Finding scientific papers for free, part III: my new favorite method

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Sandra Porter


This is the third, and last part in a three part series on finding free scientific papers. You can read the first part here: Part I: A day in the life of an English physician and the second part, where I compare different methods, here. Today, I will show you how to use my new favorite method.

How to find free scientific publications

1. Go to the NCBI.

2. Choose the link to PubMed. (It's in the top blue bar, under the DNA icon)

3. Click the Limits tab (circled below).


4. Click the box next to "Links to free full text."

5. Select any other Limits that might apply.

I often pick English for the language since I can't read any other language. I wouldn't try to impose too many limits at first, though, since you don't always know how articles were categorized when they entered the database. You can always narrow the search later.

6. Enter your search terms and click "Go."

7. Click the Review tab if you wish to read reviews, click links to the articles if you wish to see the abstract and get a link to the publication.

Here's what the results look like:


I opened up the Sort By menu to show you how to sort by the publication date.  If you choose this option, the most recent articles appear at the top of the list.

We'll tackle the Save your Search link at a later time, but this is a feature that I really like.

Where to find more info
For more information on choosing search criteria, Boolean logic, and using PubMed, we have two animated tutorials at Geospiza Education that cover using PubMed, and I have a chapter on Entrez in my new book (A Beginner's Guide to Molecular Structures).

1. Cancer Biology covers the different types of literature databases, Boolean operators, combining queries, limiting searches, and using the search history.

2. Allelic Variants of Superoxide Dismutase demonstrates many ways to find information about genetic diseases, and includes my topic for today; how to find free papers in PubMed.

3.  Some of yesterday's readers contributed their favorite search strategies in the comments section.  If you're looking for specific papers, these are some great ideas.   

May you find what you're searching for!


 [Uh, hey Doc?

Yes, Suzy and Johnny? 

When you did that experiment yesterday - you know - the one where you compared the number of papers that you found with different methods and showed that there were 219,985 papers from PubMed -with limits- and 171,702 papers from PubMed Central, well, were the papers that you found with PubMed Central, the same papers that you found with PubMed with limits?

Hmmm........I don't know.

It sounds like we need to do another experiment.]

Read the whole series:

  • part I A day in the life of an English physician,
  • part II Comparing different methods,
  • part III My new favorite method,
  • part IV One last experiment


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