Enabling students to understand and analyse contemporary issues in science and technology

Finding research papers

1. Open Access Journals

There are a number of open access journals which allow you to download copies of their papers without charge.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (http://www.doaj.org/) lists large numbers of these journals. Although the impact rating of many of the journals is lower than some high-profile journals, they can provide a good starting point when looking at science topics.

2. Journals referred to by websites and blogs
There are a number of websites and blogs which are dedicated to bringing scientific research to a wider audience. Examples of these are:

  • British Psychological Society Research Digest
    Covers research mainly of a psychological nature, but sometimes more sociological and biological research may be included. http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/

Research Blogging (http://www.researchblogging.org/) collects together many of the blogs that use research as a basis of their blog posts. This is a good place to start to look for blogs on different topics.

These blogs will usually include, at the end of the post, a link to the research paper that they have been writing about. You can use this to obtain the paper.

An example:
Finding research articles example 1

Article from: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/06June/Pages/Beetroot-juice-and-blood-pressure.aspx
(accessed 4 July 2010)

At the bottom of the article are links to the media stories AND the research paper.

If you click on the science link then you will be taken to the abstract of the research paper as shown below.

Finding research articles example 2 Hypertension
Reading through the abstract will allow you to see if the paper looks useful/interesting. If it does, you will want a copy of the paper. However, if you click on Full Text (PDF) you will be asked to pay for a copy. Which you probably don’t want to do!

However, there is also an email address of the corresponding author. You can send a polite email to this person. You might like to explain that you have read the abstract and would like to read the full paper, but don’t have access to it. You could also say why you are interested. More often than not, the corresponding author will be able to send you a pdf of the paper (and will probably be willing to answer questions you have about the paper once you have read it).

Part of the reason that they will do this is that your email may count towards their performance assessment and is evidence that their research is having impact!

3. Using stories in the media

If you read New Scientist or similar magazines, you will read reports about different research. In the online version they will usually link to the research, as do some newspaper websites.
Finding research papers example 3 telegraph
Taken from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7898612/Autism-detected-in-voice-of-children.html

However, if they don’t then you will need to start doing some digging.

This article on Autism, doesn’t give full details of the research article. However, there are three possibly useful pieces of information.

1 The article was published on 19th July 2010-07-24
2 It says…“..according to the findings published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”
3 It also mentions ‘Professor Steven Warren, of Kansas University’ – although it doesn’t say if he was one of the researchers.

So the first thing to do is to go to the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). http://www.pnas.org/

Finding research articles example 4

From the main page you can search PNAS. Choose ‘advanced search’ so that you can limit your options. I used ‘2010’ as the year, and ‘Warren’ as the author.

The first article was the one described in the story. As a bonus, because it is the current issue of the journal, the story is Open Access, and can be downloaded by everyone.

However, if it hadn’t been available, then by clicking through to the Abstract you would be able to find the email address of the corresponding author(s).

4. Using Google Scholar

Finding research articles example 5 google

This tool can be found by clicking on the ‘more’ link from Google’s homepage. It allows you to search research papers, books and patents.

This is more ‘hit and miss’ but can be a useful way of finding research articles about a general topic. As with all search engines, the more specific you make your query, the better the results that are returned. Using ‘advanced search’ can help.

Once you have found an appropriate paper, you can read the abstract to see if it may be useful, and then (once again) contact the corresponding author by email.