The problem first. I only subscribe a few journals personally. To browse latest articles published in many other journals related to my research areas, I need to check the corresponding websites regularly. To check the latest issues from ten different journals, I need to visit ten different webpages. Alternatively, I can subscribe the email notification services, which have been available for a long time for many journals. However, each email is itself one object, with several entries (articles) inside. It is not easy to organize the entries. How about combining the lists of articles together into one single list?
Put it simply, each RSS feed is a list of entries provided by a server, e.g., news stories provided by a newspaper website, or article abstracts provided by a journal publisher. An RSS reader "pulls" the data from the RSS feed providers, and shows them to the user. You can consider an RSS Reader as your personalized magazine, with data from various magazines, journals, newspapers, websites, and other content providers, all collected and displayed in one place.
As you may notice in the diagram I prepared, it is not only for obtaining the latest issue tables of content from journals. Nowadays, many content providers have RSS feeds. Many societies have RSS feeds for their latest news, many news websites have feeds for their news stories, many discussion groups have feeds for the latest posts, and feed is nearly one of the standard services a blog should have. Therefore, RSS reader is actually a one-stop personalized news service for you to combine news that you want to keep track of.
A quick online search will return many online how-to guides on using RSS feeds and RSS readers (also known as RSS aggregators). I think the best way to learn how to use RSS feeds is to learn how to use an RSS reader. I myself have tried various RSS readers, and found two of them suit my needs. One is the older version of FeedDemon (not 3.0), which needs to be downloaded and installed on a computer. The other one is Google Reader, which is an online RSS reader that I can access in any computer with internet access. They may not be the best, so you need to try yourself to see which one suits your own needs. Google has an interesting video that illustrates how to use Google Reader, which I think also illustrates the idea of RSS feeds in general:
- American Psychological Association Journals RSS Feeds: This page contains the list to APA journals.
- Current Directions in Psychological Science: RSS feeds for current issues and recent issues. Blackwell Publishing, the publisher of this journal, also provides their own feeds (see this page)
- Organizational Research Methods: SAGE provides RSS feeds for current issue, recent issues, and also most frequently read articles plus most frequently cited articles.
- Psychometrika: Look for the RSS feed icon on the page: . This feed actually contains articles published online but not yet in printed issues. Another reason to use RSS feeds.
- APA RSS feeds: On this page is the RSS feed for PsycPORT.
- Discussion group comp.soft-sys.stat.spss: Several RSS feeds are available. Click the XML red button at the end of the page.
Update 2014-03-23: Google Reader has been shut down. I have not yet found an online service as good as Google Reader is to me. :( Any suggestion?