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Finding Free Health Sciences Literature: Finding Specific Articles

black and white drawing of a stack of money Hit a paywall?

Sometimes you may have a specific article you want to read, but find that it is only available to subscribers, or asking you for money to access it. Try some of these strategies before you pay to read anything.


black and white drawing of two browser windowsInstitutional Repositories

Many universities and research institutes have an archive that holds the work done by their researchers. Check to see which institutions the author(s) who wrote the article you need are affiliated with, and then check for a repository. You can often find the repository through the library's website or through an online search. Here are a few examples:

black and white drawing of a buildingInterlibrary Loan

Even if you are no longer affiliated with an academic library, you will hopefully have a nearby library you can use. If you are working in a hospital, ask about their hospital library. If you use a public library, they may have an interlibrary loan system that will allow you to request books and journal articles. If you have a local academic library, they may allow you to access some services as a community member. Check their website for policies or stop by and ask a librarian.

Unsure about what libraries are in your area? Search via WorldCat. You can even filter by type of library on the lefthand side.

black and white drawing of an open laptopSearch the Web

  • You can search for an article in a search engine by putting the article title in quotes. The search engine will just look for that title.
  • If you use Google, you can also use the advanced search to tell it to just look for PDFs (or any format you're interested in).
  • You can also check in Google Scholar to see if there is full text available for the article(s) you need.

black and white drawing of an envelopeContact the Author

  • Google the author and see if they have a website - some may have copies of their articles posted
  • There should be an email for the corresponding author on the article record. Contact the author, explain a little about who you are and why you'd like to read the paper, and then see if they have a copy they could email you. See this example email text from Yale.

Unpaywall logo

Unpaywall is an open source browser plug-in. It will look for full text in repositories, open access journals, etc. If it finds the article, the lock icon will turn green. Just click the lock and it will download the PDF for you.

Open Access Button logo

The Open Access button is another browser plug-in. It works slightly differently than Unpaywall. You can enter the DOI or citation you're looking for on their website, or you can click the OA button on your browser and it will look for the full text. If it doesn't find it, it will prompt you to enter your email address so it can email the author for access.

A note on these plug-ins: Sometimes unpaywall and the OA button don't recognize that there's a PDF or full text of an article on the page you're looking at it. It's always worth it to take a minute or so to look at the article record and make sure there isn't a link to the article that you missed at first glance.

Kopernio logo

Kopernio is another browser plug in you could try. It is meant to be used in conjunction with library access, so it may not be as useful for you if you do not have any institutional access. Kopernio also requires that you provide your email address, unlike unpaywall and the OA button.

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