Recently I was reviewing a manuscript. I found that few cited papers of this manuscript are not freely available to my institute. So what should I do? Should I ask those papers to the editor?


Reviewing a manuscript does not mean you have to know or have read all the literature cited. In some cases, however, you can be unsure of a statement or a method used and need to consult the original source.

You have multiple options here:

1-Try to access the article on the web. The OA button can help you here, but there's many other way, some less legal.

2- Contact the authors of the article you want to obtain and ask for a PDF copy. Academians used to send each others postcard to access articles! A demand by email is most often met by a yes.

3- In your reviewer report, write something along these lines:

The authors cite Smith et al 2005 in line 105 to support this statement. I have no access to this article and I can't confirm that this statement is correct.

There's probably some other possible actions here. Unless the article you want to access is from the journal for which you are reviewing, I wouldn't bother to contact the editor.


There are several things you can try. Björn Brembs made a very good list which fits your question, even if it was created with respect to the Elsevier cut-off in Germany since January 2017. My favorite ones for your situation:

  • Google Scholar
  • DOAI / oaDOI
  • #icanhazpdf
  • Contact author
  • Inter-library-loan
  • Open Access Button
  • 1
    For a moment I thought #icanhazpdf was supposed to be an IRC channel, but then I remembered we live in the modern world where Twitter exists.
    – JAB
    Nov 17 '17 at 19:46

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