RSS (rich site summary, or, really simple syndication) is an invaluable tool for all academics. If you ever wish it was easier to stay up the current academic literature, then this is tool for you.
So what is RSS? It’s a way of publishing work so that readers can be notified of updates. In this day and age, almost every journal has an RSS feed- all you have to do is hook your RSS reader up to the journal’s RSS feed, and you will have every new issue delivered to your virtual doorstep. You’ll find RSS feeds everywhere: there’s one lurking at the bottom of the sidebar.
The list of journals I read cover to cover is very low (well, it’s nonexistent). The utility of RSS starts to become apparent when you combine it with search terms. Pubmed makes it insanely easy to do this. First, make a literature search with some well-devised keywords and observe the results. Pick terms that are specific enough to filter out things you have no interest in, but are not so demanding you find no results.
Once you are satisfied with your search terms, click on the link to save your search as an RSS. Now, whenever a new article matching your search term is published and collected by pubmed, it will be pushed to your RSS feed. Combine several of these RSS searches, and you will impress your advisor/journal club/dog with your awareness of cutting-edge research in your field!
Next time: picking an RSS reader!