you visited.

Getting Information From RSS Feeds Into RefWorks


Personalised start pages

Customised or personalised start pages give you the possibility to create a tailored, personal webpage for your browser, where you can collect things that are essential to you and you can gather all your alerts and feeds.

You can, for example, collect your own RSS feeds for the services you want on your customised start page. You can also collect information and alerts on your own research topic, feeds on new articles in journals from your field, blogs related to your subject, podcasts etc. In addition, you can collect other interesting material like news feeds, weather forecasts, currency converters and social networking tools etc. Quite often customised start page providers have collected ready-made feed lists or directories where you can choose the ones most necessary to you.

You can readily find start page providers on the internet.  In order to start using a personalised start page, you often have to register, or create an account and login. In addition, some browsers offer the possibility of personalising your start page.

Netvibes offers an easily customised template for a personal start page. In the example, a personal start page has been made, using Netvibes, where the user has collected the most important things for keeping up with their own research area, such as RSS feeds for new articles from journals. In the second column, RSS feeds offer new hits from the user's own search profile, and new citations from an interesting article in the ScienceDirect database. In addition, the page has a collection of links for future conferences. Other things of interest have been gathered under separate tabs, such as patents, weather forecasts, facebook etc. Source of illustration: Netvibes <http://www.netvibes.com/> 22.8.2008