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Pubmed + RSS + iGoogle = Easy Lit Updates

Pubmed + RSS + iGoogle = Easy Lit Updates

We’ve talked before about ways to use technology to help you with the vital job of keeping up with the literature (see here and here). Now here is another one to add to the list.

This approach was first flagged up by Eric (thanks Eric!) in a comment on Carrie’s article about improving your Pubmed searches. The idea is to use the combined power of Pubmed, RSS feeds and iGoogle to create a page of RSS feed boxes that will keep you continually updated on articles containing your keywords of interest, or from specific authors or journals. It is nice and simple, but I find it an incredibly powerful and fast method of literature scanning compared to email updates or browsing each journal individually.

So here’s how to set it up.

1. If you haven’t already got one, you’ll need an iGoogle account. Just sign up at iGoogle.com.

2. In your iGoogle account, click the “add a tab” button to add a new tab, and name it “RSS Feeds”, or whatever you like.

Pubmed + RSS + iGoogle = Easy Lit Updates

3. Now go to Pubmed and search for a keyword, author or journal (or any combination of these you want) on which you want to be kept updated. Read Carrie’s article on Pubmed searches for some great ideas on how to perform optimal searches. One especially good tip is to use field tags to target your search:


  • Nature[TA] will bring up all articles from the Nature journal ([TA] is the journal title field tag)
  • Lane DP[AU] will bring up all articles written by DP Lane ([AU] is the author field tag)
  • Transaminase[TIAB] will bring up all articles with Transaminase in the title or abstract ([TIAB] is the field tage for Title and Abstract)

4. When you get the search results, click on the “send to” drop-down menu and choose “RSS” feed.

Pubmed + RSS + iGoogle = Easy Lit Updates

5. In the window that you are sent to, choose a title for the feed and the number of articles you want to be displayed. Then click “create feed”.

Pubmed + RSS + iGoogle = Easy Lit Updates

6. Clicking on the orange XML button will then take you to your feed. Copy the feed address (URL) from your browser’s address window.

7. Now you need to add a feed reader to your iGoogle page. iGoogle has many available RSS feed gadgets but the best are: Simple rss reader, CustomRSS, Slim RSS Reader, and Feeds in Tabs. To add one of these click on the “Add stuff” link then search for the gadget (or just search for “RSS reader” and choose your own) and click “Add It Now” to add it to your iGoogle page

Pubmed + RSS + iGoogle = Easy Lit Updates

8. Back in your newly created iGoogle RSS feed page, click the down arrow>edit settings in the RSS feed box you have justed added. Paste your feed address into the “FEED URL” box and add the title of your choice to the “Custom Gadget Title” box, then hit “save”.

Pubmed + RSS + iGoogle = Easy Lit Updates

9. To add another feed, go back to step 3. Repeat until you have a page full of feeds than you can easily scan to keep up with your various literature focuses. Remember that in iGoogle you can drag and drop your various feed gadgets so that they are ordered on the page in the way that you want.

Pubmed + RSS + iGoogle = Easy Lit Updates

Think this is any good? Got a better way to keep up with the literature? Let us know in the comments…


  1. jacky zhang on August 22, 2008 at 2:43 am

    I suggest you can use this function as follow:
    as Dan suggested G reader is a nice RSS feed reader.
    you can start from Step 3–> step 6, then use google reader order ” Add subscription, input the rss address you gotten”
    it is much easy……………

  2. Dan Koboldt on August 19, 2008 at 6:57 pm


    This is a great post. Keeping up with the literature is a major challenge, and I’m surprised at how few people make efforts to do it. Even fewer capitalize on new web tools like RSS to bring it all together.

    Google Reader is a nice RSS feed reader. G Reader has come a long way in the past several months, and with the recent additional of google-across-your-RSS-feeds, it can be quite powerful.

    Until a better solution is available, I use G Reader / RSS to keep current on articles, Papers for Mac to manage them on my machine, and EndNote for its cite-while-you-write functionality.

  3. David on August 14, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    PubMed will do this for you without going to Google by using MyNCBI – simply establish an account, do a search, save the search (an option that is available when you are signed in to MyNCBI and tell it how often you want to see updated results).

  4. John on August 14, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Perhaps a simpler alternative would be to open an account with “PiubCrawler”, which you can do here:


    It’s very simple to use, and sends you a weekly e-mail pointing towards the search results that you set up using relevant keywords.

  5. Ryan on August 14, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I set up a page using Google Reader. The site

    is for bioanalytical chemistry and related topics. I just create a folder for bioanalytical in google feedreader, dump the rss feeds into it, and then you can \”share\” the feeds and you get a link. I prefer it to using igoogle!

  6. Hari Jayaram on August 14, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    You can also see some of the community screencasts that detail how to use rss at Bioscreencast.com

    Here you will find screencasts that talk about the feature mentionned in you blog and also a screencast from Michael Pascoe that talks about using papers


  7. Nick on August 14, 2008 at 4:33 am

    Samuel: Netvibes would work too – thanks for the suggestions

    Jonathan: Sorry – I hadn’t noticed your article. Nothing wrong with tooting your own horn though.

    Eric: Thanks again for the idea, it’s a good one. And I agree with you about papers what an fantastic piece of software it is. Integrating a feed viewer like this into papers would be amazing.

  8. ECO on August 14, 2008 at 1:12 am

    Go me! 😀

    I don’t know how I kept up on journals before this method. Actually I didn’t.

    Even better would be seamlessly integrating these custom PubMed RSS with Papers (http://mekentosj.com/ the single best Mac application ever written).

  9. Samuel Huckins on August 13, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Love the basic idea here, saves a lot of time! One suggestion: I myself like NetVibes more than iGoogle, and it would work the same for this sort of setup. If you aren’t quite sold on iGoogle’s layout and offerings, give NetVibes a try. It has a lot more features, and looks better.

  10. jonathan on August 13, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    This is a valuable post. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I also posted about using RSS feeds from pubmed in google reader last month. These days, scientists need to keep up to speed with all the new Web 2.0 tools that are available to them.. especially with the massive expansion of journals in the last 5 or 6 years. It’s hard to keep up; but tools like Google Reader make it that much easier.

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