AF Association
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How to get up to date research articles

Here are a few tips for obtaining quality medical material, without paying for it and without leaving your home.

1. Use google scholar, and search using technical words.

2. Search, and add pdf to the search. Most serious stuff is in pdf format

3. On google scholar, look around for the magic words "cited by" and 'similar articles". The cited by refers to more recent articles which have cited that article. This allows you to go forwards in time, to get more up to date.

4. Be aware that even though a version is often behind a pay barrier, if you look, you can find the same article posted elsewhere with free access.

5. When you really want an article, and you cannot get a free version, then

a. try another search engine.

b. google the names of the author. Sometimes they repost their article on an accessible site

c. email the author. They are often glad to send you a free copy

6. Use a VPN. Some articles are free in the USA for instance. This does not always work, but it worth a try

7. Some sites require signing up only if you are medical. Then get a friend who is medical to sign up and forward you the article. In some cases I have individually written to the site asking for access, and been accepted.

8. Learn to be relaxed about searching. Many times I have not been able to get through the pay barrier, but, I have found related articles which were similar/better.

9. Remember, the summary, the Abstract, is always free. The abstract is often enough. There is also a growing trend to include a plain language summary.

10. Wikipedia for medical matters is often surprisingly up to date and accurate. I understand that the medical pages can only be edited by qualified and approved writers, therefore, at least here, you can trust it.

7 Replies

......and if the paper is behind a paywall, go and request a copy from the library.


If there is one locally. What luxury! I am assuming there is no local library. Anyway, visiting a library is effort.


Good tips :)


Sometimes a paper that's been published in a journal is not available straight away, just the abstract, but after 6 months it's can be in the public domain. So it's worth looking again.

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True. And other journals work the other way: current issues are free, it is the archives you have to pay for. Fortunately, we are seeing a growing trend towards Open Access, where the author pays. This does not have to be the Vanity Press, since the payment is made to a credible journal with editing and reviewing. The BMJ for instance has gone over to Open Access, and it is mainly older material that is behind a paywall.

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I'm a seasoned Web searcher (starting using WebCrawler back in the mid-'90s) but I've just learned a few things. Thanks!

I would suggest to use a clustering search engine instead of Google. I use Carrot2 but there are a few others that look promising.


Good idea. I must add that to my list. People often forget that the search engines often turn up different results. But, to my knowledge, google scholar is the only search engine that has 'cited by' and 'similar articles'. This facility, to go forwards towards the more recent articles is exceptional. I remember using the old tomes in the library of 'citations indexes' and they could only go backwards in time.

I often kick out at google for not defaulting to verbatim search -- even when you use quotation marks round the query. But, it is there as an option. The looser searching does mean it is more likely to throw up similar articles.

I also like the way google scholar allows me to restrict my search by date, and so pick up the more recent material.

Thanks for your extra ideas.

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