I'm doing my MS in Astronomy and Astrophysics so almost all of the literature I need is readily available on NASA ADS website (ui.adsabs.harvard.edu) with links to downloadable PDFs and HTML articles. But sometimes I come across conference proceedings, or some old articles where only abstract is available for reading but it DOES contain what I'm looking for.

Since I can't read the whole thing, is it okay to cite that?

Apart from the original links to downloadable PDFs, if something I want to cite is in the abstract but I want to dig deeper and the paper is not available for download in any form, should I look for other papers that have same information and are available or can I use sci-hub. And how fair is it to use sci-hub?


It is a bit risky to cite papers having seen only the abstract. You might be able to contact the original authors in some cases for more complete versions.

But, the safe and approved way to get access to papers that aren't easily available online, or available only by conflicting with with ethical considerations, is to go to your local library and ask the librarian there to get you a copy. Academic/university libraries are best, of course, but most libraries have some sort of access, directly or indirectly to nearly everything.

Moreover, a research librarian at a good library is a tremendous resource for finding obscure things and even related things you don't know exist.

  • Just for my own clarification, let's say I needed a device's operating range and i did find the value of said range in which it is operating in the abstract only. Will it still be wrong, as I am only picking a certain value reference from there. Thank you for your feedback, I'll check in with my librarian too.
    – Syed Ali
    Feb 3 '20 at 21:00
  • No, it isn't wrong, just risky. The case you cite is probably fine, unless it relies on information in the paper that you haven't examined. Not every paper comes to the correct conclusion. In general, you want to see the argument that confirms the conclusion.
    – Buffy
    Feb 3 '20 at 21:03
  • Thank you, I'll be sure to keep it in mind.
    – Syed Ali
    Feb 3 '20 at 21:12

should I look for other papers that have same information and are available

That too; but it doesn't replace reading the actual paper you're citing.

Something else you could do is contact the authors and ask for a copy of the paper.

or can I use sci-hub.

Yes, I suggest you use SciHub.

... how fair is it to use sci-hub?

It is morally and ethically justified; and its use is by now ubiquitous. This use is also probably legal in most countries, although in many countries it is in somewhat of a gray area (and perhaps, in some countries, strictly illegal); but promoting the use of Sci-Hub or similar initiatives is important to degrade the usurious restrictions on the sharing of scientific information which publishers have enforced for so long; as free access to papers becomes the norm, it becomes ludicrous to try and prevent it, and complete legalization will likely follow.

Note that you do not have to explain how you got access to papers you are citing; and I've not heard of anyone being asked to do so.

There are other posts here on Academia.SX which regard this question; see the tag.

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