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Alternative Access to Articles

Open Access (OA), the free and unrestricted availability of research publications, is growing in popularity due to the rising costs of traditional, paywalled access. An ever-increasing amount of scholarship is being published openly, either via the publisher’s website or through another online resource, including open access repositories, or author/academic networking websites. Some of these OA publications will be the final published version, but often the publisher permits the public sharing of the accepted manuscript (a version including editing marks from peer-review but lacking the publisher branding or typesetting) or the pre-print (submitted manuscript pre-peer review). If you have already checked for availability in the Journals A-Z List and we do not have access to the article you need, use the suggestions below for finding open access versions of research publications.

Browser plug-ins

The easiest method for finding OA publications is by using one or both of the available browser plugins. Note, however, that these plugins are not perfect. If you cannot find an open version using the plugins, continue through this guide. 

  1. Open Access Button (OA Button). You can use the OA Button website or browser extensions to check for freely available OA versions. When an OA version is not found, OA Button can be used to contact the authors directly and request that they make a version available.
  2. Unpaywall. This Chrome/Firefox browser extension will point you to any open access versions of paywalled articles you discover online.

Open Access Repositories

Open access repositories are an important element of the availability of OA resources. The repositories are run by a variety of organizations from universities to governments to private industry and beyond. Authors are encouraged, and often required by funding agencies, to deposit copies of their article to OA repositories. The repositories are indexed by search engines, making discoverability of a resource often quite easy.

To find an open copy of an article using Google Scholar, use the “All X versions” link at the bottom of each result:

After clicking the link, you will see a list of citations with available locations. If an open access version is available, there will be a link on the right hand side that says “Full View”, [DOC], [PDF], or [HTML]. Click that link to be taken to the article.

Note: Albertsons Library does not endorse using Sci-Hub for article access.

Accessing Pre-Prints

Many open access repositories provide copies of article pre-prints. Pre-prints are the version of an article before peer-review has been performed. This is an important distinction as the pre-print and the peer-reviewed version of an article could be substantially different content. Nevertheless, pre-prints are an important part of publishing and their availability provides access to academic research that may otherwise be unavailable. Wikipedia provides a broad list of preprint servers available by discipline:

Request a Copy from the Authors

Most publishers allow authors to share the final published version of their articles privately to colleagues for personal research use. Author names and institutional affiliations are usually listed on the first page of an article, making it fairly straightforward to find an author’s contact information and request a copy via email. Many authors are grateful to receive requests to read their work and will be happy to oblige.

Alternatively, you can make a request to the author or others via Twitter using the hashtag #icanhazpdf with a link to the publication you need.

Contact Your Librarian

If you are having difficulty finding an article, request the item through interlibrary loan or contact your librarian!

Negotiate with the Publisher

If you serve in an editorial capacity for a journal, consider contacting the publisher to request access to specific titles that are important to your research. Editors provide a valuable service to journals, and the publisher may be willing to exchange access privileges as a good-faith gesture.