Accessing articles and reports published in scientific journals is incredibly simple. If you already know the name of a specific study, simply enter that name into a Google search; however, using Google as a broad match search tool can return results that are of dubious quality.
A much better approach is to use an online database of indexed, peer-reviewed reports. In most, but not all cases, these databases do not contain complete studies but simply provide a summary or abstract and a link to the actual articles. Two excellent databases for finding scientific reports are:
- Pubmed: A database containing over 21 million citations of health and medical studies.
- ERIC – Education Resources Information Center: “The world’s largest library of education literature.”
An efficient way to use Pubmed is searching for topical keywords. In the example below, I have typed the first three letters in the word “diabetes” and the search engine suggested a number of keywords that might be relevant.
If I complete the query using the broad keyword “diabetes,” I get a list of over 400,000 scientific reports; however if I am more precise and enter “gestational diabetes,” the number of results is a more manageable 9800. After entering a search query, in addition to the list of results, you will see a list of related searches in the right-hand sidebar.
By choosing one of these related searches, you can narrow the results even further. For example, if I select “screening gestational diabetes,” my results are only 3800 citations.
Using the Limits Feature
Perhaps the quickest way to narrow a search is to use the Limits feature. If you click the button as show below,
you will have the ability to filter your query based on approximately 100 parameters.
Viewing a Citation
Looking at Related Literature
While viewing an individual citation, you will notice a list of related citations on the right-hand side of the page. This list is generated algorithmically by Pubmed and should contain additional relevant studies.
You may also see a link to other articles cited in this study or other papers that reference this study. These citations are likely to be highly relevant and worth evaluating.
And lastly, when viewing a citation, you can click on the names of the study’s authors which will generate a list of additional papers they have authored. These papers are also likely to be relevant to your search as researchers tend to focus on a narrow range of topics.
Saving Your Results
After you locate a citation that is relevant, you can easily save the information to a file or by emailing it to yourself. Simply select the “Send to” pull down menu at the top of the screen on the right-hand side.
For more detailed assistance, you can reference this page on Pubmed about saving your results.
Finding a Full-Text Journal Article
In some cases you can access the full text journal article by clicking on the Free Full Text logo linking to Pubmed Central.
In the case of the “screening gestational diabetes” query referenced above, approximately 15% of the journal articles are available for free on Pubmed Central. And finding a free version of the article can be a very big deal as many journals charge $15 to $50 for an individual article.
Additional Pubmed Central Information: Pubmed is the database that contains abstracts and links to published research while Pubmed Central contains over 2 million free full-text journal articles. And a new rule requires that any published research funded by the National Institutes of Health must be made freely available within one year of the initial publication.
I have had success reading, printing, and saving to PDF journal articles using a FREE guest terminal at the library of my local university. A good starting point at the library is at the help desk or reference center.
Another excellent option for locating free research articles is to use an open-access portal like the Public Library of Science, “a nonprofit publisher and advocacy organization leading a transformation in scientific and medical research communication.”
For additional options and ideas for finding full-text scientific reports, check out this page on Pubmed.