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June 10, 2010 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Academics: have you found a way to automate downloading and keeping track of journals and papers in your field?

I'm starting grad school in the fall, so I've been filling up my spare time with reading digital copies of scholarly journals in my field. I have access to a big university's library, and I have Mendeley, so once I find something I want to read, downloading, reading, and storing it is easy. It's the finding that's a little bit clunky and time-consuming. I end up having to log in several times to different e-journal interfaces and download PDFs manually, which isn't the biggest problem in the world, but it's a little annoying.

Ideally, I'd want full issues/volumes of specific journals to magically appear in my Mendeley desktop as they're released. If you use Mendeley or something similar, have you found a way to automate downloading papers either from a specific journal or in a specific subfield? Is there some way to set up an RSS-style feed for academic content? I'm assuming that there is and I'm just too dense to have already figured it out, but if not, do you have any other creative solutions?
posted by oinopaponton to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Many journals offer RSS feeds. I've been clinging onto an old-fashioned way of e-mailed tables of contents, which can be set up by most publishers.

That said, with those journals being subscription based, having it all very easy to get & download, without logging into your university library network, is not the normal situation.
posted by knile at 9:09 AM on June 10, 2010

If you're in a field that uses it, the arXiv has rss fields by field and subfield classification.
posted by MidsizeBlowfish at 9:12 AM on June 10, 2010

rss feeds, not fields (sorry)
posted by MidsizeBlowfish at 9:13 AM on June 10, 2010

Pubmed also allows you to create an RSS feed based on a search string.
posted by tnai at 9:14 AM on June 10, 2010

Sorry, I guess I should have specified-- I'm in the tech-phobic humanities, specifically history.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:15 AM on June 10, 2010

If you haven't asked a librarian at your institution about this yet, you should. You may be able to set up either RSS or email updates for the journals or authors you are interested in. More importantly, the Librarian there could help you do this from the provider that the library gets the material. That way downloading would be a few clicks away from the alert, rather than an an alert telling you to go look for an article.

If that didn't make sense, just go to the library and don't leave until someone has helped you.
posted by Gor-ella at 9:50 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know about automating the process wholly, but Mendeley's most recent update was a really imppressive one. The most noticeable improvement is in the, pretty much every paper I drag into the iTunes-esque interface is immediately catalogued properly, and all I have to do is add my own tags and drop it into the right folder(s) if I wish.

I highly recommend it. Nothing like having ALL your pdfs organized.
posted by nosila at 10:02 AM on June 10, 2010

I do RSS feeds in Google reader to keep up on journals.

This would be a good place to start- ProfHacker's guide to organizing/annotating PDFs.
posted by k8t at 10:28 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Having full issues automatically download is simply not worth it. Why do you want to duplicate an existing online resource on your local computer? Are you going to read every single issue of every journal cover to cover?

No one I know in my field (including editors-in-chief) do that. Ever.

Why not get a RSS feed for each of the journals you are interested in? I use Google reader. I have about 30 journals on there. As soon as a new issue (or papers that are online first) comes out, I see the title and abstract on my feed. If it's a paper I want to read, one more click and it's on my desktop. If it's something I want to read later, I just star it.

You can search all items in your feed much faster than web of science or google scholar. So if someday you want to find a paper that you think you saw in your feed, just search and boom it's there.

good luck.
posted by special-k at 10:43 AM on June 10, 2010

If you're on a Mac, check out Papers. It's great for the organizing once you've downloaded, has a really good interface for searching and -getting- papers from Pubmed and Google Scholar (and others), and it has a nice feature where you can see the last 10 or so papers published in any journal you like or by any author you like. Plus, it has iPhone and iPad versions, so you can read (and search for) papers on the go. I love love love it. (In fact... need to get back to it now, and stop reading ask.mefi...)
posted by wyzewoman at 11:52 AM on June 10, 2010

As some others mentioned above, downloading full issues seems inefficient to me (at least, in my field it would be). If you have access to the library, you probably have access to the research databases, so using those, rather than journal interfaces would also be more efficient.

This may not apply to the humanities, but when I started my PhD program, I initially stuck to my course readings. As I decided on a few research areas I might be interested in pursuing, I did a one-time comprehensive search on EBSCO and JSTOR. Rather than downloading the articles individually, I downloaded the citations in one single file that I imported into separate libraries in EndNote, then emailed the articles to myself (again, the database does it for you). You should be able to do this in any major research database.

For newer articles, I've set up email alerts within EBSCO (citation and abstract, as well as the link to the article).

I can't help with Mendeley since I've just started using it (I currently use EndNote and Zotero).
posted by prenominal at 12:16 PM on June 10, 2010

If you use GMail and find yourself subscribing to a lot of e-mail newsletters, you'll probably want to sort them from your general mail. You may know this already, but goes into your gmail box but, added bonus, you can set up a filter for anything that goes to that specific address and label + archive it. I use and have all my newsletters go into a special label. That way, I can look at them whenever I have a free minute.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:44 PM on June 10, 2010

Recent versions of Endnote have a "find full text" feature. I search journal databases using key terms, from within endnote to download citations. I then click "find full text" and it downloads the pdfs of the articles for me, nicely named (no useless titles like 'sd article') and linked to the reference.

Whether this works or not seems to depend on Endnote knowing that I belong to my University and that my University subscribes to the journal; it does not always work. You would want to test that this works well with some sample articles from your discipline. The student price is a good discount.
posted by SandiBeech at 1:06 PM on June 10, 2010

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