Finding Free Health Sciences Literature: Doing Research
Are you graduating from Pitt soon?
If you are leaving for a clinic, community hospital, or even a smaller institution, you might not have access to as many resources for full text literature as you currently do. Luckily there is a wealth of free, high quality information available - you just need to know where to look.
PubMed is a free resource from the National Library of Medicine, so you will always have access to it. Many of the articles in it, however, are subscription based. Once you graduate it may be hard to find articles that are freely available. PubMed provides a Free Full Text filter to quickly direct you to articles you can read for free. Run a search as usual, and then click the Free Full Text filter on the lefthand side of the screen:
If you use Clinical Queries, PubMed will run a search for your topic and return clinical studies, systematic reviews, and articles on medical genetics. You can select See all at the bottom of any of these 3 categories, and then filter the results using the Free Full Text filter.
Need help with PubMed?
Genetics Home Reference is a resource that helps people understand their genetics, DNA testing, and different inherited health issues. While it is aimed at consumers, there is quite a bit of information for clinicians well including links to studies in PubMed and records in the OMIM database, which is catalog of human genes.
ClinicalTrials.gov is a clinical trial registry from the National Library of Medicine. Search by disease, keyword, or country and filter results by status (including recruiting, not yet recruiting, ongoing, or completed), funder type, eligibility criteria, and more. Each record includes information about the PI, general information about what's being studied, and eligibility criteria. Sometimes the records will include results and adverse events as well.
Agricola is the USDA's agriculture database. Use it to access literature about animal and veterinary sciences, earth sciences, agriculture, and more. However, this is just a citation database, so you may not be able to access full text.
PubAg is the USDA's full text database, and also covers animal science, agricultural, and earth science literature. Start with PubAg if you do not have access to an academic library.
Science.gov links you to research funded by 13 federal agencies including NASA, Department of Health and Human Services, USDA, and the CDC. Filter by author, topic, and date. You can also find information on the agencies' requirements for data management and public access plans.
POPLINE is a database focused on reproductive health and family planning from USAID, Johns Hopkins, and other partners. Some records link to full text while others are citations only. However, if you are in a low or middle-income country, POPLINE provides a document delivery service.
Unfortunately, POPLINE will be retired on Sept. 1, 2019.
Europe PMC is a repository of life sciences articles, abstracts, and preprints from around the world. It also includes patents, NHS clinical guidelines, and a grant finder that searches for grants from the 29 agencies that support Europe PMC.
Many fields have begun using preprint servers. A preprint is a paper that has not yet gone through peer review. Since the peer review process can take a very long time, some authors choose to upload their papers to these servers, so that other researchers can benefit from the study. You may be familiar with arXiv, the important preprint server for physicists that has been around since the 90s.
- PeerJ Preprints
- bioPreprint: search several preprint databases at once via HSLS's search tool
Looking for more preprints? Check this list for your discipline.
Open Access means that a paper or journal is available online to read for free, without a subscription. An entire journal may be OA, or a journal may have some articles that are OA and others that are behind a paywall. There are different types of open access - some journals ask the author to pay a publishing fee, while others get outside funding and will publish articles for free. Many OA journals are peer reviewed and very highly regarded. You can learn more about open access, or go straight to reading OA articles:
- PLOS: PLOS, the Public Library of Science, publishes various journals including PLOS Medicine, PLOS Pathogens, and PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
- BioMedCentral: BMC publishes various journals in medicine, dentistry, public health, pharmacy, and more
- List of OA Nature journals: Nature publishes some OA journals, including Nature Communications and npj Vaccines
- DOAJ: The Directory of Open Access Journals lists peer reviewed OA journals
- Zenodo (CERN): OA repository for data and literature
Want more info? See HSLS's Guide to Open Access
Depending on where you are in the world, your institution may be eligible to access Hinari, a low cost (or free!) database of journal articles that otherwise require subscriptions. Hinari comes from the World Health Organization.
ERIC is the US government's education database, and is free to access. Click the "full text available on ERIC" box underneath the search bar if you only want to see what you have full text access to without a library subscription.