To stay up to date on the latest happenings in your areas of interest, you likely refer to a number of Web sites. The news articles, photos, video, and other material you glean from these sites can also provide rich and relevant resources for your classes. However, you could easily spend a great deal of time visiting each of these sites whenever you want to find an example of current research, an engaging clip to open your class session, or a thought-provoking article for discussion. Therefore, if you aren’t yet using RSS feeds to follow and gather content, you may want to consider doing so.

In their book Internet Research Illustrated, Sixth Edition, Donald I. Barker, Melissa S. Barker, and Katherine T. Pinard offer a brief introduction to RSS (a common acronym for “Really Simple Syndication”). They define RSS as “a protocol that gives you the ability to selectively subscribe to automatic updates from a wide variety of social media platforms” (p. 89). The RSS feed can deliver the latest information on the site straight to your computer or mobile device.

To take advantage of the capabilities of RSS, you will need to use an RSS reader. The authors suggest that you can use a reader such as RSSOwl or Sage; some browsers, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox include built-in RSS readers as well. (If you are interested in additional options, conduct an Internet search for “best RSS reader,” and you will find a number of articles discussing the merits of various programs.)

Having chosen a reader, you’ll now need to subscribe to your favorite sites. Given that not every site syndicates its content, you won’t be able to add all pages to your reader; however, there is a means of identifying which sites are available. If a Web site or blog uses an RSS feed, you will notice an orange icon in your browser or on the page itself: . (Other sites use a button that simply says “RSS.”) If you see this icon, it indicates that you can subscribe to the site and receive its updates. Usually, you can do so by clicking on this orange icon or by selecting the “Subscribe” link within your reader. You can also add the site’s URL manually to your reader. (For the specific steps involved in subscribing to a feed, consult the directions provided in the Help or FAQ section of your reader.)

Once you’ve subscribed to your preferred sites, your RSS reader makes it easy for you to identify the posts that may have content that’s fresh, insightful, and of specific interest to you or your students. Most readers will display, at the very least, the title and a brief description of the content. From there, you can click on the hyperlink, which directs you to the complete article.

Another tip: most readers allow you to organize your various feeds into folders. For example: you could set up folders for your various courses; or, create folders for school, news, entertainment, hobbies, travel, or other areas of interest. (Again, check your reader’s Help section for the specific steps you need to take to do this.)

Do you have any additional suggestions for using RSS feeds? Offer your suggestions below. (And don’t forget to add our blog to your feed!)

Reference: Barker, Donald I., Barker, Melissa S., and Pinard, Katherine T. 2012. Internet Research Illustrated, 6th Ed. Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.