Still can’t access the article you need? Try this…

Photo 24-06-2007, 07 57 05

(Edited version of original by neeel on Flickr – used under a CC-BY license)

A few weeks ago I wrote a post suggesting a number of options you can try if we don’t have access to the journal article you need. Since writing that post, I’ve come across another method you can try which, after a bit of investigation, does seem to work pretty well!

As many of you will know, most journal articles have a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) associated with them. This DOI acts as a unique identifier for the article (rather like the ISBN of a book), ensuring that you always have a direct link to the article, regardless of any changes to the publication. So, for example, the following DOI:

…will always link to the article Prevalence and correlates of local health department activities to address mental health in the United States by Purtle et al.

A new service has emerged that builds upon DOIs and directs users to an Open Access version of the paper they are trying to access. The Digital Open Access Identifier (DOAI) resolver simply requires the user to replace with in any DOI link to be directed to an Open Access version of the paper (if available). For example, the paper Toward a new architecture for global mental health (DOI:, listed in PsycInfo, is not currently available if we try to find full text access via our subscriptions (by clicking on the Check for full text access link). However, if I use the DOAI resolver (replacing in the DOI with

…we are directed to a version of the paper deposited in ResearchGate (incidentally, check out this article on the problems with commercial repositories).

Another example is the paper Perspectives of Australian nursing directors regarding educational preparation for mental health nursing practice (DOI:, also indexed in PsycInfo and also unavailable. Using the same process as above, the DOIA resolver re-directs me to ResearchGate once more where I can freely access the paper I need.

Now I’ve not encountered a huge amount of information about this service, so I’m not entirely clear how exactly it operates. I’m not sure, for example, whether a ResearchGate version will be prioritised over an institutional repository version (I hope the latter is prioritised). However, it looks like a really interesting tool and could be really helpful in accessing articles that appear to be inaccessible (and thus result in submitting an inter-library loan request unnecessarily). It won’t work for every article, of course, but it’s another option should you find yourself hitting a brick wall.


What do you do when you can’t access the article you need?

Image c/o Amarpreet K on Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

We’ve all been there. You’ve found a great journal article that is almost perfect for your literature review. But there’s a problem: you can’t access the article with your Athens login. So what do you do? Yell a few expletives, bash your keyboard a bit and explode with frustration? Well, you could do that. But then you’d have to clear up the mess – ergh. There are, fortunately, some alternatives to frustratingly bashing your keyboard that might help you get hold of that crucial paper, whilst also saving you from doing any serious damage to your computer. Or your hands.

Here are my top tips for overcoming one of the more frustrating elements of the literature review process.

Use an internet search engine

Now generally I caution against using internet search engines for finding research. Not because there is anything particularly wrong with the search engines themselves, but because many of the articles that you need to access are accessible via EBSCO (eg via PsycInfo, Academic Search Complete etc) which search engines can’t access. However, when you find that you can’t access an article you require, search engines can be really useful.

Let’s look at an example. I’m doing research on the psychology of news influence and I found this paper that looks perfect for my literature review:

psychology news influenceBut when I click on the Check for full text access link it appears we don’t have access to this article through any of our subscribed resources.

psychology news influence library searchFrustrating. But, maybe if I use an internet search engine…

psychology news influence ddgExcellent!

Now, it’s important to note that this isn’t the publisher version of the paper*, this is actually the author’s version that they have deposited in their institutional repository (we can tell because the URL is – eprints is the name of repository software that many libraries use, and indicates an academic institution in the UK). Fortunately, the good folks at Aston University have confirmed on the PDF itself that this is the final published version of the paper.

psychology news influence pdfThe thing to be aware of with repositories is that different versions of the paper could be deposited (this is dependent on publisher restrictions). So, the deposited paper may be a pre-print (ie pre-refereeing), a post-print (final draft post-refereeing) or the publisher’s version of the paper. If you have any doubt about which version of the paper is available in the repository, it may still be worth having a look through to see if it is worthwhile but it would be worth submitting an inter-library loan request if you find it is as useful as you suspected.

Email the author

Often on paper abstracts, you can easily find the email address of the main author of a paper.

psychology news influence emailIf you are struggling to get hold of a paper, this might be good way to obtain a version of the paper. Academics often receive requests from students interested in their work and most are quite willing to share their research with them. Although they will not be able to share the published version of the article with you, they may well be willing to share an earlier version of the paper (the pre-print or the post-print). There’s no harm in asking! (Just be aware that you are asking a favour!)

Inter-library loan request

The alternative is, of course, submitting an inter-library loan request. More on how this works here (UEL staff and students only of course!). If you request a digital copy of the article it shouldn’t take too long before you receive it. Of course it’s not instant, but it should take no longer than four working days (sometimes it can be quicker!).

So, when you are trying to access an article and you come up against a brick wall, don’t despair! There are things you can try to see if you can get hold of the article you require. You just need to poke around online, get in touch with the author or complete an inter-library loan request. You should be able to get hold of the vast majority of articles during your studies using a combination of the above and our online databases. Of course there will always be articles that aren’t possible to obtain (due to publisher restrictions) but at least you have options!

* Researchers – published versions of research articles should never be uploaded and shared online unless the publisher has given you permission to do so! Speak to your librarian who will be able to advise on copyright restrictions for individual journals.

How to use search like a pro: 10 tips and tricks for DuckDuckGo

Photo 19-01-2016, 15 30 02You may have spotted a piece in The Guardian last week offering hints and tips on how to “search like a pro” using Google (you might also be interested in checking out this critique of their tips). Thing is, despite its ubiquity in terms of how we talk about the internet, Google isn’t the only search engine out there. There are alternatives that are just as effective.

