I’ve discovered that website like ResearchGate offer the possibility to ask the paper editor to provide his paper for free. Many are collaborating.

Are there any other ways for researchers to obtain free access to papers?

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    Research library...
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 11:50
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    @keshlam: I don't have access to any research library I fear :( - but it would be nice to find any forum and ask people to download the paper and send to me.
    – Revious
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 13:10
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    @Revious That would break the licence that the person who downloaded the paper is bound by.
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 13:40
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    @MJeffryes: ok, this means it cannot be done publicly. But p2p and streaming are very spread realities and it's completely legal to say they exist. I wonder if there is something similar for research papers. This comment is legal, but if it's not welcome mod can delete it.
    – Revious
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 13:53
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    It is completely unclear how many papers at ResearchGate are available legally. It is also completely unclear whether I should care.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 15:32

4 Answers 4


I always use the following methods to get many inaccessible papers.

  1. Open Google Scholar.
  2. Search the title of the paper.
  3. Click see all versions (you can see many places where the same paper is available)
  4. Check one by one whether they are downloadable

Another method, I always use when I really need an inaccessible paper, is just to write an e-mail to the corresponding author to send that paper. My experience is that I have always received the paper in a return email.

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    Our university has better access than I do at home, too. You may be able to check if your institution has some sort of access (at home I can VPN onto campus). Depends on where OP is searching at.
    – enderland
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 15:45
  • You are right. It is really good if a institute has access to a large number of journals. But what about those journals to which the same institute has no access. So it is natural to face difficulties while downloading an essential paper from such journals. That is why I have mentioned inaccessible paper...
    – Kay
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 16:10
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    The other thing you can do is go through a university library -- try to get yourself some sort of position or student status (could be as an unmatriculated student, could be an online course). Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 20:36
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    @Kayan - Sorry, I only just refreshed the page and saw your comment. The solution in that case is Interlibrary Loan. Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 20:37
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    It will be nice to see some screenshots here
    – Ooker
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 6:13

It turns out that a related survey was posted last year in this PLOS blog post on how paleontologists access the (non-open access) literature:

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I put together an informal, non-scientific survey. The survey asked questions about how people access the literature, the kinds of journals they can access most easily, and basic demographics. I advertised the survey via Twitter and Facebook. I wouldn’t count it as a scientific sample by any means, but I do feel that I got reasonably good coverage of various types of paleontologists at various types of institutions (as well as non-paleontologists who follow the literature). 115 individuals responded, during the course of about a week.

Note that it doesn't indicate the legality.

FYI: Bulk download Sci-Hub papers


The website mentioned here is obviously and blatantly illegal, but gives access to almost all journals ever published. It's very easy to use and more complete than our direct subscriptions. I might almost use it for stuff I have legal but slow access to.

Use or do not use depending on your views on the "illegal" consumption of research.

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    As the "illegal" consumption of research increases, this may hurt the editors, the publishers, and even the researchers themselves. ❧ I would downvote you if I had enough reputation points. Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 3:59
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    Let's be a bit realistic here: maybe the purchasing of individual articles accounts for 1% of the publisher's revenue. How is that going to hurt me as a researcher? It's not like I'm getting paid for reviewing or editing anyway.
    – VonBeche
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 7:23
  • A) 1%? Citation needed. B) Researchers depend upon publishers. When publishers get hurt, so do researchers, indirectly. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 6:58
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    A) That's why I write maybe. Maybe it's more, maybe it's less. Either way, not a lot. B) I don't depend on publishers, publishers depend on me. When all the closed access only publishers disappear, we still have all the open access guys left, as well as things like Arxiv and whatever will take the place of Nature. Don't forget that a lot of Journals are not published by companies like Elsevier, but by associations or societies that could run on other sources of income.
    – VonBeche
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 15:31

Ask your public library (maybe not a local branch, but a large city's one). In some places, libraries are able to help citizens access journals. Another option might be national libraries - eg the British Library.

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