In general, there are three types of alerts:
Search Alerts - You do a search on your subject (eg. William Shakespeare and television adaptations) and receive alerts when new articles have been published on the topic.
Journal Alerts - Receive an alert when the new issue of a journal has been published. Some journals send the Table of Contents (TOC) and some send the TOC and Abstracts.
Citation Alerts - If you are interested in knowing when someone cites a specific article, you can set up a Citation Alert. These are not available from all databases and publishers.
There are generally two methods for receiving ALERTS:
1) EMAIL - Alerts will be sent to an email account. If you are going to set up a lot of alerts, consider creating a separate email account for this purpose using a free service such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, etc.
2) RSS FEEDS - You will need a RSS FEED READER of some kind for this method. See the article below.