Although I do still use Google from time to time, the default search engine in both my main browsers (Firefox and Chrome) is DuckDuckGo (DDG). Yep, it’s not quite as catchy a name as Google, and it does sound kinda odd when you say the name out loud, but it is a very good search engine for a number of reasons. Primarily, if you are concerned about privacy and the sharing of your personal data, DuckDuckGo commits to neither collect nor share personal information (see their privacy statement here).

So, how about some tips on using one of the lesser known, if more secure, search engines that are available…

1. Set region specific results

The first thing you need to do when you use DDG is set up the country you are searching from to ensure the results are tailored to you. To do so, click on the three horizontal bars in the top right of the web page, then choose Advanced Settings, then select the appropriate country. If you are searching in the UK, you should then find UK based results are prioritised.



2. Get instant answers

DDG can provide instant answers to some specific questions. So, for example, as well as a basic calculator function, you can also ask it to provide words that rhyme, look up flight information or even get the full “cheat sheet” for your operating system.

cheat sheet

3. Search a specific site direct from DDG

Rather than going to a specific website and conducting a search, you can search that website direct from DDG using !Bangs. So, for example, if you want to search for results on the BBC, just search using !bbcnews and you’ll be taken directly to the search results page on the BBC website (as soon as you type a “!”, DDG will offer popular options). A full list of !Bangs is available here.


4. AND and OR

Like most search engines, DDG adds the AND for you so you don’t need to. If you want to search for two different terms then you need to use OR. If you use parentheses to frame your searching you don’t need to put spaces between the parenthesis and the word and you need to double up on parentheses at the end. For example, ((positive psychology)AND((wellbeing)OR(mindfulness))) will search for positive psychology and either wellbeing or mindfulness.

AND and OR

5. Remove a word from results

If you want to exclude certain terms from your search, just use a ‘-‘ immediately before the term you wish to exclude. So, for example, if you were interested in drug therapy but not in relation to alcohol, you would enter the search terms “drug therapy” –alcohol (the term to be removed from results must always be at the end of the search string).

removing a term

6. Search a particular domain

To only look on a specific domain (eg, the UK government’s domain) simply add site:[domain] to your search. For example, psychology If you want to search multiple domains, simply separate the domains with commas, eg dementia,

7. Search results for a particular region

If you only wanted results from a particular region, add site:uk to your results using the domain codes for that specific country.

country specific

8. Find particular formats

If you want to look for pdf documents (often used for official reports etc), add f:pdf to your results. For example, the search term counselling f:.pdf will find PDF documents on the UK government’s domain ( that include the term “counselling”.

File type

9. Search for a term in the title of a web page

When you want to find pages with a particular term in the title, use intitle: before the terms you are looking for. For example, intitle:mindfulness AND counselling will bring you results where both mindfulness and counselling are in the title of the webpage.


10. Search news

If you want to search for news stories, just add news to your search terms eg mental health news. To view more news stories, just click the nine dots forming a square on the right of the screen.

newsnews more

Searching for psychology journal articles (postgraduates)


As promised, details of a couple of literature searching workshops that I will be running over the coming weeks (more will be planned!). As usual, please ensure you book a ticket using the Eventbrite link using your UEL webmail so I can verify that you are a UEL student!

I’ve also added links to the Facebook event pages, but you will still need to book the ticket via Eventbrite (in case there’s any doubt, of course the tickets are free!). Booking in via the Facebook Event does not guarantee a place!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016 from 14:00 to 16:00 (GMT) – Searching for psychology journal articles (postgraduates) [book] [FB event]

Wednesday, 10 February 2016 from 10:00 to 12:00 (GMT) – Searching for psychology journal articles (postgraduates) [book] [FB event]

Hope to see you there! And, as always, do let me know days and times that are best for you or post any queries you might have about the sessions themselves using the comments box below.

And don’t forget, I now have a Facebook Page too for news, updates and interesting psychology related stories! Sign up here for updates!

New year, new way to connect…

Hope all of you had a great Christmas and New Year. It seems so long ago now as we get into the new term!

At the start of a new year I always get in the mood for trying something different, and this year is no exception. So, I’ve set up a Facebook Page for folk to follow me and keep up to date with news and developments in psychology as well as to contact me, send me feedback, let me know of any problems you are having, all that kind of stuff. I’ve been using Twitter for a while now and I know not everyone is on there (and if you’re not and would like to, give me a shout and I’ll send you some hints and tips to get you started!), so I thought why not set up a Facebook Page!? If you want to “Like” my page and get news and updates, head over here!

In other news, as we are into the new term, I will (as promised!) be posting details about literature searching workshops in due course. I hope to have these set up and ready to share over the course of the next few days. Details will be posted here and on Facebook/Twitter, but do spread the word amongst your fellow students in case they feel they need some extra support with their literature searching.

Stay tuned for details!

Unwrapping EPRaP – a new OA periodical

There’s a new Open Access (OA) periodical in town! Last Thursday the School of Psychology launched Educational Psychology Research and Practice or EPRaP. The brainchild of Miles Thomas and Sharon Cahill, the periodical intends to provide a forum for “informed debate and discussion of Educational Psychology research and training as well as a wider focus on issues of social justice and civic engagement in applied psychological practice”. This is a great initiative by the School to make more research accessible to all and offers a valuable opportunity for to publish research.

If you are interested in finding out more about OA, see my earlier post on the topic here. Alternatively, we’ve got several copies of the definitive work on Open Access by Peter Suber available in the library or you can download a PDF of the book here.

Congratulations to Miles, Sharon and everyone involved in EPRaP!

EPRaP launch

Miles and Sharon introduce EPRaP.

EPRaP launch

The EPRaP home page on launch night.


One of the first articles to be published in EPRaP.

Photo 26-11-2015, 18 13 02

Miles and Sharon explain the background to EPRaP.