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#34-How to Get Electronic Table of Contents (TOC) Alerts Using Library Electronic Journal Collections

January 22, 2004

LTA Overview

This LTA contains information on how faculty – and students – can improve their ability to keep up-to-date with the latest articles appearing in journals both essential to and peripheral to one’s discipline. Some libraries may already subscribe to commercial document delivery companies that offer highly customizable Table of Contents (TOC) services. For the rest of us, there is a surprisingly easy way to develop your own TOC alert service. Almost all of the electronic journal systems libraries subscribe to offer TOC alerts. What are some of these systems?

  • American Chemical Society
  • Science Direct (Elsevier)
  • Kluwer Online
  • Emerald
  • Project Muse


Steven J. Bell
Director, Paul J. Guttman Library
Philadelphia University


There are many others and you should check with your librarians to learn which are available to your institution. But as the examples in this Low Threshold Application will show, the procedure for setting up TOC alerts is remarkably similar among the systems. So while this LTA is extremely easy – mostly completing forms – once you do one system you will be a master of all of them. The key is that faculty need to be aware that this resource exists, and that gaining familiarity with the libraries e-journal collection is essential. What if you have a specific journal in mind that you want a TOC alert for and it isn’t included among your library’s e-journal collections. There are several commercial document delivery services that allow anyone to establish TOC alerts for free. The only cost would be if you decided to purchase an article from the service. So TOC alerts qualifies as an LTA on several levels:

  • Requires Little Time to Learn
  • Available at No Cost to Faculty
  • Improves Productivity and Efficiency (time on task)
  • The Procedure Itself is Simple and Requires No Real Technology Skill

Example 1–Creating a TOC Alert in American Chemical Society (ACS) E-Journals


  1. 1The American Chemical Society e-journal collection provides access to all of the full-text articles in approximately 40 journals. Chemists and other interested researchers can sign up for table of contents delivery, by email, when new issues are published.
  2. Begin on the home page of the ACS Publications Group. Look at the top of the Web page for this tab:


  3. Under the “Table of Contents” Alert section, click on the button that reads “register for TOC Alerts.”


  4. Complete the form under REGISTRATION FORM and at this point you will identify either major subject areas of interest or journals may be selected by their titles. For example:


  5. The procedure is complete upon clicking the submit button. ACS sends an e-mail alert for each journal selected. Your TOCs will look similar to what appears below.


  6. To update or modify your TOC profile, return to the “sign up for e-mail alerts area, and then click on the button that reads “unsubscribe or modify registration.”

Example 2–Creating a TOC Alert in Science Direct


  1. Science Direct provides access to over 1700 journals published by Elsevier. Depending on a library’s subscription all or some part of the total collection will be available in full-text format. To begin this process login to Science Direct and proceed to the Journals (click on “journals” on the top menu bar).
  2. Review or browse journals for which you would be interested in establishing TOC alerts.
  3. To create an alert click on “My Alerts” Lta34.07 on the top navigation bar. Next, proceed through the registration process. You will be prompted to provide a password. After your username and password are confirmed, proceed to the login screen and login with your new account.
  4. On the next screen you can choose from Search Alert or Journal Issues Alert. Search Alert allows you to save a search that will be performed repeatedly by the system and will notify you when something is found on that topic. Choose Journal Issues Alert to define your alerts, starting with this link:

    Add/Remove Journals

  5. As shown below, browse for your journal title and then click the “add” link to put the desired journals in the box on the right side of the screen.


  6. When a new issue of your journal(s) is published you will receive an e-mail message containing the table of contents and links to the articles and issue. Here is an example.


  7. To modify or delete a TOC alert return to the “My Alerts” tab and login in to modify your account.

Example 3–Additional Resources for Finding TOC Alert Services

  1. At this point, you should have a good sense of what TOC alert services do, the types of library electronic resources that make them available, and how to set up an alert. As mentioned above, the similarities between these services makes it easy to use almost any of them.
  2. Listed below are links to libraries that have created pages on their web sites that identify services that make TOC alerts available. In addition to ACS and ScienceDirect, the two examples provided here, there are many others. Whether or not you can make use of them, depends in many cases on if your institution subscribes to them. Check your library’s Web site or ask your librarians. They’ll know for sure what services you can access at your institution. But use these links below to see the diverse sources of TOC alerts that exist.


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