I am currently using Google Scholar to receive alerts (emails) for new publications in my field. However, to my understanding (I might be wrong) Google Scholar doesn't allow to:

  • Use regular expression
    • might very useful for looking at variants (noun, adjective, adverb) of the word of interest
  • Indicate the field where the matching pattern should be found

    • author name: if you write the name of an author, you just get all the paper that (s)he publish and all the papers that cite him/her. Also, if the author has a short and common name such as Do then, Google Scholar will basically send tons of articles.
    • title: If I am looking for a concept that is used in a whole lot of different papers but only few papers really work on it such as the word evolution for example, then it would be useful to be able to ask for publications that contain the word evolution in the title only.
    • Journal: Well... because we all have our favourite journals.
  • Use AND and OR statements

    • Such as for example: Give me all new publications which author is John Smith AND where the word action potential is present in the title OR the article has neurophysiology as a keyword. Something like author: John Smith AND (title: action potential OR keyword: neurophysiology)

There are probably various algorithms that can be found online that would allow one to receive alerts for new publications. Can you give me recommendations of what (and why) is best to use for receiving alerts?

FYI: My field is evolutionary biology and more precisely theoretical population genetics. I am particularly bothered by the fact that I am working on the concept of robustness in evolutionary developmental biology but the word robustness has meaning in so many different sciences and I just receive tons of alerts that are no relevant to my work.

2 Answers 2


There are a few things Google Scholar can handle, for example here is a query that can be made into an alert and is similar to what you gave as an example:

author:"John Smith" (intitle:"action potential" OR neurophysiology)

To get all the results from a particular author (with or without articles that cite their work) you can search the author, click on his/her name in one of the results and there will be a "Follow" button on the profile page to get email alerts.

If you click the drop-down in the search box you can fill out the advanced search form to make complicated queries and at the bottom of the search results there is a "create an alert" link, but this option seems to disappear if you specify a journal.

As for using regular expressions, hopefully most of your queries can be solved by using OR, e.g. (color OR colour)

  • Oh does it work? You just right that in the field called alert query? Are you aware of a help page that explains the notations that scholar understand? Here is the only thing I could find. +1
    – Remi.b
    Apr 30, 2015 at 19:51
  • I found most of this by using the advanced search and looking at the generated query, using some of the google search operators, and reading the about scholar page you linked. Apr 30, 2015 at 19:58

The two large commercial bibliographic services come pretty close:

Web of Science can handle alerts with boolean searching - it couldn't exactly replicate this as it can't search keywords only, however. (It has a generalised "topic" which searches title/abstract/keywords). Leaving off the author element, there's about 1050 results for 2014.

Scopus can run this exact search. It has a somewhat broader scope than Web of Science - so 1930 hits for 2014.

Both are, unfortunately, (expensive) subscription services. But your institution may well pay for them ...

edit - UBC does indeed pay for Web of Science, so give it a shot and see if you like it! You probably want, in advanced search, something like TI=(action potential) OR TS=(neurophysiology)

  • Thanks a lot for your help. Yes, indeed UBC pays for WebOfKnowledge (thks for making your answer so specific to my needs). I thought we could not receive alerts from WebOfKnowledge but seeking a bit more I see that it actually works (click on My Tools) +1. However, I think we can only receive alerts for selected papers that get cited but not for papers that match some pattern. Or can we?
    – Remi.b
    Apr 30, 2015 at 15:54
  • You can get alerts on saved searches, but only (for some reason) if the search is on a specific WoK database rather than "all databases". Run your search on 'Web of Science Core Collection', then at the left you'll have a bell icon and "Create Alert". This then runs either monthly or weekly. Apr 30, 2015 at 16:34
  • 2
    One caveat to be aware of: WoK only includes papers when they're finally & formally 'published', so it won't pick up any which are "early online", "in press" etc on the journal website. Given that some journals, naming no names, can leave things "in press" for more than a year when waiting for a special issue, this may produce odd gaps... Apr 30, 2015 at 16:36

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