Locating and accessing sources

  • Nowdays most research information is accessed online – anything from blogs to whole books, but most importantly journal articles – and the best gateway is usually through an electronic database such as Medline http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed, that can be systematically searched for publications of interest. General purpose search engines such as Google are inadequate.
  • Some databases are freely accessible; others are not. Databases usually provide the article reference, keywords and an abstract. Subscription databases are expensive, hence usually accessed via an academic institution or the NHS.
  • Some databases provide access to the full text of some of the journals whose articles they index. You would need to look at the coverage list of journals for each database to guage how valuable this would be for you.
  • Full text access is also available through a number of publisher gateways such as Science Direct. If you try to access an article via an institution then usually it will pass you to one or other of these, depending on which title/publisher is involved. However, institutions are by no means equal in what you can get for free, and you’ll soon find out how good/bad your own one is in this respect. Most will cover only a fraction of the titles you’re interested in.
  • It may be worthwhile to take out a subscription to a few of the journals that are very relevant for you and rely on their articles plus the free ones.
  • Ordering articles from a library is usually considerably cheaper than from the publisher. Your local public library may or may not offer a good service: usually cheap but could be slow. You can get articles rapidly by electronic transfer from the British Library www.bl.uk, though this becomes expensive for many. Visiting the British Library to copy articles yourself could be a much cheaper option. This can also be done at the CAMLIS www.cam.nhs.uk library, which specializes in CAM titles.
  • If you are prepared to pay the fee then lay membership of the Royal Society of Medicine https://www.rsm.ac.uk/librar/membership.php is one option for good access.
  • Failing all else, with a bit of work you can get hold of many articles for little expense: open access journals and papers (published in increasing numbers), visiting libraries in person, making use of any institutions you are or were affiliated to, asking colleagues, asking the author directly.