Generally, creating alerts is easy. The process is simple and only takes a minute or two for each alert. That said, sometimes constructing a search phrase that will provide effective alerts is tricky.
Here are two examples:
- EXAMPLE ONE: Today in the news, there was an article on solar geoengineering. I have not seen this in the news much previously. The phrase "solar geoengineering" gets only 10 hits in Newspaper Source Complete, and only 20 in Proquest Newsstream. This tells me that the term does not appear often in the news, so I know that I won't be overwhelmed with too many articles. But, today's article says there is renewed interest in the idea, so it may begin appearing in the news more often. And I have seen the movie Snowpiercer, so I know exactly what will happen if we try solar geoengineering and I don't want to be eating bugs on a train for the the rest of time (jk), so I decided to track this topic.
- So I created once-daily alerts in each of the 4 databases on the simple phrase "solar geoengineering".
- In fact, I may want to expand the search later, in one of two ways:
- In Ebsco and Proquest, the default search is restricted to the headline, and the lead paragraph or a summary or abstract. It is not searching the full text of the article. For such a specific and technical term, I might want to be searching the full text.
- However, expanding to full text runs the risk of finding too many articles that mention solar geoengineering but have very little of interest to say about it -- I don't want to get alerts about articles with only trivial mentions of my topic.
- There may be other terms that are used to get at the same concept. As I learn more about solar geoengineering, I will keep an eye out for terms that get at the same topic, and consider revising my alert with a more complex search that would match on more than one term or phrase (see Example Two for an example of this).
- EXAMPLE TWO:
- Returning rivers to a more natural state through the removal of dams is a worldwide trend right now. One of the bigger dam removal projects was the removal of the Elwha River Dam on the Olympic Peninsula a few years ago. (There are some cool time lapse videos of the project easily findable on the Web). There are still occasional articles relating to this project in the news. Here are two searches I have tried in Nexis Uni to try and track any new news articles mentioning the Elwha dam:
- "elwha dam" or "elwha river dam"
- elwha w/10 dam
- "w/10" means within 10 words of -- it is a proximity operator. I use it here because the two phrases I use in my search don't always occur in articles about the dam .
- Proximity operators are great, but not all databases offer them.
- To track dam removals in general, I use:
- dam w/6 remov*
- This is too broad -- I get a number of irrelevant articles this way. But after experimenting with different proximities, I went with 6 words, and am happy enough.
- The * is a truncation operator: this means I'll match on removal, removals, remove, removing . . . any word that begins with the characters "remov".