How to obtain free and low cost articles from biomedical journals
Heard about a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and want to read about the original research? Need to go to the source about a new surgical procedure? Medical articles, written by physicians and scientists just might be the answer.**
Most medical articles are quite technically written and are published in journals which require paid subscriptions (even tho’ they are online!). Examples of medical journals include the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the Lancet.
Medical journals (a type of scholarly journals) differ from popular magazines (as Psychology Today) in appearance, audience, and purpose. Duke University has a great comparison chart on the differences between scholarly journals and popular magazines.
A few great places to get free and low cost medical articles
- Libraries Many public libraries have at least some medical journals. Most college, university, and medical school libraries (and all receiving some state funding) are open to the public and provide some reference services to the general public. These academic libraries vary in the number of subscribed medical journals.
Some hospital libraries are also open to the public.It is best to call ahead and ask a reference librarian to see if the library is open to the public, if they have the article you need, and if you can use their computers and printers. Ask about interlibrary loan from any library where you have borrowing privileges. Your library will try to get any article they do not have from another library (there usually is a charge, upwards of $11.00 or more an article).
- PubMed Centra****l provides access to free articles submitted by authors and publishers. Some articles are free immediately when they are published, others are free on a delayed basis (ranging from a few months to a year). Check the PubMed Central home page for additional information. PubMed Central is a service of the US National Institutes of Health.
- Free Full PDF – Over 80 million free scientific publications
Life sciences | Health sciences | Physics sciences and Engineering | Social sciences and Humanities
- Docline is the National Library of Medicine’s automated interlibrary loan (ILL) request routing and referral system. The purpose of the system is to provide efficient document delivery service among libraries in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM).
Individual users of NLM’s PubMed and the NLM Gateway do not have access to DOCLINE, but they can make use of its services by ordering documents through Loansome Doc, a document ordering service. All PubMed or NLM Gateway users ordering documents must identify a DOCLINE library or libraries that are willing to serve them (Ordering Library). The health professional performs a PubMed or NLM Gateway search, reviews the citations retrieved, and identifies specific documents to be ordered. Orders are sent to DOCLINE from either PubMed or the NLM Gateway. The NLM PubMed server manages all document-ordering activities.
LoansomeDoc is for people who are not affiliated with a health or medical institution that has a library. (If your institution has a library, just ask a librarian about ordering articles through interlibrary loan). To register for LoansomeDoc, contact the closest medical library.
They can help you set up an account, including payments for articles. You should be able
receive most, if not all, ordered articles via email.
How to Access Journal Articles provides links to information resources and services.Includes links to free articles, strategies for obtaining articles, and paying for full text articles. By Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce.
- Contact the Author Email, fax, or write the author. Most authors are happy to provide a free copy of their articles if asked. Cannot locate an address or fax number? Ask a reference librarian!
- Contact the Publisher An increasing number of publishers are providing free copies of articles to patients, caregivers, and others who do not subscribe to their journals but only need a specific article for personal use.
If the publisher does not advertise this free service, consider contacting them and requesting a specific article. Need help contacting a publisher? Again, ask a reference librarian!
Some publishers which provide free or low cost articles (via PatientInform)
Elsevier Patient Research provides single copies of articles for $4.95. Elsevier publishes over 2,000 journals.
AACR’s (American Association for Cancer Research) policy for free patient access to medical articles—“If You Need It, You Can Read It”—can be found under Information for Readers/Subscribers.
The Endocrine Society For Patients page provides information on how to obtain free articles from its six endocrine research journals.
****Also, note that “The NIH Public Access Policy ensures that the public has access to the published results of NIH funded research. It requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the digital archive PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication. To help advance science and improve human health, the Policy requires that these papers are accessible to the public on PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication.”
I hear health sciences librarians are keeping busy advising researchers on how to comply with this.
**When a good summary of an article will do, check out the resources at Summaries for Patients” help patients and others understand medical studies and guidelines
- Patients want to understand the medical literature (with links to resources for patients) (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
- PubMed Health – A Growing Resource for Clinical Effectiveness Information (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
- Save Scholarly Ideas, Not the Publishing Industry – A Rant (Social Media Collective Research Blog at Microsoft)