Information Resources: Staying Current: What RSS Can Do for You

Key Words: Alerting services, Current awareness, Internet, RSS, World Wide Web

The Web continues to present us with new tools for accessing information. One feature appearing in recent years and now being adopted more widely is the RSS feed. RSS offers the potential of receiving real-time updates from sites of interest without having to take specific action to direct your browser to that site, making it a valuable tool for maintaining current awareness.

What is it?

RSS made its debut with Netscape’s "My Netscape Network" service in about 2000. RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" or "Rich Site Summary" and provides a convenient way for you to get current news and information. It provides the means for a publisher of Web content to syndicate updates and send them to those who have subscribed. These are called RSS "feeds’ or "channels." They provide headlines and summaries for the new content and links to the full stories.

An individual is able to take advantage of this service by using a RSS reader (also called a news aggregator) to subscribe to a RSS feed (such as health news from CNN). The RSS reader automatically and regularly checks the feeds to which the person is subscribed. When there is an update, the RSS reader retrieves the headlines and provides notification that they are available.

Why use it?

As more quality sites provide this option of receiving a RSS feed, this Web tool allows an individual to gather information effortlessly and more efficiently. If a site is important to you, you can receive updates automatically without having to regularly make a point of visiting it to check for new useful information. If you have multiple Web sites of interest, the value of having updates pushed to you without action on your part is even more attractive. Some sites (such as PubMed) allow you to customize the information for which you want alerts.

Most people find RSS to be less intrusive than receiving e-mail updates. Another clear advantage is the ease of subscribing and unsubscribing, giving the individual true control over what is received. As many of us have learned, this is not always true with e-mail newsletters from which it can be difficult to unsubscribe. Also, a subscriber is anonymous as no personal information is provided.

How do I get a RSS reader?

There are many free RSS readers to choose from. For some, you download the small software program onto your desktop. Others are Web-based. Here are some possibilities:

FeedReader ( A desktop RSS aggregator.

NewsGator ( A news aggregator that runs in Microsoft Outlook.

NewzCrawler ( A desktop aggregator with embedded browser.

RSS Bandit ( An RSS desktop feed aggregator.

SharpReader ( An RSS/Atom Aggregator for Windows.

How does it work?

Publishers providing RSS feeds show an orange rss icon or  button near the feed they offer. This button has the specific URL code needed to set up the feed or to subscribe. To add an RSS feed, click on the orange button. Then cut and paste the address of the feed into your reader software. Readers offer different options and forms of display.

A useful tutorial for getting started is provided by PCStats: "Beginners Guides: RSS Feed Setup & Subscriptions" ( Also, a recent article by Yensen (2005) gives good how-to information.

What sites are available?

Examples of Health-related RSS Feeds

BioMed Central Nursing ( Offers RSS feed for table of contents of current issues of BMC Nursing.

CNN ( Includes a feed for health news. ( This page provides a listing of Federal government health-related RSS feeds.

Medscape ( You will see a box with "XML What is this?" Click there to go to a listing of RSS feeds, including one for nursing.

National Guideline Clearinghouse ( You might choose receiving the "What’s New" feed which will provide weekly alerts for the NGC Tool, Guideline, and Measure summaries.

PLoS Medicine ( A RSS feed is available to receive current issue table of contents for PLoS Medicine.

PubMed ( You can do a search on PubMed and then set that up as a RSS feed. When you connect with your RSS reader, you will retrieve citations from your PubMed searches that have occurred since the last time you were connected to your RSS reader. More information on using RSS with PubMed searches can be found at:

University of Saskatchewan Library listing of Electronic Journals offering RSS feeds ( If you do a keyword search on "nursing," over 150 journals are listed for which a RSS alert is available.

General Guides to RSS Feeds

You can go to Web directories that providing a listing of sites offering RSS syndication. These include sites covering all kinds of topics. Some of the most extensive listings are:

  • Bloglines ( 100,000 blogs and newsfeeds.
  • DayPop ( 59,000 news sites, weblogs, and RSS feeds.
  • Newsisfree (, news from over 20,000 possible sources.
  • ( which has an extensive listing of RSS feeds.


Barbara F. Schloman, PhD, AHIP
Associate Dean, Library Public Services
Libraries & Media Services
Kent State University
Kent, OH 44242

Disclaimer: Mention of a Web site does not imply endorsement by the author, OJIN, or NursingWorld. Links to web sites are current at the time of publication, but are not subsequently updated.


Yensen, J. (2005). Leveraging RSS feeds to support current awareness. Computers, Informatics, Nursing: CIN, 23, 164-167.

Citation: Schloman, B., (October 10, 2005). "Information Resources Column: Staying Current: What RSS Can Do for You" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol.11, No. 1.