There are few more frustrating things for researchers than finding a fantastic piece of research and then being shut out of reading it by a paywall. If your university library doesn’t subscribe to that particular journal, you might just give up, assuming you can’t get access.
However, there are a couple of tools out there that might be able to help you get free, legal access to paywalled articles.
Open Access Button is a free, open source tool that can be used online via the website or as a browser extension for Chrome or Firefox. If you’re online, just enter an article URL, DOI, PMID ID, Title or Citation.
If the article is available, you’ll be provided a link to where it can be accessed (often an institutional repository):
Alternatively, if you’ve downloaded the extension for Chrome or Firefox, just visit the article page on the journal’s website and click the OA button in your browser –
For example, the article below is not part of Goldsmiths’ subscriptions, therefore would theoretically need to be purchased to be read:
Clicking on the Open Access Button shows its availability elsewhere:
Unpaywall is a newly launched browser extension developed by Impactstory, a service that provides altmetrics to researchers, helping them measure and share the impacts of research outputs – not just traditional forms of publications such as journal articles, but also datasets and blog posts – where measuring impact has always been trickier.
The browser extension can be downloaded for Chrome and Firefox and allows you to find free, full text versions of articles, where they exist, with one click.
Below is another article that we would not have access to via Goldsmiths:
Look to the right and you’ll see a green circle with an unlocked padlock – click on this to be directed to the free, full text version:
LSE Impact Blog recently ran a piece on Unpaywall and its objectives, but it also provides a brief overview of the tools that are available to unlock research. For example, if you search on PubMed, there’s a LinkOut option, which finds copies of articles in institutional repositories. Recent articles in Nature and The Chronicle of Higher Education also highlight the benefits and successes of these tools. So next time you find an article and you’re being asked for extortionate sums of money for access, try Open Access Button or Unpaywall.