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Research Skills: Other tools

A guide to help you improve your research skills: make the most of your time to find and retrieve the information you need.

Overview: Other tools

This guide highlights tools outside of academic databases which are available to you to help keep up to date with a wealth of information just beyond your fingertips. These include:

  • Journal TOCs: Services to keep you up to date with the latest issue of key journals in your subject area
  • Academic Mailing Lists: Services providing online communities of students, academics and practitioners within your field to share and discuss relevant issues, problems, ideas and research.
  • Conference alerts: Keep on top of the latest conferences within your field.
  • Patents: The latest patent applications and registrations.

Journal TOCs

Journal TOCs



Keeping up to date: Other services and tools

Journal Table of Contents (ToC) Services

Table of Contents service will deliver the Table of Content (ToC) of the each issue of a journal (or journals) to you, usually via email or via an RSS feed. You can receive ToCs for journals you have access to through library subscriptions, or titles we do not have access to but which may sometimes include content of interest. If this is the case, you will be able to request articles we don't immediately have access to via the Document Delivery Service.


JournalTOCs creates ToC alerts by RSS feed. It contains over 33,000 journals (including over 15,900 open access journals) directly collected from over 3,400 publishers.

  • Access at JournalTOCs.
  • You can register for an account for free.
  • Browse (by subject or publisher) OR Search for journals by title/ISSN and articles by keyword.
  • Click on the journal title to see the ToC.
  • Click on the rss feed logo to subscribe to the ToC alert for the journal - you can add it to your desktop or copy and paste the feed into a feed reader.
  • You can unsubscribe to any feeds directly from within your feed reader.
  • Alternatively, if you have the technical knowledge you can use the available APIs provided by the service.

Mailing Lists

Online mailing and discussion lists continue to offer a prime means of communication between people with similar research interests or belonging to professional or academic societies, in tandem with less formal social media networks. Two major directories of mailing lists, which you can explore for relevant groups and networks are:


The UK's National Academic Mailing List Service (and largest educational and research email discussion list community) - but don't be deceived; its main users include research communities worldwide. Includes lists for specific interest groups, societies, journals and conferences. Some allow you to join and search the discussion archive freely, some require you to request membership of the group.

JiscMail is funded by Jisc, which is a charity who champion the use of digital technologies in the UK education and research.

Access JISCMail


The official catalogue of over 50,000 publically accessible LISTSERV discussion and mailing lists. From here you can search and browse all lists by host country, size of membership and subject.

Access CataList.

Conferences and Conference proceedings

Upcoming conferences and calls for papers

Disseminating your research and maintaining a visible research profile is part of your role as a researcher. You are likely to find out about conferences in your subject area via colleagues, scholarly societies in your subject area and departmental news, but two other sources may be of interest:

  • Mailing Lists - see our section on academic mailing lists
  • ConferenceAlerts - a useful service for browsing upcoming conferences in yours, and related subject areas.

Be aware that conferences listed on this service may not have gone through a quality assurance process for selection, so always check the reputation of the organisers, any identifiable conference committee members and the reputation of other or previous speakers

Published conference papers and proceedings

You will find published conference papers and proceedings indexed in several of our subscription academic databases, including Scopus, Web of Science and Zetoc.

Patent Alerts

If you are looking for alerts to keep you up to date with new patents and patent applications, the services below may be of interest.

Some researchers at Durham may also find the following subscription service of interest:

  • SciFinder - allows you to search for patents by various criteria or see patents linked to published articles.
    • Note: Durham users will need to follow the link to register with the service first, logging in with your CIS username and password to get to the registration page.

For further information, see also the Research Commercialisation team's web pages.

Academic Blogs and Social Media

Scholarly communication has broken out from traditional forms (journal articles, monographs, conference papers) and many academics communicate their latest updates on personal blogs and web pages, via social media and Youtube. 

Academic Blogging

Many academic authors use blogging as a means to promote their research to a wider audience, perhaps providing some context of the research or inviting further discussion. They may also highlight or discuss wider issues in academia, their experience and how they have progressed their career.

Examples of Durham University Blogs

Hearing the Voice Project Blog Inherently Human Blog READ English Durham Blog
Life of Breath Blog DULIB Blog Individual blog: Dr Lewis MacKenzie

Academic Social Networks

Academic social networking sites, such as ResearchGate and allow you to engage with global online networks of researchers to keep up to date with new projects, opportunities, ideas, discussions and publications.

See our guide on Social Media for Researchers for further information.


Whether you see Twitter (and other social media tools) as an essential communication and information platform, or as an enabler for procrastination, there are different ways of using and engaging with it; One example might be to keep up to date with the "twitter conversation" at a conference you may not be able to attend in person.

See our guide on Social Media for Researchers for further tips and guidance on making the most of academic Twitter - including using tools such as Tweetdeck to manage your Twitter engagement, and set up search alerts for content on Twitter.

News and Newspapers

As with many of our databases of academic literature, we provide subscription access to a number of news databases, including Factiva and Nexis UK, from which you can search across thousands of local, national and international news and media sources, and set up alerts to be updated of new content matching your search terms.

To explore the resources available to you, visit the library's news and newspaper resources web page.

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